Top positive review
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Yes, it's the real life! Superb.
on 29 October 2010
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.
Freddie is, however, a dominant presence in the book, just as he was in the band. Freddie's story is a one of triumph and tragedy (a Hollywood motif which will no doubt be exploited to the full in the forthcoming biopic starring Sacha Baron Cohen), and the part of the book dealing with Freddie's death is poignant and understated. However Blake also introduces an intriguing notion (and again one original to this book) concerning 'who knew when' about Freddie's illness and did they use the knowledge to maximize the band's posthumous record sales? Blake leaves us to draw our own conclusions while giving us the evidence to chew over.
Overall, would I recommend the book? Undoubtedly. Whether you're a hardcore Queen fan, or a more casual fan who likes biographies, this book rocks, and I doubt Queen will ever have a finer biographer. The book also has an excellent plate section containing never-before-seen early photos of the band members.