Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones, Queen: The Complete Illustrated Lyrics

(Touchstone; Backbeat) British journalist's Lesley -Ann Jones' second biography of Queen frontman (and the King of Frontmen) Freddie Mercury might certainly be the best book written about him yet, but that is, sadly, not saying much. Everything I've ever read about the complex, tragically short, but intensely rich life of the Zanzibar-ian dynamo has offered some passages that share memorable, touching things about him, but never enough to paint a convincing portrait of a man who kept a lot inside. This is not a perfect book. By focussing on the biography there is a lot about the music that goes unexplored, which makes sense, but leaves holes, as the music was so important to him. Also, Jones is proud of her access to the band and her her own journeys and research and she becomes a character in a book that already had a main character so big that 350 pages couldn't contain him. But that access, those hundreds of hours of interviews with everyone you could think of, means that the biographical elements, the anecdotes, the personal details of Freddie's private life, professional life, sex life, and what ever percentage of his inner life he was willing to share with others, is as thoroughly covered as it ever has been. More an action reporter than a poetic writer,, Jones gets in there, researches, and reports, and if you don't demand your music writing be particularly musical, than this is the source that can provide you the most data, much of it compelling and some of it heartbreaking, on Freddie available, and true fans should read it.
More satisfying, though it contains pretty much no facts, research, revelations, or prose (other than very brief introductions from May and Taylor) is the hefty collection that every Queen lyric, arranged alphabetically, each song illustrated by a small reproduction of the LP, and picture sleeve single if one existed anywhere on earth, plus large stunning photos, handwritten first drafts, or production notes (surprisingly Freddie's handwriting is slightly messier than Brian's, John's, or Roger's), artifacts (including actual promotional robots from the "News of the World" LP cover), artwork (especially from the "Innuenedo" album), fan art, stills from video shoots, and a Freddie doodle or two. Even if it's hard to appreciate the lyrics as poetry, because it's impossible to not hear the recordings in your head, this visual feast of magnificent excess is perhaps a better tribute to the life of Mercury than any biography could be.

No comments:

Post a Comment