Here is an report from the time when Queen was starting to get big, but before they were absolutely MEGA-big. Always fun to read these early interviews – hope you think so too.
Freddie the M plumps for Puerto Rican rough trade
Those nasty queenies are back and proud in New York City
By Lisa Robinson
“QUEEN…oh the English Queen, well that single of theirs is really good, fantastic production. You know I thought they were quite something. They must have had quite a bit of potential apart from the immediate…they were immediately sort of acclaimed by the younger kids, so therefore there was some stigma about them. But then they put this record out and they gained so much respect. I think they`re going to turn out to be really good. I mean they`ve only been going about a year or whatever it is…”
Robert Plant, February 1975
WHAT`S THIS? The entire Avery Fisher Hall (formerly the Philharmonic) has been transformed into a high school auditorium. The scene resembles something out of “Rock Around The Clock” as thousands of Queen fans are throwing paper airplanes, jeering, stomping, lighting mini-flares and waiting for the concert to begin.
Mahogany Rush was to have opened the first of the two shows Queen were doing in New York, but they couldn`t get to the gig on time so some folk singer had to fill in, poor guy. Anyway, it was obvious that this crowd was impatient, also that they had no respect whatsoever for the Philharmonic Orchestra`s home. I wouldn`t be surprised if, after all the debris left behind, rock didn`t ever get in the hall again.
As I said, the fans were impatient. Last year Queen had been in New York at the Uris Theater with Mott; they only managed to do a month of that tour due to Brian`s hepatitis, but apparently “Sheer Heart Attack” and memories of that gig were enough to sell out a first New York show and require a second. “The nasty Queenies are back!” shouted Freddie Mercury as the band stormed onstage; Freddie in his Zandra Rhodes white satin, stalking and promenading around the stage. A fan handed him a bouquet of white flowers, kids were on their feet cheering.
Smoke is coming out at the audience and I turn to Lee Childers to ask what the name of this song is. “What`s the name of this? Are you kidding? `Smoke Gets In Your Eyes`, darling.”
Oh. It actually sounds like “Flick Of The Wrist” or “Tenement Funster” – one of those from “Sheer Heart Attack” that remind me of Bowie – but I could be wrong. Anyway, the sound is good – the entire stage production looked dramatically effective (even though the band was to complain later that there were lots of little things wrong and they couldn`t take the same kind of effects with them that they do in England…), and Freddie Mercury`s stage presence is simply overwhelming.
“Stone Cold Crazy” in particular, brings kids down to the front of the stage so that the ushers had to keep moving them back. Queen do a medley of four songs from “Sheer Heart Attack”; in addition to “Killer Queen” they perform “In The Lap Of The Gods” (with Freddie at piano) which sounds disturbingly like “Something Wonderful” from “The King & I”…All of a sudden it is apparent that the dry ice/smoke machine is not working properly. A mixture of smoke and dry ice comes rolling over the stage and nearly asphyxiates the front three rows, the rows I might add, in which all journalists have been placed. I think it is a riot, a boy in front of me puts up an umbrella. I also notice that a boy on the aisle to my left is totally nodded out…head slumped over the arm of the chair.
Freddie, by the way, has long since changed from the white Eagle top to a white satin jumpsuit split down the middle, with white cinch belt with rhinestones. About halfway through the concert he changes again (during one of Brian`s solos) into the exact same ensemble in black, with the addition of one black satin glove, the tips of the fingernails adorned with silver.
The audience is completely enthusiastic, it`s a good reception for a British band who`ve only been to the U.S. twice actually and not had a huge hit here. They came back for two encores. The first is undoubtedly one of the best songs of the evening – Cy Coleman`s “Hey Big Spender” from “Sweet Charity” – fabulous: The second is “Jailhouse Rock” – I guess Queen had to end the night on a rock note…
TWO DAYS later, I spoke with Freddie Mercury in his hotel. He had been asleep most of the day, feeling a bit taken with the `flu, and after a long bath he said he felt “as if I`d come back to life.
“I was very pleased about the concerts, the second show was even better. We did about four in a row, you see; two the night before in Boston, and I was worried where I would get the energy, to be honest. I thought the crowd was pretty amazing, much better than the last time. They were so…you know, chuffed.” (He has to explain what that means to me…).
“You know we had to come over here and do it the way we wanted to do it. Last time was a breaking-the-ice tour, but there were a few set-backs. Yet we still managed to do a month and we got a taste of America, so I think we knew what was needed this time. There`s no way you can show the public what you can do unless you headline. When you support there are so many restrictions… you don`t get your light show, your playing time, your effects. We`re not using the lights we use back home, but they`re similar things. Ideally we would take everything on the road with us, but it`s too expensive. It`s very expensive as it is, the entourage is pretty huge.”
I ask him about his clothes, but his make-up – who takes care of it?
“Well,” he smiled, “here I`ve been doing it myself. Sometimes when it`s hectic, like at the Rainbow in England, we had a special make-up lady, and that`s nice when you`re sort of doing interviews at the same time. Just to lean back and have someone else do it.”
What kind of makeup do you wear? (I thought you`d never ask Lisa…Ed.) “Oh,” he laughs, “well, what I put on is just sort of… Revlon…`Touch And Glow`…it`s very, very basic.” What colour. “It`s toasted beige, actually. Trust you to ask me!
What about the, errr…smoke machine?
“Oh, don`t talk about that! It`s a dry ice and smoke thing and you know sometimes with dry ice the heat from the lights doesn`t allow it to rise…See, this is one of the things that I`m sort of annoyed about, that we couldn`t bring over the sort of finishing touches we have at home. The light board we have at home is better, and the smoke machine, and the flares that go off at the end…I`m making excuses aren`t I?” Well…yeah, but it`s understandable. Anyway, I thought it looked dramatic, just funny that the writers were all choking in the front few rows…”Well how do you think I feel every day? I`ve got to sing through that fog!
“Another thing is, I`m having voice trouble, you must have detected that. It`s just the hazards of being on the road. My voice can only take so much, especially on the double evenings. But we only add the second ones when we sell out, and you don`t complain if you sell out.
“I heard Planty (sic: Robert) had voice trouble on their tour as well. I know what it`s like…it`s so frustrating because you want to make those high notes, and you want to tell the people that you know you can make those, but you`re singing an octave lower because you don`t want to chance it and croak. Last night there were a few phrases where I opened my mouth and nothing came out…But what can you do? You can`t hide it. And I`m taking all the pills, honey and lemon every half hour…” (So you`re not having much fun on this tour?) “Well…you know…I`m making the best of it.
“This is only the second time we`ve been here, and we`ve never been to the West Coast before.” Uh-oh. “I`m looking forward to it, I`m saving myself for that. I`ve never been to Miami either, but I`ve been told that there are all these sort of old age pensioners there, is that true? Sort of macabre, isn`t it? To imagine that they all go there to die…all of them dropping off in the sun like that…”
And so the inevitable question of How Do You Feel About The British Press, and the mumbled comparisons with Led Zeppelin?
“Well I think the press in England have come through, but I think they`re very fickle, and I tell them that to their faces. Our fans are such a wide cross-section you wouldn`t believe it. Last tour we had from the little ones, the fourteen and fifteen year olds, to the mums and dads. I think we proved our versatility with `Sheer Heart Attack`…and now daughters are sort of bringing their mums to the shows with them.
“As for Zeppelin, in the early days we were definitely compared to them…maybe the press disliked us in the earlier days because they couldn`t put their finger on us and that happened to Led Zeppelin as well. Also people say that the same sort of buzz is happening with us here in the States that happened with them their first time around. But I think now, especially at home, that we`ve been accepted as having a sound of our own, and in the press there are a lot of new bands that they say sound like us…”
Whose decision was it to do that marvellous “Big Spender” onstage? “Oh,” Freddie laughs, “it was my idea actually. I like that approach to entertainment, I like that cabaret-ish sort of thing. I adore Liza Minnelli, I think she`s a wow.
“It does appeal to me to think of doing more lavish, stage-production type things,” he says in response to my question, “but I would somehow like to combine it with the group, not divorce it from it…and that`s a difficult thing. Because I`ve got to approach the others and convince them that it`s going to work. My god, you have no idea how long it took me to convince them to do `Big Spender`…
Finally we talk about where the band is going to go that night in New York, their rare night off. I say my role as tour guide has been limited somewhat by the closing of Max`s and the generally depressing aura of the Club 82…there`s really only Lady Astor`s, Le Jardin, and – oh, I know…The Gilded Grape, I suggest. It`s fabulous, all Puerto Rican drag queens and rough trade…sailors…
“Oh, it`s definitely the Gilded Grape, then,” Freddie laughed.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Elton John, NME`s Soul Spectacular, Adrian Gurvitz, Budgie, Leo Sayer.
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