The Queen album Innuendo was released in early 1991 and was the last studio recording and release before Freddie Mercury died in November 1991. It is an album that could easily be seen as being Freddy Mercury’s epitaph.
It was as early as 1988 that Freddie Mercury began to look very gaunt, the outside world did not then know the exact reason why, but the inside world that surrounded the band certainly did. Rumours at the time speculated that it might be AIDS, but Freddie Mercury dismissed that rumour stating he was suffering from exhaustion.
Cover of Innuendo
The band continued on and in 1989 released the album The Miracle, which was followed up in early 1991 by the release of the album Innuendo, which was the last studio album recorded and released before Freddie Mercury’s death later the same year. Ten months after the albums release, on the 23rd of November, Freddie Mercury release a press release that confirmed he had AIDS; within 24 hours Freddie Mercury was dead!
The album Innuendo was made during a time when Freddie Mercury’s condition was worsening by the day and yet it still manages to be one of the best albums the band ever made. The effort it must have taken a dying man to contribute to such a wonderful piece of work should not be underestimated. In many respects, knowing that it could have been the end of the road, the album Innuendo could have been Freddie Mercury’s epitaph.
And as we will soon see, it is easy enough to draw that conclusion.
Track 1 – Innuendo[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpys1c3jCNs]
This song not only was the opening track of the album of the same name but was also the first single to be released from the album. It was released on the 14th of January and by the 26th it was sitting at the number one spot in the UK charts (becoming only their 3rd number one hit and final one before Freddie Mercury’s death). Lyrically, the song Innuendo is full of mentions of death or passing, but with glimmers of hope, with lines such as “if there’s a reason to live or die”; “we’ll keep on trying'”; “just passing our time”; “whatever will be – will be” highlighting some of the thoughts that must have been occupying the mind of Freddie Mercury, and the rest of the band at the time.
For the full lyrics to Innuendo click here.
Track 2 – I’m Going Slightly Mad[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkT5dVJsnYk]
This song was the second track on the album and also the second single release from the album, peaking at number 22 in the UK charts in March 1991. If you picture an image in your head of what you think Freddie Mercury looks like, one look at the video to this song instantly shows you just how gaunt and ill he was looking at the time the video was shot. His voice was holding up well, the make-up was covering the ‘cracks’ so to speak, but it was clear something was seriously wrong. He may have been singing that he was going slightly mad, but hindsight would dictate what was really going on. Lyrically the song is very revealing and especially the line “I’m not my usual top billing, I’m coming down with a fever”.
For the full lyrics to I’m Going Slightly Mad click here.
Track 3 – Headlong[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI-bPZQhBLk]
Tack 3 and the 3rd single release from the album, Headlong hit a peak of number 14 in the UK charts in May 1991. This song is a typical Queen rocker that stomps its way through lyrics that could really be about anything at all or nothing in particular, but it is interesting to nore that lines such as “rushing headlong out of control”, “think you’re so strong”, “nothing you can do about it” could well be in reference to the disease that was ravaging Freddie Mercury at this point.
For full lyrics to the song Headlong click here.
Track 4 – I Can’t Live With You
The song title alone really sums it up and the opening refrain, which has the following lyrics “I can’t live with you, but I can’t live without you – I can’t let you stay, but I can’t live if you go away. I don’t know just how it goes, all I know is I can’t live with you”, could easily be describing his battle with HIV and subsequently AIDS. If taken straight, the lyrics to this song can easily be seen as being about a persons lover, and even if that was the intention, on some level it seems apparent what the real driving force behing the lyrics were.
For full lyrics to the song I Can’t Live With You click here.
Track 5 – Don’t Try So Hard
A slow burner compared to the last two album tracks but lyrically Don’t Try So Hard sounds almost like the moment where the Rubicon has been crossed and the end result is not only a conclusion, but is also accepted. Lyrics such as “savour every moment”, “treasure every moment”, “problems seem like mountains”, “thank your lucky stars” highlight a thought that could be contemplating the end in the not too distant future.
For the full lyrics to the song Don’t Try So Hard click here.
Track 6 – Ride The Wild Wind
If the last song seemed to be dripping in contemplation then this song is almost a two fingers up to what is coming – “Ride the wild wing, live life on the razors edge” go the lyrics and you can see how that would fit in with Freddie Mercury previously – living life on the razors edge would be one way of describing it. Elsewhere on the album there are lyrics and imagery that talk of things that were still to come and inevitable, but this one seems very much in the moment but relying on the past. As the song ends “Gonna ride the whirlwind, it ain’t dangerous enough for me”!
For the full lyrics to the song Ride The Wild Wind click here.
Track 7 – All God’s People
Freddie Mercury may well have lived a life that was deemed sinful in the eyes of many, but he had no need to be apologetic for any of that. This song sees him proclaim that we are all God’s people and the we should “love, love and be free”. If anyone was going to leave a message to pass on to the world before their own death, that is a good enough message. The song finishes with the lyrics “Let us be thankful, he’s so incredible, we’re all God’s people”.
For the full lyrics to the song All God’s People click here.
Track 8 – These Are The Days Of Our Lives[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymLiw8dnHO4]
Never intended to be released as a single, These Are The Days Of Our Lives was released as the flip side to the re-release of Bohemian Rhapsody after Freddie Mercury’s death in late 1991 (it went to number one on the 21st of December). Lyrically the song looks back at what could be described as ‘the good old days’. With the final lyrics “Those days are all gone now but one thing’s still true, when I look and I find, I still love you.” At the time of recording this album Freddie Mercury would have known his end was nearing and his composure and dignity comes through within the lyrics.
For the full lyrics to the song These Are The Days Of Our Lives click here.
Track 9 – Delilah
The only thing of real note about this song is that Freddie Mercury penned it about his own housecat and its inclusion on the album was only because Freddie Mercury demanded it. Apart from that it is a whimsical piece of’nonsense’, but if listening to the album from start to finish it is a distraction from previous songs that catches you off guard and almost makes you forget the theme that has been running though so far!
For the full lyrics to the song Delilah click here.
Track 10 – The Hitman
Anothe song whose lyrics on face value could mean anything at all or nothing in particular but if you were to read between the lines there is a them recurring. “I’m the hitman, I want your life”, “Ain’t no escaping”, “Can cut you down to size”. Consider such words and the relevance of Freddie Mercury’s illness and the connection can be made. The lyrics end with “Are you ready for the sting, gonna waste that thing, Hitman is king”.
For the full lyrics to the song The Hitman click here.
Track 11 – Bijou
Because the lyrics to this number are so short, here they are in full:
You and me
We are destined
To spend the rest of our lives
With each other
The rest of our days
Like two lovers
Forever – yeah – forever
Track 12 – The Show Must Go On[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ADh8Fs3YdU]
The 4th single release from the album which reached a peak of number 16 in the UK charts in October 1991 and was still in the charts when Freddie Mercury died the following month. As you can see from the video, the images within come from the bands previous songs and concerts and the like. Lyrically the song The Show Must Go On seems to read like a ‘this is over but when I’m gone, carry on for my sake’ kind of thing. “My make-up may be flaking, but my smile still stays on” sings Freddy Mercury and considering what he was going through at the time it is a lyric that holds true. “I’ll face it with a grin, I’m never giving in” he also sings.
For the full lyrics to the song The Show Must Go On click here.
The Queen album Innuendo was recorded between March 1989 and November 1990 at a time when Freddie Mercury’s health was deteriorating quickly. Within a year of the album being recored Freddie Mercury was dead. There had been much speculation at the time the album was being recorded about what was wrong with the Queen singer and hindsight proved the speculation correct.
Image via Wikipedia
As it stands, the album Innuendo can be seen to be something of an epitaph for Freddie Mercury. Lyrically there are recurring themes throughout and although some can be taken literally or metaphorically considering where they came from and the influences therein it is easy to draw the conclusion that this album was like tha last words and testament of a man who knew he was nearly gone.
Freddie Mercury may ended the album by saying the Show Must Go On and that is exactly what happened. Within a month of his death in November 1991, Queen were back at the top of the UK charts with the re-release of Bohemain Rhapsody (coupled with These Are The Days Of Our Lives). A couple of years further down the road, after a tribute concert for Freddie Mercury the band were back at number one with the ‘Five Live LP’featuring Gerorge Michael on vocals! Late November 1995 saw the release of a new studio album by Queen which used songs and lyrics Freddie Mercury had been working on between the release of Innuendo and his death – there is much speculation as to how much of it would have been good enough to go on a Queen album in normal circumstances, but that is neither here nor there really! November 1998 saw Queen back in the top 10 in the UK charts when they teamed up with Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel for a version of Another One Bites The Dust, and in the summer of 2000 they were back at number one via a collaboration with Five on the song We Will Rock You – which is also the name of a stage show featuring the bands music.
More recently, Bryan May and Roger Taylor (after bass player John Deacon had retired from music) teamed up with Paul Rodgers (Ex Free & Bad Company) to tour under the Queen banner. In 2008 they released a new studio album called Cosmos Rocks under the name Queen + Paul Rodgers.
It is nearly 20 years since the death of Freddie Mercury and it is fair comment to say that if he said the show must go on then he will not have been dissapointed.
P.S. This article was originally published by the same author on Triond on the 3rd of March 2011 and can be found by clicking HERE.