Showman or Frontman? Shy Guy or Great Pretender? In her book, Freddie Mercury: The Definitive Biography, Lesley-Ann Jones helps to peel away the layers of media nonsense and rumour to paint the picture of a man she met several times and watched perform live (most notably side of stage during THAT Live Aid Performance).
I took to the book as a casual Queen fan, growing up with the music as a boy and then a teenager, Freddie was long gone before I really got into collecting music seriously. But I remembered watching Live Aid and of course that barnstorming performance from Queen. My knowledge of Freddie himself and Queen's recording history was a little hazy based on red top newspaper headlines surrounding Mercury in later life and the odd documentary I had seen of the band play on TV. A mate at college had all the albums and subjected me to them in his car when he used to run a gang of us around. When music is forced on you, sadly, you don't always appreciate it and I honestly did switch off.
But, as you grow older, your musical tastes change and mature. You have the opportunity to delve into the musical archives of friends and relatives and the digital download has made it even easier to collect a back catalogue quicker.
Stood in the bookshop I thumbed through the hardback and found myself engrossed enough to want to buy it. Surely the best advert for any book?!
Jones plays a blinder for any casual Queen fan by starting the book off with Live Aid. Like Queen before her, she knows exactly the Greatest Hits to tick off and the first few pages draw you in to the world of Freddie, Queen, Wembley and Montreux so that when the "real" start of the journey to understand Mercury begins in Zanzibar you are fully prepared.
Lesley-Ann went to Zanzibar to research her subject's birthplace and understand where he came from and why possibly he may never have gone back. It is this attention to detail that is throughout the book. It is obvious that the author personally cares about Freddie and yet still paints an honest picture of the man with all his flaws and genius balanced. This is no rose tinted reflection of a bygone era of a Rock Showman. Nor is it a gossipy no holds barred delve into the more salacious areas of Freddie's life on and off stage.
The hardback edition has some reviews on amazon stating that this was written by a journalist who worked on the Daily Mail and that this is a regurgitated journalistic exercise pumped out to cash in on Freddie. This is both an insult to Jones and massively misses the point of what this book tells you. Lesley-Ann has indeed written for the Daily Mail amongst a number of other titles (what a crime!) but toured extensively with Queen and saw first hand a lot of what is reported in the book. Take a look at some of the photographs within the volume and you see not publicity shots of Freddie or Queen but more candid shots of the author with close friends and family of Freddie written about within the pages. She might be a journalist but that is just her "job". This book is written by someone who honestly was best placed to tell you what you want to know about Mercury the man.
If you are a huge Queen fan then this will be the perfect companion to the music and other books you have. A nice volume that easily covers everything you need to know. It is bang up to date taking in life post Freddie's passing with nods to We Will Rock You, Paul Rodgers and where Brian and Roger see Queen now.
I got hold of a paperback copy before reviewing this to double check there was nothing substantially new from the hardback I had read. But really, it was perfect in hardback...!
So, the casual Queen fan, after reading this book, has now gone out and bought the remastered cd's and wishes he had paid more attention in the car all those years ago! I gave my hardback to a friend with the "you have to read this" statement. Her response? "I like the way it is written, it fills my head like watching a documentary!"