Queen perform Bohemian Rhapsody at Live Aid in 1985
They seemed like two absolute extremes – the extravagant extrovert showman and the quiet shy one. Although never forget that John was also a major international rock star who played in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans. John left the band after Freddie died while Brian May and Roger Taylor carried on through a number of incarnations culminating in the new line-up with Adam Lambert. Friends at the time and afterwards have spoken of the unique friendship between Freddie and John which shaped their time together in the band and afterwards.
John was the last one to join the band. Brian and Roger had already formed a tight bond and had been playing together for a couple of years, including in the group Smile before Freddie joined up with them in 1970.
They all already recognised that a group with three very strong personalities could prove explosive and so the noticeably quieter John was the perfect addition.
Even so, Freddie later said: “He’s sort of quiet, lots of people think that, but don’t underestimate him, he’s got a fiery streak under all that.”
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On the set of These Are The Days Of Our Lives video shoot on May 30, 1991, shortly before Freddie’s loss that November, John also refuted the simplistic view many had of him.
He said: “Often it is singers and guitarists who are more outspoken. But behind the scenes, I can be as noisy as any body else.
“I think we all had our fair share of craziness over the years. I can’t say it’s been easy, it’s been difficult at times, we’ve had good times and bad times, when we’ve fallen out and made up…”
During much of that time, Freddie and John formed their own unit in the band, often travelling together on tour.
Freddie’s long-term PA and dear friend Peter Freestone described their relationship.
Like many others, Peter also agrees that Freddie helped John deal with all the pressures and attention that came with being in such a famous band.
He said: “Freddie took John under his wing because he was the new boy. He was shy, not like Brian and Roger. He wanted to protect him.
“Without Freddie there, John was not able to stay in the band. Freddie drew the attention away, and without Freddie there, I don’t think John could face any of it.”
But Peter also says that John showed his loyalty to Freddie while they were still in the band together.
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With four individual and highly talented songwriters, there were famously many tensions about whose songs went on the albums and which were selected as singles – with the associated royalties – before the group finally agreed to put ‘Queen’ as the credits on every track.
Peter added: “When you look on later albums, there are a few Deacon and Mercury tracks, because John was the only one who acknowledged how much Freddie helped him.”
Without, Freddie, of course, John decided to leave the band and the music business altogether.
Queen fan club president Jacky Smith had huge access to the band over the years and agreed with Peter. She said: “Freddie drew the attention away, and without Freddie there, I don’t think John could face any of it.”
Deacon’s college friend, Robert Ahwai said; “Maybe he thought, ‘Freddie was the band, so what’s the point? He suffered from depression after Freddie died and I am not sure he has ever come out of it.'”
Brian May also gave his unique insider perspective: “I think losing Freddie was very hard for him as well. He found that incredibly hard to process, to the point where actually playing with us made it more difficult.”
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