Brian May Says Queen Were ‘Always on the Verge of Splitting Up’
Brian May said the power of Queen’s music came from the tension created by four powerful personalities – though he believed it meant they were always close to breaking up.
The band’s catalog has been thrust back into the limelight with the monumental success of Bohemian Rhapsody, the most successful music biopic of all time.
“The songs are the main pillar, but that’s a very complex area in itself,” May told Guitar World in a new interview. “Those songs were generated during periods of stress. We were very fortunate to have a strong combination of personalities, but I think we were always on the verge of breaking up. Oddly enough, that’s where we got our strength, because we were pulling in different directions. We had four varied talents between us.”
He recalled that Queen’s sound came from being influenced by a wide range of sources, but also through a commitment to powerful performance. “The Beatles built our bible as far as musical composition, arrangement and production went,” he said. “The White Album is a complete catalog of how you should use a studio to build songs. ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’ and ‘Dear Prudence’ are blinding examples of how music can be like painting a picture on a canvas.
“In a sense, the Beatles were unburdened because they didn’t have to play the songs live. We became passionate about building stuff in the studio but also making it come to life on a stage.”
May remembered the difficult early years of aiming to become a full-time guitarist, which involved secret rehearsal sessions because “the policy of the school was that guitar playing was immoral and illegal – it was the work of the devil.” The worst moment came when he told his usually supportive father that he wanted to go pro.
“He was violently against it," May noted. "He was heartbroken I was considering giving up everything he thought that was going to secure my future — and everything that he felt he had made sacrifices to enable me to do. It was a very emotional thing, and we hardly spoke for about a year and a half.”