Queen, who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Monday, haven’t commanded many headlines since the death of singer Freddie Mercury.
But the prospect of the surviving members — guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor — reuniting has landed them in gossip columns recently. For a while, a tour this year has been rumored, with British pop singer Robbie Williams taking over Mercury’s role on vocals. It seems to make a weird sort of sense: Williams landed a British hit with “Let Me Entertain You,” a sentiment the flamboyant Mercury certainly lived by.
“The absolute truth of the matter is, we talk about this kind of stuff all the time,” May said about the Williams rumors, as well as speculation about landing George Michael or Elton John as an ad hoc singer.
“We’ve had a couple of talks with Robbie, and we know him really well, and we like him. But it hasn’t gone any further than that at the moment. We all need to do a bit of thinking before a decision like that would be made.”
While May clearly is itching to play Queen songs again, he’s loath to tour with Deacon and Taylor sans Mercury.
“I always thought that I don’t want to replace Freddie,” he said. “That’s out of the question. But if … we could make good music, and some of those Queen songs could be aired in a situation where you’re still growing, then I would welcome that. It would be nice to be out there and play to people again. I miss that … a lot.”
It’s been a few years since May’s most recent solo album, 1998′s Another World, but last year he popped up on other people’s records twice. He played on Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi’s star-studded solo debut, Iommi. Queen fans will remember that May and Iommi have worked together before; the Sabbath riff-lord was in the backing band at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992, and they both played on a cover of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” in 1989.
“You meet a lot of acquaintances in the music industry, but very few true friends,” May said. “Tony is a true friend, a great guy.”
May also played on another, slightly more bizarre, track in 2000: the Foo Fighters’ cover of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar.” Foo frontman Dave Grohl played drums on the track, and drummer Taylor Hawkins, a friend of May for years, took the mic. (It’s available on the MI:2 soundtrack). “I think you naturally gravitate to people who you respect and like,” May said of the Foos. “I admire their stuff very much.”
We may hear more May this year; he spent some time in the studio with Axl Rose, laying down solos for the long-awaited Guns ‘N Roses album.
“It sounds great, and Axl sounds wonderful,” May said, noting that his contributions are not guaranteed to make that album, to be titled Chinese Democracy.
Also last year, May marked two milestones: He got married, and soon after, he received word that Queen — a band that was on the receiving end of several critical slams in its day — would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The ceremony takes place Monday.
“It feels excellent, everyone’s been congratulating me,” May said. “[But between the marriage and the Hall of Fame], I’ve been confused as to what people are congratulating me for!”
Some rock and roll legends have been less than enthusiastic about the Hall of Fame. Black Sabbath leader Ozzy Osbourne has been downright disdainful, and Queen’s “Under Pressure” duet partner, David Bowie, didn’t even bother to attend his induction. But May — who will attend the March 19 induction ceremony with the rest of the surviving members of his band — couldn’t be happier.
“I know I’m gonna be happy to get this award,” May said, adding, “I’m gonna be happy to perform at the ceremony.” That is sure to excite Queen fans, who will have the opportunity to watch an edited version of the induction ceremony on VH1 at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
While May lamented that his friend Iommi won’t be getting in the Hall — “I would think that because of [Sabbath's] huge influence, they would have to be inducted!” — he looks forward to seeing his old pals in Aerosmith, who will be getting in that night, and he’s hoping for a jam session: “I think we should get together with Aerosmith.”
Still, he said he feels a tinge of jealousy that, while Aerosmith will be celebrating their induction at the same time they’re plugging a brand-new album, Queen’s recording days are over. But with the surviving Queen members mulling some sort of semi-reunion, May hopes to add an epilogue to the grand story that was Queen.
“For a while I used to say, ‘OK, I don’t want to be a part of Queen anymore, I want to be myself.’ I was a bit vociferous about it for a while. And I think that I had to do that as part of my growth. And as part of my grieving about Freddie.
“Now, I think we’ve all grown up,” he continued, “and we realize, ‘OK, Queen is with us forever.’ And it’s fitting that it should be, because we worked a large percentage of our lives to make that thing. So I feel comfortable with looking at Queen things, and being part of what we made all those years.”