My Queen-Size Crush on Freddie Mercury

Sep 5, 2014 | 2154 Views | 6 Comments

When I was 16 years old, Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury was the man I most wanted to meet. I didn’t want to sleep with him, mind you. I wanted to BE him. Or at least go shopping with him. Seriously, he was one of the people who inspired me to get out of my tiny Pennsyltucky hometown. I figured that if I studied hard enough, I could go to college, get a good job, save my money, and then move to London and hobnob with him and my other Brit rock idols. As it turned out, I went to college, got a job, moved to a strip-mall-suburb, and got to hobnob with Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Harold Denton in the backroom of an Italian restaurant just off the interstate. But THAT’S another story.

I flipped for Freddie just after the album “Sheer Heart Attack was released (it featured the ultra-cool track “Killer Queen,” which was supposedly inspired by Jackie O). Freddie was the most fashionable creature I had ever laid eyes on. I adored his exotic looks – the kohl-rimmed eyes, the long, shimmering hair. It never even occurred (or mattered) to me that he might be gay or bisexual!  After all, the rock ‘zines like Creem and Circus frequently mentioned his live-in girlfriend Mary Austin. I was dying to know all about her. What did she look like? Did they exchange clothes? And it’s funny, but in the early days the rock press never alluded to the fact that Freddie Mercury was actually Farrokh Bulsara – a Parsi born in Zanzibar! Imagine my delight when I learned that fact. A dusky, dashing man from a country named Zanzibar.

Because of Freddie, I took to wearing black nail polish – on one hand only – as did he. I layered on the best waterproof  eyeliner I could find in the local Rexall. I bought a black shiny trench coat and fancied myself the Black Queen of the band’s second LP. And I sought out the most outrageous Freddie-inspired clothes I could find, most of which I found in two small boutiques — Paraphernalia and The Piscean – both located at suburban malls. That’s me in the photo, trying to look like dynamite-with-a laser-beam.

Alas, my royal crush had run its course just about the time the band released the “News of the World” LP – which contained those two tiresome stadium anthems, “We Are The Champions and “We Will Rock You.” By this time, Freddie had sheared off his beautiful locks and was sporting a close-cropped haircut and a mustache. He cast aside his Carnaby Street frocks and elegant, billowy kaftans and bared his furry chest. But I never stopped adoring that good old-fashioned lover boy.  I jumped at the chance to see Queen when they played the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh in 1980.  Musically, it was a great show. I still have an indelible image of Freddie strutting around – bare-chested – in tiny red shorts!  But Queen was never just a glam-band. Guitarist Brian May kept the electricity surging at peak level. Frank Zappa once said, “Actually I get more surprises listening to a Queen album than I get out of Jimi Hendrix’s albums….Some of the things that they’re doing mix-wise on these albums are very difficult.” Now that’s quite an endorsement, coming from a hard-to-please cynic like Zappa.

Queen’s popularity seemed to decline in the US by the mid-1980s, as Freddie became increasingly flamboyant.  Americans, with their puritanical roots, probably had trouble embracing a performer who was – by that time – so openly gay. But Queen’s appeal never waned in Europe.  The band’s only major faux pas was their decision to perform in apartheid South Africa in 1984, thus breaking the United Nations cultural boycott (they were subsequently fined by the British Musicians Union). Brian May justified the move, claiming the band was non-political. “We play to anybody who wants to come and listen,” he said.  It was a bad move, nonetheless.  But, as I’ve said before, I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to rock-n-roll.

When Freddie passed away from bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS in 1991, I felt like I had lost an old friend. I’ve digitized my old vinyl Queen albums and enjoy listening to those fabulous, underrated songs from the early 1970s: “Death on Two Legs,” “Sweet Lady,” “The Seven Seas of Rye,”  “Now I’m Here,” “Brighton Rock,” and “Tie Your Mother Down.”  AND, like those morons in the movie Wayne’s World, I never fail to crank up the dial, bop like mad, and sing my lungs out every time I hear “Bohemian Rhapsody on the car radio.

Queen has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years, due to a certain Lady who claims she adored the band’s singer and took her stage name from the group’s song Radio Ga Ga.  Thanks, Freddie, for inspiring a whole new generation of brave, over-the-top performers.  But I think that even the outrageous Mr. Mercury would have considered a raw-meat dress a bit gauche.

Happy Birthday, Freddie!   September 5, 1946 – November 24, 1991

 

Here’s the clip that started it all for me!

And here’s Brian, explaining the famous”waltz-riff” he developed for “Sweet Lady.” Check out Freddie’s performance! This is my favorite hard-rocking Queen song.

© Dana Spiardi, September 5, 2011

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Responses

  1. Rick Fitzgibbon says:

    April 29th, 2012 at 6:36 pm (#)

    As always, interesting and informative. Keep it up so I can maybe learn enough to be as cool as GaGa. I think.

  2. Matheus says:

    June 13th, 2012 at 11:34 am (#)

    Freddie Mercury was an absolute lneegd. I guess he still is.I remember back in the 90s, when I was in my 20s, my wife (now ex) had these Christian friends who were totally homophobic and would not permit anyone to play Queen within their earshot. They were the first of my wife’s friends I got rid of.

  3. Nina says:

    May 24th, 2016 at 6:39 pm (#)

    Love your story! Although I was a teen in the seventies I was not very aware of Freddie and Queen. Thanks to YouTube I have been able to rediscover them and see what an incredible entertainer he was.

  4. Dana Spiardi says:

    May 25th, 2016 at 3:06 am (#)

    Hi Nina. Thanks for reading my article. I’m glad you have a chance to experience the talent of Freddie and Queen!

  5. Eva says:

    December 30th, 2016 at 7:34 am (#)

    Growing up in a small rural Texas town left little exposure to the likes of music by Queen. I discovered the great talent of Freddy Mercury in 2016 by viewing the Bohemian Rhapsody video. To me, that video captures the essence, skill, and forward thinking genius of Freddy Mercury, a man who sang with the purest, and to this date, best voice in rocking roll. His showmanship has been called eccentric, but I interpret it as an in depth body, soul, heart and mind commitment Freddy put into his art, music and performances. Bohemian Rhapsody is a masterpiece unrivaled by any other song that captures both a level of intellect and talent that is humanized by all the feelings and emotions put forth in the song that are capable of being felt. The culmination of such talent, voice, sex appeal of one Freddy Mercury had never been seen before and has never been since since.

    I only wish I could have seen Queen perform live, but without having done so, doesn’t lesson my obssevive love and appreciation for Freddy Mercury.

  6. Lita says:

    June 14th, 2017 at 9:20 am (#)

    EPIC is the only word I can use to describe Freddie. The entire groups were a power not to be rivaled at the time. Freddie was 6 years older than me, and in the early 70’s we were all at the tail end of Hippie. There was a freedom of sexual promiscuity with birth control and feminism finaly taking hold. So Freddie was a force loved by all because he dared to be Freddie. His sexuality did not mean anything to his fans

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