Queen before Queen
Record Collector #199, March 1996

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"When Sour Milk Sea broke up it was a terrible shock," admits Chris. "It was fairly acrimonious. Rubber had basically bankrolled the band by buying all the equipment, so he took back his Gibson SG Standard that I'd been playing and my Marshall stack, and I was pretty fucked. I was just eighteen. Our drummer, Rob Tyrell, went off with Rubber in another band, and I went off to work in Huntley & Palmer's bakery in Reading for months on end to get the money to buy my own guitar." And, as Chris revealed to Mark Hodkinson, "I was planning to form another band with Freddie, but not having a guitar and not having much money put the kibosh on the idea".

"We liked Freddie," admits Rob Tyrell. "He was fun. But he was quite - a schemer in a way. He had other things cooking. I could feel it in my bones he wasn't really interested in us. He knew he was good. He kind of used us as a stepping stone."
Freddie had been through three different groups in less than seven months. What next? "He finally persauded Brian and Roger to form that band," recalls Mike Bersin. Having known and observed each other for a while, Freddie, Brian and Roger were more compatible than Freddie had been with relative strangers like Chris Chesney and Jeremy Gallop. All the new band needed now was a name.
The previous summer, members of Ibex, Mike Bersin in particular, had began to refer to Freddie, and indeed to Roger Taylor, as "queens" or "old queens" - as Freddie's letter to Celine Daley shows. And Freddie was obviously far from averse to the term. Brian and Roger put forward the Grand Dance (from 'Out Of The Silent Planet' trilogy) as a suggestion for their new outfit. "But they decided on Queen as being more direct," adds Mike Bersin. It had, of course, been Freddie's choice. By this time, Freddie had changed his own name, too. Bulsara was too exotic, too Zanzibar. The explanation of his replacement comes from Chris Chesney. "Freddie was a Virgo," he reveals, "and Mercury was his ruling planet.
"Later on," concludes Chris, "when they auditioned John Deacon, Freddie made some overtures for me to come and play with Queen. I hadn't played for a few months, but they wanted me to jam a bit with Roger and John. It was really awkward, because Brian's guitar was unplayable if you're used to playing a proper, commercial guitar. It wasn't what I wanted to do. And anyway, by then, I felt they had the chemistry in Queen just right."
Andy Davis  
Credits: thanks to Chris Smith, Paul Humberstone, Renos Lavithis, Stephen Maycock at Sotheby's, Giles Moon at Christie's, the Bolton Evening News, Mark Hodkinson, Laura Jackson, Jamie Davis, Jim Jenkins, Tim Staffell, Helen McConnell and David Evans.
Special thanks to Ibex / Wreckage: Mike Bersin, John Taylor, Richard Thompson, Geoff Higgins, and Ken Testi;
and to Sour Milk Sea: Chris Chesney, Jeremy Gallop, and Rob Tyrell.

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