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Freddie Mercury once hired a limo to bring a starving Gary Numan a Big Mac in a Tokyo sushi restaurant

Freddie Mercury in Japan
(Image credit: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

In the wake of artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters, Marilyn Manson and Fear Factory covering his songs, synth-pop pioneer Gary Numan has enjoyed a late career renaissance, not least when receiving an Ivor Novello Inspiration Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. Numan recently released a new autobiography, (R)evolution: The Autobiography, and has been sharing stories from it on the promotional trail. One entertaining anecdote, delivered to supermarket chain Waitrose’s free magazine Weekend, concerns a memorable evening Numan shared in Tokyo with the members of Queen.

Finding himself at a loose end in the Japanese capital, Numan had bought a ticket to see Queen play, but his presence in the crowd, he recalls, “caused a bit of a fuss.”

“What I hadn‘t realised was that I’d become quite successful in Japan,” Numan says. “I’d only been big in Britain for a year or so… it never even occurred to me that it would be an issue here. In the end, the staff had to rescue me and take me backstage. I met the band and explained to them what had happened, and they took me under their wing.”

Post-gig, Queen invited Numan to join them for dinner at a high end sushi restaurant, which turned out to be rather too sophisticated for Numan’s palate, with the Londoner admitting to having “very plain tastes”.

“After a while,” Numan recalls, “Freddie Mercury came over and said, ‘Love, you’re not eating, what’s the problem?’ So I said, ‘Don’t worry about me, I’m just blown away to be here. I’m a massive Queen fan.’ He asked me what I’d like to eat, and I told him, ‘McDonald’s… but don’t worry, I’ll get one afterwards’.”

“Anyway, 15 minutes later, this limo turns up outside, and the driver gets out with a McDonald’s bag! Freddie has a quiet word with the manager, bungs him a few yen, and there I am – having McDonald’s in a top-end Tokyo sushi restaurant with Queen! I was massively star-struck, but they were all such lovely, down-to-earth people.”

Numan went on to reveal that he’d actually met the band once before, as a 16-year-old fan hanging around the stage door of the Rainbow Theatre, in London’s Finsbury Park in the 1970s.

“Other bands would always rush past to their limos and ignore everybody, ” he says, “but Queen were different. They invited everybody up to their dressing room, chatted to everybody and signed everything. It was a lesson in how to treat those who support you – I’ve always tried to emulate that wherever possible.”

(R)evolution: The Autobiography by Gary Numan is out now, published by Constable.

Paul Brannigan
Paul Brannigan

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. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.