It's hard to believe that Queen celebrates their 40th Anniversary this year, and even more significant is that it also marks the 20th Anniversary of the death of their lead singer. In `Freddie Mercury - The Definitive Biography', author Lesley-Ann Jones takes us on a fascinating journey through his life from Zanzibar in 1946 to his death in Montreux in 1991.
The early chapters in the book cover his childhood in Zanzibar, his resentment at being sent to school in India at the age of eight, and his early tastes for music, and how his life would change once he arrived in the UK in 1964.
What makes this book stand-out for other biographies is that Jones has certainly done her research (she was side-stage at Live Aid), and her determination to find a copy of Freddie's original birth certificate. She also travelled back to Africa and India and spoke to family and friends, people that knew Freddie first hand. There is still local resentment toward him, with one claiming "he gave up his family name.....and wasn't proud of Zanzibar", hence the lack of tributes, memorials or statues to him in his homeland.
Moving to England would change his life forever, as he dabbled with several bands before convincing Brian and Roger to do more original material. As he cleverly put it "If I was your singer, that's what I'd be doing". This would lead to the formation of Queen, and their first gig in 1971.
The fact that he didn't own a TV when they made their first Top of The Pops appearance, forcing him to watch it in a TV shop window in Oxford Street is just one of the many fascinating pieces here.
The great thing though out this book is that it's not a Queen book. While it's impossible to ignore their achievements, Jones cleverly throws in the odd statistic and chart achievement but keeps her focus on Mercury throughout. She doesn't shy away from Freddie's life off-stage either. We all know the showman who grabbed Live Aid by the balls, but do we know much about his lovers, his lifestyle, his 3-in-a-bed romps or his many excessive gay parties that included anything from Lesbian strippers to dwarfs, fire eaters, drag queens, mud wrestlers, snakes and hookers?
Then of course there's the music, which is what he lived for. His hero Montserrat Caballe, the duets with Michael Jackson and Bowie, what the intro to `One Vision' really is when played in reverse, his drunken on stage antics with Tony Hadley, his favourite composition, and the many meanings to Bohemian Rhapsody, the song he is most proud of.
There really is so much to learn here; their disappointment at not being asked to sing on the Band Aid record, Bowie's refusal to originally release `Under Pressure', John Deacon's depression after his death, and a fan's death at Knebworth that finally ended their live performances.
With the Sasha Baron Cohen movie of Freddie's life due to hit cinemas in 2012, Freddie Mercury's name is still on everyone's lips, 20 years after his death and I'm sure he's still looking down on everyone, and having one hell of a party in Heaven. I'm sure if he had read this book he'd be very proud of the masterful job Lesley-Ann Jones has delivered in his absence. Ultimate Magic!