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Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury [Paperback]

Lesley-Ann Jones

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone Books; Reprint edition (28 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145166396X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451663969
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,361,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  43 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unbiased portrait of the Great Pretender 21 July 2012
By MoVwatcher20 - Published on
I will say it right now: this book is not perfect, far from it. However, for Jones (arguably the least-acquainted biographer of the late Mr. Mercury)to pull together a book as solid in its facts and unprejudiced in its content is a true accomplishment to which even the harshest of critics would have to tip their hats. I am familiar with the other biographies of Freddie, and while they certainly contain various degrees of accuracy, Jim Hutton and Peter Freestone were not writers by profession (also, some of the details in the formers' publication were a bit too graphic for me-meaning no disrespect) and therefore, to get to sit down and read the work of someone who not only had an ongoing professional relationship with Freddie Mercury, but whose job it is to document the lives of musicians, is very refreshing. I am not through the book yet, but far enough to have a solid idea of how the writer wants to come across as a biographer; which is to not bash the reader over the head with sentimentality or shove meaningless details down their throat just to prove they did their homework. Jones is not out to gain familiarity for herself nor fame. She does not want to reap benefits or brag about her personal relationship with the great musician. She is quite simply telling the story of one of the worlds' greatest musicians (dead or alive) in the most unbiased, most straightforward way possible. Jones serves to tell the events as they were, how they were, and why they were without jumping to conclusions or trying to establish all information as concrete. I admired her approach very much, the book is written well and at no time did it lose or bore me. I am dying to finish it and I have a feeling I will read it again.

This book details the rocky but legendary rise of Queen, and in particular, lead vocalist Freddie Mercury. It also delves into the early life of one of music's most flamboyant characters, as well as his quest for success, self discovery and love. We are also introduced to some of the most important players in Freddie's life, including his bandmates John Deacon, Brian May and Roger Taylor, his friends, employees, family, and to a few of his most significent romantic partners, including the late Jim Hutton, Barbara Valentin, and of course, Mary Austin. The book also features 32 pages of photos that serve as a visual timeline of Freddie Mercury, beginning from his childhood to his years with Queen and ending around the time of his death.

As a Queen fan, I loved this book and the journey it took me on. I recommend this book to other die hard Queen fans, as well as anyone who appreciates rock'nroll as a business and as an art form. I'm holding off on giving this five stars only because I feel anyone who is not atleast a mild fan of rock music or Queen would not have much to grab hold of. A great read, I hope to see much more work from this author.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thorough character study 9 Aug 2012
By Mark Norris - Published on
Reading this biography it's evident the author had little or no interaction with her subject but still manages to capture him. While books by "confidants" Peter Freestone and Jim Hutton are full of anecdotes (including some jaw-droppingly disrespectful ones), Lesley Ann-Jones is removed enough to see the totality of Freddie Mercury, a man of extremes who seemed destined for a short but remarkable life. He was highly intelligent but not an intellectual, guided by impulses and addictions as well as an unstoppable work ethic. Jones's writing is tangential but in a good way; she's researched not only Mercury but those around him, including studio executives and producers, and she gives specific names of restaurants and bars Freddie would frequent in cities around the world, which allows the reader to do his own research on Google.

This book also highlighted the extent to which the man transformed himself -- out of young Fahrook Bulsara from a provincial Persian upbringing -- to something completely out of his imagination: Freddie Mercury. Mercury was totally into creating an illusion. He was arrogant and cavalier. But that awkward, effeminate Parsee with the big teeth and the shy laugh was still seen in not-so-infrequent glimpses.

On one hand you could write a biography specifically about Freddie's music, and then a separate biography about his sexual exploits, and perhaps they would appeal to two entirely disparate groups of readers. Unlike previous Mercury biographies, this one balances both facets nicely.

Jones quotes a lot of Freddie's acquaintances as is not afraid to contrast contradictory observations. Just as with any other human being, Freddie was seen differently by different people. Many claimed to be close to Freddie, but I think in the end, no one truly was. The book is not just about Freddie but about celebrity and that old adage of "Be careful what you wish for." I shudder to think, if Freddie is watching, what he must think of those trusted friends who have pawned off his legacy, turned his hard work into a "brand" and smeared his image by revealing intimate details. But if he is watching, I think he'd be absolutely delighted by the fans who love him more than ever.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An audio book review 13 Oct 2012
By Marcella - Published on
Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones is the first biography I've listened to on audio. I wasn't quite sure what to expect-performance wise. I was pleasantly surprised. Jane Collingwood is the main narrator, but there are other voices that chime in for various interviews by various people. I liked this aspect of listening to a biography on audio. I think it broke up what could have been a potentially tiresome reading of another person's life. Not that Freddie Mercury's life was boring at all, just someone reading the details of his life might be tiresome.
The title of this book indicates that it holds several intimate details of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer in Queen. Before I 'read' this book, I knew a few things about Mercury, and the life he led. After reading this book I think only a few people really knew the real Freddie. The books begins in Freddie Mercury's childhood. Jones spends a brief time in this area of his life before going on to the years when he met fellow band members and forming their band, Queen. Freddie was a larger-than-life personality on stage, and a brilliant musician. Off the stage, he was a more private person. He led the extraordinary life of a rock star. He worked with some of rock's greatest performers such as Michael Jackson, Elton John, and David Bowie. The book travels through these professional years with a closer look at Freddie's personal life. It takes you through to the end of his life, when he died from AIDS.
I enjoyed listening to this book and the different accounts taken from the people in his life. I think there is a side to Freddie that he only revealed to a few people. While this book goes into detail about Freddie's life, I don't think it paints a completely accurate picture of who Freddie Mercury really was. Freddie Mercury was and still is an enigma.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Collection of Interviews Ruined by Poor Taste 6 Sep 2012
By C. Kasten - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While this book is very interesting, the "unprecedented access" the author had seems to be the sum of press touring and an uncomfy evening spent at a bar with Mercury fearing he'd acknowledge she was a journalist. She opens with this heavy-handed bit to remind us that *she was there*. The rest is a cobbled together collection of interview quotes and rehashes by folks that ran out of other options for reminding the public that they once were star... um... companions. This feeling is not helped by the inclusion of a number of photos of the author with everyone in the world BUT the actual members of Queen.

Hoping that this "outsider's view" would be an asset, I read the bulk of the book with interest and was pleased that the author used a roughly musically-cued format. Though I am a life-long Queen fan, I have shied away from the many books written up to this point. I figured two decades down the pike from Freddie's death, maybe this one would be mature. Up until the point of Freddie's death in the timeline, it fulfilled that expectation.

I feel that there is a great deal of value in public figures being open about their sexuality if they choose and, most importantly, that Mercury's death contributed a great deal toward the current climate of acceptance for those battling HIV/AIDS. The details of how those closest to him dealt with the reality of his illness and death could help those dealing with issues of sexuality and HIV/AIDS today. I can even wrap my head around how a calm statement on the speculation of who Mercury contracted HIV from might open a dialogue about the disease and put wild rumors to rest. So, well done there, I suppose.

However, I don't care if you're discussing a rock star or someone's Grandma, one deserves dignity in death. No one should ever have their bodily functions detailed at the moment of their death, much less someone as admittedly proud as Freddie Mercury. The worst is that the tale is told to "prove" who was in the room at that moment. Shame on them and shame on the author for repeating it. Scoop the band squabbles if you think it will sell more books, but the gory details of Mercury's last moment were in bad taste.

The dust jacket says, "Exactly the sort of tribute that Mercury himself would have wanted." I think it's a safe bet that even the most casual fan knows Freddie wouldn't want his actual in extremis dirty laundry run through the streets even in the most adoring of terms. Many with a deep love and respect for Mercury will be shocked all over again by the lengths at which people (especially the author) will go to demonstrate their intimacy with the famous. We all love the odd shred of gossip and of course we're reading a book about a public life, but that bit was irrelevant and disrespectful, utterly ruining an otherwise interesting book for me.
38 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No one can capture him 5 July 2012
By Nikki Douglas - Published on
I was disappointed in this book as I have been in every single book about Freddie Mercury and Queen since his death. The one redeeming bit of information in this version of his life was the information on Barbara Valentin the German actress that he had a long-term love relationship with in the eighties. Though he lived his life predominantly homosexual his deepest love relationships were with two women, Barbara and Mary Austin (to whom he left most of his fortune, she had been his girlfriend in the seventies).

Freddie was a complicated man, he was gay and yet loved women and had sex with both men and women. He was likely a sex addict, always looking for intimacy and closeness and using sex as a substitute. He never fully embraced his homosexuality (and never admitted it publicly to protect his strictly religious family) yet was also at odds with all of his relationships.

He was an extreme narcissist and yet his sexual and romantic partners were all much less than he was in talent, intellect and class. They were for the most part the worst of hangers-on, siphoning off his money and energy, being close to someone whose star was so bright it had no choice but to burn out.

The band members in Queen are not featured much here which is too bad because it leaves much of the story in the hands of these blood-suckers who were close to Freddie in his life, almost to a one of them being paid by him. Except for the band members who knew a different side of him these people are repugnant, the only mercy being that most of them are dead now, likely due to them being drug addicts and drunks. There was not one person involved in Freddie's life (outside of friends like Elton John and Dave Clark)who was in Freddie's life because they truly cared about him and wanted nothing from him (I'm not counting the band members in this either).

His "gardener/lover" Jim Hutton wanted to justify his tell-all book about Freddie detailing their sex life and drug use and tried to make it sound like there was a real bond and deep love between them when Freddie had numerous other relationships while being involved with him, including the long-term one with Barbara Valentin. Jim was hurt that the women got more of Freddie's fortune than he did and desired to make some money on his book.He died of lung cancer in 2010.

Eventually everyone who knew Freddie (who hadn't died of AIDS or just died of whatever their addictions were) wrote a book about him. Ironically none of them ever truly knew this man. I doubt that he even knew himself.

Freddie was not the man he appeared to be onstage but then he was not the man who had gay orgies either. He was not the man who drank gallons of vodka and snorted tons of cocaine. He was not the man who protected his family from the truth about his wild life. He was not the friend he appeared to Brian, Roger and John. He was not the lover of women and sex partner of men. He was not the semi-husband he appeared to be to Mary Austin and the passionate lover to Barbara Valentin. He was not the devoted son and brother to Bomi, Jer and Kashmira. All of it was a show.

So who was Freddie Mercury off-stage when there was no one to play to? I believe and I do not care how silly it sounds that the only creatures on Earth who truly knew him were his cats.

So I guess that's the bottom line - this book could have been much shorter and called An Old Queen and His Cats. And it would have been much more honest, more heart-felt and a better tribute to this enigma.
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