5 Things You Didn't Know About Freddie Mercury's Solo Career
As the frontman of the legendary rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury is one of the most ubiquitous rock stars in modern music history.
The singer symbolized not only the spirit of the age he came to fame in, but the flair and the incandescence we now look for in our favorite musicians. His legacy is so universally understood, that even the biopic dedicated to his legacy, Bohemian Rhapsody, has been criticized for not properly capturing his spirit.
But within Mercury’s status as a rock icon, many fail to remember his short-lived solo career. Bohemian Rhapsody briefly treads that ground, framing Mercury’s decision to go solo as one of typical rock star hubris -- he saw his star on the rise, he was offered a $4 million record deal, and he left the band he made his name with in search of new fame.
The reality of Mercury’s brief career, however, was much different. From why he went out on his own, to a llama that ended a collaboration with Michael Jackson, here are five things you may not know about Freddie Mercury’s solo career.
Mercury wasn’t the first member of Queen to go solo
Despite what a dramatic scene in Bohemian Rhapsody may tell you, Mercury’s decision to pursue a solo career was not out of spite for his fellow bandmates. Queen drummer Roger Taylor actually went solo first, releasing his 1981 album Fun in Space before Mercury even signed his record deal. After the commercial and critical disappointment that was Queen’s Hot Space, combined with exhaustion from their constant touring, the band collectively decided to take a break where they could pursue different avenues of music.
His debut single was a disco track for a redistribution of the 1927 film Metropolis
Before releasing his first major album, 1985's Mr. Bad Guy, Mercury gave his audience a taste of what was to come in his solo career with “Love Kills,” a hard-driving dance track co-written and co-produced by disco legend Giorgio Moroder, which became a Top 10 single in the U.K. in '84. But the release of this song was not simply for hyping up his new album -- the song was written and used for a re-release of the ground-breaking 1927 silent film Metropolis. While the song was a major success, it earned Mercury a nomination for worst original song at the 5th Annual Golden Raspberry Awards. (It lost to Sylvester Stallone's "Drinkenstein.")
Mr. Bad Guy served as an outlet for Freddie Mercury’s love of disco music.
While performing in Queen, it was very rare that Mercury would get to perform in the style of one of the era’s most popular genres of music -- disco. While “Another One Bites the Dust” drew heavily on the genre, the band still was hesitant about producing pure disco songs, even with their controversial addition of synthesizers on Hot Space. But Mr. Bad Guy, Mercury's debut solo album, was filled not only with his signature power ballads, but with a number of four-to-the-floor disco bops -- including lead single "I Was Born to Love You," a Billboard Hot 100 hit.
Mercury nixed a duet with Michael Jackson thanks to his pet llama.
Yes, you read that correctly. Mercury was an admirer of pop superstar Michael Jackson, and when he went solo, he reached out to MJ to work with him for a number of collaborations -- a reworked version of one which appeared on Mr. Bad Guy. The two recorded a duet version of his song “There Must Be More to Life Than This,” but Mercury became upset when Jackson brought his pet llama to the studio. Jim Beech, Queen’s longtime manager, told London's The Times in 2013 that Mercury called him and asked to be picked up, because he was tired of being around the llama. Luckily for fans, the tracks were eventually released 30 years later.
He released a second solo album with Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballé
After the commercial success but critical failure that was Mr. Bad Guy, Mercury still went on to record another solo album, but this time with an odd partner: The singer teamed up with operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé for his classical, opera-style second album, 1988's Barcelona. Originally inspired by the decision to host the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Mercury ditched his pop and rock music for an album of classical duets with one of his operatic idols. Needless to say, critics famously dubbed it one of the most confusing albums ever created.