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The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, 31 Years Later

Hi folks. Something tremendous had happened 31 years ago today and I want to talk about it here, because it relates to Queen. The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert had taken place on April 20th 1992 at Wembley Stadium, the same venue where Queen had stolen the show at Live Aid on July 13th 1985. On April 20th 1992, Roger, Brian and John, took to the stage at Wembley Stadium for the start of one of the biggest events in rock history, which the band had organized to pay tribute to Freddie. Queen were joined by some of the greatest musical talent in the world to celebrate Freddie’s life and work. The other objective was to increase public awareness of AIDS, the disease that had prematurely ended Freddie’s life on November 24th 1991. The concert was not only a great show and memmorial to Freddie, but it raised a huge and still growing sum of money for the Mercury Phoenix Trust, a charity formed at the time whose charter is the relief of suffering from AIDS throughout the world.
Back then, the musical landscape had changed because of grunge and alternative rock in general, but Queen wouldn’t fall flat despite loosing Freddie, or having no new album out and I will get into that later on. There is a lot to go through, so let’s get on with the rest of this post. I will mention all of the bands who had played s we go, along with any and all guest singers for Queen.
The concert began with a speech by: Brian, Roger and John, who would introduce each of the bands before them. At the end of his speech, John introduced Metallica, who went on to play: Enter Sandman, Sad But True and Nothing Else Matters, with singer James Hetfield returning to sing Stone Cold Crazy with the members of Queen and Tony Iommi. This would be documented on any video of the concert, but also the 30th anniversary of the Super Deluxe version of the 1991 Metallica album and the band’s participation in the concert, along with the interaction with some of the bands (including Queen) would be documented on the 1992 video A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, where guitarist Kirk Hammet busts in on James’s performance, which was rather funny.
Then, Extreme took to the stage (introduced by Brian) and did a medley of Queen songs, along with a classic live favourite Love Of My Life. When Queen had done this song with Freddie, European audiences knew their role, as they would (without prompting) sing the song when Fred would stop singing. Apparently when Queen played Montreal in 1981, that didn’t happen and despite that, Queen fans know that this was a highlight of the show, along with the traditional ending of each concert, which I will get to later on. By the way, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt) was in the video for Black Cat by Janet Jackson and has played guitar on tour with Rihanna, for a number of years. Also, Extreme had put out 3 albums since the concert and a new one is coming out on June 9th, entitled SIX. I have heard 3 songs off of it so far and considerint that they are all older and haven’t put out anything since 2008, it’s actually not bad so far.

Next, Roger brought on def Leppard, who played three Songs and among them, was Now I’m Here, with Brian on guitar. Wanna know about how that came about? Of course you do.
By the way, this was the second concert with new guitarist Vivian Campbell, who replaced Steve Clark who had died of alcohol poisoning on January 8, 1991. This lineup is still together to this day, complete with Rick Allen playing drums with one arm and 2 feet.
Next, (as Roger refered to him) The very ticklish Bob Geldof did a song called “Too Late God”. Before that, he had talked about how he taught Freddie to speak Gaelic. After all, mr. Geldof is Irish!
Next we have the incomparable Spinal Tap, who did their big hit “The Majesty of Rock” from the album Break Like The Wind. Of course, Harry Shearer is a member of both the band and a cast member of The Simpsons and the group had guest starred in the episode The Otto Show, 3 days after the concert.

U2 would be next up, with a performance from San Francisco California, they’re single Until The End Of The World. Then, we have Guns N’ Roses and they did: “Paradise City”, “Only Women Bleed” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”.
Next, we have Elizabeth Taylor and her aids awareness speech, which did get some boos as most people wanted to get on with the show and not have to listen to someone go on and on about The Aids virus and increasing awareness of it.

In between sets there were a bunch of Videos with Freddie, with and without Queen. In fact, I had first heard the song Barcelona during the concert and if you haven’t heard the original version, here yah go.
Now, it’s time to get into the Queen set and all of the singers and guest musicians. Queen + Joe Elliott and Slash starting off the Queen half with “Tie Your Mother Down”, which had concussive Pyro. That’s what that boom is called, when the first shot hits. A shot is when a guitarist plays a power cord and the drums and base come in with a beat at the same time. Then, the boom hits! I remember that we used to hear it more often, at hard rock and metal shows before September 11th and since then, not a lot of bands have used this to get the crowd to go wild and scream. The first time I ever heard the boom was in 1988, when I went to see Dio, Megadeth and Savatage. I had no idea why the boom only happened at certain times and I’ve always been interested in how those explosions are timed so that when the first beat hits, the boom hits at the same time. Anyway, I digress.
Queen + Roger Daltrey, and Tony Iommi, doing “I Want It All”, with “Heaven and Hell” & “Pinball Wizard” as the intro. Note: Do you want to hear what this version sounds like? Sure!

Queen +, Zucchero, doing “Las Palabras De Amor (The Words of Love)”
Queen + Gary Cherone, and Tony Iommi doing “Hammer to Fall”
Queen + James Hetfield, and Tony Iommi, doing a crazy version of “Stone Cold Crazy”. In the A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, Home video released in November 1992, you see Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammet busting in on the performance during the second guitar solo. Speaking of the guitar solo, it had a lot of delay on it and it wasn’t always turned off at the proper time, as you could hear it when Brian went back into the riff. This was apparent during the original broadcast, but it was fixed in released versions of the concert!
Queen + Robert Plant doing “Innuendo” (including parts of “Kashmir”), “Thank You” (intro) to “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
Brian May + Spike Edney, premiering “Too Much Love Will Kill You”. First of all, Spike Edney became Queen’s touring keyboardist and musical director to this day and played keyboards for The Cross. The Cross was Roger Taylor’s band from 1987 to 1991 and if you haven’t heard them, ask any Queen fan to play you some, or share it with you, from where ever you both get your music from.
Secondly, this song would appear on Brian’s solo album Back To The Light and again, on the 1995 Queen album Made In Heaven.

Queen + Paul Young doing “Radio Ga Ga”. Note: Paul had started in a band called Streetband, whose only known song to most people is about the pleasures of having… and is called Toast. If you haven’t heard it yet and you are a fan of Paul Young and his many hit singles, get ready for this because this is very different.
Queen + Seal doing “Who Wants to Live Forever”
Queen + Lisa Stansfield doing “I Want to Break Free”. It was roomered that Rod Stewart would do this song, but it was not to be.
Queen + David Bowie and Annie Lennox doing “Under Pressure”, which wasn’t a bad version.
Queen + Ian Hunter, David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Joe Elliott and Phil, Collen, doing “All the Young Dudes”, which was written by Bowie and he also recorded and released his own version in a lower key.
Queen + David Bowie and Mick ,, Ronson, taking on the Bowie classic “Heroes”
David Bowie spontaneously reciting “The Lord’s Prayer”!

Queen + George Michael taking on “’39”. I thought it was really cooll that he did it and I had gained more respect for him after that and his next two songs.
Queen + George Michael and Lisa Stansfield doing “These Are the Days of Our Lives”
Queen + George Michael doing “Somebody to Love”, which was released as a single in 1993, as a part of the Five Live EP, which has 2 of the 3 tracks George Michael had done with Queen and 3 others by himself.
Queen + Elton John and Axl Rose doing “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Note: for the most part, Queen have use a tape of the opera section, from the original 1970s’ studio recording featuring Freddie. For those who have complaints about bands using backing tracks live, you can either blame it on Queen, or except it as it is. In this case, it was needed, whether you disagree with the use of backing tracks or not.
Queen + Elton John and Tony Iommi, doing “The Show Must Go On”, which has been done by Queen since then, with both Paul Rodgers and more recently with Adam Lambert.
Queen + Axl Rose doing “We Will Rock You”
Queen + Liza Minnelli , supported by everyone else who performed at the concert singing the traditional song after We Will Rock You, “We Are the Champions”. This even included members of Scorpions singing along and I had found out, because they had appeared on Rockline the same evening.

Queen – “God Save the Queen” (taped outro, ). As we Queen fans know, this has been the traditional end to every single show, since 1974 and was released on the A Night At the Opera album and at the end of every live album. The concert had happened on Easter Monday of 1992, just before the Simpsons episode The Otto Show would air. That would explain the presence of Spinal Tap, or it could have been coincidental, that the new album was out and that they played at the concert. Either way, I was lucky enough to catch the show live, on both radio and TV and I had a tape of some of the show, which had unfortunately worn out. However, I now have the concert as a digital release and I have both halves of the show, complete with the video montages of Queen and Freddie, between the sets. I had failed to mention above, that the def Leppard version of Now I’m Here also appears on the deluxe version of the Adrenalize album, along with other cool songs, which are also on the X, Yeah! & Songs From The Sparkle Lounge: Rarities From The Vault compilation album which came out in 2021.
Two things had occurred because of the concert: the rerelease of bohemian Rhapsody as a single from the soundtrack of the movie Wayn’s World and the resurgence of queen in North America. The two events are connected by Bo Rhap appearing on both the soundtrack and the Classic Queen compilation, which was released in March 1992, as I had covered in a previous post. The album had done unusually well for a release, with old songs, as I had also gone over in the same post.

Since then, there have been 3 other tribute concerts in more recent years. 2 of them were for people who had committed suicide in 2017 and 1 who had passed away last year. Chris Cornell had died May 18, 2017, while Chester Bennington had passed away on July 20 of the same year. Chester Benington’s concert was first, thanks to Linken Park, their fans and their friends and it was held at The Hollywood Bowl. For Queen fans, Chester pokes fun at Freddie, as he is warming up in one of their video montages between songs. Also, Metallica had made some sort of appearance at concerts for all 4 musicians, with the band playing live at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, playing live at the Chris Cornell tribute concert and giving well wishes via video message for the Linken Park and Friends show and the Taylor Hawkins tribute shows.. Altho, in the case of Linken Park, it was just them, with a bunch of guest singers and the occasional performance by a solo artist within the set. You’ll see what I mean if you can get through the entire three hour + video.
This reminds me, what if Youtube was around in 1992? Would the concert also have gone out live over it, along with radio and traditional TV? What about social media? Could you imagine the buzz around the show with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, all the other networks which allow us to communicate over the Internet all around the world? In other words, could you imagine the announcement of the concert going viral, before any tickets are sold or anything?

The Freddie Tribute concert had set the standard for how tribute concerts would play in the future, as all the other artists I have mentioned, have all had video montage is playing between the sets and in some cases, it was well-wishes from fellow musicians. Some people had wondered why all of the bands had played their own songs, instead of nothing but Queen songs and I believe that the reason for that is because not every band could do Queen justice, in a short amount of time and why not stage it like a regular concert, with the other bands serving as opening acts, playing their own material? Some bands have covered Queen, but there is also the issue of moving equipment on and off stage for each band and all the logistics of that, which would have had to be worked out. Besides, Queen are also fans of other bands too and they would want to hear them play their own songs. Extreme were the only band to have done, what some would have liked, against Brian’s wishes and for more on that, check this interview with Nuno Bettencourt, years after the concert.

If every opening band had done this, there wouldn’t have been any room for Queen and guest singers to do a full set of music. Also, the way the concert went was and is the best way, for all concerned and it obviously went well. Will we see anything like this again, besides other tribute concerts to fallen musicians? Maybe, depending on the artist and how well-liked the musician was. With every artist mentioned, they were all worthy of. A tribute to them, put on by the band and in the case of Chris and Chester, mental illness is a topic which has risen because of how they had died and others, who have also committed suicide by hanging. With Taylor Hawkins, the fact that he may have died from having an enlarged heart is equally as troubling, but everyone who knew him had liked him. Even Brian and Roger would appear at both tribute concerts to him, in September last year, in London and Los Angeles. Why not? If you haven’t seen or heard the tribute concert before, or if you have and want to watch and or hear it again, here you go. It’s not exactly the complete concert, but you get a general idea of what music we heard that day, at home or in the stadium.

So, what about the other bands who played and what about the guest singers? Nearly everyone is active, with some exceptions. The death of George Michael in 2016 being one of them and David Bowie and Mick Ronson being others. However, in the case of David, he had gone on to release 8 studio albums before he had passed in 2016, with Blackstar being released on his 69th birthday and 2 days before his death.

As for George, he had released a number of albums and had gone through some issues, both of the health and legal, with him being arrested in 1998 in a public bathroom and thus, coming out as gay. Then 2011 saw him having to deal with a bout of pneumonia and I remember hearing him talking and sounding quite short of breath. I was going through my own issues with strep throat, which had lowered my voice significantly at the time and having lost sleep for a day or so and having to go to ER and… … that’s another story for another blog which I had told in a former ham radio group newsletter.

As for Queen, Brian and Roger had decided to continue in 2004, with Paul Rodgers and now Adam Lambert and John would retire, 5 years after the concert. Spike is still with Queen as the musical director and keyboardist and Brian and Roger had released solo albums and had played with other musicians since then.

By the way, any musicians who were a part of the concert are automatically in what I will call The Queen Family. If any band or artist has ever played with Queen, or with a member of Queen, they are in The Queen Family. This includes a rather wide net of musicians who have played with Freddie, Brian, John and Roger over the years and it doesn’t matter whether they had played with Queen in the studio, or live. I will do a separate post in the future, to further explain my reasons for the creation of the family, in my mind.

Anyway, I think I’ve said all that needs to be said and more, about the concert and I’m going to go through some podcasts and try to find the time, to watch any part of it, that I can.


Published by blindgordie

I am a blind at birth human and love to write. I have many interests and they are all in all 3 blogs I have here. Hopefully you enjoy reading them as much as I have had both fun and a hard time putting together each post.

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