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Brian May with Simon Bradley: Brian May’s Red Special

Nerdy but nice ode to the ‘old lady’ behind Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and co.

For all the allure that’s surrounded the Queen guitarist’s home-baked axe over the years, it’s incredible, really, that such a book has only just emerged. Born from bits of shelving, fireplace, knitting needles, mother of pearl buttons and other housewifely components, the life of the Red Special makes compelling reading.

Aided by veteran guitar journalist Simon Bradley, May explores it through live experiences, the guitar’s physical sections (machine heads, fretboard etc) and key performances (including that 2002 Buckingham Palace rooftop display).

It’s part memoir, part guitar cross-examination, part revealing picture book. Photos of May with his folks, in particular, give it real likeability, and the shot with his proud parents at one of Queen’s Madison Square Garden shows is especially sweet.

Yes, there’s a lot of technical geekery – enough to quash any doubts about what to get your guitar-playing mates for Christmas – but it’s still accompanied by enough lively human interest stories to keep everyone else hooked. A thoughtful and surprisingly fun read./o:p

Polly is Features Editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage) and writes a few things. She also writes for Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer, and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.