An earlier letter told how Dr Clare Slater had saved me from falling. This one is to the rock group, Queen who played their part in that, too…
Dear Freddie, Brian, John and Roger
You released Bohemian Rhapsody in late 1975 to seemingly relentless airtime. I hated it! I couldn’t understand or warm to it at all, it seemed a grating cacophony of sounds, rhythms and ideas to me. But then, on the day of the school Christmas Party, those feelings started to change. One of my classmates, Carol Bridge, had brought the single in and she played it over and over throughout that cold winter’s day. And it started to grow on me, particularly the heavy-rock conclusion. If truth be told, I became rather obsessed with it over that Christmas period and went out and bought my own copy. By the time 1976 had arrived, I was also the proud owner of the accompanying album A Night at the Opera (I remember my dad being insistent that the song sounded so much better played at 45rpm than 33rpm!) I began to fancy myself as Freddie, disappearing in to my room at night; I’d place the disc on the turntable of my old Bush mono record player, draw back the curtains, sponge the condensation from the windows and perform to the world, spotlighted by the street lamp outside my bedroom window!
And so began a lifetime’s love affair with your music. You were the first band I ever saw in concert – Earls Court, Jubilee Day, 1977, £2 – I still have the ticket and I wrote down the title of each track you played that night in the programme – which I also still have. At one stage, my bedroom wall was covered with poster after poster of Freddie, undoubtedly the greatest frontman ever.
Dr Claire Slater ‘saved me from falling’ when I suffered severe exhaustion and associated depression in the year 2000. One of my defence mechanisms during that bleak, scary and lonely period was to withdraw from as much human contact as possible and to decorate the house – which we’d only been in a for few months – from bottom to top. Although we moved away from that property almost a decade ago, I could still show you the exact spot where I made the first brush-stroke (the utility room) and the last (master bedroom). Whilst decorating, I played your final masterpiece Made in Heaven over and over. And when I say over and over, I mean it. It went on as I started each day and I played it continuously until I clicked the top back on the paint pot each evening. She didn’t say anything, but I’m sure it drove poor Carol mad – in fact, I think she thought I might be losing my mind. Whereas, in fact, the safe and repetitive combination of painting and music were saving my soul, resting it, healing its worn out processors.
As a result, I know every single note, build, fade, rhythm, word, intonation, thought and emotion of that album. Everything. And, because of what it means to me, it will always be in the number one spot on my list of my Desert Island Discs. I play it rarely these days: not that I don’t want to, but it takes me back and I have to be in the mood to cope with that intensity of reflection. The reprise of It’s A Beautiful Day is particularly beautiful and, because of that, it’s particularly haunting to listen to.
So thank you, guys. Thank you for a lifetime of wonderful albums, for one of the major soundtracks to my life and for helping me through the worst period of it – a period that I’m not sure I’d have recovered from without the help of Carol, Dr Slater and a band called Queen.
Anyway, the wind blows.