Interviews: Brian May: BBC Radio 4 '98
NS = Ned Sherrin
SF = Simon Fanshaw
BM = Brian May
NS: Good morning. What a cornucopia awaits us today. Captains of industry, philanthrapists, singing stars, ex-editors, actors, musicians, songwriters, Radio 4 chat show hosts, comics. Contain your impatience until after the opening noise.
NS: Why a fanfare? All will be revealed in due course. Ermmm... why the fanfare at the beginning? Well opening noise for distinguished member of Queen. We thought Queen deserved a fanfare and Brian May as lead guitarist of Queen has decided to tell all not to me, but to Simon Fanshaw. Why this week Brian? Is it a new album, new single, new tour, new career?
BM: All of that, really.
NS: I'll leave Simon to grill you. Brian... ummm... Simon, encourage Brian to talk about himself, will you.
SF: Oh, yes, I will do. Well, err, Brian was once an astronomer, almost a Ph.D., is now a guitarist, has the kind of hair that would send Nicky Clark into a sexual frenzy. Depending on your outlook, they're either cascading seventeenth century curls or, or an overdone footballers perm from the seventies. Either way his partner, ex-Queen of the Vic, Anita Dobson loves them. In 1974 his band Queen had a hit with the very well branded Killer Queen. Then they invented the pop video with Bohemian Rhapsody. Now, and, ummm, I will persue this later with you Brian, but I am going to tell you that I, I know who Gallileo is. But who the hell is Bismillah? I can't find him anywhere. I found Bismarck in the dictionary.
BM: I think Bismillah is more of, more of an expletive than a character. *Laughs* As far as I know.
SF: Good! Well, I'm glad we cleared that up because I think... I tried to put Bismarck into the lyric - it didn't work at all. Anyway, Brian May was the fourth member with Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. He was recently described in the Telegraph as being the self-effacing guitarist in the band with thin legs. He's just released his second solo album called Another World. Errr... Brian... I have to ask you about the lyrics here. Errrmmm... so little comfort in my lonely bed is one of them. And then there's how can I live with you as a memory. You hold the best part of me. Another one, I ain't gonna get pushed around. I mean, come on pretty baby give me one more chance, try and save our romance.
BM: You say it with such feeling! *Laughs*
SF: No. But the point is Brian... are, are you depressed?
BM: Errr.... well you picked the dep, err, depressive part of the lyrics, probably. Yes, I'm some of the times I'm depressed. Some of the times I'm full of joy and optimism and a lot of the time I'm full of self-doubt, I suppose. The album represents, I suppose, the whole gammet of emotions that I went through and it took about five years to make. So you go through a lot in that time.
SF: I was really surprised, though. I read this... I though the man's got some money, doesn't have to work, is there with Anita, doesn't know what... it's the most... it's it it... you need desperate therapy! I mean...
BM: Thank you! Maybe you can help me out!? *Laughs*
SF: No, I mean they're very down...
BM: I tell you what, music is the best therapy, though, isn't it, and that's part of what the album is about because you go through your own stuff and put it into you music. You communicate it hopefully with other people who, who experience the same sort of stuff in their lives.
SF: Well, I was glad that you said at the end that thanks to Anita Dobson for love, partnership and soul support because, actually, by the time I got to the end of reading the lyrics I though you'd split up!
BM: *Laughs* Oh no!
SF: But they're not about her?
BM: No no no. It's... errr... it's a journey of a sort and, y'know, you have to live with it for a little while and, and I, what I hope is with every kind of music, you hope that people take it to themselves and they think eventually - ah, this is me.
SF: Well let's, errr, well let's do a bit of the music, then. I want, I want to play a couple of contrasting bits from the album, Brian. First, we'll go, this is track six, I think.
SF: See... now that's, that's what we'd expect isn't it Brian? Y'know, that's... good... good...
BM: This is the heavy side. Which I, which I love, yes.
SF: Now, as they used to say in your O Level/GCSE exams... compare and contrast.
*Another World intro*
SF: Now... look... my Mum would like that! Y'know. My Mum would buy that, y'see. Now, I played the first one, and my neighbour who's a lovely woman, who if you say - hello - to her - how are you - she says - I'm fine, the other people are ghastly.
SF: She told me last night to turn that down, the first track! And the second track, well I said - you listen to this - and she loved it. Now what's going on here?
BM: She said turn it up. Well....
SF: Well, Barry Manilow. You've turned into Barry Manilow by track twelve!
BM: Nah... it's Another World, y'see. The album's called Another World and there's a huge range like you say. And that's me. I'm kind of schizophrenic and chaotic, I suppose. But there is some sense to it.
SF: There is? Well, when you left Queen, you said that you were going to spend some time to find out who you were.
BM: Mmmmmmm. I'm still trying to find out! Well, it's coming slowly. There's a sort of, there's a part of the journey on this album, yeah.
SF: And when you do live concerts and stuff and, errr, you're up there, and they're, they're fantastically well reviewed, your gigs, I mean everybody says, y'know, the absolute last thing you ever do is short-change the audience - they get some fantastic show.
BM: They get something for their money, yeah. *Laughs*
SF: When they all shout, though, from the audience, as I understand they all do - Brian, Brian - do you ever get the feeling you're in a Monty Python film?
BM: *Laughs* No!
BM: Next question!
SF: I just have this image of all those people in Jerusalem chanting...
BM: You should come come to one. Then you would know what it's all about.
SF: Well, well I will do. And I'd quite like...
BM: You'll be invited. You'll be... Albert Hall on the... ummmm... what is it? October the... ummm... errr.... something or other... errr...
SF: I'll let you...
BM: Plug, plug.
SF: Plug, plug. Plug, plug.
BM: And I shall be all around Europe.
SF: And do you go to a... is there a kind of voice school where you go to with sort of Whitesnake and Alice Cooper and ZZ Top and all that and learn to do that big scream?
BM: Erm... I'm not actually very good at screaming. I mean, I'm good at... I'm... err... I'm learning to put passion in, y'know. I grew up as a guitar player, but I spent the last few years getting much more interested in putting things across vocally than guitar-wise, I suppose. So, I mean, I feel very humble next to this lady here... and this lady here... erm...
SF: Being Imelda and Beverley, then [two other guests on the show]
BM: But, but, y'know, I'm learning my trade and, and to me I'm, I'm learning to put what I feel inside. I mean, I had Freddie by my side for, for many years doing that.
SF: Do you just feel that you're inevitably under the shadow of somebody who was so immense and, and gargantuan?
BM: Yeah, I mean, the whole shadow of Queen is very long. This is true. But, ummm, it was my apprenticeship, y'know, this is my learning process and now I do what I do.
SF: Would you do me a favour? I once met John Deacon who is a splendid guitar player, but he is the member of the band, like every band's got one, he's the one you don't know. He's the...
BM: Quiet one.
SF: Take That had two, y'know.
SF: There were the one's that weren't Mark, Robbie and Gary.
BM: He also wrote Another One Bites The Dust which was the biggest ever hit, though.
SF: Would, would you... I'm going to hand you a piece of paper, and these are the answers to the questions. But when I met John Deacon, I didn't know who he was. This was the conversation, which I've attempted to reconstruct with Brian May.
BM: This is Brian here.
SF: But hang on a second! Err... those are your answers - I'm going to ask you the questions.
SF: Okay? This....
BM: This is scripted, folks! This is scripted. It's live, but it's scripted!
SF: Brian... Brian when I said I'm handing you a piece of paper, I wasn't reconstructing Chamberlain coming back from Munich! I think the audience got it! Now...
BM: He didn't, he didn't wave it.
SF: Brian, what I have to... no, okay... here we go. Those are your answers, these are the questions.
SF: What's your name?
BM: Errr... Brian
SF: What do you do?
BM: I'm in a band.
SF: Is it any good?
BM: We do okay.
SF: What's it called?
SF: I was only asking!
BM: It was very good, wasn't it.
BM: Actually, okay is, is a very strong word for, for John!
BM: I don't he think he quite would have gone that far.
SF: He is the quiet one of the band. Well... ummm... if... errr... you want, the... errr... album is out now, I think, Another World.
BM: It is indeed.
SF: The signal. Errr? The signal!? I'm getting your, getting your dyslexia today, Ned.. errr... which is called Why don't We Try Again, which is definitively not about Anita.
BM: No. Well it's... no. It... songs you can't really pin down because you live with them for a long time and all kinds of ingredients get in there.
SF: I'm glad you're telling me that.
BM: And Beverley's, Beverley's nodding here. And you try to make it a pattern that you draw out of life. That's all I can say. And if you try and pin 'em down too much, they sort of lose their, their substance, I guess.
SF: Well, Brian's new album is called Another World. It does go from Whitesnake to Barry Manilow. Thank you very much indeed for allowing me to recreate...
NS: Thank you, Brian. Bravely...
BM: Bing Crosby, please!
NS: Bravely bold, Brian.