Brian May said Queen bandmate Freddie Mercury’s voice was “out of control” when they started work on their first demo recordings.
In a recent interview with Rick Beato, the guitarist recalled that the singer realized for himself his approach wasn’t acceptable, starting again with an improved focus.
“He’s a self-made man,” May said of Mercury. “He went in the studio when we first went in, and he’d been singing with us live; we’d been rehearsing and writing and everything. And he was pretty out of control, I have to say. Even he knew it. He’d run around screaming and posing and whatever, but the vocals would be all over the place.”
He continued: “He went in and we laid four tracks down, and Freddie said, ‘I’m not having this – this is not good enough. I don’t want to sound like that.’ And he went in again and again and again and worked on it, listened to it, [kept] coming back, and molded himself into that singer.”
May said Mercury’s sense of self-control meant that, by the time Queen recorded signature track “Bohemian Rhapsody” in 1975, the singer was a “phenomenal” artist. “You’ve probably listened to the backing track on its own and it’s immaculate, isn’t it?” the guitarist added. “There’s no click. Freddie himself was like a metronome, but a metronome with a lot of balls. It had a bite to it, the way Freddie hit that piano. He was incredible to play with.”
Turning to the band’s 1976 album A Day at the Races, May noted: “If you listen to a song called ‘You Take My Breath Away,’ he does an introduction for that where he’s multi-tracked all himself. And it’s so close; it all phases, he’s so accurate, so in tune. It’s incredible. That’s not an effect – there is no effect on there whatsoever. You listen to it, and it’s all just delicately phasing with itself, all the separate parts. It’s beautiful. I’ve never heard anybody do that quite to that degree of perfection.”
Listen to Queen’s ‘You Take My Breath Away’