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Brian May

Born Brian Harold May, 19th July 1947, Hampton in London, lead guitarist MAY is among the greatest of all-time; he plays Fender Telecaster and Red Special. While most disciples of rock will know him as axeman/songsmith with hard-rockers QUEEN, BRIAN MAY also spared time in a handful of solo projects. With glam-boys QUEEN, Brian cemented his songwriting abilities while also taking the lead vocal on a raft of occasions on his own compositions including “39’, `Good Company’ Sleeping On The Sidewalk’, etc. Although formerly married to the mother of his three children between 1974 and 1988, his well-documented affair with Eastenders actress Anita Dobson (aka Angie Watts) from 1986 onwards has been a tabloid coupe; the celebrity couple were married in December 2000 after a long engagement.
Having left Hampton Grammar School, and, in turn, the Imperial College, London with high honours (he could well have went on to be an astrophysician), MAY’s initial forays into music via his love of HANK MARVIN and Scotty Moore, were in the mid-60s with school band 1984. Accompanied by bassist/singer Tim Staffell, they became Smile, a trio adding drummer Roger Taylor. When Staffell dropped out, in came singer-showman Freddie (plus later Deacon on bass); and QUEEN formed in 1972. Over a dozen massive-selling albums (and around thirty UK hits later), QUEEN were stunned in the eventual and heart-breaking death from AIDS of their introverted frontman in November 1991. The group could never be the same without him – no matter what big name superseded the mic stand.
Anyway, MAY’s side-line solo career had got underway several years prior to this tragic event; as BRIAN MAY + FRIENDS (aka Eddie Van Halen, Alan Gratzer and Phil Chen, etc.) producing the rather short ’n’ sweet mini-LP, STAR FLEET PROJECT (1983) {*4} and its accompanying Top 40 single, er… `Star Fleet’; MAY then featured on Chris Thompson’s (post-MANFRED MANN’S EARTH BAND)’s album `Radio Voices’ in 1985.
In autumn of ‘89, Brian donated the QUEEN song `Who Wants To Live Forever’ and gave it to charity for single by youngsters Ian Meeson & Belinda Ghilett. Dedicating his next post-Freddie hit to the life of the man himself; `Driven By You’ (and its Ford car commercial) stormed the charts toward the end of ’91. Retained as part of MAY’s long-awaited Top 10 debut album proper, BACK TO THE LIGHT (1992) {*6}, the guitarist kept the focus on hard rock; `Resurrection’ (co-credited with drummer COZY POWELL) was another Top 30 entry, while soft-ballads `Too Much Love Will Kill You’ and the title track reached Top 5 and Top 20 respectively.
1994’s LIVE AT BRIXTON ACADEMY {*6} – re-vamped some QUEEN tracks via Brian’s parched vocal chords – filled in a little time for his band, Cozy, Jamie Moses (on second guitar), Neil Murray (bass), Spike Edney (keyboards) and backing vocalists Cathy Porter and Shelley Preston. Backed by several 80s-styled/AOR pieces in the shape of minor hits `Business’ and `Why Don’t We Try Again’ (`China Belle’ and `The Guv’nor’ are equally in tune), ANOTHER WORLD (1998) {*5} gave his fans at least something to shout about. For many, the album only comes to life when MAY lets his long hair down courtesy of three covers: Larry Williams’ `Slow Down’, JIMI HENDRIX’s `One Rainy Wish’ and MOTT THE HOOPLE’s `All The Way From Memphis’.
Tying in with his sparse work for the cinema (and note, he’s not the prolific Australian film composer – tell that to other journals), this BRIAN MAY took on work on The Adventures Of Pinnochio (in 1996) and his first full-blown OST commission, FURIA (2000) {*5}.
With QUEEN having a post-millennium revival of sorts through Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You musical (with MAY and TAYLOR’s full backing), the band were still taking flak for letting former FREE/BAD COMPANY frontman PAUL RODGERS impose his not too inconsiderable talents to the QUEEN canon. Who was it that said, “Let sleeping dogs lie”? And with a collaborative album as guest of TANGERINE DREAM: `Starmus – Sonic Universe’ (recorded in 2011 and released 2013), it seemed badger-boy MAY was keeping his feet firmly on progressively rock-y ground.
Subsequently working as accredited accompaniment alongside Broadway and West End singing sensation, Kerry Ellis (on the `Acoustic By Candlelight’ set in 2013), the same billing, led by BRIAN MAY, were behind 2017’s GOLDEN DAYS {*6}. AOR or contemporary-easy listening for the theatrical goer, the record was made up of dual compositions (including the title track) and standards from bygone years; a re-vamp of `Parisienne Walkways’ was the closest thing to rock, as relayed by MAY’s distinctively evergreen guitar solos.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Apr2012-Sep2017

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