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‘The Show Must Go On’:





In April 1992, the surviving members of Queen organized a tribute concert for Mercury at Wembley Stadium (with all proceeds going to the newly founded AIDS fund ‘The Mercury Phoenix Trust’) featuring such Queen/Mercury admirers and ‘Queen-related people’ as Elton John, Guns n’ Roses, Seal, Metallica, David Bowie, Robert Plant, George Michael, Liza Minnelli and as special guest Elizabeth Taylor, one of Freddie’s favourite film stars.


Meanwhile, Queen had sold hundreds of millions albums worldwide and in the summer of 2005 they were even first above The Beatles with the highest number of weeks in the music charts. They have opened their own musical “We Will Rock You” and finished their successful tour with Paul Rodgers billed as Queen + Paul Rodgers, offering a fusion of Queen Classics and Rodgers hits from his days leading the bands “Free” and “Bad Company”. Anyway, fans continue feeling sad about the death of Mercury and keep stating in discussion forums on the internet (such as http://queenzone.com) that no one can replace Freddie Mercury.


Still, there are rumours circulating about Freddie Mercury’s life which are trying to degrade his persona and his art (and which are not concentrating on his music but only on his affairs) so that it is difficult to identify the truth from the lies.


‘Real’ artists are often misunderstood by ordinary people; they are sensible, they often are ‘suffering’ about the world and can easily fall into a life between two extremes. They literally ‘burn out’ and tragically die too soon – they life resembling a chain reaction…


The most important fact is that Freddie Mercury made so many people happy throughout his life and with his music and that the key message in his songs was always ‘love’.





“I think in the end being natural … being actually genuine is what heightens at the end all the mistakes and all the excuses …”


“If had to do this all over again, yes why not, I’d do it slightly differently”



“I’ve paid my dues

Time after time

I’ve done my sentence

But committed no crime

And bad mistakes

I’ve made a few

I’ve had my share of sand

Kicked in my face

But I’ve come through

And I need to go on and on and on and on


We are the champions – my friend

And we’ll keep on fighting till the end

We are the champions

We are the champions

No time for losers

‘Cause we are the champions of the world


I’ve taken my bows

And my curtain calls

You’ve brought me fame and fortune

And everything that goes with it

I thank you all

But it’s been no bed of roses

No pleasure cruise

I consider it a challenge before the whole human race

And I ain’t gonna lose

And I need to go on and on and on and on


We are the champions – my friend

And we’ll keep on fighting till the end

We are the champions

We are the champions

No time for losers

‘Cause we are the champions of the world


We are the champions – my friend

And we’ll keep on fighting till the end

We are the champions

We are the champions

No time for losers

Cause we are the champions”









“But the image of every true act, the strength of every true feeling, belongs to eternity just as much, even though no one knows of it or sees it or records it or hands it down to posterity. In eternity there is no posterity.”

Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf





+++ read an article reporting about the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert: CIRCUS, date: probably short after the Tribute Concert (April 1992) +++

(Source: from my own collection)









by Corey Levitan





THE IRISH ARE THE ONES famous for wakes, gatherings that celebrate rather than mourn the passing of a loved one. Today the English are having a go at one for Freddie Mercury, a beloved countryman who died of AIDS last November at the age of 45. They come not to bury the frontman but to sing his praises. Their five-hour send-off, which sold out before any participants were announced, is fit only for the king of Queen.


“We’re here tonight to celebrate the life, work and dreams of one Freddie Mercury,” Queen guitarist Brian May’s announcement christens the benefit. “You can cry as much as you like,” Roger Taylor, Queen’s drummer, adds. Many fans and artists do just that, as Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Extreme, Def Leppard, David Bowie, Robert Plant, Tony Iommi, Elton John, Roger Daltrey, Spinal Tap and 98 other musicians perform, some alone, some backed by the surviving members of Queen.


The performances caught by MTV’s cameras are captivating, but the goings-on behind the scenes are even more so.


It’s Easter Sunday afternoon, one day before the show. The sun beats away a morning shower, but nothing soothes the nerves of four groups running through their sets to the empty cavern called Wembley Stadium.


Drum sets are lined up behind the stage curtain in soundchecking order – Metallica at 2:00, Extreme at 3:15, Def Leppard at 4:30 and Guns N’ Roses at 5:45. Metallica trapsman Lars Ulrich, donning a Circus T-shirt, approaches the third kit in and sits himself before Rick Allen’s Acupad drum heads. “F*ck!” he screams, eyeing the DW foot pedals marked “snare”, “tom” and “kick” designed to let Allen compensate for his missing left arm. “How do you play this?”


Kirk Hammett notes that this will be Metallica’s first benefit performance. Behind him at stage front, James Hetfield, the first Metallican plugged in, picks the opening licks of “Enter Sandman”. His audience is 72,000 empty red velour seats and a road crew, and he’s not happy with his guitar sound.


“I thought I was over getting so nervous like this,” Extreme drummer and Circus Drum Beat columnist Paul Geary confesses as he waits on deck. “It’s not even the billion people who’ll be watching; it’s that Queen will be standing behind us while we play!”


Half-full tea cups rattle atop rented speakers as Extreme executes a soulful medley of “Fat Bottomed Girls”, “Bicycle Race” and seven other Queen Classics. Dismounting the stage, singer Gary Cherone explains the set’s Extreme dearth: “Well, we put the Queen songs and Extreme songs on a scale,” he says, imitating a scale by holding up his left palm, then his right. “Then it went boom!” Gary drops the heavier palm and laughs.


Phil Collen moves in from the wings to set up. He informs Circus of his band’s debt to Queen: “The sound of Def Leppard is very influenced by them – the multitrack vocals and guitars are a kind of tribute.” Soon Collen and Co. are rehearsing “Let’s Get Rocked”. Joe Elliott’s voice is scratchy, but he’s into it. So is new recruit Vivian Campbell, who contorts his face to sing the words even when he’s not near a backup microphone.


Guns are up next for their 45 minutes, which begins with “KnockinOn Heaven’s Door”. Slash, Gilby, Clarke and Duff McKagan work their strings and Marlboros as lyrics slowly scroll down two 30-inch teleprompter monitors. The computer behind Matt Sorum’s drum set offers a menu of lyrical programs including “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are The Champions”, in addition to staples like “Bad Apples”, “Don’t Damn Me” and “You Ain’t The First”.


“God, I sound like sh*t,” Duff says, dead-halting his rendition of “Paradise City”. Axl Rose is not here, which the British press interpret as news. If they’d have read their Circuses, they’d know that GN’R’s singer hardly ever practises with his group. Papers like the Daily Mail and Daily Express are perplexed that this band was asked to perform at all, considering the references to “faggots” who think they’ll “spread some disease” in the 1988 song “One In A Million”.


Half the artists have arrived this morning, half have been rehearsing with Queen for two days at Bray, a former film studio 30 minutes east of London. Kirk Hammett is in Wembley’s catering tent, which has imported grub and memorabilia from London’s Hard Rock Cafe. Standing beneath a menu of Elvis Presley’s favourite meal (“vegetable soup, pork chops with brown gravy, and apple pie”) he jokes about hanging with the ilk of Elton John and David Bowie. “Oh yeah,” he says sarcastically. “After this me and David are going to a club to soot the sh*t!”


Flash to Monday afternoon, concert day. Axl is backstage early, looking congenial as he sips from an Evian bottle and schmoozes an MTV talent coordinator. He wears shorts, Timberland boots with white socks, and a fluorescent green “Kill Your Idols” Jesus shirt, which a billion viewers will be able to read two hours later. Holders of various backstage passes – there are no less than ten varieties – pretend they’re too cool to care who he is.


By the crew toilets, Gilby Clarke chats with his personal guest, Bam, former drummer for defunct band Dogs D’Amour. Clarke calls the “Illinois thing with Axl” unfair, referring to orders to extradite Rose to St. Louis following a Chicago concert, which Axl cancelled to avoid arrest.


A tremor shakes the stadium by its foundation as Freddie Mercury appears on two 20-by-30-foot video screens bookending the stage. “Are you ready brothers and sisters?” his recorded voice queries. The audience, most of which dons the red ribbons symbolizing AIDS awareness, is as responsive as any in Mercury’s lifetime.


Metallica tastes what it will be like opening for GN’R this summer, as the band offers solid readings of “Enter Sandman”, “Sad But True” and “Nothing Else Matters”. Lars is superanimated, his drum strokes threatening low-flying aircraft, and Hetfield rises above a Clair Bros. sound system riddled with mic and level snafus.


Next Brian May introduces Extreme as “the band that understands Queen and Freddie best”. During the group’s abbreviated performance of “Radio Gaga”, nearly every hand in the arena claps to imitate Queen’s video for the song. This sea of palms moves in waves, beginning at the stage and proceeding backwards, due to the added time it takes for the sound of the beats to arrive at the rear of the audience.


A rushed “More Than Words” is tagged onto the Queen song “Love OF My Life”, which Extreme released as a B-side two days earlier. The unscheduled segue, first executed at last winter’s Hollywood Rocks festival in Brazil, nudges the band past its allotted 15 minutes. Production personnel freak; fans eat it up.


The backstage area bristles with priceless awkward moments, such as Billy Squier standing affixed to a monitor watching the next act, Def Leppard, command the stage. Leppard go its big break opening a Squier tour in 1983; tonight Billy isn’t even performing. Elizabeth Taylor makes her grand entrance into the green room just in time to catch Slash peeling off his clothes; he bids hello. Come time for Axl to trot from his dressing room to the stage, a windbreakered security guard warns off photographers. He tips Circus anonymously: Axl said he’s going back in if he sees a flash bulb.” No shutters snap.


“Thank you Wimbledon!” Spinal Tap obliges the Wembley audience after performing “The Majesty Of Rock”, a horrific original. Backstage, James Hetfield is pacing. He looks stressed and he’s not talking to anyone. Metallica’s set is long over, but Hetfield, Cherone, Elliott and Rose – among others – have yet to take the stage for the concert’s main course, a cavalcade of singers fronting Queen’s Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.


The most anticipated of theses sets, Elton John and Axl Rose singing “Bohemian Rhapsody”, does not disappoint. Although Elton begins the Queen hit an octave too low, Axl drives its headbanging second half to heights even Wayne Campbell couldn’t fathom. When both duet for the final verse – arm in arm – it is at once the concert’s climax and nadir. Here are arguably the two most magical men of rock, one epitomizing Freddie at his glitziest, the other Freddie at his most dangerous. Yet even the best two artists for this job can’t fill in. It is this moment that most invokes the night’s inevitable realization: Queen is dead.


Backstage, Circus asks Joe Elliott for his take on which singers have come closest to filling the void. “Nobody in the world!” he snaps.


One hundred thousand dollar’s worth of fireworks erupt over the stage after Liza Minnelli leads a superstar chorus through “We Are The Champions”, then “God Save The Queen”, the standard ending for a Queen concert. Mercury adored Minnelli; in a 1977 Circus interview reprinted last month, he called her “a total wow”. The screens then flash Freddie, wearing regal robes and a crown, taking his final bow.


The action moves to the crew parking area outside, as artists file into limousines headed back to their hotels, and later to a shindig at a club called Brown’s. Freddie soothes a platoon of unsuccessful gate crashers through a transistor radio: “Goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go…”


The song is, of course, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Tonight, the next line seems ironic and macabre: Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.” Freddie faced his truth alone, never publicly announcing he was HIV-positive until hours before AIDS-related pneumonia did him in. Hopefully, Mercury’s refusal to associate himself with the AIDS fight in life, coupled with his bisexuality, won’t cloud the concert’s underlying message.


It was George Michael, of all people, who delivered the most to-the-point words on AIDS tonight. He called it a “dangerous comfort” to think of gay people and drug addicts as the only victims of this merciless disease. Worldwide, an estimated 10 million are infected with HIV. By the year 2000, that number will jump to 40 million. Perhaps the best way to remember Freddie is, borrowing his words, to keep yourself alive.





Exclusive post-show interview


How was it playing with all those young hard rockers?

It was great. They’re all good friends. It’s not the first time I’ve worked with anyone, except for Metallica and Guns N’ Roses.

How did you decide on the artists to invite?

We tried to keep it as close as possible – people that influenced him, and people that said they were influenced by him.

The British press and gay activists made a fuss about Guns N’ Roses appearing.

I think everyone should shut up and appreciate the fact that Guns N’ Roses played for Freddie and for the cause. I think it was more important that they were there than almost anyone else because of all the misunderstandings in the past. Plus, they’re a great band. I think Axl is a totally real and honest person struggling through his own personal past. And I think as someone who screams out as he travels along that path, he’s doing a great service.

You introduced Extreme as the band that best understands Freddie and Queen.

Well, they sure know every note we ever played – they know it better than I do! They’re also very good musicians and I think they follow us to the extent that they don’t know any boundaries.

What was the most memorable moment of the night for you?

It was a whirlwind of different feelings. It was very weird and very sad. But there was one point, as we were going off stage, that Joe Elliott put his arm around me and said, “Brian, stop. You probably haven’t had a moment to think about it, but just turn around and look at those kids out there and think what it means.” And I did. And it was one of the most important moments in my life.






·         one billion television viewers in 70 countries, more than Live Aid

·         $7 million raised for AIDS research


Event employed:


·         1,000 production workers

·         30 tons of scaffolding

·         5,000 stage lights

·         175 microphones

·         400 miles of cable

·         13 satellite linkups

·         50 crew trucks










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