"Oi, Freddie! Have you succeeded in bringing ballet to the masses yet?": When Queen frontman Freddie Mercury met Sex Pistols bassist 'Simon Ferocious'

Freddie Mercury, Sid Vicious
(Image credit: Ian Dickson/Redferns | Watal Asanuma/Shinko Music via Getty Images)

On December 1, 1976 Queen were forced to cancel a scheduled promotional appearance on ITV's popular tea-time show Tonight with Billy Grundy as an agonising toothache had compelled frontman Freddie Mercury to book an urgent dental appointment, his first in almost 15 years. Scrambling around to find a last-minute replacement for the programme, EMI music publicist Eric Hall proposed one of the label's new signings, the Sex Pistols, as an alternative booking. Famously, the encounter between the London punks and the seasoned Mancunian broadcaster did not end well.

Five weeks later, on January 6, 1977, EMI dropped the Pistols, the label issuing a statement that read: "EMI feels it is unable to promote this group's records in view of the adverse publicity generated over the past two months."

By the summer of 1977, however, the Pistols had begun work on their debut album, for their new label, Virgin at Wessex Sound Studios, in Islington, North London. By coincidence, Queen were also booked into the facility, working on their sixth record, News Of The World. The two bands were somewhat wary of one another, but soon enough sparked up cordial conversations about music, with Brian May recalling John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten being "always respectful". Roger Taylor was less impressed with bassist Sid Vicious, who he remembers as "a moron", and it was Vicious who caused the only spot of tension between the two bands.

in June '77, NME ran a somewhat fractious exchange between writer Tony Stewart and Freddie Mercury, and headlined the feature 'Is this man a prat?' One section of the interview saw Mercury inform the journalist that he had recently had an identical copy of a Vatslav Nijinsky ballet costume made, and he took issue when Stewart was somewhat mocking upon hearing this. An annoyed Mercury told the writer that ballet and rock 'n' roll were similar in terms of presentation, and said "It's all forms of art." It was presumably this feature which was in Sid Vicious' mind when he barged into the control room at Wessex while Mercury was working upon Sheer Heart Attack, and asked, as recalled by Queen roadie Peter Hince, "Oi, Freddie! Have you succeeded in bringing ballet to the masses yet?"

"Ah, Simon Ferocious!" Mercury responded. "We're trying dear, we're trying."

Mercury then apparently grabbed Vicious by his lapels, and pushed him out of the room.

"I remember Sid Vicious looking like a boy, straight out of school," Brian May told Classic Rock writer Mark Blake in 2017. "The whole punk ethos was a bit manufactured by the Sex Pistols' management and I never took it very seriously. But I saw real talent and passion there, and it upset me when it exploded. I thought Never Mind The Bollocks was just a great rock album, and I'd have loved to have seen them develop as a band."

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.