GMB: Brian May remembers Freddie Mercury's final days
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A year after Queen’s 1986 Magic tour, Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with HIV – a fact he kept secret at first, even from his bandmates. Despite an uncertain future, the singer threw himself into his work when the group gathered for their 1988 recording sessions of The Miracle album. This creative period was the most unified the band had felt in years, yet some clashes in the studio couldn’t be avoided.
Over the year-long recording sessions, Queen produced around 30 songs that would be whittled down to just 10, with classics like I Want It All, Breakthru and The Miracle making it onto the album.
Now as the band release a collector’s edition, six previously unheard songs have been included for the first time. Unearthed from the treasure trove are the likes of Face It Alone, which was released as a single last month and even hit No 1 on the Rock chart. However, there was another song that the band loved that was pulled last minute from the album entirely following a dispute.
The track in question is Too Much Love Will Kill You, which Brian May had written on his own with a couple of other people. The lyrics were inspired by a dark period in his life, following the break up of his first marriage.
The 75-year-old told Guitar World: “[I had been] away from the group because I was so depressed that I couldn’t have anything to do with any of our public life. I was in a bad way because I was struggling with personal issues, and I recorded it for my solo album but never thought of it as a track for Queen. But at some point, I played it to the boys, and Roger [Taylor], John [Deacon], and Freddie; they loved it and said, ‘This has to be a Queen track. We have to do a Queen version of it,’ which I was very happy about.”
After agreeing, the guitarist was surprised to see how Freddie saw the song differently, as it was transformed into a “big, bombastic and dramatic” Queen song from the “understated and small” original take.
Brian continued: “I didn’t realise was Freddie was seeing it from a different perspective. He was seeing it from the point of view of his own life, and then his own life, of course, was something only he knew about, and we didn’t. So, looking back on it, I have a very different appreciation of what he was putting into his interpretation of the song. And I think people tend to remember the song now as Freddie saying something to himself, as opposed to me saying it for different reasons. But that’s all good; songs have a way of developing their meanings as they go along and evolve. And I’m very fond of the Queen version.”
The guitarist then shared the real reason Too Much Love Will Kill You didn’t make it onto The Miracle, despite the initial enthusiasm from Freddie and the band.
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Brian confessed: “It came down to a dispute about the publishing. Because I had written the song with two other people, and they both wanted a third or something like that. So, now we were sharing the publishing with those two people and the boys in Queen, and it got a bit messy. It would have been something where Freddie would have gotten a quarter of one-third.”
At this point, the late singer shut down the song’s inclusion on The Miracle.
Brian added: “He basically said, ‘I’m not agreeing to that.’ I could see his point, and we were all very frustrated. And I felt even worse about it than he did because I put a year of my life into that song. But Freddie, probably quite rightly, put his foot down and said, ‘I’m not doing this.’ And so, an impasse was reached, and the song came off the album.”
In the end, the guitarist released his original version of Too Much Love Will Kill You as a single on his 1992 debut album Back to the Light. He also sang a touching rendition of the track at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert that year, before the Queen version was released on 1995’s Made In Heaven, four years after the singer’s death. Additionally, this one has been restored to The Miracle album’s lineup, as part of the newly released Collector’s Edition.
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