‘Freddie Mercury: An Illustrated Life’ reviewed

❉ This month sees the 25th anniversary of Freddie Mercury‘s death, as we review the latest biography of the iconic showman.

Mark Blake has produced a book that will appeal to both the casual reader and the hard-core Queen fan.

It seems hard to believe, but this November marks the 25th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death. Since his death in 1991, Freddie’s legendary status seems to have grown. There was the star studded tribute concert at Wembley, remixed and re-released solo singles, the final Queen album ‘Made In Heaven’, the hit West End musical ‘We Will Rock You’ and somehow Brian May and Roger Taylor have become their own tribute band with the help of ex-Free/Bad Company frontman Paul Rodgers and flamboyant American Idol winner, Adam Lambert. All of these have helped secure Queen’s popularity with younger generations. Queen’s ‘Greatest Hits’ now stands proudly above Abba ‘Gold’ and The Beatles ‘Sgt.Pepper’ as the all-time bestselling album in the United Kingdom, selling over 6.12 million copies. Freddie and Queen have influenced many of today’s musical acts from Metallica, Foo Fighters, Def Leppard and Guns N’Roses to Radiohead, Muse, Lady Ga Ga and Katy Perry.

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With a wealth of books about Freddie Mercury and Queen on the market, Mark Blake has produced a book that will appeal to both the casual reader and the hard-core Queen fan. Of particular interest is the focus on Freddie’s early life and pre-fame ambition. The boy from Zanzibar who spent most of his youth in an English boarding school in India, Freddie comes across as a terribly insecure character who at the same time had unshakeable determination and desire to succeed.

Legendary photographer Mick Rock hits the nail on the head when he describes Queen’s early sound as ‘Ziggy Stardust Meets Led Zeppelin’.

There are some real gems in the photographs included, in his student years Freddie brings to mind a young Russell Brand or Noel Fielding (which makes you wonder whether either have ever been considered for the forthcoming biopic).

Freddie’s musical influences are explored. It is well documented that Freddie was an almost obsessive Jimi Hendrix fan, but he also drew influence from The Beatles ‘White Album’, The Who’s ‘Tommy’ but more surprisingly Cliff Richard, Marvin Gaye and The Jackson 5. Of particular interest is the mention of a couple of early encounters with future collaborator David Bowie. Although Bowie is considered to be a peer of Freddie’s, he was undeniably an early influence too. Legendary photographer Mick Rock hits the nail on the head when he describes Queen’s early sound as ‘Ziggy Stardust Meets Led Zeppelin’.

All the milestones of Queen’s career are well covered, taking in Bohemian Rhapsody, their rise to global stardom, the disastrous (by Queen standards) Hot Space album and their unforgettable performance at Live Aid. There’s a handy timeline provided at the end of each chapter and a useful discography at the end of the book.

There are some great interviewees including Roger Taylor and Brian May, friends and fellow band members from Freddie’s early life and a genuinely funny anecdote from DJ and TV personality Danny Baker.

Above all it is obvious that Mark Blake writes about his subject with fondness and respect. Freddie’s private life and sexuality are covered diplomatically and the coverage of Freddie’s HIV/AIDS diagnosis and suffering sticks to the facts and thankfully avoids tasteless conjecture about the who’s, why’s and when’s.

This book will leave you wanting to blast your Queen albums out loud and remember a time when rock n’ roll was at its most creative, flamboyant and excessive.

All in all, this is a great Christmas present for the Queen fan in your life or anyone who is interested in one of the most iconic and influential musicians of the 20th Century.


❉  Mark Blake’s ‘Freddie Mercury: An Illustrated Life’ is published by Omnibus Press, RRP £20.00.

1 Comment

  1. Do not mention Adam Lamberts name in the same sentence as Freddie Mercury, he is not worthy, and today Queen are crap with out Freddie to add the sparkle and showmanship.

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