Following Freddie Mercury’s death and John Deacon’s retirement, it looked like Queen was over. Brian May and Roger Taylor enjoyed performing the odd show together but didn’t expect they could tour as their band ever again. In this week’s episode of Queen The Greatest, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins said: “I always held out hope, because Brian and Roger, you don’t want to keep that Lamborghini in the garage. You got to drive that f*****g car every once in a while. So I was hoping that they would find someone.”
Brian May shared: “We’ve done odd gigs as Queen, in a sense, using guest artists. It was just, I remember saying not many months ago when somebody said, ‘Can you do a Queen tour, can you call it Queen?’ And I said, ‘Well, no, not really. Not barring a miracle. If there’s a miracle that we find the right person to sing, then yes.’ Even though we were proud of what we’d done, we didn’t want to go out there and be Queen again without Freddie. And it happened almost by accident at an awards show.”
In 2004, the Queen guitarist performed on stage with Paul Rodgers, one of Freddie’s favourite singers, at the 50th anniversary Fender Stratocaster show in London.
The 74-year-old remembered: “I played with Paul Rodgers, who was a hero of ours, and I remember coming off stage and Paul’s lady said, ‘Oh, you guys seem to really have a great chemistry. All you need is a drummer’. And I went, ‘Well, I think I know a drummer!’”
Roger Taylor said at the time: “Brian and I find that we still have the magic on stage. So it’s great to be doing this with a different singer, but the magic of Queen is absolutely still there.”
Setting off on their Return of the Champions tour in 2005, Queen and Paul Rodgers performed together across Europe, the USA and Japan. This saw Brian and Roger returning to famous venues they had performed at with Freddie and John over the years from London’s Hyde Park to LA’s Hollywood Bowl.
Brian May said: “He enjoyed playing a lot of the Queen stuff. Not all of it, not all of it suited him, but it was a good combination for a while. We ended up going all round the world a couple of times with Paul. I would still go to shows and think, ‘Well, we used to do that, we used to play in arenas or whatever.’ And suddenly, out of the blue, we are in the same arena again and how incredible that we can still do that, people still want to come and fill those arenas, and we can still rock the hell out of them.”
Praising Paul, Roger Taylor said: “He was his own man and he belonged in the sort of blues soul field, which there is, no, no-one better.”
After a North American tour, the trio headed into the studio where they recorded their album The Cosmos Rocks, before performing across Europe, South America and even Russia for the first time. To kick off this tour, Queen and Paul Rodgers did a show in Kiev’s Freedom Square in front of an incredible 350,000 people.
But by the end of that string of concerts, Queen and Paul Rodgers decided to part ways with the singer telling Billboard in 2009: “At this point, we’re gonna sit back from this. My arrangement with [Queen] was similar to my arrangement with Jimmy [Page] in The Firm, in that it was never meant to be a permanent arrangement. I think we made a huge success of it, actually. We did two world tours and a couple of live recordings, and…made a studio album which was pretty historical for [Queen] because they hadn’t really gone in the studio with anybody and recorded something like that for a very long time. So it was quite an achievement, I think.”
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After Queen and Paul Rodgers came to an end, Brian and Roger believed that was well and truly it for the band once again.
The guitarist said: “And again, I think Roger and I thought, ‘OK, that’s it.’ We’ve done that, and we’ve done this, and there is nobody out there. We don’t want to employ someone to copy Freddie. Why would we do that? It just wouldn’t make sense.”
However, it wouldn’t be long before Queen would come across American Idol star Adam Lambert.
Next week’s episode of Queen the Greatest will look back at Queen and Adam Lambert’s first gig.