Interviews: Roger Taylor: SGR Colchester '99
Transcribed by Edward Pennie <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Interviewer: Mark (Dennison???)
M: Good evening squire
RT: Good evening Mark
M: How are you? Good to see you after all this time. We thought you had disappeared
RT: Oh? I had disappeared really.
M: But you have come back
RT: Yes and here I am again.
M: Nice of you to do so.
M: I want to go back, like right back if that is alright with you.
RT: Sure. Well you know me memory is getting a bit dicky but er
M: Yeah I can understand that. We are not going to go too far back. (Roger laughs) um. Queen of course we know the amazing success that Queen had world-wide. How did all the members of Queen get together. By accident or..
RT: well I suppose it was a series of accidents but um we were all basically all at London university at different colleges, and I just sort of came up to London and a friend of mine, flatmate, saw er …something on the notice board in Imperial college which Brian had put up. And er Brian May and um we sort of got together in the students union bar, found we liked the same things then we sort of .. it's a long story but er we we formed a band with another guy from art college and um that didn't really work out. But in the mean time we made great friends with Freddie, Mercury, well he was Freddie somebody else then.
RT: And er so the three of us then formed the sort of core and went through about six bass players before we found John Deacon who was at Chelsea college.
RT: Er doing another kind of degree. And er then that was it, and we never changed since.
M: What was your degree in by the way?
RT: Mine well I (chuckling) started off in Dentistry and changed to Biology.
M: As you do (laughing ) and you are now a Rock star?
RT: Well. Whatever you want to call it.
M: How useful is your Biology degree these days then Roger?
RT: Well surprisingly enough it is actually quite useful.
M: I bet (laughing)
RT: Yeah I just… you know, you just tend to understand a little bit about um if you are not too well or if your friends aren't feeling well you might …. Know a little bit more.
M: Sure. The pratical side of it I suppose is quite handy as well
M: All those experiments in classrooms
RT: No comment!!
M: No ok fair enough!! just provide diagrams later. Er so I mean. ok you got together at college and university. How did the big success come about then? Was it was it a real… the usual hard slog of making demos, sending them off see what happens then eventually Bang!
RT: Well essentially yes. I mean we made the demos etc and then sort of Fred and I slogged round every record company in… that we could find. Um. We had a few offers, were turned down by few, and it was really about three years of hard slog before we actually had a record out. And er even then it didn't do that great. But it sort of… just got the toe in the door, and then our second album was a lot more successful and we had a hit single etc. etc. etc. and its.. its… its.. a sort of classical rise.
(Song Killer Queen)
M: We were just talking about the Queen Early days there. I mean early early early days. We were talking like 70's really with that then aren't we?
RT: Oh Yeah oh yeah. I mean the first half of the 70's really.
M: Bohemian rhapsody is one of those songs whenever you do a listener chart or anything like that , it always comes out as number one. Or at least in the top five. I mean for a song that was first out in like 1975, that is amazing isn't it?
RT: Yeah I mean …..I still you know I am very proud of being involved with it. But it never ceases to amaze me that the sort of legs of the song. People still really hold it with a great deal of affection.
M: And because it is so darn long as well that is the thing.
RT: Yeah (laughs)
M: It is memorable for that. The video the video was …at the time I mean immensely innovative.
RT: Yeah er.. Well it was.. Videos were weren't really around, we just happened to be managed by a company that had an outside broadcast facility, which was mainly sort of leased to ITV for sports coverage.
RT: And er.. we sort of had the bright idea of using it to film or video, tape our.. the end of our rehearsal for the Night at the Opera tour. And I suppose that really became apparent after it was on Top of the Pops etc when we were on tour, that it was a really incredible marketing tool a way of getting to people.
(Song Bohemian Rhapsody)
M: This is the Retro countdown, Sunday night, talking to Roger Taylor about Queen. We are going to move on to the new stuff …. You are ok for refreshments there I see.
RT: Well I might just top up my wine glass.
M: yeah why not (Laughs) it should be an interesting interview as the night goes on. How did.. how did.. all of you feel as a band about that with the video? Cause you hear some some pop and rock stars for want of a better word saying "Ohhh videos, they take quite a bit away from the music." But other people say "Well it is an art form in itself and the two complement each other". Where do you sit on this particular issue Mr Taylor?
RT: Ha Ha!! Well I think I have changed over the years. I mean er.. at first it just seemed ……… it did add, it added another dimension but then as as the video industry itself blossomed, the budgets, for the videos became ten times those for the actual r making the record. Now they seem very, very much er secondary. Er where as say in the early 80's I would say there "well have you seen the Video?" You know. It was a very important part of the the whole thing then. I think it is much less so now.
M: Your song writing career was I mean I knew you had written a few songs. I didn't know you were behind like Radio Ga Ga!!
RT: Yeah no I wrote a few for the band! In fact we were quite unusual cause all four members of the band wrote um quite big hits you know. So at the end we had the last ten years really we, we just split everything equally because that that way at a stroke you get rid of any arguments and you just judge things on merit or perceived merit and er it just made life a lot easier. Um all round and er.. Yeah! We were lucky there as because we could all contribute um at the end certainly in the last half of our career fairly equally in the writing department.
M: Radio Ga Ga. Lets just go back to that. (Radio Ga Ga starts playing in Background). Was What 84??
RT: Er.. 84 yeah.
M: What made you want to write a song about Radio Ga Ga.(Roger laughs) Now be careful there because you are on the Wireless!!
RT: (laughs) well maybe I shouldn't answer!! Er no I er (laughs) I wrote it in America actually in Los Angeles and I think.. and I had a young son and er er he just turned around one day and said "Radio Ca Ca (sounds like Car Car!!) cause he ha is actually half French and er
RT: And I think I know what that means!! And er (Mark laughs) and I think that was his early comment on the Los Angeles radio. And um I just thought that was a nice line. So we just sort of changed it a little into…
M: Ga Ga.
RT: Yeah. I tell you what to be honest, we never did really change it we just changed the written title. If you actually listen to it we actually singing Ca Ca
M: (laughing) "All we hear is Radio Ca Ca"
RT: Ah if you listen that is the truth!!
RT: Its been very good with me.
(Song Radio Ca Ca!!!!)
M: We are talking toooo Roger Taylor Tonight. On the Retro Countdown playing some of Queens er Classic songs as well. We are gonna be talking about and playing some of the new material as well. That was something I was gonna ask about actually because when you've got a band that is fronted by someone as flamboyant and as immensely famous as Freddie Mercury
M: How how did the rest of you feel about that? Was there any jealousy at all?
RT: N ah I can honestly say there was absolutely none, certainly form my point of view and I don't think form the others um I mean that was his job. His job was to be famous, his job was to be the visual er focus and and the ….. main talking point of the band. Tha That is the singers job really and is very hard for anybody else to do that job, and er he did it so well. And of course in the first formative years of the band he was an incredibly strong writer as well
RT: I I mean the strongest. And um it was only later that I think we everybody developed um er later especially John and myself, we sort of developed our songwriting a lot later. I think Brian and Freddie were more to the fore at the beginning and especially Freddie.
M: I mean Freddie Mercury, such a sad loss, and a great loss to the music industry, the whole entertainment business as well. That must have been a devastating blow when when Freddie died.
RT: Yeah it was. It was .. we were devastated and and we were amazed at how devastated we were cause we had been expecting it for a while. Er and it was this awful thing that we knew was gonna happen. So er.. iii but it was still you know, even if you know something coming you still get quite er.. quite knocked down when it actually happens. Yeah.
M: Absolutely. Um.. Who else did you really admire musically through the 80's then as a decade.
RT: The 80's as a decade…I would say more than anybody David Bowie I would say. I think that was his very strong decade. Um he was really er artistically at the height of his powers then I think. And he was quite formidable um..person…um Yeah, yeah.
M: He was another what I mean he IS another one very flamboyant on stage, I mean he is pretty much , I know he has got various er backing bands that he has used, but he he's Mr Mr Flamboyant isn't he on stage?
RT: Yeah he tremendous charisma, tremendous er drama um (Laughs) he goes a bit over the top sometimes!!! Er but er no great er David is such a clever guy I I I I like him immensely!
M: Talking tooo Roger Taylor Formally of Queen of course on tonight's show well have more in just a moment.
Keep listening cause because before 10:00 your correct answer to a dead easy question could get you off to see Roger Taylor play Live!
M: We are talking to Roger Taylor. We have been talking about er Queen's er earlier material, through the 70's and 80's as well. Er what happened then? I mean obviously we we know um what happened with with with the sad news about Freddie Mercuryand whatever. Then we had the Queen Tribute Concert. What was decided as a band then? Did you just decide between the remaining members that you couldn't or shouldn't go on? I mean what how was that decision made?
RT: Well it was sort of a mutual understanding I think. We just thought, especially at the time, at er not a lot of point in continuing without Freddie. I think people, there would have been such a glaring um sort of Black hole at the you know at the front. But we do still play very well together, you know on the few occasions we have actually got together and played since then and you know it just clicks in like a well oiled machine but I you know whether we will do anything in the future (The Show Must go on starts playing) I I really don't know. um I I really don't know itssss it's difficult.
M: You know it would have to be the right occasion the right song and everything.
RT: Yeah! And I thing we felt that that at the time was a sort of a literally a natural end to a sort of era and er you know we have all got on with our lives ever since.
(Song The Show must go on)
M: Talking to Roger Taylor tonight. Before we go on the the newer material talk about Live Aid!
RT: Oh Yeah!
M: Cause Queen was very very very much a part of that day. How did that come about? Cause we talked to er Nick Kershaw a couple of weeks ago. He said that he was asked by er Bob Geldof at Heathrow Airport at the check-in desk or something. I thought yeah that is showbis! How were you asked to be a part of this Massive event?
RT: Well same again. Bob it was actually he actually became a great friend of mine in the last couple of years, but er he as I remember he asked um a couple of us, I think it was Brian and myself, at some awards thing in the grovena house (not too sure of name. Something house!) I think it was, er and he said "Oh persuade that that old Queen to do " (laughing ) "you know you guys should do it". So we had a word with Freddie who wasn't that keen on on touring at the time, I think we had just finished a big tour.
RT: And er we we sort of talked him round, and cause it did seem like a good idea and er all I remember now is that is was just a Fantastic day all round. The atmosphere, London was quite a magical place to be I remember going back to my house after the opening of the day, um and just the streets were empty and windows were open, it was a beautiful day, and er the sound of theconcert was coming out from every window and um and then we went back and and you know (We Will Rock You starts playing) and we were received very well and it was just a good day I just had nothing but good memories about it all. I just remember Live Aid as being the probably the defining moment really.
(Song We will rock you)
M: Sunday night, our guest is Roger Taylor. We are going to move onto the newer stuff now fairly soon. You mentioned that er the the remaining members of Queen you do still keep in touch? RT: Absolutely yeah!
M: I mean you must be pretty good mates after all that time?
RT: Yeah I mean and lets face it that Queen as a sort of, there is the catalogue and all this stuff, to be, it just keeps going and er so there is a certain amount of sort of business to be to be run, which we we do, we meet, and we're still er good friends so er you know…um
M: I mean so many people through the er the 70's and 80's musicians I mean, if you ask them who their influences would be they would say "oh yeah, Queen "Who who were your influences at the time?
RT: Oh I would definitely say and I could… the band felt pretty much the same on on this I would definitely say Hendrix, Lennon, and for me, probably more than the others Dillon as well,cause I I just love Bob Dillon's er mid period and er early period.
M: We talked about er Freddie Mercury and his er immense showmanship, he was obviously, he had a lot of influence form the shows didn't he. I mean he had his classical influences and all sorts. Did that spread through the rest of the band or was that mainly Freddie?
RT: No ..it it.. did, only, it spread through to a certain extent. He took it too far once, he dragged me along to the ballet. (laughs) In fact he even appeared in it once!! Um (laughs) er and er yes he was he had a very infectious with him you know and but we all sort of got in, we all went along for the ride, on certain occasions, um I am not a particular ballet fan myself but I certainly wouldn't be as as sort of cynical about it now having sort of seen that and as I as I would have been probably otherwise had I not seen that kind of thing.
RT: You know, I mean that (laughs) Sid vicious coming in from "BRINGING BALLET TO THE MASSES ARE YOU FRED!"
M: (laughing )
RT: And Fred just turned around and said "Well we're trying Dear!". (Laughing)
(Song A Kind Of Magic)
M: Talking to Roger Taylor tonight. The 90's e has brought about er quite a few changes with regard to British Music in particular. What what do you make about er the sort of contemporary songwriters.
RT: I think you have to think about I mean if you take somebody like Oasis, I think their writing er Noel er Gallager is writing in a very um established way really. There is , I mean I think he does write some good songs er but they are written in quite an old fashioned way in a way.
RT: Um… but then if you take somebody like Underworld, or something, that is a new way or Massive attack or something, that is a new way of writing, and I I find it very interesting some of the stuff they do. I think there is that…but it is a different way of writing and a lot of it is based on repetition etc, and but a lot of light and shade dynamics, and I thing it is very interesting with all the new technology, some great actual sounds. Some of the Fatboy Slim stuff you know the the those machine sample drums they sound fantastic.
M: You must have seen some er quite remarkable changes over over the years. I I am not sort of being personal about your age or anything (Roger Laughs) Obviously you must have seen some technological changes and also the way that bands and artists are marketed as well.
RT: Well I used to use Saucepans!! (laughs!) Saucepans and Knitting needles! Er no no but true I mean but basically it is all the same old hype, you know to er, you know I think er for bands to make it and you know we are still a little too fashion obsessed in in the UK. I think it is too I don't know there is a sort of vain of silliness which I suppose might be good in some ways but it is also a little superficial in others. And it had become so fleeting, I mean people are in and out of the chart you know before you can blink an eye and er its just too fleeting and superficial in some ways I think. But the great records still come through.
M: You've got some new stuff out. Tell me about it.
RT: Yes Mark.
M: The new Album. Electric Fire.
RT: Yes, its er, I spend quite a long time really er just coming up with the odd song here and there and then all of a sudden there it was. Er an album. An album full. And it is very diverse I think. And er of my solo work I think it is the best I have done so far so er you know see if … I hope people like it!
M: I was gonna say you cause I think you I would be right in saying that you you kind of use your music sometime to channel um er….messages to kind of too…er you know is that the right way of putting it??? but you.. there is certainly a message a lot of the songs you write.
RT: Well I like to think there is some meaning in some of them yeah! And I think if you do have an opinion you know why not um state it as long as you are not preaching at people or boring them I think um I think.. you are not a full, a whole person unless you have some um points of view… on life and what's around you yeah.
M: I mean looking through er some of the kind of stories behind the the songs on the the album, there are quite a few things there that I am sure people can identify with. er "Space wasting journalists, bosses and lawyers ".
M: Don't like lawyers!
RT: Lawyers with fees I think.
M: Yeah that's right. Lawyers with fees
RT: More the fees than the Lawyers. Some of the lawyers are charming!
RT: Um yeah. No I don't know they are just just stuff. That that's the sort of um….. oh which one is that? Oh yeah that's er
M: "Believe in Yourself"
RT: Yeah Believe in Yourself, yeah yeah. Oh that is just sort of saying Believe in Yourself really. It is a very simple message on that one.
M: Er, tell me about the new single. Because er that is out pretty soon, its its called Surrender.
M: Ah…its also like I say from the the ah album Electric Fire. what is surrender all about then?
RT: Surrender is all about domestic Violence. And its er its really sung from the the woman's point of view, the sort of point of view of the sort of er I suppose the er battered wife or girlfriend you know really. Which is quite a sort of poinient point of view. And I suppose its quite depressing really!! But um its just… I think it's a subject which is hardly touched um and it is a subject which does affect a lot of people er in in the country and well all over the world. And its is a subject which is rrrarely talked about and is very hard to deal with.
M: Listen Roger Taylor, its been an absolute pleasure talking to you.
M: And I wish you the BEST of success with the album and also the tour as well. I know you are getting really… er er prepared for that cause its going to be a very very busy few weeks I wish you luck with it. Thanks for talking to us tonight.
RT: Thank you Mark been a pleasure!