Freddie Mercury, born 5 September 1946

Thursday 1 September 2011, 15:20

James McLaren James McLaren

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Getting into Queen was the first musically-independent thing I did. When I was about 10 I diverted myself from my parents' record collection and found a band that I loved and they - not to put too fine a point on it - hated. It was something of musical liberation, in retrospect.

Queen

Queen

Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, East Africa, would have been 65 on 5 September. Urban legends abound about Mercury, but regardless of the more salacious rumours, he was a type of frontman the world lacks these days. The music industry simply doesn't allow people to accrue the kind of wealth that gives the opportunity to flounce about the world's stages in crowns and gowns, with multiple costume changes and a cornucopia of leotards.

Apart from Lady Gaga.

In celebration of his would-be birthday I've been looking back at Queen's gigging history in Wales. Surprisingly, they never played the National Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park, and played their last Welsh show on 10 September 1976, 35 years ago, at Cardiff Castle.

Poster for Queen at Cardiff Castle

Poster for Queen at Cardiff Castle. Photo from www.queenconcerts.com

At that show, as you can see from the poster, Rainbow were meant to play, but pulled out when it became clear that the venue was unable to accommodate their 35ft high rainbow stage prop. Perhaps they couldn't get it through the portcullis entrance at Bute Park. Manfred Mann stepped in and Andy Fairweather-Low of Amen Corner also supported.

Queen's previous Welsh appearance was again in Cardiff, at the Capitol Theatre on 19 November 1975, just as Bohemian Rhapsody was being released. Bo Rhap was, incidentally, partly recorded at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth.

Ticket for Queen at Cardiff's Capitol Theatre, 1975

Ticket for Queen at Cardiff's Capitol Theatre, 1975. Photo from www.queenconcerts.com

They were supported by Mr Big. Ten years earlier The Beatles played their last UK tour date at the same venue.

Queen's very first Welsh date was in support of their first album, Queen I, in 1973. They supported Mott The Hoople at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall.

Ticket for Queen at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall

Ticket for Queen at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall. Photo from www.queenconcerts.com

No concert footage exists of the Welsh shows, but if you were at any of them please comment below!

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    Comment number 1.

    I was at the Cardiff Castle gig, aged just 16. I thought, looking at the poster above, that I couldn't remember Rainbow playing - thank goodness my memory is still intact! Anyway, two things stand out at that show - the superb musicianship of Queen, and the fact that it rained throughout their performance. One of the very best gigs I ever attended - and I've seen them all.

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    Comment number 2.

    I went to the Queen / Moot the Hoople gig in the Brangwyn Hall in 1973. I'd always liked Mott but primarily went to see Queen. I'd heard little of their music apart from Seven Seas of Rhye but was intrigued by the hype about them in the magazines of the time.

    The Queen set was a bit disppointing. At the time they had few original songs and seemed to pad it out with an Elvis song and other rock n roll standards They even did "Big Spender" which again I thought was padding but read later that it appeared in their sets throughout their career. All seemed a bit strange at the time.

    Freddie hadn't perfected his stage craft at that stage and was a bit stilted. By comparison Mott the Hoople were immense, striding the stage with the bravado of an ultimate glam bands.

    It was interesting to see Queen develop from this early perfomance into the legends they became and see Freddie perfect his stage presence to a point where he was peerless at the Wembley concerts.

    In Feb, 2010, I met Mick Ralphs, guitarist with Mott the Hoople (and Bad Company). He confirmed what I had read earlier that Queen had paid £5000 (Lord know what that equates to in todays money) to play on the Mott tour. This was one of if not the first pay to play tours. As it turned out, it was money well invested!!

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    Comment number 3.

    @moongazer
    That's fantastic information. It's interesting that in the 70s a band like Queen were given the time and space to develop and hone their craft. Each successive album was more successful and they inevitably played bigger gigs; their stagecraft became commensurate with their sales, it seems.

 
 

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