Freddie Mercury: The Baddest of Them All

A newly remastered “Special Edition” reminds us of the Queen captain’s first solo LP

Bad to the bone: Freddie Mercury in 1985

In 1985, during a brief Queen hiatus, the legendary rock band’s somehow even more iconic  frontman, Freddie Mercury, released the first of only two solo albums in his lifetime, Mr. Bad Guy.

Written and recorded in Munich over the course of almost two years, Mercury’s dance- and pop-laden debut record not only showcased his otherworldly vocals — of course — but also captured the range of talent buried just below the surface of Mercury’s flamboyant persona. 

Arguably the greatest vocalist of all time (or inarguably, depending on who you ask), Mercury’s ability as a songwriter, musician, producer and conductor was matched only by his devotion to his band, for whom he dutifully delayed the recording of Mr. Bad Guy to reconvene with Queen for the recording of 1984’s The Works. Captivated by a wide variety of music, from rock to pop to opera, Mercury’s desire to expand into the world of dance and pop music made its first appearance with Queen’s 1982 release, Hot Space. But it wasn’t until Mercury retreated to Munich’s Musicland Studios that he was able to explore the world of disco and dance. The result was an eleven-song record, featuring lead single “I Was Born to Love You,” comprised of material written entirely by Mercury as he balanced commitments to Queen. 

 

VIDEO: Freddie Mercury “I Was Born To Love You”

Mr. Bad Guy was an amalgamation of dance songs suited to sweaty clubs and stadium-sized ballads reminiscent of the lung-bursting Queen anthems that made Mercury an international superstar. He was a dizzying talent with a wide array of influences, picking and choosing which aspects of the Queen ethos he wanted to set to a driving dance beat. Orchestral vocals launched listeners into the third track, “I Was Born to Love You,” a danceable song of devotion that debuted at Number 50 on the charts before peaking at Number 11. Synthesizers and grand piano intermingle, driving the record forward as Mercury’s vocals soar to unimaginable heights. The bass lines are grimy, slinking low beneath funky guitar lines and orchestra arrangements. “Mr. Bad Guy,” the title track, sits comfortably at the climax of the track, followed by the urgently disco-inspired “Man Made Paradise” before Freddie’s vocals and delicate piano rifts are showcased with “There Must Be More to Life Than This.” 

 

There must be more to life than this 

How do we cope in a world without love? 

Mending all those broken hearts and tending to those crying face 

There must be more to life than living 

There must be more than meets the eye. 

 

Mercury drew the album to a dramatic close with “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow,” three minutes and forty-five seconds of heart-wrenching goodbyes. His voice climbs from quivering tenor to pure crystal, backed by layers of harmonic background vocals as the piano keys dance a fine line between desperation and restraint: God knows I learned to play the lonely man / I’ve never felt so low in all my life

Freddie Mercury Mr. Bad Guy Special Edition, UMe 1985/2019

Following his 1991 death after a battle with AIDS, Mercury’s labor of love proved to be more than a well-received solo debut, offering a treasure trove for fans and bandmates alike, as Queen updated two of the albums tracks for their 1995 release Made In Heaven: “I Was Born to Love You” and “Mr. Bad Guy,” followed by “There Must Be More to Life Than This” — an unfinished collaboration with Michael Jackson — on 2014’s Queen Forever.

Now, with the release of 2019’s Mr. Bad Guy (Special Edition), sound team Justin Shirley-Smith, Joshua J. Macrae, and Kris Fredriksson went back to the bones of the record, sourcing the original multi-track tapes rather than previously remastered and remixed tapes to build a new mix that holds true to Mercury’s original versions while taking advantage of the time, technology, and resources that were never at Mercury’s disposal. As a whole new generation is introduced to Mercury’s magnetic performances, innovative musicality and songwriting ability, and incomparable vocals, Mr. Bad Guy (Special Edition) offers one more look at a man who became so much more than that.

And if you are in search of a more substantial dive into Freddie’s solo archives, dig into Never Boring, a 5-disc box set that includes not only the special edition of Mr. Bad Guy but over 20 more rare and out-of-print material from the vaults.

 

AUDIO: Freddie Mercury Mr. Bad Guy (full album)

 

Luci Turner

Born on the Okefenokee Swamp and raised on rock 'n roll, Luci Turner is a full-time musician and writer whose passion for music led her to Atlanta. She's most often found packing a suitcase, digging through a pile of records, or looking for a time machine to the 70s. Follow her on Twitter @luciturner95.

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