Daily Mail, Tim Lott – December 1978
Freddie Mercury appears on stage like a writhing python, stalking the boards in the black leotard he normally wears. Looking rather like an Edwardian one-piece bathing costume, scattered with large silver sequins, it reveals a thickly haired chest and a frame that doesn't carry an ounce of unnecessary flesh.
Before his entrance at the Pavillion de Paris, a huge crown, 18 ft high and 54 ft wide, with flashing lights and steam shooting from its base, ascended from the stage. The young Parisian audience of 7000 plus were mesmerised as it settled into the roof of the concert hall.
Then as Queen broke into their first rousing number, "We will rock you", the audience rose to its feet, waving flame-darting cigarette lighters as a welcome to the four musicians. In the darkness of the vast stadium it was an incredible sight.
The concert, the first Queen have given in Paris during their six-year lifespan, was a triumph, with the French on their feet almost throughout the 21 hour programme of intensive sound and light. Mercury, it seemed, had every justification for flippantly remarking afterwards: "Well, that's Paris ticked off".
Queen have become one of Britain's biggest exports. They have had six top selling LPs. Their last one, entitled "News of the world" sold over 7 million copies worldwide, and the single "We are the champions" - a song adopted by football and Rugby teams throughout America - has so far sold over 5 million.
For their American tour, which preceded the European engagements, they undertook 24 concert dates, and at the Forum, Los Angeles, they played to 64,000 people in three nights. Their present elaborate production set them back L55,000 and it costs L4000 a day to keep Queen's stage show on the road. Only in America do they come away with a profit, through being able to pack their audiences into 20,000 seater stadiums.
Musically the show I watched in Paris, which Queen are bringing to Wembley's Empire Pool for three nights from next Thursday, concentrates on their new album material, with songs "Get down make love", "Spread your wings", "It's Late", "My melancholy blues", "We are the champions", and some familiar oldies thrown in like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Killer Queen".
I interviewed Mercury in a 2400 Franc a day suite in the graciously styled Ritz Hotel, Paris, amid gilt framed mirrors and chandeliered ceilings. Slumped in a yellow towelling dressing gown, over multi-coloured briefs and powder blue Japanese satin slippers, he seemed a mere shadow of the outrageous performer I had watched on stage. He is evasive and cautious, and doesn't attempt to endear anyone to him. "To some people I'm still a bitch" he says laughing. "I enjoy being a bitch. I enjoy being surrounded by bitches. I certainly don't go looking for the most perfect people. I'd find that boring. I'm like a mad dog about town. I like to enjoy life". Mercury is a complex individual. "I have all kinds of paranoia" he agreed. "Being alone is one. I can't go anywhere on my own. I always have to have someone with me whenever I'm shopping, probably because I don't like being stared at".
Although his outward make-up is coated with arrogance, he is certainly generous. He has treated his girlfriend Mary Austin to a luxury London apartment of her own, and he is known to toss the occasional gold watch to special friends. "After 71 years we have come to an understanding" he said. "I felt that as I'm on tour so much, Mary should have a life of her own". Did he prefer to taste the fruits of every side of life physically, I asked? "I'll go to bed with anything" he replied. "My sex drive is enormous. I live life to the full". Mercury has made a fortune - and spent one.
"I've just been going on wild spending sprees. I've been told to cool down because the taxman will be coming to take a large sum away. I've spent in the region of L100,000 over the last three years".
He seemed pleased with life, so I asked if there was anything he didn't like about himself. "My teeth - I don't like the way they protrude. I'm going to have them done, but I just haven't had the time. Apart from that I'm perfect" he decided.