Freddie Mercury, Queen and Montreux
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The story of Freddie Mercury and Queen in Montreux
Accompanied by a guide and an audioguide, Freddie Tours takes you on the footsteps of Freddie Mercury in Montreux!
With the Freddie Tour and Freddie Tour (Extended), you will be able to explore the city and experience the years when Freddie Mercury, the legendary voice of Queen, came to seek inspiration and recharge his batteries in this peaceful town of Montreux located on the shores of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva.
First arrival in Montreux in 1978
Queen's four musicians (Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor) are regular visitors to the Swiss Riviera.
Their first visit dates to July 1978: the group Queen had just finished the tour of the album "News of the World" and chose the famous Mountain Studios in Montreux to record its successor. This seventh LP was to be entitled Jazz.
The Montreux experience was so productive that Queen took advantage of an unexpected opportunity to buy the Mountain Studios, whose premises were in the Montreux Casino.
The group became the owners in 1979, one year after the recording of Jazz. The British quartet took advantage of this opportunity to work on the mixing of Live Killers, a live album recorded in the spring of 1979 during their European tour. Offering a synthesis of Queen's first seven releases, this live album was released in June of the same year.
Freddie Mercury, the beginning of his career
Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on 5 September 1946 in Stone Town, Zanzibar protectorate in southern Africa. His parents, Jer and Bomi Bulsara, were civil servants working for the British colonial office. His younger sister Kashmira was born when he was 7 years old. Farrokh Bulsara spent his school years in India where he began to learn to play the piano. At the age of 12, he joined a local rock band where he became a pianist. Farrokh decided to change his first name and chose Freddie, a nickname frequently used by his classmates.
At the age of 17, he returned to Zanzibar to join his parents. The family left the Tanzanian archipelago in a hurry a year later because of the violent revolution that had broken out. The Bulsara family took refuge in 1964 in Feltham, a suburb in the west of London, not far from Heathrow airport where he later worked.
Between 1966 and 1970, Freddie joined various local bands as a singer, each of which became more and more famous. A few years later, the musicians decided to abandon the name Smile in favour of Queen.
The membership of this legendary and internationally known band would remain the same until Freddie Mercury's death 20 years later.
No less than 6 studio albums recorded in Montreux
The golden era between Queen and Montreux lasted from 1978 to 1995. Six studio albums were the result and offered history some of its greatest rock songs.
The collection of albums recorded in Montreux were "Jazz" in 1978, "Hot Space" in 1982, "A Kind of Magic" in 1986, "The Miracle" in 1989, and "Innuendo" in 1991, which is the last studio recording in Freddie Mercury's lifetime. Then in 1995 came "Made in Heaven", Queen's 15th album, produced with the vocal parts recorded by the singer before his death.
The relationship between Queen and Montreux has known its ups and downs, but it was especially the beginning that was difficult. Musicians who were used to the big London parties were quickly bored in the small seaside resort at the foot of the Swiss Alps in the canton of Vaud. But they soon realized, and Freddie Mercury in particular, that Montreux was able to offer them, far from the invading tumult of the media and the fans, the quietude necessary to write new songs.
"If you want peace of mind, come to Montreux" Freddie Mercury said to his friend Montserrat Caballé, with whom he recorded the famous song "Barcelona" at the end of the 80s. This song, which reflects Freddie Mercury's love of opera, became the official anthem of the Catalan Olympic Games in 1992.
From 1987, Freddie Mercury gradually became attached to the area, so much so that he finally decided to divide his life between the Garden Lodge, his main London residence, and Montreux. Freddie Mercury first lived in rented villas, then in a luxury hotel in which he became a regular guest, before finally acquiring a flat in 1991. By then he knew he was seriously ill and more than ever was looking for the peace and serenity that the region offered.
Made in Heaven, the post-mortem album
It was while contemplating the lake and the mountains from his new Montreusian base that he was inspired to write the lyrics for A Winter's Tale. This song is an ode to the city of Montreux. It will appear on the posthumous album "Made in Heaven", released in 1995.
At the beginning of 1991, when the album Innuendo had just been released, Freddie Mercury felt that he was losing the fight he had been waging against AIDS since 1987. He devoted himself, body and soul, to composition and very regularly invests in the Mountains Studio in Montreux. He felt his time was running out and guessed that he might not be able to complete a new album in his lifetime. His only obsession was then to record as much material as possible to allow the three other members of Queen (Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon) to finish the arrangement work after his death.
After Freddie Mercury's death on November 24, 1991, Brian, Roger and John took a few years before resuming work on what would become Queen's final album. They then returned to Montreux to finish the songs they had started a few years earlier. Always accompanied by David Richards at the Mountain Studios, they tirelessly rearranged every part of each song, until they reached the masterpiece that is Made in Heaven.
Made In Heaven reached number one in the British charts as soon as it was released. The posthumous album went five times platinum with more than 20 million sales worldwide. The cover of this last Queen album is a view of the mountains and lake that Freddie loved to contemplate from the windows of his Montreux penthouse.
Freddie Mercury's birthday in Montreux
Since 2001, the Freddie Celebration Days have been organized in Montreux by the Montreux Celebration Association. This major and entirely free event takes place around 5 September, Freddie Mercury's birthday. The Freddie Tours are organized by Lucien Muller, president of the Montreux Celebration association and have been offering guided tours in Montreux since 2020. These visits will allow you to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the years when Freddie Mercury and Queen used to stay in Montreux.
Bohemian Rhapsody, the tribute film
In 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody was released. The biopic devoted to Freddie Mercury generated millions of dollars in revenue worldwide. The film was nominated for Best Picture and its actor Rami Malek, who plays the role of the famous singer was crowned Best Actor at the Hollywood Oscars. Bohemian Rhapsody also won Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
The film, which allowed itself some freedom in terms of its screenplay, did however benefit from the support and supervision of Queen's two historical members, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Their manager, Jim Beach, was also actively involved in its development. Bohemian Rhapsody concludes with the band's famous 1985 performance at the legendary "Live Aid" concert at Wembley Stadium. Freddie Mercury was then at the peak of his art and career.
Small anecdote, in 1975, their record company EMI refused to release a single of the famous song "Bohemian Rhapsody", which they felt was too long. The title song was indeed 6 minutes long, well beyond the industry standards at the time. It had also been considered too strange, with its many changes of rhythm and its chorus which at the time was described as psychedelic. However, this track from the album "A Night at The Opera" suddenly made its comeback on the charts. By the end of 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody became the most played song of the 21th century with more than 1.6 billion online plays to date.
Since the release of the film Bohemian Rhapsody, an increasing number of tourists and fans of the singer come to admire the famous bronze statue of Freddie Mercury. Inaugurated in 1996 in Montreux, it is the pride of Montreux residents and allows fans from all over the world to come and meditate and show respect in this very special place.
More infos about Freddie Mercury
If you would like to learn more about the topic, take part in the Freddie Tour or the Freddie Tour (Extended). These tours are accompanied by a guide as well as an audioguide and are available in several languages. These original excursions will take you on a journey in the footsteps of Freddie Mercury in Montreux, Switzerland.