Interviews: Roger Taylor: Radio 5 '98
SYBIL ROSCOE: Good afternoon to you. You're tuned into 5 live, the programme's Roscoe & Co.
Now, he's the drummer from one of the most popular rock groups of all time, and he's given ?10,000 to help fight BSkyB's bid for Manchester United. He's made a brand new album, and tonight he's gonna play his first British concert for about 5 years. He is, of course, Roger Taylor, and let's hear some of the music which has made him famous.
- We Will Rock You
- Bohemian Rhapsody
- Killer Queen
- A Kind of Magic
- Radio GaGa
- We Are The Champions
Roger Taylor, welcome to 5 Live. I suppose with that song you sort of - football chant world-wide now, isn't it, that song?
ROGER TAYLOR: Yes um, I think, yes, it's quite amazing. I heard it at the end of World Cup, the final as well, which was great actually. (laughs)
SR: What's it like for you when you hear the music, because to me I sometimes think "God, I can't believe its that long ago that you........"
RT: It's scary how how quickly the years go when I think that-er Freddie Mercury died 7 years ago now, over 7 years ago - and it seems like, you know, 18 months or something - its very odd. It's just the time's flown by.
SR: I know for Queen fans you know, when you hear his voice and you, you just can't help but feel so sad that he's not around any more - for you as members of the band, what does it feel like when you hear his voice?
RT: Um - I think the same - in in some ways, and and and, you know, because I mean the records just sort of take me back to when we made them and then again, - but they've sort of become a part of, they've become a part of your-er make-up, somehow. (laughs) They are sort of part of my history and and-er, and I have great affection for for most them.
SR: I suppose, as a band, you had longer to get used to the idea of him not being around than the fans did, in a way, did you?
RT: Well, that, that's true - um - we knew for a while that, you know, the writing was on the wall and er - so yes, we were sort of ready, although when it actually did happen we weren't, you know, you weren't as ready as you thought you were. But- um - it did take you by surprise. Took us all by surprise, terribly really. Um - but yeah, we we did know what was going to happen so we'd all, you know, so did Freddie and so it made the last 2 or 3 years quite sort of poignant.
SR: Yeah, because I suppose you always knew that the time together was limited now. That was one .......
RT: Yeah, yeah - well he used to talk about it very matter-of-factly, you know - he'd say something like "I could pop off any time" you know and um he was very brave, you know, and and so that that, we all sort of ganged up together (laughs) and er made the best of it really.
SR: What was it like um for you, you know, as the drummer, being on stage with a performer like that, because I mean, he's the ultimate front man of a band, you know, wasn't he - along with Mick Jagger and people like that.
RT: Yes, he's certainly - I think he's one of the greats. Yeah um. The band was very much a team, so we had a lot of eye contact on stage and you know, ah and so really it was a, really like a machine at times, er and its sort of interlocking parts, and he was the visual focus and the one who delivered it, you know, at the front. Um - and it was a joy, you know.
SR: What is it like - um -to be in a band - I've always thought this about somebody like yourself? When you're in a band as big as Queen, and a globally big band, what's it actually like to be just one of four on a stage at a, you know, big gig where you've got thousands - what does it actually feel like?
RT: (laughs) It feels great.
SR: But how does it, why does it feel great?
RT: Er - Well, I don't know - I think you're either a sort of, you're either a natural BAND person, or you're a sort of solo person, and for me being in a band was what it was all about and, er, and the actual being in the bend was, it lent one corporate strength, if you know what I mean?
RT: Er and you sort of gained strength through being in this OTHER THING which you had come together to make and er so it was great. But you could also put yourself outside it and you could talk about "the Band", you know, as it were another entity. And that, you could, it gave you a lot of strength and, and power.
SR: I suppose in a sense it was almost like a factory or a company, being in a band that big?
RT: Sort of, I think, it's an old saying but I think that was it: "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" and it and that when the band works, when the chemistry's right that's absolutely true.
SR: Just tell people how you all came together, 'cos you, you were doing a Biology Degree weren't you. You wanted to be a Dentist, rather than a drummer.
RT: Yeah well - that's going back a long time. I did, I did eighteen months of Dentistry (laughs) definitely wasn't for me and I think they decided I wasn't for them and then I ended up doing um - I then actually started this, the-er thing in Kensington Market with Freddie selling old clothes and artwork and (intake of breath) stuff like that. And then I went back to College and managed to scrape a Degree in Biology. (Laughs)
SR: And then when did you all sort of get together as the band? Can you remember the first time you played something together and you all looked at each other and thought - "Yeah - we've got something here"? Or didn't it happen like that?
RT: Well, I think, cos I, I knew Brian before I knew Freddie and, and had worked with Brian, so we thought we were a pretty good team and then Freddie made, and so it was sort of on paper it was - we thought it was gonna be good. It took us ages to find the right bass player - and to honest we probably weren't that good at first - but we thought we were. (laughs)
SR: Is that half the battle when you're a band, that you have to BELIEVE in yourselves or else you'd never get on stage again, or never dare ?
RT: You have to have unending faith - there's no, there's no doubt about that - and a certain ? which goes along with a certain amount of arrogance, I suppose, and if you don't, without that I think you'd probably fail.
SR: When you look back at some of the tracks, what do you think made the music so successful? Was it the right time, the combination of the people? What has made it such enduring music, do you think?
RT: Er - I don't know - I think there was a lot of, what people usually overlook was that there was actually I think a lot of sort of, quite a lot of musical talent - I mean real musical talent - technically and in the writing and we've took an awful lot of care over the records and, er making sure everything was right, you know, the versions of everything - that the harmonies were right. And I suppose we were of our time as well, at, you know, at that time, which is a long time ago. (laughs)
SR: You know I always think, you know, when you look back to um, Bohemian Rhapsody, it was the first ever, wasn't it, pop video, proper pop.
RT: Yeah, yes I think it was the first sort of ?
SR: I mean you had David Cassidy sort of walking through woods singing, but it was the first time you - like a film that went with ?
RT: Shot for Top Of The Pops.
SR: You can't believe that that was the first pop video. (both laugh)
RT: Yeah, it was yeah, the first sort of bespoke video.
RT: Yeah, yeah. Which, well we sort of realised that it was a way of going to Australia - getting to Australia - without actually having to go there. Um - not that there's anything wrong with Australia - but uh - it was - you could get to the whole world and you could be on TV in every country just by sending them a video, which was a sort of new concept at the time.
SR: When you saw the finished product, how, what did you think of it, because you know, to you, although you'd made it, this was a new concept to you too, wasn't it?
RT: Well we didn't actually see it until it was actually on Top Of The Pops, cos we were just doing it at the beginning of a tour. We were finishing rehearsals and we shot it on the last day in Elstree - and we just sort of got on a bus at the end at about 2 o'clock in the morning and drove to Liverpool, cos we had a show there the next night - so we, we'd never seen the video until it was on Top Of The Pops the next week.
SR: And what did you think when you saw it?
RT: We thought "Ah - not bad." (both laugh)
SR: Stay with us Roger. We're gonna talk some more about your new music and Manchester United as well in a moment. We're gonna get some travel news from Lynn now here on 5 Live.
SR: You're with Roscoe and Co here on 5 Live now. Our guest this afternoon is Roger Taylor - who used to be the drummer with Queen - who's now a sort of getting out on his own with his band and a new CD. We'll talk about that in a moment. But Roger, you gave this ten grand to the Independent Supporters Association at Manchester United. Why? What was your thinking?
RT: (laughs) Yep - God I'm never gonna hear the end of this am I?
RT: My thinking was really, I was driving in the car er and I heard the guy from the Unofficial Supporters' Club talking, saying that all we need is ?10,000 to get organised, cos, you know, we don't have it - and I just thought well that's, you know, I thought I was quite shocked and surprised and fairly outraged when I heard about the bid - you know - I don't personally think it's the right thing. Um and I thought, well I can sort of help you.
SR: Why are you anti the take-over?
RT: Um - well without being personal, I I I ..believed that there's a conflict of interest in the owners of the er main er access to football, premier league football, um owning the most famous and possibly the successful club, um, and I'm not a great fan of Rupert Murdoch and what he's done to the quality of life in this country and across a lot of the world.
SR: What in particular don't you like, cos I know you wrote um "Dear Mr Murdoch" back in - four years ago didn't you..
SR: Which is on the new single?
RT: Yes - very nasty piece of work too.
SR: What is it that you so object to what he's done?
RT: Its this all-pervadingness that's sort of come in and it's sort of almost of it being beyond the law you know - um - not having, changing nationality at whim and in order to do do things I mean the, and this the satellite virtual monopoly and these things and I, I don't really like his newspapers or what he does to them and the, the sort of order of the lowest common denominator that pervades everything. Um - I find it pretty offensive, some of it.
SR: Some people would say though, you know, people who like watching football on Sky and ?
SR: like reading the Sun newspaper - well might say "What are you on about, you know?"
RT: Yeah - but they didn't used to have to pay to watch the football. I mean I I I couldn't see England play Sweden the other night, because it was on SkySports2 and er you had to have that and you had to pay - and er I think that's wrong.
SR: Are you a Manchester United supporter?
RT: No I'm not personally. No, my my son, my son is a fanatical supporter. Um - no, no I'm not, no.
SR: And was it him?
RT: But I think they're a great club and I love watching them play. Yeah.
SR: Who do you support?
RT: Um - I'm not really even mad football supporter - I'd say if anybody West Ham if anybody probably.
SR: But you don't support Murdoch I suppose.
RT: No, no and I don't think one organisation should er have SO much say and power over not just football, but sport in general in this country, and you know making it very expensive for everybody.
SR: Let's talk about um - your music now.
RT: Go on - please. (both laugh)
SR: What does a drummer, what does your music and music mean to you. I mean a lot of fans are phoning in and we'll get to some of the fans' questions in a moment, but what does music give to your life and what's it mean to you?
RT: No - I think it's a good question - um - and often people say: "Look, you know, you had a great career, you know, why are you still making records?" Because the media in this country is not very accessible to sort of older music, musical artists. And really the only answer is "It's what I do" - and it's sort of in my blood and it's in my experience and er it's what I do. You know - and I can't really answer it any better than that.
SR: And how does it make you feel, cos I know you, you started out at Truro Cathedral School, didn't you?
RT: Yeah - I was only there for a year -
SR: But that was music, wasn't it?
RT: As Choir boy. Uh - yea that was music, that was a Choral I suppose it was a Scholarship, um - but it was only a year then I changed to a school called Truro School at the same time.
SR: But, you know, say you started out with music that young, what is it you get from it NOW - you know, because like you explained?
RT: Yeah - I think you either love music or you don't and if you do love music you then tend to feel quite strongly about music that you don't like and music that you do like. Um - so it, it's in you and, and it doesn't go away, although I don't listen to as much music as I used to.
SR: Do you think um - is it difficult for somebody like you, having been in a big band like Queen, and being the drummer, cos people don't usually associated drummers (both laugh) I'm not, I'm not being rude, but they don't usually associate drummers with 'making the music'
RT: More 'writing music'. Yeah.
RT: I mean drummers are are people that hang around with musicians.
SR: Yes. (laughs) And do you find that some people are a bit negative.
RT: Oh yeah. Yeah - inevitably - um - but my life's been very good and and it still is and so really I can't, I'm not in a position to moan about anything. Um - yeah I mean you know - one ploughs one's furrow - and yeah you just keep going.
SR: But secretly would you like to be as recognised as a solo artist as you are obviously as the drummer of Queen?
RT: Well, I suppose it would, I'd be a liar if I said I wouldn't like to be more recognised but you realistically, you'd never be as as recognised - pretty unlikely - and I'm not sure I'd want it to take up that you know, the space it would take up in my life I'm not sure I'd really want all that. But having said that of course, yes - lots of recognition is always nice, isn't it.
SR: Can I ask some of these questions from ...?
SR: Lots of people are phoning in this afternoon wanting to ask you questions. Mark ?
RT: There's somebody out there then. (laughs)
SR: Yeah, yeah - thankfully.
MARK in BRADFORD and PHIL RICHARDS in TAUNTON ask a similar question. Who for you is um the best rock drummer. Who do you admire?
RT: Oh - rock drummer. Very easy. Er - John Bonham, used ? who sadly died?
RT: '78. Er - he used to be with Led Zeppelin, yeah. He's beyond - he's way, way my favourite rock drummer.
SR: And why? What was it about his drumming?
RT: He - he was the best. He was better than anybody else. It's quite simple.
SR: But what did he do that other drummers don't?
RT: He could do a lot of things that that nobody can do now, you know. He had a lot of power and he had a tremendous style and I suppose even above that, he had a unique er HUGE sound, which is being sampled now, today.
SR: You hear it ever so often, don't you.
RT: You're hearing it on hits now, yeah - it usually comes from a track called "When the Levy Breaks".
RT: You obviously know it.
SR: You're making me feel old - that's taken me back to my Sixth Form days.
FRANK in UTKINTON in CHESHIRE says he's on the way to the gig tonight, you're playing tonight, aren't you?
RT: Oh great, great.
SR: First time in 5 years?
RT: Yeah. Think so. Yes.
SR: You nervous?
RT: Well I did actually, I did a charity thing er about a month ago with, with Bob Geldof, who's a, who's a great friend of mine, um and then I did this Cyberbarn sort of um Internet gig about 2 week's ago..
SR: Made the Guinness Book of Records, didn't it? It was the biggest ever Internet gig or something like that.
RT: Yes - so we're told - virtually - yes - very pleasing. You know, and that was fun, so we've got a great band rehearsed up so that's why we thought we'd just put this show on.
SR: AND FRANK ALSO ADDS THE CHEEKY QUESTION: What about a concert in the North to help the Manchester United Independent Supporters' Association.
SR: Hasn't he given you enough, FRANK? I think that's the best answer to that one.
IAN IN SOLIHULL says, "Do you have any plans to write your story?" - of your time in Queen, your autobiography.
RT: Oh yeah - yup - been asked that a few times - um - I think you know, if I ever did anything like that I suppose I'd want to be older. I suppose could write "My time?" No I don't know - not really. Nor really, no. I'd just sort of there it was. It was great and I think I'd rather let it, let it lie.
SR: TONY in PICKERING wants to know, did you really sing THAT NOTE in Bohemian Rhapsody.
RT: Someone asked me that the other day. Yes.
SR: Which note are they talking about?
RT: It's the very high one at the end of operatic section (laughs), mock operatic section.
SR: Can you demonstrate it now?
RT: No, no I can't get there now - I'd need a pair of pliers.
SR: But did you really sing it or was it a synthesiser?
RT: No no no no - we didn't have synthesisers. Er - no it was, it was genuinely sung - yeah, yeah. Yeah - we used to be able to get higher, but I think as a natural - your voice does get lower as you get older.
SR: All that sort of rock and roll life style makes the voice go deeper, doesn't it?
RT: (Laughs) Yeah, yeah.
SR: Um - now "What's John Dinker (corrects) Deacon doing these days?", says PAUL IN WATFORD. What's he up to?
RT: Well, he's very quiet -
SR: Taking it easy.
RT: Um - haven't spoken to him for about 3 - 4 months probably - but when I do see John, we we get on very well. So I, I hope to be seeing him very soon, actually.
SR: ANDREW in WARMINSTER along with thousands of other people want to know are you going to record with Brian and John again and is there any more of Freddie's music on tape that you would be able to record with?
RT: Well, the last part first - no, there isn't. There's, there's not, there might be a couple of scraps, but there's really nothing that we, that we feel - we sort of tidied everything up really with the Made In Heaven Album, I think. And yes - I think John and Brian and myself would like to do SOMETHING - maybe next year, but, and maybe using different guys, you know, um - singing - er or girls, whatever. We haven't, we, you know it's a, it's a bit of a vague idea at the moment.
SR: It's difficult, though, isn't it, when you've been so successful, cos it could all go wrong and people...
RT: Exactly. I mean, what we, we didn't wanna - you know we'd only do something if we felt it was, if it felt right, you know, felt absolutely right.
SR: Quite a few people in the building want to know about the track on the album called "No More Fun"?
RT: Uh - "No More Fun".
SR: It seems, somebody was saying this morning, it seems like you miss that touring, hell-raising lifestyle - is it true?
RT: Well I suppose it's, there's a little bit of truth in it, but it was written from that perspective of you know what happened to the wild, wild days of rock and roll? Um - bit of a clichÃ© really, but um, yeah I mean that's just the perspective of the song.
SR: Yeah. Do you...?
RT: No - I don't really wake up in the morning wishing I was throwing televisions out of windows or something in you know Delaware or somewhere, no. (laughs)
SR: Did you do that?
RT: Er - oh a bit - only a little bit. Yes - probably an ashtray or something. No, no no.
SR: Just a cigarette packet - that's all you did. You weren't really that bad were you. Lots of people what to know as well...
SR: ... why you call so many of your children Tiger, because er you've got Rufus Tiger, haven't you, and Tiger Lilly?
RT: Well. Yes, that's right. Yup. Um - I don't know, I just like like the name really, um - Tiger Lilly is from Peter Pan and the Rupert Tales.
SR: Same as Bob Geldof's er,
RT: Well, that's that's well...
SR: Paula Yates.
RT: Paul..., Paula's and Michael's - yeah - um, but our's was first. (laughs)
SR: We'll accept that.
PHIL in BRISTOL "What's YOUR favourite Queen album?"
RT: MY favourite? Ah - that's a difficult one. I liked the last one, I like "Made in Heaven", I like "Sheer Heart Attack" is always a favourite of mine. Uh, yeah I'd probably say some, something like that. There are a few which I really like and there are a few which I'm not so keen on, you know.
SR: (Whispers) Which don't you like?
RT: I'm not mad about "Jazz", "Hot Space" and ... another. (laughs)
SR: It's funny to hear you say all those, cos you just see your record collection ...
RT: Yeah yeah- it's scary, isn't it.
SR: Now look, we're gonna play something from the new album: "Pressure On". What's the story behind "Pressure On" then?
RT: Er - well nothing really - er it's just sort of the typical day to day pressures which everybody sort of has.
SR: Yes - particularly poor old Gazza at the moment.
RT: Yes, so I gather.
SR: Yes, I suppose, do you have any sympathy with that, cos you've lived your life in the public eye?
RT: Yeah I do, but these days footballers have to be such incredible athletes, don't they? I mean just seeing how fast they run and how long they run, watching the World Cup, I just can't believe that somebody can...
SR: Or how much football they PLAY.
RT: Yeah, yeah.
SR: It's a lot isn't it.
RT: Yeah - they do play a lot.
SR: Tell you what then, let's hear this new single:
<"PRESSURE ON" PLAYS>
SR: It's good, isn't it? You sound a bit like David Bowie on this. Is it intentional?
RT: "Under Pressure Mark 2...
SR: Electric Fire is the new CD from Roger Taylor and you're playing tonight at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, aren't you?
RT: Yes that's right
SR: Are you looking forward to it?
RT: Yeah I am actually.
SR: Are you looking forward to GETTING ON STAGE...
RT: Looking forward to um - I'm just feeling a bit rough now, you know, which usually happens just before you...
SR: This is the low before the adrenaline kicks in, isn't it?
RT: Yes - I think it's the body's way of saving itself. (laughs)
SR: Thank you for being here Roger. Nice to meet you.
RT: Thanks. It's been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
SR: You're with 5 Live, stay with us on Roscoe and Co, let's get you the headlines now from Paul Henry...