'It Was Magic': Unearthed Video Shows Freddie Mercury In Rare Form

Jun 30, 2019
Originally published on July 1, 2019 8:19 am

Dating back to 1986, a recently unearthed video offers a rare glimpse of Freddie Mercury performing without a full band behind him. In the video, the famous Queen frontman sings "Time Waits for No One" from the concept album of the musical Time, accompanied only by a piano.

Dave Clark, creator of Time, found and released the original recording of Mercury's performance after decades of searching for it. "I didn't even think of going back to the track until 10 years later," he says. "And it wasn't to rerelease it. It was for my own peace of mind. I wanted to hear it, to keep it. But I couldn't find it. A few years later, I sent my technical engineer down. We couldn't find it. This went on for years. And then in 2017, we found it. And it was magic."

YouTube

As Clark explains, the official 1980s version of the song went through a hefty production process, ending up with 96 tracks in the final production. The 2019 release, though, shows off the bare bones of "Time Waits for No One," with Mercury's powerful vocals on full display.

Clark recalls first working with Mercury on the recording: "When I walked into the studio at Abbey Road, it was just Freddie and piano." Now, listeners can experience that stripped-down performance — and the incredible voice that it spotlights — for themselves.

Listen to the full aired story at the audio link.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Just when you thought you'd heard all of Queen's music, what with last year's Oscar-winning movie "Bohemian Rhapsody," a long-lost Freddie Mercury song has resurfaced. It was recorded in 1986 for a concept album based on the sci-fi musical called "Time." Mercury's good friend, the British musician and producer Dave Clark of the Dave Clark Five, co-wrote the musical and the album's title track and had Mercury record the vocals.

DAVE CLARK: When I walked into the studio at Abbey Road, it was just Freddie and piano. He said to me, how do you want me to do this? And I said, well, I want a cross between Edith Piaf, Jennifer Holliday and Shirley Bassey. And he said, well, David, I have all their dresses, I can do it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE")

FREDDIE MERCURY: (Singing) Time waits for nobody. Time waits for nobody.

CLARK: I mean, it shows Freddie off. There's no band on. There's no Queen - just him, piano, alone, which shows what an amazing singer he is. And the words, it's like he tastes the words. It's like he really feels and means it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE")

MERCURY: (Singing) We all must plan our hopes together or we'll have no more future at all. Time waits for nobody.

MARTIN: Dave Clark didn't intend for the song to be so stripped down. It was meant to be a big production. Shortly after Mercury recorded that track, the rest of the musicians arrived.

CLARK: Everybody came in, and we started to work on the track over several days. It ended up with 48 tracks of backing vocals, which had never been done in Abbey Road before. And plus, the final production was 96 tracks. So it was a major, major production.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE")

MERCURY: (Singing) Let us free this world forever and build a bright new future for us all. Time waits for nobody, nobody, nobody - for no one.

MARTIN: A decade later, Dave Clark went looking for the original stripped-down version of the song with just Freddie Mercury's vocals.

CLARK: And it wasn't to rerelease it. It was for my own peace of mind. I wanted to hear it, to keep it, you know. But I couldn't find it. And a few years later, I sent my technical engineer down. We couldn't find it. And this went on for years. And in 2017, we found it. And it was magic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE")

MERCURY: (Singing) You don't need me to tell you what's gone wrong. You know what's going on.

CLARK: You know, everybody said to me, you know, you're going to have a hard slog with Freddie because he's so meticulously - it will be very hard. And it wasn't, it was an absolute dream. We were both aiming for the same thing - to make something special. And that's why it sounds so good.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE")

MERCURY: (Singing) Let's learn to be friends with one another or there'll be no more future at all.

MARTIN: That was musician Dave Clark talking about Freddie Mercury's vocals on the song "Time Waits For No One" that was lost, then found and is newly released. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.