I think I’m Going Back

For a long time, Freddie kept opening doors for me. I was listening to his voice since my teen years, trying to understand, to grasp, to take it all in. Now I realize that for some songs and albums I had to grow up. I first heard “Made in Heaven” when it just came out in the 90ies (I remember buying the cassette from some random Moscow kiosk). I played it many times, loved the songs but emotionally I could not embrace the inner mood of this album. However, recently, in time of utter need, this window has suddenly swung open, and the album has let me in. It felt like a miracle, as if I suddenly started to understand foreign language. I was learning to fly.

The album came out in 1995, when Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon gathered and remixed several old songs, as well as finished the demos that Freddie Mercury recorded for them in spring 1991 at their Swiss studio in Montreux. Some songs were Freddie’s sketches and tryouts (such as “It’s a Beautiful Day”), some were fully recorded but never released (“Too Much Love Will Kill You”), and some, according to Roger, “came out of that desperately ill stage; they were made out of the awareness that Fred is not going to be around very long.” “A Winter’s Tale,” the last song that Freddie wrote, reminds us both of Christmas celebrations and of Shakespeare’s magical world, is calm and full of joy; it glorifies the beauty and grace of a Swiss town that Freddie loved so much.

“Made In Heaven” is a collection of hymns that celebrate Freddie’s life, commemorate Queen’s history – and embrace the whole world. On this album, even the tracks composed for different projects became naturally embedded into its texture; take, for example, songs that were part of Freddie’s solo projects, such as “I Was Born To Love You.” Originally produced as a single in 1984, it was created as a light disco song, with minimal musical accompaniment; Queen’s rendition transformed it into a glorious anthem, where Freddie’s vocals are accompanied by Brian’s triumphant guitar solos.

Or take, for example, “Heaven For Everyone” – it was never intended for Queen, Roger wrote this song for his own band “The Cross.” However, one day Freddie stopped by his studio and recorded his vocals – just to demonstrate his friend what’s the best way to sing it. Eventually, the song came out in two versions, one with Roger’s and another with Freddie’s vocals. I must say that I love Roger’s original version, because it stirs up our conscience, making us think of a responsibility that we all share in this world. However, on “Made in Heaven,” thanks to enchanting choruses and rich orchestration, it becomes psychedelic, as if speaking of Heaven literally, and not metaphorically. Staying true to their own tradition, Queen used for this song’s music video the footage from one of the first motion pictures (A Trip to the Moon, 1902), the imagery that enhances this stunning effect.

For me, this album is a true monument to the incredible courage of the band, starting from Freddie who recorded his last songs while struggling with pain and suffering, just to leave his friends with enough material for the future records; to Brian who managed to rework his grief into a beautiful “Mother Love;” to all three surviving members of Queen  that found strength to not just finish this project but to make it into one of their best albums, a true grand finale of their glorious history.

“The whole album is a fantasy,” says Brian in “Days of Our Lives” documentary, “because it sounds like all four of us are there all together having fun and making the album. But most of the time when you are listening it’s not the case; it’s built to sound that way.” And Roger adds that “I think Brian and I certainly knew what Freddie would have been thinking, it felt he was almost in the corner of the room, we have known each other so well and so long, we sort of thought, he would like that bit and he probably would not like that bit.” I think that their final product, the album itself, clearly demonstrates that Freddie was there with his friends and that in music the borders of time and even of human life usually blur and dissolve. And because of that, all three friends are singing together, playfully and joyfully, alternating the verses with triumphant choruses.

… In the finale of “Mother Love,” after crossing the boundary between life and death, after the mournful guitar solo and Brian’s quiet voice, the song dissolves into Freddie’s famous call to the audience, and then rolls back to his very first studio record. And his voice is so young, powerful, and even a bit careless there; however, in this pop song that neither he nor his friends wrote, all his life is predicted (“And I can play hide and seek with my fears / And live my days instead of counting my years”). I think it’s impossible to hold your tears at that moment.

And so it goes, and we realize that thanks to Queen’s incredible sensitivity and love, this album is endless, and after finishing it, we are going back to young Freddie, and here we go again and again. And while this circle is revolving, while we are playing his music, we are all here, alive, in the same time and space.

Katya Neklyudova, May 2018 / November 2019

On Queen

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