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Interviews > Freddie Mercury Interviews > 01-26-1985 - Record Mirror


Blame it on Rio
by Robin Smith


The sun! The sea! The sauciness! Queen wow ‘em in Brazil and Freddie Mercury and Robin Smith settle down for an intimate chat.

What has the world’s largest McDonalds, drives thousands of people mad every evening and is hated by the Pope? Sorry time’s up. It’s Rock In Rio, the world’s largest outdoor festival , starring Queen in Brazil.

While you’ve been shivering in sub zero temperatures, 300,000 people a night have been listening to 90 hours of music over 10 days at a custom built arena nestling in the mountains at Barra Da Tijuca.

The place is 250,000 square metres in size and about the length of a small airport. It’s not your usual site with tacky old hamburger stands either. There’s a shopping centre with more than 30 shops, a fast food centre including the world’s largest McDonalds, a fully equipped hospital and flush toilets and showers.

You could land a jumbo jet on the stage, which is 21,000 sq feet in size with revolving sections to move equipment around. Twenty tons of lighting equipment with 160,000lbs of sound equipment belting out 500,000 watts of power have been flown in. The arena has its own electric sub station.

Rock in Rio should play to 3,000,000 people beating the Guinness Book of Records champion, Watkins Glenn festival in 1973, which could only manage 600,000.

It all beats confession and a few Hail Marys in church on Sunday, so the local clergy have issued a statement condemning the event, saying it will corrupt the nation’s youth. The Government is backing the Church and the official censor nearly succeeded in banning anyone under 18 going to the concert.

Nobody takes any notice, though. Queen’s hotel and others along the seafront are under siege by fans. Even minor personalities have only to step out on the balcony for the crowds to go berserk while passing cars blast their horns and screech to a halt. Iron Maiden and Whitesnake were trapped inside the airport by fans, and took a couple of hours to break through.

Queen have been keeping themselves to themselves. Roger Taylor briefly surface to have a drink on the terrace with his minder, but the others are nowhere to be found.

Rod Stewart is sometimes seen lounging by the pool. En route to Rio he has been accompanied by a young German nymph. Gary Kemp has just jetted in from New York and says he’s looking forward to meeting Ronnie Biggs. A couple of Duranies should also be putting in an appearance.

Yoko Ono should also have been around, but since hearing that the Rio authorities want to name a square after her beloved John she’s been threatening legal action. God only knows why.

Rock In Rio is costing around 11 million dollars to stage. It’s the brainchild of Brazilian advertising man Roberto Medina and he wants to make it an annual event. Mick Jagger visited the site a couple of months ago and the Stones might be headlining next year. Gary Kemp also wants Spandau to play there. Not only do bands perform to a captive audience of 300,000 but the Globo television company broadcasts the show to 100 million people across Latin America. Brazil is a healthy market for selling records, 70 per cent of the population is under 30 and they love European and American music.

Whitesnake and Iron Maiden are in rattling good from, although Maiden’s vocalist Bruce Dickinson manages to brain himself on a piece of equipment and finishes the show with blood streaming from his forehead.

Queen and Rio were made for each other. Queen’s trademarks of operatic grandeur and style, perfected when Malcy McLaren was still with the Sex Pistols, drive the lusty Latins wild.

It’s virtually the same show as the last tour over here, complete with ‘Metropolis’ effects. Everything goes very well, especially on ‘Love of My Life’ which was number one in the Brazilian charts and ‘We Are The Champions’ or ‘We Arr De Champons’ as they say in this neck of the woods

There’s a spot of trouble when Freddie decides to dress up in his best Bet Lynch gear for ‘I Want To Break Free’. Some outraged Brazilians decide this just isn’t on and get very nasty. Instead of throwing beer cans at the stage in time-honoured tradition, they decide that pebbles and concrete are far more effective.

Fred does a quick sprint to safety, and it’s all forgotten quickly. You should have seen 300,000 hands clapping in unison for ‘Radio Ga Ga’.

The following night there’s a party at Freddie’s hotel, where he’s occupying the Presidential Suite. Somebody was going to arrange a trip up Sugarloaf Mountain but discovered it was closed for the evening.

Girls with skin the colour of rich bronze parade around and everybody who is somebody in Brazilian society is there. With close looks it’s strange that Brazil has yet to produce a star in the calibre of Sade.

Waiters in white jackets dispense gallons of wine and topless samba dancers have been hired. But some of them are sent home because they were too drunk to perform.

Rod Stewart puts in a fleeting appearance before retiring to a nearby bar. "I’d like to meet Freddie, but I don’t think I’d make it upstairs," he says.

Rod claims the girl he’s with is in fact auditioning to be a violin player with his band. What a sense of humour he has. Naturally, Rod is surrounded by heavyweight security men who threaten to do unspeakable things to photographers and journalists who get too close.

Somebody also capable of perhaps doing unspeakable things is the charming young woman who flicks the hair at the back of my neck and says, "come to my room later, darling". Quite so, Madam, quite so, but what would Chaka say?

How does it feel to be playing Rio, Fred? Have you been having a good time?

"It’s wonderful. The sunshine makes such a difference. People are allowed to flower here. They’re a wonderful audience and I love their displays of emotion. They get over excited sometimes but I can bring the whip down and show them who’s in control.

"I don’t know why they got so excited about me dressing as a woman. There are lots of transvestites here. It seems second nature to a lot of people. Just go and look on any street corner and you’ll find them.

"Rio is an interesting place, but I haven’t done much yet. It takes a couple of days to settle in to a new area but I have a small circle of friends.

"It’s a tremendous market. If you crack it here the amount of money you make is tremendous. We’ve opened South America to the rest of the world. We came to South America originally because we were invited down. They wanted four wholesome lads to play some nice music. Now I’d like to buy up the entire continent and install myself as President."

Queen aren’t likely to be back in Britain until ’86 at least. But there’s always Fred’s solo album to look forward to.

"It’s very beat orientated. It’s just some things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I think it’s a very natural album and I hope people will like my voice.

"I won’t be touring on my own though or splitting up with Queen. Without the others I would be nothing. The press always makes out that I’m the wild one and they’re all quiet, but it’s not true. I’ve got some wild stories about Brian May you wouldn’t believe."

And as if to prove, the lanky guitarist suddenly decides to hurl himself into the swimming pool, accompanied by a wholesome girl in a white see-through dress.

Freddie contents himself by posing with some more beauties, drawn to him like moths around a candle.

"I love everybody you know I love all these beautiful brown bodies whoever they are. I think I’m a mother figure to many people. I love to share problems with people.

"I love what’s happening with the charts in England. Frankie Goes To Hollywood are a tremendous act and so are Spandau and George. We’ve still got some of the best music in the world, there’s so much quality in it.

"I love George Michael because he moves so well and has a sense of dignity and fun. I don’t like the Thompson Twins though. I don’t know the real reason why. It’s one of those things they don’t move me.

"I would have loved to have been on the Band Aid record but I only heard about it when I was in Germany. I don’t know if they would have had me on the record anyway, because I’m a bit old.

"I’m just an old slag who gets up every morning, scratches his head and wonders what he wants to fuck.

"Ambitions? Oh I don’t know. I don’t want to be a great actor. I don’t think I’d be very good at it. I’m alright when I’ve got a costume on and I can hide behind my role but I would be hopeless doing something straighter.

"Doing this job is like being a housewife. Everyday I get up and I’ve got lots of chores to do. Really, you know, it’s not very spectacular."

Freddie, I’ll come and help you with the washing up if it means another trip to Brazil.