Films, Music & Culture

Freddie Mercury’s songbook revealed

The Show Must Go On! Bonhams reveals Freddie Mercury’s lyric notebook.

Freddy Mercury notebookThe personal notebook in which Freddie Mercury wrote the lyrics for some of rock band Queen’s hits, including I Want It AllToo Much Love Will Kill You, and The Show Must Go On, will be sold by Bonhams at their upcoming Entertainment Memorabilia sale, taking place at Bonhams Knightsbridge on 29 June 2016.

The notebook was used between 1988 and 1990, while the singer battled the illness that led to his untimely death in 1991 at the age of 45. It is estimated at £50,000-70,000, reports Bonhams in a press release.

“Freddie Mercury was a brilliant musician, lyricist and performer,” said Katherine Schofield, Bonhams Head of Entertainment Memorabilia. “He once said of himself, ‘I am not going to be a star. I’m going to be a legend’, and indeed that’s what he became.

“The notebook was used by Freddie for writing his own songs, as well as noting down the words to songs written or co-written by guitarist Brian May. The lyrics, such as for Too Much Love Will Kill You, and The Show Must Go On, are both beautiful and sad, as on reflection, we know Mercury was battling HIV at the time. This knowledge makes the words all the more poignant.”

These lyrics, scrawled in a combination of blue and red pen, include:

I’m just the pieces of the man I used to be
Too many bitter tears are raining down on me
I’m far away from home, and I’ve been facing this alone for much too long.

[‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’]

I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
On – with the show –
I’ll top the bill, I’ll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on
On with the –
On with the show

[‘The Show Must Go On’]

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Credited to Queen, but mainly written by Brian May, The Show Must Go On chronicles Mercury’s efforts to continue performing despite his illness. Brian May once commented that Mercury’s illness was so advanced, that when the band recorded The Show Must Go On, he could hardly walk.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, May said: “I said, ‘Fred, I don’t know if this is going to be possible to sing. And he went, ‘I’ll f*****g do it, darling’ — vodka down — and went in and killed it, completely lacerated that vocal.”

The track was released in the UK in October 1991, just six weeks before Mercury died. Following Mercury’s death, the song spent five weeks in the British charts.

As Brian May wrote: “At the beginning, it was just this chord sequence, but I had this strange feeling that it could be somehow important, and I got very impassioned and went and beavered away at it. “I sat down with Freddie, and we decided what the theme should be and wrote the first verse. It’s a long story, that song, but I always felt it would be important because we were dealing with things that were hard to talk about at the time, but in the world of music, you could do it.”

Further songs featured in the notebook include I Want It All, which reached Number 3 in the UK Singles Chart, and Number 1 in other European countries, such as Spain.

Bonhams is one of the largest international auction houses to hold auctions of entertainment memorabilia. In 2016, five entertainment memorabilia sales will be held by Bonhams: New York (13 June, 21 November), London (29 June, 15 December) and LA (22 March).

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