Brian May 'Desert Island Discs' Interview
'Desert Island Discs' is a long running BBC Radio 4 programme first broadcast in 1942. Each week, a guest must choose eight pieces of music to take with them to a desert island, along with a luxury item and a book, where they are marooned indefinitely. They also receive a copy of The Bible (or similar religious text) and The Complete Works Of Shakespeare. The guest discusses their life and career, and justifies the inclusion of each track, the book and item.
Brian May was the guest on 15 September 2002, and during the programme he talked to host Sue Lawley about various aspects of his life, including his childhood, education, astronomy, parents, and career, and the depression he felt after the break-up of his marriage and his father's death.
The eight tracks he chose were 'Saturn - The Bringer Of Old Age' (composed by Gustav Holst), Maybe Baby (Buddy Holly & The Crickets), Tracks Of My Tears (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles), Back On My Feet Again (The Babys), To Know Him Is To Love Him (Anita Dobson), Since You've Been Gone (Rainbow), Highway To Hell (AC/DC) and finally We Will Rock You (Queen). He chose 'Out Of The Silent Planet' by CS Lewis as his book and his 'Red Special' guitar as his luxury item, with the proviso that he could modify the wind-up gramophone so that he could play it.
Below is a full transcription of the interview, which lasts 41:47. As of the time of writing, November 2011, the full interview is available from the BBC Radio 4 website (or if that link becomes unavailable, by searching from here)
Sue: My castaway this week is a rock musician. He'd planned on becoming an astronomer, but while he was studying for his doctorate, the music that had always occupied his spare time took over his life. This was due, not only to his dedicated professionalism, he'd made his own guitar out of hardboard and a lump of mahogany, but also to the recruitment of a charismatic lead singer called Freddie Mercury. The band, yes it was Queen, was formed in the early seventies, and the rest is rock music history. This summer, the man who started it all stood tall on the roof of Buckingham Palace playing 'God Save The Queen' as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations, a salute it could be said, from one kind of royalty to another. He is Brian May. It was a great moment, Brian, you up there, on the roof, banging out the national anthem, and your picture was on the front of practically every newspaper the next morning, but you said it was an exercise in fear management - what were you frightened of?
Brian: I wasn't frightened of falling off, that wasn't the problem, um, just the fear of messing it up, I think the, the chances of, of, of being really bad, um, were very high, um
Sue: Because it's live, and one time only
Brian: It was completely live, and there was no safety net in that sense
Sue: But apparently it was your idea to be on the roof, they wanted you somewhere else, didn't they?
Brian: Yes, they asked me to open the show but not in that situation, they wanted me to be inside the palace, strolling around, playing the guitar, and I just couldn't see that working, so after a night's thought
Sue: You're not exactly a strolling minstrel are you, it's not quite your image
Brian: No, no, and if I thought if I'm going to do this, I have to be up there, I have to be this lone piper sort of figure
Sue: Well, that's right, but there was something terrific about that, this kind of icon of the rock industry standing on the, the very roof of the establishment if you like
Brian: Yeah, I think I saw it that way, it was a symbol, um, for my generation, because of course, when I started off it would have been unthinkable for somebody playing that horrendous rock guitar instrument, that loud thing, on top of the Queen's palace
Sue: And your horrendous rock guitar instrument was that one I mentioned in the introduction, wasn't it, the one you made, you said the Red Special
Brian: The one that I've had all my working life, yes, that I made with my dad all those years ago
Sue: I calculate she's forty years old next year, or something like that
Brian: Yes, she's, she's doing well for an old lady
Sue: I want to, I want to ask you much more about it, but none of this would have happened if you'd turned to astronomy would you (Brian: that's right) I mean what was your special field of astronomy, was there, or was it just astronomy in general that you liked
Brian: Um, my special field was the motions of interplanetary dust, and I studied something called the Zodiacal light which is how you do that, um, it's very beautiful, I mean, I think I liked astronomy, well I know that it was from very early on, and I read one of Patrick Moore's books, and I was hooked forever, I still am, I'm still completely hooked into astronomy
Sue: It's going to be good for you on this desert island, I can tell
Brian: Oh, yeah, I'm gonna have a great time
Sue: Tell me about the first record
Brian: Ah, the first record, appropriately enough, is part of 'Saturn' from Holst's 'The Planets', and when I was a kid I wrote a monologue which I used to, um, perform to this particular um, piece of music called 'Saturn, The Bringer Of Old Age', now it's much more appropriate now, seeing as old age is getting very close, but it's, it's not um, it's not a, a pessimistic thing at all, it's, it's you can hear a relentlessness in this music, and a kind of timeless quality, which makes you feel like you're, you're kind of walking into eternity, and I think it's a wonderful thing to, to hear as you're looking up at the stars
['Saturn, The Bringer Of Old Age' by Gustav Holst is played, length 1:50 approx]
Brian: Mmm, gets me every time
Sue: It's beautiful, isn't it, part of 'Saturn, The Bringer Of Old Age' from Holst's 'Planets Suite', played by the Royal Scottish Orchestra, conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson. You say you wrote a monologue to it, what about?
Brian: It was actually, um, about one winter's night, um, and the, the progress of the stars, so it was a kind of astronomical monologue, I still have it somewhere
Sue: And did you sing?
Brian: No, I didn't sing, I just spoke it
Sue: But did you, did you sing as a child?
Brian: All the time, apparently, that's what my mum used to say, apparently from the cradle I would toddle around or crawl around or whatever, singing yes, terrible
Sue: And did you have curly hair?
Brian: Yes, always curly hair
Sue: Always the big curly hair
Brian: And I hated having curly hair
Sue: You were an only child, I mean give me a sketch of, of home and parents and your aspirations
Brian: Um, a very happy home, a very secure home, with just mum and dad and me, I think I was lonely because I remember I had imaginary friends that I would play with, and make up stories and scenarios where I'd be rescuing something, or somebody I mean, um, but very happy, and dad always used to come home at the right time with the newspaper under his arm, and something for me probably
Sue: What did he do?
Brian: Um, dad was a, a civil servant, but a technical civil servant, he was an electronics draughtsman, but he could turn his hand to anything, he was just an amazing person, he could fix everybody's equipment from radios to TV's. Everything that we had in our house was pretty much made by him, the radio, the TV, the record player, eventually we made my guitar together
Sue: And what were you like at school, I mean, were you therefore good at music there, or good at chemistry, or even your physics?
Brian: Um, I was a bit of a swot really, I, I had a lot application, and a lot of encouragement from my parents, and I liked achieving, er, so I was a bit of swot really. I wasn't particularly known for being good at music, I didn't have any, any encouragement whatsoever from school
Sue: So if Patrick Moore was your um, astronomical hero as it were, who were your musical heroes then?
Brian: Um, the first thing I remember was, was um, my dad brought a Lonnie Donegan record home, um, with the sound of the guitar, and the voice, and that blues feeling, and Lonnie was really the first person who brought, who brought blues into England, um, and then I used to lay under the covers with my little crystal set, um, listening to Radio Luxemburg and all the stuff which seemed very exciting and dangerous and forbidden, all those American records, so it was The Everly Brothers, Elvis I suppose, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly & The Crickets, first time I heard Buddy Holly was just chills up the spine and electric, an electricity which I still have, that, that's kind of what propelled me into wanting to make that noise I think
Sue: We should have record number two
Brian: Strangely enough (laughter), Buddy Holly & The Crickets, of course, and it's 'Maybe Baby'
['Maybe Baby' by Buddy Holly & The Crickets is played, length 1:14 approx]
Sue: Great isn't it, Buddy Holly & The Crickets and 'Maybe Baby', that hit the spot for you when you were seven, and were you actually playing then, did you have a guitar?
Brian: I asked for a guitar for my seventh birthday, and my parents obliged, I only realise now how much that cost them, because they had absolutely no money whatsoever, er, but somehow they got me a guitar, and it was on the end of my bed when I woke up on that morning of the seventh birthday, and I'll never forget the look of it, it was very big because I was very small, so I could hardly get my fingers round it, and it had that particular smell, I'll never forget that sort of new varnish smell, now I already kind of knew how to play because my dad had taught me um, some chords on the ukulele banjo
Sue: He was a George Formby fan?
Brian: He was a George Formby man yes, and um, I quickly figured out how to adapt the chords from four strings to six strings, in my own way, and I kind of made up my own chords, um
Sue: But you were a teenager before you and he made this guitar, the, the Red Special (Brian: yes), just, you've got to tell me what it was made of because I mean it's got everything to motorbike springs in it, hasn't it?
Brian: Yes, the motorbike valve springs were the sort of driving part of the um, the tremelo arrangement, but it was made out of just junk, really, um, the neck is a piece of a, of a fireplace of a friend of ours, an old piece of mahogany (Sue: that's the mahogany), that's the mahogany piece, and it's got little worm holes which are still there, plugged up with matchsticks, and um, the body was made out of a piece of an oak table, surrounded by block board, and the tremelo arm is a piece of stuff that used to hold up a saddle on a bike, capped by a piece of my mum's knitting needle, and the um, the mother of pearl dots on the fingerboard were all filed out, I filed every one out by hand, um, from my mum's button box, so
Sue: It's amazing, and it's lasted this long, it's lasted forty years
Brian: It still works, yeah, it works like nothing else as well
Sue: So you've never, you know, bust it up, you've never thrown it up in the air, even for great effect in performance
Brian: No, no, no, I did throw up a copy once, and there was no-one there to catch it, and it bit the dust
Sue: Another one bites the dust
Sue: Record number three
Brian: Er, record number three, this doesn't sound very rock 'n' roll really, it's Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and this really took me all through my college days, I was at Imperial College doing a physics degree, and then astronomy second degree, and um, I was very lonely, my first proper relationship had broken up, and I thought it was the end of the world, this was the girl that I was convinced I was going to marry from the age of sixteen, and um, I'm smiling now, but I wasn't then, you know, and I, and I think I saw myself as this great tragic figure, and every time I heard this record it seemed to sort of move me into a place where I sort of felt comfortably sorry for myself, as opposed to uncomfortably, and I thought that the singer was a girl, I kind of fell in love with the voice, and it was much later that I got the record and I thought well, where is Smokey on the front of here, I imagined, I imagined her as being this sort of dusky maiden, it turned out to be a bloke, which is very strange, but I still think it's one of the most fantastic voices, um, in the, in the history of popular music, Smokey Robinson, and I think, you know, the song is everything, the song and the singer, OK, and er, it's called 'Tracks Of My Tears'
['Tracks Of My Tears' by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles is played, length 1:42 approx]
Sue: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles with 'Tracks Of My Tears', you say that was the... we got you there
Brian: Still gets me every time, yeah. You see that's what made me want to write songs, you know, that connection from heart to heart that can really grab you
Sue: You want people to identify?
Brian: Yeah, yeah, to express and to empathise, and a, ah, it's wonderful
Sue: Well obviously you're deeply connected with your own emotions, I mean it's
Brian: Yes, I mean I was brought up as a scientist, it's very odd, you know, and I have a, there's a side of me which is very factual, and I can, I can sort out every problem, and of course the problems you can't solve are the emotional ones, and they turn out to be the most powerful things in your life, you think you can order your life, but, um, you know, the, the emotional side of my life has always been a, a rollercoaster I suppose you would say
Sue: Bit of a nightmare sometimes
Brian: Mmm, yeah, but you, if you're, if you're hardened off, you're not living, you have to be vulnerable I think to
Sue: But you were saying that's sometimes why people want to become pop stars, to kind of overcome this emotional vulnerability
Brian: I think so, yeah, yeah, I mean it, rather than stand around at a dance when you're a kid, and, and worry about rejection, it's much better to get up on the stage and just pound something out, and then you're in a very powerful position and you don't have to worry about all that
Sue: Now you were doing that all the time you were at school and university, weren't you, you had a band on the side
Brian: Yes, I had bands of various kinds
Sue: And indeed you went, after university, you went to teach briefly in, in a comprehensive, I mean, did, did, did the kids then know that that's what you did by night?
Brian: No they didn't, no, I was really doing three things at once, I was trying to write up my PhD, I was rehearsing what was to become Queen, and I was teaching in the comprehensive school, to try and make enough money to finish off my PhD
Sue: By this time of course, you'd met Freddie, hadn't you, he, Freddie Bulsara as he then was
Brian: That's right, I met him through friends once, I was um, at Imperial College, he was a friend of our current singer, and he used to come along, very flamboyant character even in those days, he kind of looked like a star even though he obviously wasn't, and he behaved like one, and we thought, well, a bit of an eccentric character
Sue: But you didn't know he could sing?
Brian: No, no, well, well he said he could sing, but a lot of people say they can sing, don't they
Sue: And did he think of the name Queen for you, was that his invention?
Brian: I think that was his idea, we had a whole list of names, um, which came from all of us, and we would try them out on friends and see what the reaction was, and when we said Queen, there was always a reaction, not always a good one, but there was some kind of reaction
Sue: Because of it's camp connotations, people saying you're not going to call yourselves that
Brian: Yeah, yes, yeah it was a sort of odd thing, you know, why would you want to call yourself that? And so it stuck, and that's what we went with, yeah. It had other connotations, yeah, there was the sort of camp thing, which I was quite comfortable with, it doesn't bother me, and didn't at the time, um, this sort of ambiguity thing, it was kind of fun in those days, and everything was very, you know, androgynous was cool in those days, in Kensington Market and the sort of places we moved, um
Sue: But it took you ages, didn't it, I mean, I think that first album was two or three years in the kind of birth wasn't it?
Brian: That's right, overnight success takes a long time
Sue: But then it happened, round about, I think, seventy three, something like that
Brian: Gradually started to happen, yes
Sue: And you, in the meantime, had turned down an offer of a job from Jodrell Bank no less
Brian: Yes, the crunch came, I had to decide between astronomy and, and music, and I had a couple of wonderful offers, Jodrell Bank was one of them, and I could have gone up there, to what was the state of the art radio astronomy establishment of the world at that time, and it was a really hard decision. I have to admit now, although I wouldn't have admitted at the time, that I stayed in London for music, that would have really upset my dad
Sue: Your dad must have been furious, yeah
Brian: Yeah, my dad was upset, and he said
Sue: It's not a proper job what you were doing
Brian: A proper job is the word, yeah, he, he said, you know, you've, you're throwing up your education, how could you do this, you've got this wonderful education, what are you doing?
Sue: When was he converted?
Brian: He was converted when I flew my mum and dad on Concorde out to New York and they came to see us play in Madison Square Garden, a mythical, magical place, and I put them up in a, I think it was the Ritz, and said, look mum and dad, you can order what you like, we're rich, joking of course, and um, my dad looked at me afterwards and said, ' OK, I get it, I understand, I can see why this has got you, and I can see that it's worthwhile, I can see what it does to people, and um, good luck to you'
Sue: Record number four
Brian: Record number four, this is well into Queen time that this happened to me, this is called 'Back On My Feet Again' and it's by a little known group called The Babys, but this was my pick me up, when I was in Munich much later on, some hard times, um, which I won't go into, but, generally we used to drink till dawn, and around dawn time my fantastic tech who was called Jobby, Brian Zellis at the time, used to drive me home and um, I'd generally be pretty sad for one reason or another, um, and he'd put this on the car radio, and this would pick me up, and I would be, like, punching the air, and I'd be, I'd be ready for everything again
['Back On My Feet Again' by The Babys is played, length 1:37 approx]
Sue: 'Back On My Feet Again' and The Babys, and your dad charted your career ever after that, wasn't he your greatest fan, didn't he watch every
Brian: Yes, he was so supportive, everywhere we went in the world, he was plotting our progress, and he was plotting the progress of the, er, records in the charts all round the world on graphs, amazing, my dad
Sue: Two years into your success you recorded 'Bohemian Rhapsody', five minutes fifty five seconds, I, I read it was
Brian: Of pure magic
Sue: Short for an opera but long for a pop song. Revolutionary stuff, everybody said it, it wouldn't happen 'cos it was too long, what, what made the difference, what made it catch on?
Brian: I don't think we'll ever really know. In this country, Kenny Everett got hold of it and played it to death, which was wonderful, before it was even finished he was playing it on the radio, over and over again, so it gave us a massive start in this country, but I suppose in the rest of the world, it was the video which gave the in, you know, the videos didn't exist as such in those days as promotional vehicles, we made this very cheap little piece of tat, as a video, you know, I mean it was made on a shoestring, and very, sort of tongue-in-cheek, but it just put across the atmosphere of the sort of madness of the record
Sue: Is that the one we still see, which begins with your heads kind of (Brian: yes) floating bodiless (Brian: absolutely) against a back, black, and a backcloth isn't it
Brian: Yes, that's right, yes, a very sort of iconic image
Sue: And it was, obviously, an incredibly distinctive sound, because I mean, you really do create a whole orchestra and a whole opera company on that track, don't you
Brian: Yes, and it's just the four of us, yes, it was a, quite a departure
Sue: So, that, so a lot is done in the studio, and a lot in post-production work, it's kind of layered and layered and layered so that you're all multiplied
Brian: Yes, like painting a picture in the studio really
Sue: But doesn't that mean therefore, obviously, self evidently, you can't recreate that on the stage, it means that (Brian: that's right), that, that, Queen the recording artists were quite different from Queen the live band
Brian: That's absolutely true, and we always treated it as separate, and it's noticeable we never played the whole of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' on stage, when it came to the operatic bit we would go off, and change our frocks, and come bursting on back for the last bit, and there would be a light show for the, for the middle bit. Yes we never attempted to recreate the studio sound on stage, it was separate to the stage
Sue: I wonder which gave you, personally, greatest enjoyment, because in that sense one feels you're your father's son, because although you had great technicians, you spent a lot of time, you have done, time and time again, over the decades, haven't you, in a studio
Brian: I get great satisfaction from that, I like the, um, the sort of craftsmanship side, but I think the greatest buzz is always the live thing, you know, and that's really, that's not craftsmanship, that's the sort of moment of, of spontaneity, and art if you like, and connection, and adrenaline, and all that sort of stuff. It's wonderful, there's nothing quite like that moment when you connect with an audience and something is coming out of you which never came out before. They're rare moments, but they're, they're just the most wonderful thing you can, you can experience really
Sue: Next record
Brian: Well, one of the most wonderful things you can experience. The next one, record number five, is my darling wife, as she is now, she wasn't then, um, and she's singing, um, 'To Know Him Is To Love Him'. Now, this is a recreation of a Phil Spector song, um, originally done by The Teddy Bears, and the original's damn, damn good, um, but I'd have problems being on this desert island without her, you know, I would, you know, it's, it's really, she's such a big part of my life, she's kind of welded to my soul, and I would need to be able to hear her voice on the island, so I've chosen this, and um, there's a bit of me playing the guitar on this as well, which I don't often hear, I must say, um, but it was a moment, a moment of sort of, um, wonder and terror I suppose, and magic, and tragedy, because my marriage was breaking up, I didn't know it at this time, but it was, and um, I was sort of, we were irresistibly heading towards each other, um, and trying to resist, but these things you can't resist, there are certain things in life which you don't have control over, I have discovered, and um, you can fight and you can struggle but basically it happens, and um, I'm happy to say we're married now, which is great, um, but this is when we were children really, putting this together
['To Know Him Is To Love Him' by Anita Dobson is played, length 1:58 approx]
Sue: Anita Dobson, my castaway's wife, singing 'To Know Him Is To Love Him', um, and there you are, Brian May, playing guitar on there as well. You've been together since the late eighties and er, Queen had stopped touring by then, hadn't they, because I think Freddie announced in eighty six that he didn't want to tour anymore, did you, do you think he had AIDS then, or knew he did then?
Brian: Yes I think he knew, er, we didn't know until much later, but, um, yeah, he knew that at that time, and, it was much later when he said 'look, you know what I'm dealing with, and I don't want to talk about it, I just want to get on with it and make music, and er, be as normal as we can until it's, until it's over'
Sue: How great a, I mean obviously you deal with the personal grief of losing a very, very close friend, but professionally, how great a blow was it?
Brian: Oh, huge, um, we were a family and we developed together, um, so, it's, it's a gap which can never be filled, absolutely, and there isn't a day goes by where, er, a thought about that doesn't pop into my head
Sue: So that was one kind of family you lost, you'd also, your father had died, hadn't he, by then?
Brian: Yes, it was what you would call a difficult time, my father died around that time too, um, my marriage broke up, and um, I felt that I'd lost, I felt I was losing my kids
Sue: How low did you get?
Brian: Um, absolutely to the bottom, and I didn't get treatment, which, in retrospect I should have done, I just kind of tried to swim through it, um, and um, yeah, hell for years and years
Sue: You did get treatment eventually though didn't you?
Brian: Well, I sort of got low, in another period later on, and I eventually did get treatment, yes, which was great, it was the best thing I ever did, I went to this place where it was like a sort of, a rebirth really, something between a university and a, and a treatment centre and whatever, but, the best thing I ever did, yes, was to actually hold up my hand and say 'OK, I can't cope'. I think there was a fundamental lack of loss of self in me, and that might sound strange from someone who's strutting on stage, looking very confident and whatever, but of course that's, that's a show, you know, and there is a part of me which can find the strength to do that at any point, but when you're alone later on in, in your room or whatever, it's a different story
Sue: You were suicidal at one point, I read, or was that an exaggeration?
Brian: No, it's not an exaggeration, really, no, it, um, no it's not an exaggeration, I, I, I certainly didn't want to live, and that's when I realised I had to, to check in to some place and, and be sorted, and it was the right decision, I feel great these days, um, grateful
Sue: You always, look, you know, in, in, in an artist's work for um, for this kind of thing, 'cos obviously if you, if you're not in your work, who is, and I, I suppose one looks as you talk like that at um, that song you wrote, 'too much love will kill you in the end', I mean was that, um, part of an expression of that?
Brian: Yes, those two solo albums were very straight from the heart and er, yes it's all in there someplace, if you want to get into that, er, I suppose the nice thing is, if you're writing stuff like that, you're hoping again that you're communicating with people, and if you're expressing stuff like that, it's expressing it for them too, um, so yes I poured it all into the music, and um
Sue: 'Too much love will kill you, if you can't make up your mind, torn between your lover and the love you leave behind'
Brian: Um, too much love will almost kill you, yes, yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm glad we're not playing that today
Sue: What are we playing, obviously it's
Brian: We are playing 'Since You've Been Gone' by Rainbow, um, again it's a big uplift, because I'm on this desert island, I'm gonna get moments where I'm gonna get blue, and this always gets me, and picks me up
['Since You've Been Gone' by Rainbow is played, length 1:42 approx]
Sue: Rainbow and 'Since You've Been Gone', um, you kind of implied that, that, that it was a sort of therapy going out on the road solo as it were, was it?
Brian: Partly, yes I just plunged into it, you know, so I couldn't tour with Queen anymore, and I just thought, OK I can still tour, I can, and I went straight out there, well I suppose I went straight in the studio, finished the, the solo album, and then went straight out on tour, um
Sue: But you'd spent all those years kind of just right of centre, as it were (Brian: mmm), hadn't you (Brian: yeah) looking very comfortable, but Freddie was the (Brian: I was comfortable), yeah, Freddie was the lead guy, he, he did the talking, he, he was the kind of front man, he was the lead singer
Brian: That's right, he was the vehicle (Sue: yeah) he was the, the medium in a sense, everything flowed through him and suddenly I had to sort of take that position in my own band
Sue: That was hard wasn't it, I mean there are tales of you kind of, going to play your guitar and you'd still got the mic in your hand (Brian: that's right) or getting stranded out on stage and not getting back to the mic in time to hit
Brian: Exactly, yes, it's a whole re-education process, and I enjoyed it, it was a fantastic challenge, and in that period I didn't want to talk about Queen, I just wanted to talk about the new thing and my attitude was 'yeah, Queen was this part of my life and now I have another part', I decided in the end that I wasn't a singer, I have to say, I don't think I'll do that again, because I don't feel satisfied with the way I sing, I don't have the right instrument. It's great to try, and I love to sing, you know, but I don't think that I'm a singer
Sue: And you said you, you, you felt, sort of, Freddie sitting there, egging you on, on occasions?
Brian: Definitely, in fact, when I made 'Driven By You', I played it to Freddie and that was um, when things were still, you know, as they were, and I said, 'Freddie do you fancy singing this', and he went, 'no, no, no darling, you know, you sing it perfectly well, just get on with it' and he said, and in a quieter moment he said 'look, I know you're hesitating about this because of what's going on, you know, but go for it, you know, you've got your career ahead of you, don't, don't let what's happening here stand in your way, put it out, and get on with your solo career', he was very supportive
Sue: Number seven
Brian: Number seven, ah yeah, I figure on this island there's moments when I need to just get up and let it all explode out of me, and ah, do some air guitar, I'll go to the highest point in the island and scream and shout and wave the fist in the air, and this would be the record which I need to, need to have with me, um
Sue: Why does Brian May need to do air guitar for heaven's sake, that's for the rest of us
Brian: Ah, it's, it's fun really, I suppose, um, it's just a, a body thing. AC/DC to me are the purest form, and er, there's nothing like an AC/DC concert to sort of clear you out, and bring you back to basics, I love it
['Highway To Hell' by AC/DC is played, length 1:17 approx]
Sue: 'Highway To Hell' by AC/DC, so you've, Brian May, done a musical of Queen's music, you're not gonna do any solo tours anymore, what are you gonna do, you're not that old
Brian: I'm pretty happy wearing the Queen hat again for a while, surprisingly enough, you know, I think the musical brought Roger and I back together, we get on very well, and we've done some playing, we played together at the jubilee, so it's on the cards, we might do some more playing together, so we can, we can't be Queen like in the old days, but we can be in that area, and I feel finally, after protesting for years, happy with that again
Sue: Happy with Queen. It was, it was George Harrison who said 'I asked to be successful at what I do, I never asked to be famous'
Brian: A great quote, I use that often, yeah
Sue: Do you, it's, it's, it is how you feel, isn't it?
Brian: It is, yeah, I hate this celebrity stuff, it's a, it's a, a real millstone round your neck, I like being excellent at what I do, and I love doing it, I love playing, and being out there, but the, the other stuff is a, is a pain in the neck really
Sue: So, it's the loss of freedom, the loss of privacy, you, you don't like
Brian: It just makes everything more difficult I think, you know, when you're trying to do things with your kids, and somebody's trying to make you do something, you know, sign bits of paper or take photographs or whatever. I wonder what happens to all these bits of paper really, you know, if you say no you're a bastard, you know, and if you, if you say yes you feel like, well if you say yes all the time you feel like you're not a person anymore, you don't have any choice, so I treasure my choice
Sue: But it does mean that the desert island is for you, it will suit you just fine
Brian: It'll do pretty well for a while, yes
Sue: What are you going to do there with yourself, how are you going to occupy yourself?
Brian: I'll probably get busy, you know, I like building stuff, so I'll build my house and everything, and I'll, I'll probably find some way to build a telescope, but I'll have to find some way to play guitar, because I have to play guitar, it's part of my life, um
Sue: Is there a day goes by that you don't play the guitar?
Brian: Yes, there are days, sometimes, 'cos I get busy, and sometimes that's one of the regrets I have, I don't play as much as I used to, um, but I'll get the chance here 'cos there won't be the desk with the pile of mail on it
Sue: Last record
Sue: Well this is you
Brian: Ah, yes, this was a last minute thought, I was going to put anything of, of our own in, but um, it does seem like a good idea, you know, I'm, I'm proud of what we did in Queen, um, I must say every time I hear it I think OK, you know, at least something is there when I go, and it's something which does bring people together, make people feel uplifted and strong, um, it's kind of a little protest song in it's way, ironically, but it is a thing of strength, so it'll help me too on the, on the island, and I'll think, 'yeah I have this link still', and somewhere some place this is being sung or performed, um, so this is 'We Will Rock You'
['We Will Rock You' by Queen is played, length 2:01]
Sue: 'We Will Rock You', written and performed by my castaway Brian May and Queen, it really is sort of two minutes dead, no messing about that one, huh?
Brian: Absolutely, three ages of man, two minutes
Sue: If you could only take one of those eight records, which one would you take?
Brian: Oh God, no that's an awful question, um, do you know I think it's gonna be number one, I think it's gonna be the, 'The Planet Suite', because there's so much in there, there's so much depth, and there are still things which I need to find out about it, um, I think I'll probably take that
Sue: What about your book, you've got the Bible, you've got the Complete Works Of Shakespeare
Brian: My book is 'Out Of The Silent Planet' by C.S Lewis, um, written, I suppose, almost as a children's book, but it's a very adult kind of children's book, it's a very spiritual thing, it's, on the face of it, a science fiction story, but underneath it is a view of the universe which I really hope is true.
Sue: And your luxury, guess what
Brian: Well, it has to be the guitar, really, not just a guitar, it has to be the guitar which has been with me all my sort of working life, the one which me and my dad made, it's a great link back to my dad, it's very important to me, um, and I would have to play, I would have to be there playing, I hope I can plug it into something, my plan is to plug it into the record player
Sue: It's a wind-up gramophone, is that OK?
Brian: Well, yeah, I knew you were going to say that
Sue: Can you plug it into such a thing?
Brian: You see, I, I'm gonna request a special wind-up one, which is gonna be one of these things which, you know these wind-up radios which this wonderful inventor man brought into the world, where, so you can listen to the, to the BBC in the middle of an African jungle, well, I'm gonna have one of those, and it's gonna be wind-up but it's electric, so I can plug the guitar in, and er, off I go
Sue: It's a complete contradiction, it's clockwork actually but
Brian: It's clockwork but it, yeah, it's gonna work
Sue: It's gonna work. Brian May, thank you very much indeed for letting us hear your Desert Island Discs.
Brian: Thank you, Sue