Freddie Mercury died a few months before the film came out, so I had always assumed that the band or the estate handled the rights, and that Freddie Mercury never knew anything about it.
Boy, was I wrong:
When Queen guitarist Brian May talked to BBC News for the 40th anniversary of the song in 2015, he laid out a bit of the history of the song, which released in 1975:
There was no demo. It was all in Freddie’s head and on lots of little pieces of paper, which he used to make notes on. And I mean literally notes. He would put A♭, C♯, D♭ in little blocks.
Freddie Mercury even wrote May’s badass guitar solo:
That was something he played with his left hand in octaves on the piano. So I had that as a guide – and that’s very hard to do, because Freddie’s piano playing was exceptional, although he didn’t think so.
The song held the #1 spot in the UK for nine weeks but peaked at #9 in the US. Queen was still big in the US, but their popularity started to wear out as the decade waned:
There was a time when we completely owned America and we would tour there every year. It seemed like we couldn’t go wrong – and then we lost America for various reasons, which are now history.
Mercury contracted HIV at some point within the next decade, and any hope of reclaiming glory in the US was probably assumed lost.
Then May got a call:
So, he sent me a cassette, and I took it around to Freddie, who was not in a good state at that time. He was… He was confined to his bed, but I took it round and played it to him, and he loved it.
Strangely enough, the humour in it was quite close to our own. Because we did that kind of thing in the car, bouncing up and down to our own tracks!
They did it, too!
It’s just human instinct!
And the scene not only helped propel the film to sucess at the box office, but it also started a resurgence for Queen in the US:
There’s a huge irony there…
Freddie had a very dark sense of humour. And he used to say: ‘I suppose I’ll have to die before we get America back.’
And, in a sense, that was what happened. And it was Wayne’s World – which came completely out of nowhere – that made it happen.
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