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Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie…

Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury

by Lesley-Ann Jones

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I am definitely a fan of Queen’s music, but this biography made me dislike Freddie and the rest of the band. I don’t think that was the intent of the author; but the shy-yet-arrogant Freddie with his extreme ‘sex and drugs’ lifestyle was so unappealing. I didn’t enjoy the writing style and I didn’t enjoy what I learned, I preferred my semi-ignorance. Not that I ever thought they were paragons of virtue, but I was much more interested in the creation of their music (which was covered very little) than in endless parties with live lesbian sex and cocaine. ( )
  Griffin22 | Feb 5, 2019 |
DISCLAIMER *This is a bit of a book vs movie review*
A real emotional rollercoaster without a dull moment. I have read many biographies and autobiographies in the past. They all have a bit you skim through at some point when the details get too long and arduous to read. Not this! It was very easy to read and full of quotations from friends, family, music industry bigwigs and even psychiatrists.
"It was the perfect stage for Freddie Mercury: the whole world." Bob Geldof
"It wasn't even dark, he was whipping up all this magic in daylight." Dave Hogan (photographer at Live Aid)
The explosive start with Live Aid in chapter one mirrors the movie Bohemian Rhapsody to a tee (although the book predates, obviously). Although the main focus is how Queen outperformed everyone that day, there is also a lot of other information like when and how Bob Geldof came up with the whole idea (I did not know that Queens had not been invited to sing in Do They Know It's Christmas!)
The book then delves deeply into Freddie's childhood and time in Zanzibar and India. The writer even goes on an expedition to find his birth certificate (which is apparently missing - suspected to have been bought illegally and in someone's private collection now). Her interviews with friends and family shed so much light on Freddie's background and upbringing. (He was called Bucky!)
The next thing that struck me were the many differences with the movie - too many to name! How he met and joined the band, how they got their first album recorded, the truth is so different I was wondering if I had watched an adaptation or fictionalisation of the truth at the cinema the day before reading the book (For example, they had a VERY hard time being picked up by radio DJs in the UK and could not get onto playlists at the beginning). However, I felt that his relationship with Mary Austin came across better on screen (although, again, there were many conflicts like, she did not abandon him as portrayed in BR)
The wild parties... Oh my God! Jaw dropping! I can understand why those were left out of the movie!
I also learned about Peter Freeman, Barbara Valentin and others who were so close to him but did not get a mention in the movie. And Jim Hutton - the true story of how they met is so different!
The book has a total of 25 chapters that take the reader from place to place and event to event. Freddie's multi-faceted, almost chameleon-like character came out very well in the story. You follow his as he goes from sleeping on the floor to super rockstardom. You feel each betrayal, each hurdle he had to overcome. There are moments you are cheering him on and moments you find the hedonistic OTT life too much to comprehend. There is also a lot of commentary into what the songs and lyrics mean - the writer's own take on Bo Rap is that Scaramouche (a clown from the commedia dell'arte) was Freddie himself, Galileo the 16th century astronomer is obviously Brian May, and Beelzebub (prince of demons) is Roger Taylor who was the wildest party animal at the beginning. I don't know how much water that holds, to be honest, but back stories to why and how the songs came about is definitely interesting.
And the final chapters - I was in tears. There was so much empathy and emotion in the description of his final year, death, funeral and the aftermath, all fans MUST read this. The wealth of information also lead me to some fantastic old videos (like Freddie's performance with the Royal Ballet) that are hidden away on Youtube.
Here are some of the titbits that have stayed with me...Did you know - Brian May developed gangrene in his arm after a routine inoculation and there was a real fear of amputation?
that Freddie was aerophobic?
that after their first appearance of Top of the Pops in 1974 Freddie ran along Oxford St to watch their appearance on a TV in a shop window because he didn't own one himself?
that Freddie and Roger ran a market stall in Kensington and were as thick as thieves? (I thought their relationship on BR was actually quite strained)
that when they landed in Argentina for the tour in 1981 the flight announcements all stopped and they started playing Queen music instead!
There was one comment in earlier reviews that this is a mash-up of all the interviews and books that have come before, with no new material. I disagree. Yes, there were a lot of quotes from various sources, but there were also many insights from the author herself and personal interviews / conversations too. Of course, I have not read all the other biographies of Freddie and Queen out there, but I am sure there is a lot of overlapping bound to happen when you write about the same subject!
My only criticism is, because the chapters were broken by personalities and events there was a lot of jumping back and forth in the timeline when you read from one chapter to another - where you stop and go 'wasn't that mentioned earlier?' However, if you are a fan of Queen, or if you have just watched Bohemian Rhapsody, this is a book which would fascinate you. ( )
  Nadishka | Jan 26, 2019 |
After seeing Bohemian Rhapsody at the theaters, I HAD to learn more about this musical genius, his band, and his fascinating life. This book is a good window into the life of Freddie Mercury and the musical genius of the band Queen. I did not realize how influential they were on music in the 70's, 80s, and 90s...and even today. Freddie was no saint, but he knew music, body and soul and underneath it all, it seems a genuine caring heart, that was oftentimes very lonely. ( )
  chrirob | Nov 19, 2018 |
This was an enjoyable read but not exactly an intimate biography as the title suggests. Most sources she uses are old rock magazine interviews and Jones seems rather keen on name dropping even when it isn't clear why one needs to know what other music industry connections a producer might have.

In addition, despite her admiration for Freddie she does not allow for bisexuality to exist in his case, often insisting that he was a closeted gay man, not bisexual. The fact that Freddie loved both women and men was something she admits but then seems to disregard.

With regards to Garden Lodge and Freddie's entourage there she describes the multiple lovers in his life getting on and even sleeping in the same bed as 'bizarre' while at the same time trying to highlight any small animosities as proof of how it was all some kind of fateful tragedy rather than people merely loving and respecting each other. It's as if Jones can comprehend the gay man that Freddie was but the bisexual or polyamorous Freddie is beyond her.

It's clear though that Mercury wanted to simply be who he was with all of the imperfections that make all of us human. There is no doubt he loved his many partners in a variety of different ways, whatever current convention thinks otherwise.

What comes across most stongly in the book, and to Jones's credit, is Mercury's shyness vs his onstage outrageousness. A kind of Janus faced character that left no one really knowing all of him.

If you are looking for an excellent biography of Queen this isn't your book. If you are looking for an overview of the life of Freddie then, baring the misconceptions of his personal life, you may want to give it a read. ( )
  twp77 | Jan 24, 2018 |
An intimate complex portrait of an "unmatched songwriter-showman"
A carefully documented look (realistic yet not sensational) at Queens" outrageous" frontman

"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."

It felt almost dangerous to immerse myself in this reading.
The many photos available added a quality of realism to the outrageous tone of the bio.
As Queen rose in fame, Freddie descended further into pleasure seeking excesses.

His persona developed with flamboyance and melodrama.
It was quite interesting to see more clearly the man behind the glittering facade.


Of course, not for everyone.....

But if you choose to read this, it is well presented and was enlightening to me. ( )
  pennsylady | Jan 27, 2016 |
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The 2011 edition of Freddie Mercury: The Definitive Biography was published as Mercury: An Intimate Biography in the United States in 2012.
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This rock biography is a revealing, intimate look at the man who would be Queen. The 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 twenty 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, the author, a rock journalist offers the definitive account of one man's legendary life in the spotlight and behind the scenes. She 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, she 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. It 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.… (more)

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