| It’s a Kinda Magic.
Peter Freestone reminisces
with Kenneth Beaumont
Peter Freestone was Freddie Mercury’s personal assistant for more than a decade. His role began as wardrobe technician on Queens early Crazy Tour but quickly turned into much more than that, Peter became chief cook and bottle washer, waiter, butler, valet, secretary, amanuensis, cleaner, baby-sitter (the baby being Freddie) and agony aunt. From their chance second meeting at the London Coliseum in ’79 to Freddie’s untimely passing in 1991, Peter became one of Freddie’s closest confidants.
Craig Pesco, Colin Hill, Brett Millican and Sean Nolan have come together to create It’s a Kinda Magic, The Most Sensational Queen Tribute Ever Staged. It’s the kind of magic that charismatic front man Freddie Mercury carried thoughtlessly because it was something he was born with. Now this group of musical performers just mentioned have collaborated to recreate the magic of legendary rockers Queen on stage for those who want to experience the magic of an act so influential that their name is renowned worldwide.
Peter Freestone caught the tribute act earlier this year in Singapore and was instantly impressed and consumed by the presence of singer/performer Craig Pesco (who plays Freddie in the Production). “For me, he’s Freddie down to his fingertips. He is such a huge Freddie fan, he has seen just about all footage there is of Freddie and for those two hours, two and half hours on stage he is Freddie. He’s got all the movements down, the hand movements, the body, everything.”
Do the likenesses to Freddie stop once Craig walks off the stage or are there other tiny nuances that Craig shares as well?
“No, this is the wonderful thing about it. When I saw them in Singapore earlier this year, I was sitting in the audience feeling this electric atmosphere with the band on stage and I have to say that it was Freddie there.”
That’s a pretty big wrap in anyone’s terms, but for Peter it’s not a compliment he has been in any rush to dish out to any of the hundreds of tribute bands that do the circuits around the world. “For many years I avoided, I think seven or eight years I avoided any of these tribute bands. For five years I wouldn’t even watch videos. I didn’t need reminding that Freddie was no longer around. I knew.”
The great thing about talking with Peter is that at times Freddie appears alive and well in his memories, memories that were for a long time put aside for the emotional torment that came with loosing such a dear friend. In 1998 Peter began recording the memories he had of his dearest friend. Writing the book “enabled me to enjoy the memories, rather than thinking and being upset because Freddie wasn’t around anymore. It brought all these memories back of the good times; I was then able to start enjoying Freddie again.”
One such memory illuminates the fun loving elements of the complex character that was Freddie Mercury, “Someone had given him (this again shows how old this story is), a Quaalude, which is a tranquillising sort of drug. We were in New York in the very early eighties, he had one (Quaalude) and we went into this bar, The River Club on the west side. We were at the bar and he said ‘I’ve just got to go to the toilet.’ He went off and a couple of minutes later David Hodo of Village People, he was the construction worker, came out to me and said ‘I think you better come and have a look at this.’ I thought ‘Mmmm, ok, what’s he done now?’”
“Well we walk around and, I don’t know if things are still the same these days, but they used to have these big waste bins where you throw your can drinks in when you finish them. And there was Freddie in it, jumping up and down saying ‘I’m trash, I’m trash.’ He was totally out of his brain, I mean he had some alcohol in him and someone had given him this Quaalude, which I didn’t know about, and everybody’s just walking around just killing themselves laughing. So I just had to lift him out and lean him against the bar for half an hour until he sort of calmed himself down a bit. He enjoyed himself, that’s all. As far as he was concerned life is for living, not for just storing away and bringing it out every now and then.”
Freddie collaborated with many artists throughout his career but one stands out amongst them all, his work with Montserrat Cabelle on the Olympic anthem Barcelona, and Peter had his hand in its incubation. “I was there the first night that Freddie actually heard her, which was years before they met. It was because of me that all of that came about because Freddie used to love the tenor voice. He would play Domingo, Pavarotti, that sort of thing. Then in ’83 I said to Freddie ‘look, you keep showing the difference between your recordings and your live shows. Now you’ve heard all these recording of Pavarotti, why don’t you listen to him live?’ So we went to the opera house and he comes on and sings his first aria and Freddie says ‘Mmmm, that’s ok. It’s not like the recording, but it’s ok.’ And then the soprano comes on and just sings a little bit in a trio and as soon as she opened her mouth Freddie’s jaw just sort of dropped and he said ‘When is she coming on again, I want her to sing more.’
“It was Montserrat Cabelle and he just fell in love with her voice at that point. It was just sort of the mutual admiration society and then they finally met in 1987 when Montserrat invited Freddie to participate in writing an anthem for the Barcelona Olympics. Freddie had warned her because they started recording late in 1987, he warned her that he may not be around to sing it in or for the Olympic games and he told her why, but she said ‘I don’t care, this is going to be something magic, this is going to be something unique. It still will belong to the Barcelona Olympics.’ So they forged ahead with it. It was that one night before they had started recording, a few days after they had first met in Barcelona, Montserrat had sang in the Opera house, she did a show there. She came back to Freddie’s house for a little something to eat and just a little chat and she stayed through to six-thirty in the morning singing around a piano with Freddie and Mike Maran. It was amazing, absolutely amazing.”
Peter shared story upon story, all of them colourful and insightful. His casual and honest approach towards his now cherished memories are inviting and enlightening, for further reading check out Freddie Mercury: An Intimate Memoir by the Man Who Knew Him Best.