Tag Archive: Anita Dobson

Copyright 2014, Art Katalyst

Copyright 2014, Art Katalyst


I write a piece on Queen’s recent release of their collection Queen Forever, a set which featured three newly released tracks from the band along with a mix of classic hits and deep cut album tracks.

Pick up your issue today to read the whole thing!



The Lost Christmas Songs

The winter wonderland in my head every December, even if reality disagrees.

I’m Canadian.

You may not have known that about me.

I mention this because in Canada, by the end of October, we’ve scratched both Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en off our lists and the next major holiday for many is Christmas. Of course, many others don’t celebrate Christmas as such, not being of a Christian faith. It can get into sticky political correctness territory here, so all I’ll say is this: come December, do what makes you happy! I’m doing the Christmas thing!

I love the lights, the tacky, bright decorations, Santa Claus at the mall and I love a lot of the music I hear in stores. Some songs I really don’t like, but they get played anyway. Over the years, though, I’ve built up a mental list of Christmas and related songs I almost never hear during the holidays unless I play them myself. These are what I call The Lost Christmas Songs.

In no particular order…

01) Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen

A non-album track from 1984. The guys who gave us Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites The Dust, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions made one shot at an exclusively Christmas single and it was actually a hit (#21 in the UK) that year. It has all the Queen trademarks of lush harmonies and production and has aged reasonably well considering it comes from the ’80s.

02) Cashing In On Christmas – Bad News

Funny Christmas songs are as much a part of the holidays as the straightforward classics, but many are just parodies of existing songs, changing the words. Not this 1987 track, from comedic rockers Bad News. It’s its own song and a very good one too (though it borrows its intro from the Troika written for “Lieutenant Kije”). It pokes fun at the many (many!) artists who record Christmas albums just to cash in on the season, rather than those artists having a legitimate artistic expression about this time of year. And it’s a catchy tune!

03) Silent Night – Mike Oldfield

“Silent Night” is hardly a lost Christmas song, for sure, but this performance, the B-side of his 1992 “Tattoo” CD single, is a beautiful instrumental version. Sit by the window and watch it snow while listening to it and you’re imagination will be transported somewhere magical.

04) Nut Rocker – B. Bumble And The Stingers

A rock and roll suite of selections from Tchaikovsky’s  The Nutcracker and it’s just as much fun as you’d imagine. This 1962 single was later covered live by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who released it as a single, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra did a version on their album Night Castle.

05) Little Drummer Boy – Alex Lifeson

From the collection Merry Axe-mas, this track sees the guitarist from the prog-rock band Rush performing a gentle acoustic rendition that will warm your heart.

06) Christmas At Ground Zero – “Weird Al” Yankovic

This is a tough one and I almost didn’t include it out of deference to my US readers. The horror of 9/11 has made the term “ground zero” almost exclusively linked to New York City and the World Trade Center twin towers. What “ground zero” actually always refers to is the point of impact of an explosion on the ground. In 1986, when the song was written and released, it referred to a nuclear explosion. The song humorously describes the holiday aftermath. Not a parody, as Al is famous for, but an original song that sounds like an early-’60s Wall-Of-Sound number. The world lost much on 9/11, but it’s time to take this song back!

07) I Dream Of Christmas – Anita Dobson (with Brian May & John Deacon)

Written by Queen’s guitarist at the same time as “Thank God It’s Christmas.” Queen chose the one track to record, so Brian brought the other to Anita as he was producing her first solo album. A sweet little track, maybe a bit sacchrine for some, but it comes by it honestly.

08) Troika (Lieutenant Kije) – Prokofiev

I mentioned this piece earlier and I can guarantee you’ve heard part of it. It’s been co-opted for the backing of numerous Christmas songs, like “I Believe In Father Christmas” by Greg Lake and Helen Love’s “Happiest Time Of The Year.” Well, here’s your chance to get to know the original and if you’re like me, once Prokofiev’s original sleigh ride music grabs you, you won’t care for the pieces that stand on its shoulders.

09) Christmas In Heaven – Monty Python

The closing number from their film The Meaning Of Life. Python humour is an acquired taste, but this calypso-themed celebration of everything great in Heaven (where it’s Christmas all the time!) is no less silly than what you hear on the radio all December long.

10) A Winter’s Tale – Queen

Not specifically a Christmas track, but it certainly fits the season. A single in 1995 from their album Made In Heaven, it was a #6 hit in the UK and is a gentle reflection on winter.

11) What Can You Get A Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Has A Comb)? – Star Wars: Christmas In The Stars

This single, from the album Christmas In The Stars, reach #69 on the Billboard charts in 1980. I freely admit, it’s utter cheese, but so what?! I’ll take it over lame-as-all-fuck “Christmas Shoes” any day. With Disney buying Lucasfilm, don’t be surprised if this album gets re-issued. And no, this album has no connection to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978.

12) Oíche Chiúin (Silent Night) – Enya

A Gaelic rendition of “Silent Night” that loses none of its power in the translation and arguably gains a good deal more elegance sung by Enya. Those put off by the religious tone of the English-language version can enjoy this recording for the music, melody and vocals without the words getting in their way. This version appears on her 1994 single and her 2006 Sounds Of The Season EP.

13) In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield

This is a very old Christmas piece with a long and varied history dating back to the  Middle Ages. Oldfield’s instrumental hit (#4 in the UK) version is based on Pearsall’s adaptation. It’s a jaunty, lighthearted folk arrangement that will put a spring in your step. More recently, Mike played part of this at the Opening Ceremony to the 2012 Olympics, so we may hear it get a resurgence in popularity in North America.

14) The Night Santa Went Crazy – “Weird Al” Yankovic

If you can’t bring yourself to play “Christmas At Ground Zero,” at least there’s this track to fall back on. Another original composition, a  rocker this time, comes from his album Bad Hair Day. Santa loses it and goes on a killing spree at the workshop. Play it loud!

15) Christmas Time (Oh Yeah) – Barenaked Ladies

The Ladies recorded a full Christmas album (Barenaked For The Holidays) and re-recorded this song for it. “Elf’s Lament,” the radio favourite from the album, overshadows this track, which is also an original composition and dates back years earlier. The first recording appears on the 1995 collection Cool Christmas, has more energy to it. (The video linked isn’t the 1995 recording, but a live version, because the 1995 is no where to be found. It retains the punchiness of the original, though.)

16) A Tale For A Winter’s Evening – Joseph Suk

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker gets most of the love when it comes to seasonal classical music when it’s not sharing it with Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy,” which is a shame because there are other great pieces dedicated to winter. If you find yourself growing weary of the modern pop Christmas standards and want something different, Joseph Suk’s Opus 9 “A Tale For A Winter’s Evening” (also known as “A Winter’s Tale” on some recordings, such as the excellent Naxos label release) is a great place to start.

17) The Four Seasons: Winter – Vivaldi

Not heard nearly as often in commercials, TV shows and movies, Vivaldi’s Winter should sound unsullied in the imagination. You’ll recognize Vivaldi’s string sound as it relates to the more well-known “Spring” and “Summer,” but it will take you somewhere bright and new if you’re not as familiar with this piece (and I’m betting you’re not, unless you’re into classical music).

18) Winter Legends – Arnold Bax

Bax himself described Winter Legends as “a northern nature piece full of sea and pine forests and dark legends.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Winter Legends is sort of a power ballad of classical music, intense and full of energy long before the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rocked Christmas. It may be a bit dark for some, but it’ll balance out the sweet cheeriness of holiday music when it gets to be too much unbridled joy for one person.

19) Father Christmas – The Kinks
(Reader Suggestion) A tongue-in-cheek track about what kids really want for Christmas: money! Edgier than most humorous holiday songs, but that’s what The Kinks do best. This 1977 punk-rock single was later included on re-issues of their album Misfits. Thanks for the suggestion, Brian Pat!

I’ve heard people lament that every Christmas it’s the same old thing. The same songs are re-recorded over and over, they say, and they’re mostly right. It’s hard to write either a brand new Christmas song or even an original take on an existing song. My list above has some of both. There’s no reason I can fathom that in the sea of  versions of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)*,” songs like “Thank God It’s Christmas” get overlooked by radio programmers looking for something else to liven things up. Maybe all the songs listed aren’t quite fit for the mainstream airwaves, but load these onto your MP3 player and fire them up at the next Christmas party. The other people in the room probably haven’t heard most of these.

If you have Lost Christmas favourites, let me know and I’ll add them to the list**.

Merry Christmas!

That’s what I’m talking about.

* Darlene Love’s original recording of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” kicks so much ass no one ever need bother trying to top it. That means you, Bono!

**Unless I know the song and hate it, then it’s not making the list. 😉

[The following article ran in two parts on Queen’s Official Website, on August 1st & August 7th, 2012. Thanks to site administrator Nick Weymouth. ]

Brian May (Copyright owner and year unknown)

The Journey Back To The Light

By Patrick Lemieux

The end of 1987 was a tumultuous period for Queen’s guitarist, Brian May.

Sadly, on June 2nd, 1987, Brian’s father, Harold May, had passed away. The loss did not help Brian’s struggle with depression.

The band was on a much needed break after the release of their 1986 album A Kind Of Magic and a successful, if taxing, European tour. The four men were exploring solo efforts outside of Queen, and from the summer through to winter, Brian had been working on the debut album of actress Anita Dobson. As circumstance would have it, the relationship between the two would complicate Brian’s life and marriage to his wife, Chrissy.

It’s at this point that the seeds of a solo album were beginning to germinate.

While living in Los Angeles, Brian became friends with singer/songwriter Elizabeth Lamers and songwriter Frank Musker. Together, they wrote the song “Too Much Love Will Kill You.” As Brian would explain, he was in a dark place, mentally and emotionally: “It happened when I was in America when I was trying to get away from life, and I wrote it with a couple of friends whom I just met, who sort of helped me get it out of my system. It was like a cathartic thing.” (1992 Back To The Light EPK). He would later tell the Orange County Register in 1993 that the song “was the first song written for the album, dating back six years.”

Brian put a lot of work into “Too Much Love,” as evidenced by a set of recordings known to fans as The Bell Boy Tape. This cassette was reportedly given to a hotel bell boy by Elizabeth Lamers herself, after which it changed hands and now legitimately belongs to a collector. This story of the bell boy has entered into Queen lore, but Elizabeth Lamers herself wrote to tell me, “[it is] a rumor that appeared on the internet years ago and now has become legend. Hmm. I never gave a cassette tape of any version of that tune to anyone in any hotel. I’m sure I had copies around and it is possible that I misplaced one but there was never any handing off of unreleased material by me or Frank or Brian. Perhaps the intrigue and the bell hop make it a better story.” Without knowing who started the rumour or why, it would now seem prudent to consider the bell boy story apocryphal in light of Ms. Lamers’ facts. That the cassette itself exists is not in dispute and it’s known to contain an instrumental backing track, a version with Brian singing solo and a duet with both he and Ms. Lamers. The tape’s owner also confirms that a pair of Brian’s demos, titled “Sleepy Blues” and “Moody Keyboards,” is also present among the recordings.

1988 would not bring much relief in May’s life, though he took refuge in recording and song-writing, saying in 1993, “If ever I had an idea that didn’t fit the [Queen] format, it would always get put away someplace on a piece of paper or a piece of tape. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that I decided it would be a good thing to use some of these ideas in a solo album. I really started it as a form of therapy. I was very depressed at the time; at one point, I was really very suicidal. At such moments, it’s only the fact that I’ve got kids that stops me from driving off bridges” (Guitar World Magazine).

Around early 1988, so the story goes, Brian was asked by skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan to write him a song. Brian penned “Let Your Heart Rule Your Head,” apparently even recording a version of the song with him. Donegan’s reported album, for which the song was written, never came about, but Brian did now have another song to add to his unpublished catalogue.

In March of 1988, Brian booked time at both Sarm and Town House Studios, where he began work recording “Let Your Heart Rule Your Head” and a cover of the Small Faces’ song “Rollin’ Over,” respectively. It was around this time that May decided to assemble a home recording studio at Allerton Hill, which he explained to Gold Compact Disc magazine in 1992: “I’ve always resisted the idea of having a studio there because I’ve always felt that you should be able to get away from your work … but it never worked out like that anyway. The reason I did my own album at home was because of the feeling of pressure that you can get working in one of the major recording studios.

“It’s often a case of, ‘Well here I am, standing in this studio, just playing about, and it’s costing more than £1,000 a day’. It just seems so wasteful, so I thought, ‘Well, why not do the album at home?’ And anyway, I wanted to get back to basics.”

A song Brian also started in March of 1988 was “Back To The Light.” Talking to Rip magazine about the song, Brian said he “stood on that stage [in 1993] and could remember so clearly putting those first words of ‘Back to the Light’ down on tape in a makeshift studio. I did it because I knew I had to do something to keep myself going.” Far from being the song born out of success in overcoming personal adversity, “Back To The Light” was a cry of hope by a man who wished to someday get there. At the time, Brian had no idea whether he’d reach his goal.

Also reflecting the sombre mood of his life were the tracks “I’m Scared” and “Last Horizon,” both begun at the fledgling Allerton Hill studio that March. “Last Horizon” was experimented on by way of two different approaches, which Brian explained to fans on his website in 2004: “I tried the tune two different ways, one with a gentle syncopated beat, and one with the straight 4-4 slow rock beat.”

“I’m Scared,” Brian told Guitar World magazine in 1993, “goes back a long way. I kept doing different versions of that, as I kept finding out that I was scared of more and more things. And I figured that most of us are. We just keep it inside. I think it’s good to let all that stuff out sometimes. Do a bit of screaming.”

Hounded by the press for his involvement with Anita, Brian would write another song, “Scandal,” which he brought to the table as Queen set out to record a new album that summer. Trying to put his solo project aside to focus on his duties with Queen, Brian also penned the track “I Want It All.” His oft-told story behind the song was that it was a favourite phrase of Anita’s, “I want it all and I want it now!” He also presented the band with “Too Much Love Will Kill You,” rounding out his direct contribution to the song-writing credits for the new Queen album, which, by his own admission, seemed somewhat less than their previous releases. As he told Guitar World, “There were only a few days during that time when I managed to play guitar solos. It’s really a miracle that I did anything on that album at all.”

One such solo would become the instrumental track “Chinese Torture,” which would only be included on CD editions of the album as a bonus track.

The band worked on the album from the summer into the winter, recording at Olympic and The Town House Studios in London, and their own Mountain Studios in Montreux. Still, however, the draw of his potential solo album and the personal pressures drew Brian to continue working on it in conjunction with, if not in favour of, recording Queen’s thirteenth studio album, The Miracle. February of 1989 found Brian discussing this with Record Collector magazine: “Most of the time I’ve been working on my own. The solo project is mainly about getting all the stuff I’ve had in my head onto tape, but I’ve found that some of the ideas I had in mind for solo work have ended up on the Queen album. I think that the best ideas should really be concentrated towards the group, because it’s still the best vehicle I can find – as the group is so good!

“To describe the material is quite difficult. I put the songs on one tape in a very rough form and thought, ‘Where am I?’, because they are so varied, more so even than Queen material. I’ve got ballads which are very soft and personal, and I’ve got stuff which is very hard, pure heavy metal. There are weird acoustic songs, and God knows what else! There isn’t a direction to the album yet, and I think that’s one problem that I have to sort out.” It’s possible that at this stage “Too Much Love Will Kill You,” completed by the band for The Miracle album, was still a contender for inclusion.

Mastering for The Miracle tracks, and “I Want It All” in particular, would continue through March of 1989. Once completed, the band decided the track order and “Too Much Love Will Kill You” was left off the album entirely.

Freddie’s declining health due to AIDS precluded the band touring, an escape Brian would have welcomed, but shooting the videos for The Miracle’s singles did offer a few days relief. On the DVD commentary for the “Breakthru” video, Brian speaks of being able to get away from the turmoil of his personal life while taping it in the country in the spring of 1989. According to Brian, his marriage to Chrissy was over by this point, which only added more weight to the already crushing drepression he was going through. The two would ultimately divorce that year. Speaking to Guitar World magazine, he says, “I was going through a time when I realized I couldn’t live with my wife, which meant that I couldn’t be with my kids. And also – this may sound trivial in comparison – the group had decided not to tour at that point. So suddenly here was a great hole in my professional life, too. I couldn’t have any outlet on stage. And I think the balance of my life just got completely destroyed. I didn’t know who I was anymore.”

The Miracle was released in the UK on May 22nd, 1989, and with the lack of a tour to support it, Brian was faced with a life that was falling apart around him. The death of his father, the end of his marriage, and Freddie’s illness were all contributing to a downward spiral. Yet, there was the idea of a solo album. There were tracks already put down, in various states of completion, and Brian felt it could be a form of therapy to keep labouring on it.

On September 19th, 1989, Philip Sayer, actor and friend of Anita Dobson, died of cancer at the age of 42. In the magazine Guitar For The Practicing Muscian (1993), Brian explains this event as the inspiration for the song he wrote then, called “Just One Life,” “what crystallized that song for me was going to a memorial concert given for a friend of [Anita]. This was a guy I’d never met. At the end of what they did, they recited and they sang songs and told stories. At the end of it I felt I knew this guy through the influence he’d had on his friends. I began to think “This is what a person is.” A person is the effect that he leaves on the people around him or at least that’s part of it. I was trying to find out what is a life. I was looking at his life, at Freddie’s life, at my father’s life. I just lost my father. I was trying to tie all the threads together to try and get closer to what it was all about.”

The Swansea Grand Theatre itself, of which Sayer was a member, has this to say about the event: “There was a memorial tribute at The Aldwych Theatre just after he died, it was a very moving experience hosted by Sir Ian McKellan, with contributions from the Sion Probert, Denis Lawson and Maureen Lipman. Among the audience that night was Queen’s Brian May, who was with his partner, Anita Dobson. Anita was a great friend to Philip. Brian May was so moved by the evening that, even though he had not even met Philip Sayer, he wrote a song dedicated to him.”

As fall turned to winter in 1989, Queen turned their attention back to studio work to record another new album. By now, with Freddie Mercury’s health noticeably diminishing, the rest of the band knew he was ill, but did not know the details. The push to keep working brought the band back into Mountain Studios in Montreux in November of 1989. Roger Taylor and Brian May both described the approach used, that the band would work for three weeks, then take two weeks off, then return for three weeks and repeat the process.

It was at Mountain Studios that Brian recorded early material for “Just One Life,” as well two new songs he considered for his solo album. As he explained in 1991: “I was in the studio for a couple of days to get some things out of my system. I thought that maybe I’d be left with a solo album, maybe with a Queen album, I just didn’t know and I came up with ‘Headlong’ and ‘I Can’t Live With You’ – the guys liked them.

“‘Headlong’ came from me, at our studio in Montreux, a home recording studio for us that’s very state-of-the-art, lovely for creating. The ideas came in a couple of days. At first I thought about it as a song for my solo album, but, as always, the band is the best vehicle. As soon as I heard Freddie sing it, I said, ‘That’s it!’ Sometimes it’s painful to give the baby away, but what you gain is much more. It became a Queen song.”

Brian would also contribute three more songs to the album that eventually became known as Innuendo: “The Hitman,” “The Show Must Go On” and “Lost Opportunity.” The last track would be relegated to the B-side of the “I’m Going Slightly Mad” single, but Brian’s input on the album, compared to The Miracle, was a return to form. In fact, 1990 would see Brian throw himself into guest appearances on other artists’ releases as much as he was working with Queen. He recorded guitar work for both charity singles by Rock Against Repatriation and Rock Aid Armenia, and did music for a stage production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which opened in November.

On February 18th, 1990 Brian spoke on behalf of the band at The British Phonographic Institute ceremony, where Queen received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.

Brian’s speech went as follows: “On behalf of the group, I’d like to say thank you very much to everyone in the industry and, perhaps more importantly, outside the industry who stuck behind us all these years. Because in doing so, you gave us a lot of freedom to pursue what we loosely call our art to any extent we felt like at the time. And to go out on a lot of strange limbs which seemed very precarious at the time, but we didn’t quite fall off. And finally, to get to the point where this happens to us, which is great. And I’d like to say a special thank you to the British petroleum industry for giving us this magnificent award in recognition of all the amounts of vinyl which we’ve recycled over the years. Thank you.”

As they left the stage, Roger added, “Thank you very much.”

And Freddie gave a gentle wave, “Thank you. Goodnight.”

By November of 1990, the Innuendo album was complete and the band focused on its promotion. Also, Hollywood Records in the US was now signed to handle Queen’s catalogue and future releases in North America. The company planned a massive campaign to remaster and re-issue the back catalogue, as well as various solo releases, such as Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe’s Barcelona album. The band recorded a video for “Headlong” and interviews for the press releases.

Over New Years, so Brian would tell Q Magazine in January of 1991, Freddie and Roger discussed continuing to record, despite having completed Innuendo. May would join them in Montreux that month and work would begin for what would become Freddie’s final recordings.

Taking a break from recording to promote Innuendo’s release, Brian and Roger appeared on Rockline Radio in the US in February. Brian was asked on the air by a fan of the state of his solo album and Brian had this to say: “I’m still working on it. It’s the ongoing saga of the Brian May solo album. It’s still in the cards, and maybe by this, I’m hoping, by this summer it will be finished and I will put it out. See I have a lot of stuff, but it just needs making into an album. It’s a difficult task, making a lot of decisions.”

In May, Brian returned to the US for a promotional tour of both Innuendo and the Hollywood Records re-issues of Queen’s albums, visiting radio stations and performing impromptu guitar solos.

While he was in Los Angeles that summer, Brian was approached by the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and asked to write a tune for their new Ford UK ads.

“These ad guys threw some slogans at me and I thought, ‘Well, I can do it if I relate it to my own experiences and my own feelings.’ And the phrase “Driven By You” immediately jumped out as a description of the way I saw the power struggle between two people in a relationship. It just poured out. I wrote a version for me, and I wrote a version for the ad people. And it worked out great. It was a good kick up the backside for me too, because these people work quickly and do high-quality work.” (Guitar World, Jan. 1993)

Brian recorded the different versions of track, the TV Ad Version, his solo version and a short, mostly instrumental version later titled “Driven By You Two,” at Mountain Studios between continued efforts by Queen, and Freddie in particular, to record new material. By now the rest of Queen was told by Freddie that he had AIDS and that he did not know how long he had left, but that he wanted to record as much as he could in the time remaining.

Ford UK ran the new “Driven By You” ads with Brian’s music in July and the response was both positive and encouraging for Brian to finish the song and to plan for its proper release in November. More significantly, the reception to “Driven By You” had a greater affect on Brian’s work on the solo album entirely, as he told Gold Compact Disc magazine in 1992: “I had a rough idea of what the album was going to be like, round about that time, but I didn’t get down to the serious work until about a year ago, when Driven By You happened.

“I worked on the song and the advert in parallel, and the interesting thing is that the song meant one thing to me, and another thing to the agency people. I was really stimulated by the way that advertising people work … I mean, they’re so quick. I delivered them a version of Driven By You, and it was on the television commercial the next day!”

Around this time, Brian was presented with the opportunity to assemble his choice of musicians to perform with, at the Guitar Legends festival in Seville, Spain. He jumped at the chance and among the performers were B.B. King, Paul Rodgers, Mike Moran, Neil Murray, Steve Vai, Joe Walsh and Cozy Powell. According to Neil Murray, this was the start of the working relationship between he and Brian, as Neil would go on to perform bass parts on Brian’s solo recordings.

Powell, a good friend of May’s, was going through difficulties of his own, having been in a horse accident in 1991 that led to a crushed pelvis. Talking to Rip Magazine (1993) he said that “The show gave me a goal to go for. There was a period after that when the phone stopped ringing, because a lot of people didn’t know I was available or thought I was injured. You think, ‘Shit, nobody wants to hear me anymore. My career must be over.’”

October 19th, 1991, Brian and his gathered musicians performed at the Guitar Legends festival. Among the pieces played was “Last Horizon,” one of the tracks Brian had been working on for his album.

After the festival, Cozy Powell would start work on a solo album of his own. One of the early tracks Powell recorded was the instrumental “Somewhere In Time.” Both Brian and John Deacon were invited to record on it. They put their tracks down in November of 1991.

On November 24th, 1991, Freddie Mercury passed away at his home at Garden Lodge, London.

According to Brian, “Cozy came in with a backing track and said play something on it. It was the night before Freddie went, but for the first time I had this complete conviction that it was imminent, and I felt that he was going at that point. I used that track and wrote the song about how I felt at that point.” (Rock CD magazine, 1992)

Brian would add lyrics to “Somewhere In Time” and create the song “Nothin’ But Blue.” The guitar Brian used on both of the recordings was a gift from fellow guitarist Joe Satriani.

On November 25th, 1991, Brian’s single for “Driven By You” was released. The B-side was the track dedicated to Philip Sayer, “Just One Life.” Brian had also recorded a “Guitar Version,” replacing most of the vocal with him playing the Red Special. Included on the 12” single was the TV Ad Version of “Driven By You.” A promo CD was also issued containing various radio edits.

The surviving members of Queen withdrew from the public eye after the death of their lead singer. It wasn’t until January 12th, 1992, that they would return to the media to announce the forthcoming Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert For AIDS Awareness.

Meanwhile, along with co-organizing the concert, Brian busied himself with recording and working on the solo album, including the track “Love Token,” which features Neil Murray, Cozy Powell and Mike Moran. Talking to Guitar World magazine, who commented on how heavy the song was, Brian explained, “Yeah, I enjoy that. I have an outlet for that now, whereas sometimes the band had to be a bit more broad, stylistically. Now I can get more into the heavy stuff. And I do enjoy it, I must admit. [It’s] one of my mamma/poppa songs. I’ve got a few of those. I’m gonna have a little anthology of mama vs. papa songs one day.”

Cozy Powell again presented Brian with a track to work on for Powell’s own album, this one titled “Ride To Win.” Brian took to the song and felt that, like with “Somewhere In Time,” this was a track in which he could express his feelings in lyric. Brian reworked the track, adding his lyrics, and created “Resurrection,” which he discussed with The Orange County Register in 1993: “After all these years of looking for this optimism, I finally found it. The end was in sight. I could visualize myself getting out and playing to real people again. I was beginning to get my life into shape, private life-wise. There’s a lot of joy in that for me. You can’t fake that. You can’t play that stuff unless you feel that way. It was a long way till I was able to give vent to that kind of stuff.”

And with Rip magazine (1993): “At the beginning, when I was trying to find my way about five years ago, it was all a mystery. All I knew was that I was in pain and couldn’t see my way out. By the end of it, when I was doing ‘Resurrection,’ I felt like I understood what all these things meant, and there was some glimpse of the light I was looking for. It’s all metaphors, really. [The song] ‘Back to the Light’ was supposed to be me looking for a way out, finding optimism again. In ‘Resurrection’ I thought I’d really found it.”

“‘Resurrection’ […] appropriately, was the last written.” (The Orange County Register, 1993)

On April 20, 1992, Queen and their guest artists performed the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. Brian took the opportunity to premiere “Too Much Love Will Kill You” as part of what he hoped would be for Freddie “the greatest send-off in history.”

The days and months that followed would find him at Allerton Hill finishing his album, framing the songs he spent five years writing and recording with a bookending lullaby, part of the instrumental piece “The Dark.” To create the track, Brian culled material recorded way back in 1980, during Queen’s Flash Gordon sessions, at The Town House Studios.

“On ‘The Dark,’ I wanted this frightening wall of sound coming out to contrast this very small voice – the kid in the cot.” (Guitarist magazine, 1992)

Brian also took the opportunity to revisit “Driven By You,” writing on his website in 2004: “On my solo track ‘Driven By You’ the original single version was built around my own programmed drums, but for the album version I asked the wonderful, now sadly departed Cozy Powell to play drums.” Interestingly, the album would retain the version previously released as a single, without Cozy on it. UK audiences would hear the Cozy Powell version as a B-side to the CD single of “Too Much Love Will Kill You” and US audiences would receive it as a bonus track to album.

The “Too Much Love” single B-side would also present fans with an early version of “I’m Scared,” which was later re-recorded by Brian with Neil Murray and Cozy Powell, and remixed for the album by Justin Shirley-Smith in 1992.

In completing “Last Horizon,” Brian had his two versions of the track, one with the syncopated beat and the other in 4-4 time. “When it came to putting the whole album together, I liked BOTH versions, and then I discovered that one made a good introduction to the other. So we ‘spliced’ them together, with the snare beat which opens this second piece.” (BrianMay.com, 2004)

By July 20th, 1992, the hard-fought battle with his first full-length album outside of Queen was complete. Writing the introductory liner note, Brian explains briefly the nature of the journey he undertook creating the album, saying, “The man who finished making it today is very different from the man who started it five years ago.”

The album, titled “Back To The Light,” was released in the UK on September 28th, 1992 and in the US on February 2nd, 1993.

Back To The Light (UK Album Sleeve) (Copyright Parlophone, 1992)

The track listing was as follows:
The Dark
Back To The Light
Love Token
Resurrection (with Cozy Powell)
Too Much Love Will Kill You
Driven By You
Nothin’ But Blue
I’m Scared (Justin’s Mix ’92)
Last Horizon
Let Your Heart Rule Your Head
Just One Life
Rollin’ Over
US CD Bonus Track: Driven By You (Radio Remix)

Back To The Light (US Album Sleeve) (Copyright Hollywood Records,1993)

Brian toured for the album worldwide, through ’92 and ’93, promoting it heavily and continuing to deal with what was, at the time, a life after Queen, forging a new identity as a solo artist.

Again, though, Brian would set the solo work aside to return to the band in 1994 to work on the recordings left by Freddie and to try to build a new Queen album. It’s fitting that in doing so, the band pulled their 1988 recording of “Too Much Love Will Kill You” out of the vault and included it. The song that began Brian’s work on his solo album now stood amongst tracks that, in a way, represent the different facets of Queen, including their solo efforts outside the band, and reflecting the theme of the struggle that is life; a struggle Brian knew all too well when he finished Back To The Light.

[Note: The original article noted the incorrect year for the death of Harold May (1988 instead of 1987). This was my mistake and I’ve corrected it here. As such, I had to move that reference to its appropriate chronological position in the article.]