"Is This The Real Life: The Untold Story Of Queen"
By Mark Blake
Da Capo Press, 978-0-306-81959-9,
Hardcover, 416 pages, $25
By Gillian G. Gaar
Overall, Mark Blake,, who also wrote “Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story Of Pink Floyd,” does a good job relating Queen’s story. This is especially true as he untangles the details of the band members’ formative years, their first groups and the early years of Queen (when it went through three bassists before finally securing the services of John Deacon). U.S. fans may find the 1982-on period especially informative, as Queen’s profile dropped in America after the negative reaction to its “disco” album, “Hot Space” (after 1982, Queen never performed live in America again).
Though Blake draws on his previous interviews with Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, he’s not as close to the inner circle as he was in his Floyd book and frequently relies on interviews band members have done for various magazines over the years. His writing style is also somewhat restrained, though he does discuss the band’s music at length in ways that other biographies tend to miss (including side projects).
There’s also an undercurrent of sadness as the book reveals how singer Freddie Mercury’s AIDS diagnosis was handled. It’s noted that Mercury kept the news private, as he didn’t want people buying Queen’s records “out of pity.” But being private also allowed gossip to flourish and denied Mercury the support that undoubtedly would have been offered by family and friends. Though Mercury didn’t die alone, his family members and bandmates weren’t present.
Blake relays the facts, but offers no further commentary of his own. Despite occasional shortcomings, this is still the best overall biography on the group to date, appropriately released during Queen’s 40th anniversary year.
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