"They are four men, all college graduates, who this year, celebrate 20 years working together… They’ve really never been fully recognised for the outstanding achievements of their impressive career. But tonight we’re going to put that right."
With these words, on February 18, 1990, Terry Ellis, the chairman of the BPI (British Phonographic Industry), invited Queen onstage to accept The Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award at the 1990 Brit Awards, held at London’s Dominion Theatre. Unbeknown to all celebrating their triumph, it would be the final time that Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor would share a stage, and the last time that Mercury would speak in public to Queen fans.
As it happened, on the night, Mercury left most of the talking to Brian May. Queen’s guitarist told the assembled crowd: "On behalf of the group I’d like to say thank you very much to everyone within the industry — and, perhaps more importantly, outside the industry — who stuck behind us all these years, because in doing so you gave us a lot of freedom to pursue what we loosely call our art to any extent we felt like at the time, and to go out on a lot of strange limbs which seemed very precarious at the time, but we didn’t quite fall off. And finally to get to the point where this happens to us, which is great.”
Signing off with a joke, May added “I’d like to say a special thank you to the British Petroleum Industry for giving this magnificent award in recognition of all the amount of vinyl that we’ve recycled over the years.”
As the quartet walked off stage, Mercury stepped up to the microphone and said just three words: "Thank you... goodnight.”
Brian May and Roger Taylor speak about Queen’s extraordinary career and share their memories of their friend Freddie in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, on sale now. Asked if Queen would still exist if Mercury were still alive, May answers, “Oh, without a doubt.”
“Even in the glory days, we’d wander off to the four corners of the earth,” says May, “but we always came back to The Mothership. The Mothership would be alive and well, and we would all be coming back together to play, I’m sure of it.”