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A revealing, intimate look at the man who would be Queen
As lead vocalist for the iconic rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury's unmatched skills as a songwriter and his flamboyant showmanship made him a superstar and Queen a household name. But despite his worldwide fame, few people ever really glimpsed the man behind the glittering facade.
Now, more than 20 years after his death, those closest to Mercury are finally opening up about this pivotal figure in rock 'n' roll. Based on more than a hundred interviews with key figures in his life, Mercury offers the definitive account of one man's legendary life in the spotlight and behind the scenes. Rock journalist Lesley-Ann Jones gained unprecedented access to Mercury's tribe, and she details Queen's slow but steady rise to fame and Mercury's descent into dangerous, pleasure-seeking excesses - this was, after all, a man who once declared, "Darling, I'm doing everything with everyone."
In her journey to understand Mercury, Jones traveled to London, Zanzibar, and India - talking with everyone from Mercury's closest friends to the sound engineer at Band Aid (who was responsible for making Queen even louder than the other bands) to second cousins halfway around the world. In the process, an intimate and complicated portrait emerges. Meticulously researched, sympathetic yet not sensational, Mercury offers an unvarnished look at the extreme highs and lows of life in the fast lane. At the heart of this story is a man...and the music he loved.
Let's just bite the big bad truth at the outset: This is a gossipy tattle sheet about Freddy Mercury & by extension, Queen. I was initially quite irked by the author's voice, which is that of a self-loathing hack journalist whose greatest ambition is to gawk at famous people. She boasts of having "worked as a columnist on The Sun, The Daily Mail, The News Of The World and The Sunday Express." I was about to bail on this, when I suddenly realized that I was getting direct access to a personality I've never myself encountered, and although I can't say she's at all attractive, she does channel the British underclass obsessions and anxieties. Armed with this realization, I kicked back into enjoying this guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, the book doesn't give a great deal of insight into Freddy Mercury, who remains rather enigmatic. But there's lots of quotes (the audiobook's additional quirk is that multiple actors voice the different persons quoted). There's some interesting info about Queen, e.g., that they're the only band to ever have more than one #1 single written by each of the 4 members (so, there, they're better than the Beatles, and indeed, Ms Jones states that Queen has sold more albums than the Fab 4). I was fascinated to learn that Freddy developed a close relationship with Barbara Valentin, an actress in Germany who'd been in several Fassbinder films. I ended up enjoying this romp, although it's not at all a well written book.
8 of 10 people found this review helpful
I loved listening to this book -- it felt as if I was listening to a documentary because so many of the key characters have their own voice (i.e. there are professional readers reading for each character in the book rather than one storyteller). I feel like I know a good deal about Freddie's life after listening to this book--this book tells the story without shying away from AIDS and the horrors it brought yet captured the gentleness in Freddie's key relationships and his relationships with women. I was on a bicycling vacation in Montreaux a few years ago: I rode past a Freddie Mercury statue and wondered "wow. What a strange place for this statue. (I didn't know about Freddie's love affair with the quaint town). I also heard "we are the champions" blasting. I followed the sound and found a huge Freddie Mercury tribute contest going on. It was a surreal day. It was in September so no doubt it was a celebration of his birthday. This book caused me to think about that day and to search for the photos we took of these discoveries. ❤️💥👑
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
After Freddie Mercury died it really felt like the end of an era. I remember crying my eyes out. I was a fan, in my 20s and a Nurse working in a large city hospital in the UK working with a team of of wonderful people trying to figure out what the heck we were going to do with all of our HIV/AIDS patients. Would this ever end. Yesterday in the Daily Mail we read that Freddie Mercury from the band Queen had AIDS. Now he is dead. How could that be?
It was heart wrenching. We knew that he had lost weight but now he has gone. Now we know.
This book brings Freddie back. We learn about Freddie the child. His insecurities, his ambitions and his surprising painful insecurity. Many people may not be surprised at his promiscuous lifestyle however I was. Only because Freddie seemed to have 'it' together so I was quite shocked at why he would take so many risks with his life. Maybe he, like so many people felt immune?
This is a beautifully written book which handles some very delicate subjects in a compassionate and respectful manner. At no time does Lesley Ann-Jones deify Freddie Mercury. She exposes him 'warts and all'. She talks about his faults, his strengths but more importantly his soul which I feel was so insecure and lonely. Freddie had no intention of dying young. That was more than apparent when he discussed his future dreams and plans for Garden Lodge.
The end of Freddie's life was almost too painful to read.
I miss you Freddie Mercury however this volume brought him back for a lovely visit.
Personally I am a fan of having several narrators as it turns the reading into more of a performance. The voice of Freddie made me tear up.
This was a walk down Memory Lane. Great read.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
the final days of Freddie's life were told very well. it made me cry as if I had been there.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This biography was written by a rock journalist, and thus the entire book reads like one very long Rolling Stones article. Well written, but I'm not sure how much I enjoyed the very removed, journalistic execution as it prevented a sense of getting lost in the story.
What really works about the format is the various vignettes and interviews with band members, loved ones, family, and Freddie himself, all acted brilliantly by various readers. These moments added respites of intimacy otherwise lacking in the rest of the prose.
I feel like his story connects us to so many other rock 'n' roll legends. It was good to hear a clarification of his order and chaos of his life.
I loved getting to know Freddie and learned so much about Queen! held my attention from the first line.
Jones reveals quite a bit about Freddie Mercury's rise to stardom and legendary status. Jones' admiration of Freddie shines yet her portrayal of Mercury provides candid and at times surprising insight to his unique life.
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Yes, absolutely. And I have recommended it to anyone who would listen. If you are a Queen Fan, this book will make you wish you had seen them in person.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Freddy Mercury. Who knew the struggles he had in life...and all he had to overcome, to live his dream and become a legend.
Which character – as performed by Jane Collingwood – was your favorite?
Freddy, of course. He was very witty.
Any additional comments?
This book made me laugh, it made me cry..it made me wish I had known Freddy. Such a larger than life presence. His struggles and insecurities, his loneliness and search for love tugged at my heartstrings. Then his transformation on stage made me smile in awe of him. A must read.
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
There is always the risk with celebrity bios that the author bias will veer too strongly into that of a raving fan, unfortunately, the first chapter was far too much this way for me to continue.
What could Lesley-Ann Jones have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
A more conservative and humble representation of Mercury would have been more enticing. The first chapter was so difficult to listen to that I gave up on the book mid way through the second chapter. To me, I felt the author was trying to convince readers that the pop star charitable efforts of the 80s equated them to some of the greatest leaders of that time, it was a little too much.
Would you be willing to try another one of Jane Collingwood’s performances?
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
I do think the author put a great deal of work into this. I also think die-hard fans may still enjoy this because they may share the deep love of Freddie that the author clearly has. I am a music fan and agree that Queen produced some brilliant work, I just can't get passed the gushing over all things celebrity put forward in the first chapter.
Any additional comments?
Perhaps the book changes tone, for me, I couldn't get passed the first two chapters and struggled to get through the first.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful