So there he was, the hair much more grey and ever so slightly thinner than it was, but still the unmistakeable frame and the immediate recognition. Interesting also to see even politicians fawning in his presence and asking to have their photos taken with the Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, but there we go, that’s what you get when you are Brian May. I would probably have gone up to say hello, bask in the reflected glory of one of my childhood heroes, but I feel terribly awkward going up to celebs and, besides, the Government Chief Whip was nearby and, by some accounts, he is not to be trifled with.
The strange thing is that I had been wondering yesterday afternoon what it must have been like in that flat in Kensington at the beginning of the 1970s when Queen were having their photos taken for that first album. Must dig it out and have a listen at some point. Of course, Queen, and Brian especially, were intelligent chaps and played the business the way they wanted to, essentially acting as one band in the studio, taking advantage of those huge sonic canvasses, and then stomping around the world as a rock unit par excellence. There’s some musical flab in the later work, of course, but that purple patch from Queen II to News Of The World is still a thing of wonder. And there was me thinking that 39 (one of Brian’s songs) was about the Pilgrim Fathers sailing to America but it was about quantum physics and travelling faster than the speed of light all along. No wonder the punks couldn’t understand it.
Despite seeing Brian yesterday, it is John I come back to most in my thoughts about Queen, retreated into a respectable retirement, doing something in Putney funded presumably by having written the band’s biggest hits, Bo Rhap apart. I could probably pass John in the street, maybe have done, and not recognise him, all credit to the man, but, my word, what a bassist. The word “solid” does not even begin to do justice to the man’s playing, and good luck to him, wherever he is and whatever he is doing.
I like to think that JEBO’s approach to Settle Up Or Settle Down was an attempt to emulate the great studio bands of the 70s and 80s, Queen included. The basic tracks were all played at the same time in the same room and the other bits and pieces layered on top. We did not quite get to the stage Brian did on Good Company where he elicits such fantastic sounds from his guitar, each line orchestrated (yes, really) and forcing him into the studio for what seemed to the others like forever, but sometimes it is enough just to view greatness from a distance, the glow is so powerful.