May has been promoting the reissue of his solo album, Another Word, and posted an intimate video where he looked back to Queen’s earliest days. The UK music scene in the early 1970s was a melting pot of artists poised for extraordinary success. Freddie Mercury served David Bowie on a clothes stall at Kensington market and used to follow Jimi Hendrix to gigs all over the country. Queen’s profile began to rapidly rise with the release of second album Queen II in August 1973, which hit number five on the charts. They also embarked on the first of two tours supporting a fellow British rock band who May believes should have been “as big as the Stones.”
For the remainder of 1973, Queen toured the UK as the support for Mott the Hoople and then again in the US during April and May, before Brian May collapsed with hepatitis and the band had to fly home.
In his new video which you can watch in full below, the guitar legend looks back on that formative period and pays the ultimate tribute to a lesser-known classic British rock band.
He said: “Mott the Hoople were a great influence on us. They were our mentors in a way. We’re just starting off as a rock group. We have so many big ideas. We have songs, we have presentation ideas, etc. But we’ve never been on tour, so we go on tour, very luckily supporting Mott the Hoople, who are a big band in those days. In fact, they should have been bigger if they hadn’t broken up. I think they would have been like the Stones or whatever.”
The band’s track All The Way From Memphis is included on May’s Another World album in tribute to the impact they had on Queen and May personally.
Brian added: “We supported them, we opened up for them all around the UK and learned our trade and learned how to deal with an audience. I mean, we had big ideas. Even then, we were precocious boys. But I remember watching Mott the Hoople burst onto the stage and the whole audience would erupt because it was just engineered that way.
“I say engineered because you do you work on an audience you want to make contact. You don’t just stroll on and plink away and hope something will happen. At least we don’t. You know, you have that opportunity to excite, to impassion, to inspire an audience. And they did that. They would go on and go….and the whole place would erupt.”
Queen’s stagecraft, of course, would go on to be legendary, culminating in that perfectly curated and pitched set at Live Aid.
Although Brian says he decided not to take one huge piece of advice from Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter. During the US tour, Hunter asked the clearly overwhelmed Queen star if he was actually happy.
Brian added: “And he says, ‘Are you missing your home life at all?’ I said, ‘Well, actually, you’re right.’ So I said, ‘I miss the things around me. I miss my things, I miss my people and everything’. He said, ‘Brian. If you miss your things and your people, you’re in the wrong business’.
“So that’s the advice which I didn’t take. Luckily.”
Instead, Queen went on to be more successful than even they could have hoped. Things didn’t go as well for their tour mates, despite the admiration of Queen and David Bowie.
Mott the Hoople had released four albums between 1969 and 1971 but failed to make much mainstream headway. Hearing that they were planning to break up, Bowie offered them the track Suffragette City, which they turned down, and then All The Young Dudes, which hit number three in the UK and 37 in the US. The album of the same name also made it to number 21 in the UK.
Next album Mott peaked at number 7 in the UK and 35 in the US and, building off their rising success, they were able to launch UK and US tours, with Queen as support. Wasting no time a seventh album was swiftly released, reaching 11 in the UK and 28 in the US.
But the band’s line-up started to constantly change, culminating in Bowie’s long-time collaborator Mick Ronson briefly joining, before leaving with Hunter to form a duo at the end of 1974.
Mott the Hoople was over, but Hunter’s friendship with the members of Queen has endured all of his life. Hunter, Mick Ronson and David Bowie performing “All the Young Dudes” at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992 and Hunter played with May at Deff Leppard’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.
BRIAN MAY’S ANOTHER WORLD IS OUT NOW.