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10 Queen facts you didn’t know (part 1)

2 March 2020

10 Queen facts you didn’t know (part 1)

Queen tribute band

In this article we’ll talk about the 10 most remarkable facts about the members of Queen. By now we all know that Brian May played a guitar he made himself or that Freddie Mercury was actually born in Zanzibar as Farrokh Bulsara. With these ’10 Queen facts you didn’t know’ we’ll throw some stories at you which even most Queen fans never heard. From postage stamps through instruments in the bath to members of the Royal Family on a llama dressed as a man. For now it may sound quite confusing, but after reading this article you’ll get all the references. Let’s dive in!

1. Freddie the philatelist

Freddie was a closed book when it came to his private life. After his death a lot of new facts about who Freddie was, when he wasn’t strutting around on stage, came to light. Apart from the many other idiosyncrasies, it appeared that Freddie used to be an avid stamp collector.
In his collection you can find stamps from the UK, Monaco, Aden (now part of Yemen) and Zanzibar (Freddie’s birthplace). He already stopped collecting long before Queen came to be, but his father, Bomi Bulsara, never let go of the album. Freddie and his family were Zoroastrians. One of the many rituals involves burning all of the personal belongings after a person dies. That’s why there are hardly any possesions of the late, great Freddie Mercury left. Why Bomi never burned the stamp collection isn’t clear.

In 1993 the album was put up for auction of which the earnings went to ‘The Mercury Phoenix Trust’. This little piece from Freddie’s life was bought by ‘The Postal Museum’ who exhibits the collection in its museum next to John Lennon’s.

Stamp collection Freddie Mercury

2. Is Roger Taylor a member of The Royal Family?

Freddie Mercury stamp

Now that we’re on the subject of postage stamps: in 1999 The Royal Mail released four stamps as part of ‘The Entertainer’s set’. Some of the ‘Great Britons’ were printed on this collection. Alongside England’s World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore, a Dalek from Docter Who and comedy actor Charlie Chaplin, Freddie Mercury could not be excluded from this set.  

The stamp stirred up a lot of commotion though. According to ‘The Royal Mail Rules’ only deceased people may be depicted on a British stamp, unless you’re a member of the Royal Family. If you watch very closely you can see Roger Taylor in the background sitting behind his drums. For some people that was a tremendous violation of the rules. The Royal Mail chose not to recall the stamps, because the complaint was about a pinhead-sized portrait. In all honesty you can’t even make Roger Taylor’s face out on the image. The Royal Mail threw in the fact that Queen Elizabeth II herself approved this stamp.

So no, Roger isn’t a part of the Royal Family, but he is the only living person, apart from said family, to be depicted on a British stamp.

3. Princess Diana was Freddie's boyfriend

You know who actually was part of the Royal Family? Princess Diana!
But hold on! That title makes no sense whatsoever. In any case it was true; for one night that is.

Princess Diana and Freddie were very close in the 80’s. One night they were watching The Golden Girls on television together. They had muted the sound and were improvising dirty dialogues over the images. Everyone was in a crazy mood when the 27-year-old princess asked what the night would bring. Mercury said that they’d probably head down to The Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Diana had never heard of it, but really wanted to join them. What she didn’t know, was that The Royal Vauxhall Tavern was a well-known gay pub. They tried to talk the princess out of it, but she was in a wild state of mind and would not take no for an answer. When she turned to Freddie, he said “Go on, let the girl have some fun. Can you imagine?”

So be it! They dove into the wardrobe and the princess slipped into a camouflage army jacket and tucked her hair under a black leather cap. The cherry on the cake was a pair of black aviator sunglasses. In a poorly lit room, the gang decided that one of the most iconic people of her time just might pass for an eccentric male model.

The goal was to have Diana order a round of drinks at the bar and then retreat without anybody recognizing her. The adrenaline was skyrocketing when they arrived at the pub. There was almost no doubt that Diana would be recognized the moment they stepped into the room, but they’ve already come so far. So in for a penny, in for a pound! They walked into the pub and apparently nobody really seemed to mind the Princess of Wales as they made their way trough the leather. Giggling like school children that were clearly hiding something, Diana ordered a beer and a white wine. The mission was successful and they were all exstatic about the fact that they actually pulled it off! Immediately after the adventure they dropped Diana off at Kensington Palace.

It’s no secret that Diana would slip into disguises to have a bit of fun without being recognized. But this was the first and only time she dared to go to a gay pub with Freddie Mercury dressed as a male model.

Freddie Mercury and Princess Diana

4. Larry Lurex stole Freddie's voice

Talk about changing personas! In 1972 Robin Geoffrey Cable worked as a sound engineer at the Trident Studios. Robin experimented with techniques to recreate Phil Spector’s infamous ‘Wall of sound’. With these techniques producers tried to create an unusually dense orchestral aesthetic that came across well through radios and jukeboxes of the era. They tried to have no instruments stick out too much. Long bass tones, heavy bass drums, a continuous humming of backing vocals and a lead vocal that was mixed quite deep into the recording were some of the key characteristics.
In 1972 Queen was recording their debut album in that very same studio. Cable needed a voice for his experiment and asked Freddie Mercury to help out. Freddie would only do it if Roger Taylor and Brian May were allowed to record the drums, guitars and backing vocals.
That’s how EMI released a single of an artist called Larry Lurex in 1973. On the single were two cover songs: I can hear music, originally by The Beach Boys and the Dusty Springfield song ‘Goin’ Back’. Nobody knew who this Larry Lurex was, because Queen was yet to release their very first album later that year. Needless to say, the single didn’t really amount to anything. It peaked at 115 in the ‘Bubbling Under the Hot 100 Chart’.
Where can you get a taste of that Larry Lurex ‘wall of sound’? Just check out the video below.

5. The weird relationship between T.E. Conway and Brian May

Brian May as T.E. Conway

There was no real mystery around Larry Lurex. A whole different thing can be said about T.E. Conway!
Tyrone Everage Conway was born in 1939 in Tennessee as country star Conway Twitty’s distant cousin.
He had a couple of hits in the 50’s with some Rockabilly songs. At the age of 20 he saw the light in a religious movement and turned his back on the spotlight of the music scene.
At Brian May’s special request T.E. Conway made a comeback in the 90’s. In 1998 he released an EP with 4 cover songs on it: Hot patootie, Maybe baby, F.B.I. and Only make believe. This EP was distributed as a free bonus upon purchase of Brian May’s solo album ‘Another World’. Conway’s career got a huge reboot and he was asked to play as supporting act in the May’s ‘Another World’ tour.

That’s the official story! It doesn’t take a sharp mind to figure out that T.E. Conway is just Brian May’s alter ego. He dressed up as a stereotypical 50’s rock and roller with a loud coloured jacket, a black wig and dark sunglasses. Nobody knew what was about to happen when T.E. Conway was announced as supporting act for May’s 1998 world tour. All of a sudden some weird guy appeared on stage to sing some old rock and roll songs. For the last song Brian May’s son, Jimmy, would trade places with Brian as T.E. Conway. That way papa May could get ready for for his own show. The fact that this eccentric charade was Brian May, was never officially confirmed, but there is no doubt whatsoever.
The opinions of the fans were scattered. Some found the peculiar act weird enough to be fun. They found it charming that someone like Brian May dared to do something so outrages for his own amusement. Others thought it was embarrassing enough to walk out of the concert after three songs.
What do you think? Check out this rare footage of T.E. Conway in action.

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Author: S.V.P.
© Mother Mercury 2019

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