Thursday, January 26, 2012


The story is probably pretty familiar to most fans, but the treatment is excellent.  This DVD is a two-part TV documentary done for the BBC last year, and with full cooperation from the band.  Well, at least Brian May and Roger Taylor;  John Deacon is still maintaining his retirement silence, but it's so well done you don't even realize he isn't doing new interviews until you're well into it.  Armed with a wealth of archival footage, much of it from the band's own vaults or rare and rediscovered tapes from the Beeb itself.

All the highlights are here, from May leading us through a tour of his old school where the band was formed, through to studio sessions showing early hits such as Killer Queen being recorded, and then of course the big breakthrough, Bohemian Rhapsody.  But given the landmark status of that tune, it seems to barely pause to remark on it.  And such is the trouble with only two hours to spend on a long-lived band, you can't dwell, you have to race.  When you have a story as colourful and controversial as Queen's, that's a lot to shoehorn in, and it never, ever lags.

You know where it is going after all the successes and bumps in the road, and that's to Freddie Mercury's last days, one of the first major stars to die of AIDS.  It comes as a bit of a shock now that such was the early '90's climate, he felt he had to hide his illness, and indeed, word wasn't released until mere hours before his death.  But after a band lifetime of being pilloried by the press, one quickly understands why he protected his privacy.  The real insight is his friends talking about how he drove himself to record more and more, even while he was weak and failing, giving his band mates carte blanche to do whatever with his final vocals. 

Now that time has past, the band and associates are willing to talk freely (mostly) about Mercury, and all their vices and moods.  We're the winners for that.  There's a lesson to the press and fans there.  You don't have to pry and push and stalk.  Treat people well and eventually they will open up.  You just might have to wait awhile.

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