One vision for Sir who wanted to break free ...
In an industry where showmanship and flamboyance are paramount few have scaled the heights in the way late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury did.
From his voice to his looks, he was every inch a star.
His strutting presence on stage captivated a generation and in a renaissance of Queen music is finding new and younger followers today 30 years after his untimely death.
There may never be another band quite like Queen, but there are plenty who want to keep their elite legacy alive.
And into this mix comes an unlikely bunch of Yorkshiremen and women, music graduates from Huddersfield University in their early to mid twenties and a charismatic 43-yearold father-of-one frontman from Castleford who looks nothing like Mercury, but when he opens his mouth and sings is indistinguishable from the great man.
Bulsara and his Queenies (Bulsara being Mercury’s real surname) have been going about their business filling venues and setting tongues wagging since coming together 18 months ago. Their music is irreproachable and now they stand on the brink of something quite special.
For in September they’ve been invited (they are the only band) to perform at the official Freddie Mercury Birthday party, a lavish charity fundraising event in Montreux, attended by the whole Queen family where they will play an exclusive two hour set - including the brilliant album Sheer Heart Attack from start to finish - and all streamed live to millions of Queen fans worldwide.
It’s a massive break and one the band - which recently registered itself as a business - is determined will propel them into a future of TV appearances, touring and making money.
Bulsara and his Queenies maybe new kids on the block but the man who set it in motion has been in the business for more than 20 years, juggling gigs in working men’s clubs and pubs , with a teaching job as possibly the quirkiest head of physics secondary education has ever witnessed.
Gareth Taylor is a natural showman and a first rate impersonator. Just ask the kids he has taught down the years at schools in Castleford, Pontefract, Wakefield and Bradford. Who can say in their experience they’ve had a physics teacher sing to them in class and deliver equations and formulae in any number of different accents?
A teacher who in 1997 appeared in the Live Final of Stars in their Eyes performing as Jarvis Cocker and who toured with Pulp and whose own 90s indie band Bingo were mates with The Kaiser Chiefs.
A teacher who for a short while worked at Granada TV on a soap series presented by former Emmerdale star Lisa Riley.
The kind of teacher kids listen to and who makes learning easy.
So it was with a heavy heart he handed in his resignation at Buttershaw School on the Calderdale/Bradford border in December 2015 and with the full backing of his wife Rachel threw his heart and soul into the band and a showbiz life he had for so long flirted with.
“The headmaster asked me what I was going to do and I said I was going to be a Freddie Mercury impersonator. I don’t think he was too surprised!” said Gareth.
His interest in Freddie Mercury goes all the way back to Castleford in 1984, the start of the miners strike. Gareth was 10 and his best mate Kevin was into Queen. He would make tapes for Gareth to listen to. As time passed he amassed a huge collection of Queen records, taught himself to play guitar and keyboards faithfully learning Brian May’s complicated riffs and Freddie’s amazing intonation.
“I sometimes think I may have a form of Tourettes Syndrome where I constantly do accents, I do it in the house all the time, different regional accents, international accents. I just can’t help it.
“Over the years I have practised using my voice in different ways and that I guess is really what the Freddie thing is about because it is an impression that I do.
“I am a singer and have been in original bands over the years and whilst my voice is very, very similar to Freddie’s there are things that I do with my tongue, my jaw and my mouth to try and make me sound even more like him.”
By the time he went to Leeds University he was an expert musician and had started to write his own music and play gigs. He was a member of several bands and performed solo.
When he began teaching in 2000 he never stopped performing.
“I had started doing a few Queen songs to backing tracks within the act and it went really well, people seemed to really enjoy that,” he said.
In time he got an agent and the whole show - which took him as far as Spain, Portugal and Cyprus - became Freddie. But as his popularity grew, so did his desire to be on stage until that momentous decision to quit teaching to become a full time singer.
At first he performed as a solo artist and then 18 months ago he hooked up with a bunch of exceptional musicians - music graduates from Huddersfield University.
“I was speaking to a mate (Dan now plays bass in the band) and I asked him if he thought it would be cool to be in a Queen tribute band.
“He not only said yes, he said he knew a sick lead guitarist who would be interested. At rehearsals they said they knew a drummer and soon after we had 12 Queen songs nailed.”
The first big gig for the band was at the Tap and Barrel in Pontefract and they went down a storm.
“At this stage I was still dressing like Freddie. But I didn’t like wearing the clobber because I thought it was a bit disrespectful. I gradually started morphing away from the image until after one gig there was a complaint that I hadn’t worn the famous yellow jacket. And that was it, I decided I didn’t need to dress like Freddie any more.
“Not wearing the gear gives me far more freedom. Now people appreciate us for the sound we make.”
As the band grew Gareth did fewer solo gigs and parted company with his agent. It proved a turning point and allowed him to focus on the band - which had become seven strong - and in turn look at more obscure Queen songs (deep cuts as they are known in the business), the kind of tracks that would set them apart from other Queen tribute bands.
Two years ago another chapter in this extraordinary story emerged when Gareth and Rachel bought tickets to the official Freddie Mercury birthday party in Montreux and he entered the karaoke competition run by members of Queen’s entourage. True to form he blew them all away with a rendition of “Somebody To Love” and won.
And that encounter plus the growing reputation of Bulsara and his Queenies has now earned them their greatest accolade to date - an invite to perform exclusively for two hours at this year’s Montreux gathering. The call came in February and the band has been hard at work ever since.
QueenOnline said following the announcement: “They have their own identity; there are no wigs, no yellow jackets and no attempt to look like Queen. Instead, the band’s whole ethos is based upon performing the studio versions of the songs to an exceptional standard.” Praise indeed!
“This gig has changed everything,” said Gareth whose son Fredrik has just celebrated his first birthday. “Before that the future was unclear but now a visible path has emerged.
“I am so staggered and humbled and amazed that these incredibly talented 24, 25, 26-year-old people think Queen is cool. Ten years ago I am not sure Queen were as cool as they are now.”
And of the future: “Well my voice is the best its ever been in my life and we’ve got these amazing things lined up before us. So everything is really good.
“One day I would love to tour the world and play in Japan and America where Queen were massive.”
And with a smile on his face he added: “In an ideal world we’ll get to the stage where for four months of the year we work our butts off and for eight months we put out feet up.”
Now that would be a kind of magic!
Watch on Youtube
You can catch Bulsara and His Queenies at:
The Lantern, Halifax - Saturday, August 25
The Wardrobe, Leeds - Saturday September 15
Whitby Pavilion, Whitby – Saturday November 17
The Engine Shed, Wetherby – Friday December 21
lCheck out the band on YouTube in a special pre Montreux video recording “A Sheer Homage” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ax9cLQczMf8)
All details are on www.bahq.co.uk