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Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Queen Hardcover – 25 Oct 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (25 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845135970
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845135973
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 540,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Richly detailed biography...draws on extensive interviews' ('Pick of the Paperbacks)

(Daily Telegraph)

‘Mark Blake matches the detail of his Pink Floyd book with a fluid, muscular narration of the band’s rise. Crucially, he interviews the key players (which the other biographies don’t.)’ 8/10

(Classic Rock magazine)

‘Presents the whole, splendid saga…sparkling anecdotes throughout.’


‘Genuinely adds to the fund of knowledge about this truly unique band.’

(Record Collector)

‘Includes a highly interesting section on their origins…a well-researched account…A good choice for both Queen experts and more lightweight fans.’

(Sunday Business Post)

About the Author

Mark Blake is a former Assistant Editor of Q and long-time contributor to Mojo magazine. He is the author of the definitive Pink Floyd biography, Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Queen, and editor of Stone Me: the Wit & Wisdom of Keith Richards (all published by Aurum) and also the editor of Dylan: Visions, Portraits and Back Pages and Punk: The Whole Story. He lives in London with his wife and son.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Queen are of course one of the UK's biggest bands of all time, in fact the world's. During Freddie Mercury's tragically short life, they were never out of the public eye, yet for some reason their essence remains elusive. I think some of this was down to the band's innate unwillingness to reveal much of themselves, and there can't be many bands so famous yet so little understood. This is perhaps why previous books on Queen have failed to satisfy the fans or the general reader.

I think Mark Blake's book is a triumphant attempt to decode the DNA of Queen, as well as telling their story magnificently well. I disagree totally with another reviewer who claimed the book offered nothing new. Even for the most hardened Queen geek, Blake has unearthed a wealth of new material, especially about the band's early days, partly through the first-person testimony of people who've never been interviewed before. He shows how the disparate personalities in the band meshed to create the unique and eclectic musical melange of Queen. He also follows the story of Freddie's remarkable early life in India and Zanzibar, as he gradually transformed himself from Faroukh Bulsara into Freddie Mercury.

For hardened Queen fans these early chapters may prove the most revelatory, though the rest of the story, lucidly and grippingly told, will likely satisfy most readers throughout. Any biography of Queen runs the risk of being overshadowed by the personality of Freddie, but Blake does an admirable job of keeping all four members of the band firmly in the story, and crediting each fully for his contribution. Again, he is able to draw on his own personal interviews with Brian and Roger - more material original to this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
“Freddie Mercury was good at being seen and heard but not known.”

That telling quote from Queen’s first publicist speaks volumes about the late, great Mr Mercury. He is one of the most famous performers that ever lived but we still know very little about him. That’s the challenge that faced Mark Blake or any author trying to get to the root of this enigmatic diva and he gets as close to the man as is humanly possibly now he’s gone. It’s the Queen equivalent of the book Last Train To Memphis about Elvis Presley (a similar hugely influential and enigmatic presence in music history like Mercury) by Peter Guralnick. Bob Dylan said you could feel Elvis breathe on the page in that book and you get that same feeling with Freddie Mercury here.

It does a superb job of reconstructing Freddie’s student days when he was trying to find himself both as a performer and and as a man. He cross-references recollections from people who knew him then to corroborate or, in some cases, contradict each other and it’s fascinating to see how many variations there are as people’s memories fade. Just take Freddie’s acceptance as the new singer of Ibex, one remembers him joining in a meeting in the Kensington Tavern pub while the other two can’t decide if it was at an audition in someone’s basement flat or at Imperial College. Unable to get to the truth, Mark Blake just presents the conflicting stories and lets us make up our own minds about what is true. In the student squat where Freddie was staying, his hippie housemates used to hide their drug stash in with the tea leaves but nobody told Freddie. He makes a cup of tea and they find him half an hour later tripping out as he listens to music.
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Format: Hardcover
A huge Queen fan, I realised recently that I don't own a decent biography of the band. Having browsed for reviews, I went for this one, as the feedback was quite positive. I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed. The reviewer who said it was just a straightforward recounting of who did what and when has summed it up best. I can't say it's particularly well-written. Often, you get a feeling the writer was thinking "now where do I put this piece of information about Roger Taylor's love of motor boat racing? Ah, let me just stick it at the end of this sentence, the beginning of which has nothing to do with this information." Somehow, it seems to me that it would have been better to have separate subchapters about the band's work and leisure/personal life, instead of piling it all up together in a sort of a mish-mash. But the worst thing about this book is that it is riddled with misprints and mistakes that are small, but annoying. Like the wrong month of Roger Taylor's birth that was already mentioned in a previous review. The title of the song In the Lap of the Gods becomes In the Lap of the Chords at one point. How on earth did that one happen? The birth year of Brian May's second daughter is also given incorrectly, which would have been not that important, but it actually screws up the timing in the book, as the name of the baby is mentioned in the 1987 Magic Years documentary (year given correctly in the book), but the birth year of the girl is given as 1988, which doesn't make sense for someone who's seen the documentary. Unlike another reviewer, the book did tell me some things I didn't know (although most of the information, despite reading only one book on the band, I have heard in interviews), but because of the mistakes I've noticed I feel reluctant to trust the information that is new to me. Overall, not very satisfying. I will give "As It Began" by Jacky Gunn and Jim Jenkins a try next.
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