Queen: Classic Rock's Living Legends 2015

Queen are to receive the Living Legend award at the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour 2015.

Forty-five years after the band’s formation in London, they will be honoured at the ceremony on November 11 at The Roundhouse in London, and presented with the award that has previously been claimed by Jimmy Page, Gregg Allman and Black Sabbath.

“Do I feel like a Living Legend?” ponders Brian May. “No. I feel like I’ve been around a long time. I’m just very grateful that people hold us in that kind of esteem. We’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s been a wonderful road. Freddie would have loved winning this award. Although he was never a pleaser of people, he liked to see the effect of his work out there. He would have smiled wickedly and said: ‘I deserve it, darlings…!’”

May cites the dynamic between the four band members as the driving force when Queen took off in the early 70s. “We had a dream. The rock’n’roll dream, which we all shared. I don’t think any of us can completely define it. I think our strength lay largely in the material, and the reason why that was so strong is that we were fiercely competitive, and also fiercely interactive.”

A Night At The Opera, in 1975, proved the breakthrough, but May believes it’s the anthems from 1977’s *News Of The World *that tipped the band into immortality. “When people started singing along, we found it kind of annoying at first. Then there was an enormous realisation, at Bingley Hall, in the Midlands. They sang every note of every song. Freddie and I looked at each other and went: ‘Something’s happening here. We’ve been fighting it, and we should be embracing it.’ That’s where We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions came from.
It was an epoch-making moment.”

When Mercury died from Aids complications in 1991, few believed the flamboyant frontman could be replaced, but Queen have flourished in the past quarter-century (albeit as a touring concern), drafting vocalists Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert. “Keeping Queen alive,” says May, “is a strange double-edged sword. Both Roger and I love and hate it.

“It’s hard. It’s never an easy way out, being in Queen. Everything is always very argumentative, and we make demands on each other, but it leads to a good place. So you sort of grit your teeth and in you go, and suddenly you find you’re exhilarated and enjoying it again. Roger and I, even though we disagree on almost everything, are a very strong partnership and when we go out there, something magic happens.”

May also cites divisive late-period frontman Lambert as a vital factor. “I can hear people scoffing outside who haven’t seen [the show]. In places that we haven’t been before, you can feel that little bit of reservation when Adam steps forward. But within five minutes, they are eating out of his hand. He’s not trying to be Freddie. Adam is absolutely challenging us, in every way. It’s all very sparkling and new, even though we’re playing a lot of the old songs.”

These are busy times for Queen. As the iconic Bohemian Rhapsody reaches its 40th anniversary, the band are readying a live concert DVD – *A Night At The Odeon *– filmed at Hammersmith in 1975. “That was part of the first tour in which we introduced Bohemian Rhapsody,” says May. “It’s quite something to watch. We were just a four-piece but we made a lot of noise. I’m quite shocked at how good it was. We were incredibly tight, and at the same time, because we knew each other so well, very loose in terms of improvisation.”

Four decades later, says May, Queen have no intention of abdicating. “No, not at the moment. But the time will come, of course it will. When we won’t be able to run about like that. Who knows when that will be? It could be tomorrow. It could be a while. But I think as long as we have the ability, we will have that passion to do it, still.”

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.