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Do dreams ever come true? One of mine certainly did when the legendary Queen guitarist, Brian May, invited me to meet him before he went on stage at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham on May 8th 2011. After I had chatted to him for a while, he signed some items for me, and then my dad took this super photograph of us together! To top it all, the Anthems concert with Kerry Ellis was just amazing!!
God Save the Queen - Buckingham Palace 2002
A Village Lost and Found - Brian May & Elena Vidal
A Village Lost and Found - press articles & reviews
Brian Harold May was born in Hampton, Middlesex, in 1947, the only child of Ruth and Harold May, a draughtsman & electrical engineer. Brian attended Cardinal Road infants school, Hanworth Road junior school, and Hampton Grammar School. Already having shown a talent for the ukelele and piano whilst at infants school, Brian was given a Spanish acoustic guitar for his seventh birthday.
Whilst at Hampton Grammar, where he achieved ten O-levels and three A-levels (in physics, math
mathematics & applied mathematics), Brian formed his
1984 Demo Recording - Purple Haze (31.3.67)
1984 Demo Recording - Hold On, I'm Coming (31.3.67)
Smile - Earth (recorded in 1969)
Brian May's first rock band 1984
Richard Thompson, John Garnham, Brian May
(left-right) Tim Staffell, Dave Dilloway,
Such was his passion for rock music (inspired mostly by The Beatles) that Brian wanted a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, but could not aff
his first band called 1984, named after the George Orwell novel.
Brian May aged 18
afford one. So, in 1963, with some help from his father, he built his own from scratch, and taking two years to complete it, all for aco
a cost of under £10! He used valve springs salvaged from a motorcyle engine to make the tremelo unit, a knitting needle and mother-of-pearl buttons!
Brian May in 1967
At a recording studio in 1967
Brian May with his Red Special
The neck of the guitar was carved from a piece of mahogany taken from a discarded 100-year-old fireplace, and the body
body of the instrument was cut from a piece of mahogany-veneered, oak blockboard. All the wood was carefully shaped, sanded
Brian May aged 20
Brian attended Imperial College, London University, graduating with a BSc (Hons) degree in physics mathematics in 1969.
sanded, and then treated with many layers of plastic-based paint. The result was the unique Red Special, which Brian May has since used throughout his career, including many of Queen's hit albums. He uses a specially minted sixpence, instead of a plectrum, to play his electric guitars.
Whilst there, he combined his studies with part time music, and in 1968, linked up with fellow students drummer Roger Taylor (through an ad placed on the college notice board!), and bassist/vocalist Tim Staffell (from 1984) to form the rock trio Smile. Popular
(left - right) Brian May, Tim Staffell & Roger Taylor
Smile at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969
Brian May 1969
Popular around the London Colleges, the group also played for a charity event at the Royal Albert Hall in February 1969. Smile signeddd
signed up to Mercury Records, but the record Company quickly dropped them after issuing one single called Earth and a few unreleased tracks. With their college courses completed, Brian May took up a post as a maths teacher at Stockwell Park Secondary School in London, whilst Taylor ran a clothing stall on Kensington Market!
Freddie Mercury &
Brian May in 1971
Taylor's business partner was a flamboyant former art student, part-time singer, and friend of Tim Staffell, called Frederick (b. Farrokh) Bulsara who preferred to be known by his stage name
Brian May in 1974
name Freddie Mercury. Mercury joined what remained
remained of Smile encouraging May and Taylor to become more experimental, flamboyant and outrageous. They changed their name, and the result was Queen, a rock music phenomenon which would come to rank alongside The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. They eventually found a bass guitarist, science
science graduate John Deacon, who joined them in 1971. The band went on to enjoy continued success the world over, for nearly twenty years, until Mercury's death in 1991. It was Mercury who designed their famous logo based on the star signs of the band - two lions, a crab and a virgin.
(back) John Deacon & Brian May
(front) Roger Taylor & Freddie Mercury
Queen Save Me
Brian May & Queen
Queen's Live Aid performance at Wembley onn
Queen - Live Aid performance at Wembley in 1985
Lord Snowdon's photo for the cover of
Queen - The Official Website
Brian May Let Me Live
Estimates of albums sold range from 150 to 300 million! 18 albums and 18 singles have all reached number one, as
Queen Bohemian Rhapsody
Queen's The Greatest Hits album
as have 10 DVDs making Queen one of the world's best-selling
selling music artists.
Rock Montreal (1981)
Brian May in I Want to Break Free
on 13th July 1985, was voted "the greatest live performance in the history of rock music", by more than 60 artists, journalists and executives from the music industry.
Brian May wrote 22 worldwide hits for Queen, among them Wew
Freddie Mercury & Brian May perform at the
Live Aid concert at Wembley in July 1985
We Will Rock You; I Want It All; Fat Bottomed Girls; Who Wants To Live Forever; Now I'm Here; Save Me and Tie Your Mother Down. Freddie Mercury and Brian May wrote most of the songs on every Queen album although Taylor and Deacon also had songwriting credits.
Queen have been honoured with seven Ivor Novello awards, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
After Freddie Mercury's death in November 1991, the three remaining members of Queen set up a charity supporting AIDS relief, and then went their separate ways. May formed The Brian May Band in 1992 whilst also recording and performing solo.
Brian has signed his image on my
Hot Space LP cover, to me
1992 saw the release of Brian's first real solo album Back To The Light, whilst Driven By You and Too Much Love Will Kill You, weree
Freddie Mercury & Brian May in concert
were his first solo hit singles. His last solo release was in 1998 after which he has performed solo, as part of a group, and occasionally as Queen with Roger Taylor.
When performing onstage, Brian used to carry at least one back-up guitar and would sometimes use a different one for certain songs. Current
Brian May Guitars - Official Website
Currently, he has his own company (Brian May Guitars) which makes
makes guitars modelled on his original Red Special guitar. After 1975, Brian also had several replica 'Red Specials' made for his own use, by Birmingham guitar maker John Birch.
Brian with his original Red Special
Brian May with some of his electric guitars
In 2002, Brian May famously appeared on the roof of Buckingham Palace, playing the National Anthem on his famous Red Special guitar for the Party at the Palace to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. This event was
It shows him playing the National Anthem on the roof of Buckingham Palace in 2002
Brian has signed this photo to me, adding "all power and passion to you!!!!"
was seen on television by more than 200 million people around
Whilst Queen was in its early stages of formation in 1968, Brian May began a Doctorate in astronomy at Imperial College, but because music became his career, he left this work unfinished. Through his keen
Brian May hands in his PhD thesis to
Prof. Paul Nandra at Imperial College
around the world.
Brian May & Sir Patrick Moore at the
Chelsea Flower Show
keen interest in Astronomy, Brian became a frequent contributor to the BBC's The Sky at Night programme, and has known its presenter Sir Patrick Moore for many years. It was Patrick who continually urged Brian to complete his degree, and in 2007 he submitted his doctoral thesis on 'zodiacal dust clouds'. It gained Brian his PhD degree in astrophysics.
Whilst working on his thesis, Brian was also co-writing, along with Sir Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott, the illustrated astrophysics book Bang - The Complete History of the Universe. This book won numerous awards in 2006, and was so popular that it was revised and a second edition was publishedddd
Brian May & Sir Patrick Moore have both signed
the inside cover of my Bang! book
Chris Lintott, Brian May & Sir Patrick Moore
Link to the Bang! website
Another of Brian May's interests is 3-D photography known as stereoscopy and, over a number of years, he has collected photographs by the 19th century 3-D photographer T R Williams. These
These depicted village life in the 1850s, and it took much detective work to discover which village it was thatthat
that had been photographed. In 2003, it was identified as Hinton Waldrist in Oxfordshire. Brian put the TR Williams picture of a village church online, offering the reward of a box of Queen CDs to anyone who could identify it! Says Brian, "Within 36 hours I had six answers, all the same. I jumped in my car myself
The whole story was told by Brian and his co-author, the art conservator Elena Vidal, in A Village Lost and Found published in 2009. This is a truly
and drove there and - wow! There it was."
Hinton Waldrist church
Title page signed by Brian May
Elena Vidal & Brian May launch the book
Brian May's stereoscopic OWL viewer
Brian May on The Titchmarsh Show
truly sumptuous book of 3-D photographs which you look at through the OWL stereoscope, a viewer specially designed by Brian himself. Brian appeared on The Titchmarsh Show in 2009 and told the fascinating story about this book (click here).
Brian May was Sue Lawley's first guest for the 2002 series of Desert Island Discs on Radio Four, choosing 8 records to take with him, alongside a book and an object. His book was Out Of The Silent Planet by C.S Lewis and his object was his Red Special guitar.
In 2010, Brian launched the Save Me website, to raise awareness of animal rights issues about which he has very strong views. The website's aim is to stop any repeal of the fox hunting
Brian also worked extensively with Roger Taylor on Ben Elton's musical We Will Rock You (based on the music of Queen) which opened at thewes
Brian with a rescued fox cub
Brian May & Luciano Pavarotti at a benefit
Brian May has duetted with many other singers, but few more unlikely than the Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. They sang the Queen song Too Much Love Will Kill You from the album Made in Heaven, at a concert in Modena in 2003.
concert in Modena, Italy, in 2003
hunting ban after the general election of that year. His work in this field won him the 'Campaigner Of The Year Award' by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Brian being presented with this at the House of Lords in October 2010.
Queen were inducted into the USA Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the USA Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and then the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004, for their outstanding contribution to British music and music cc
Queen 'Walk of Fame' Star
music culture. In 2002 Queen were awarded their own star on the Hollywood 'Walk of Fame', outside 6356 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. Brian May & Roger Taylor were at theun
Roger Taylor & Brian May unveil the
Queen 'Walk of Fame' star
the unveiling ceremony.
Kerry Ellis & Brian May on tour with Anthems
Anthems tour programme
In June 2007, Brian not only received an honorary doctorate from
September 2010. Following this, Ellis and Brian May undertook a UK tour in May 2011 which took in venues at Liverpool, Gateshead, Sheffield, Birmingham, Edinburgh, GlasgowLiverpool,
Glasgow, Cardiff and Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall, where I saw their fabulous performance.
the West End's Dominion Theatre in May 2002. In the original cast was Kerry Ellis as the character Meat. She so impressed Brian May with her musical and stage ability, that it led to him producing her debut studio album Anthems which was released in September
The great success of We Will Rock You led to Pepsi producing a commercial with Brian May, Roger Taylor & Britney Spears in 2003. We Will Rock You also brought Brian an Olivier Award, for 'Most Popular Show' in March 2011.
Brian May as Chancellor of Liverpool
John Moores University
Roger Taylor, Britney Spears & Brian May
making a commercial for Pepsi Cola
Brian May with his Olivier Award
from the University of Exeter, but also an honorary fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University where, in 2008, he was installed as the Chancellor, replacing Cherie Blair, QC.
With Nelson Mandela & Annie Lennox at
a Hyde Park concert in 2008
Brian meeting Prince Charles after
The Prince's Trust Rock Gala
Brian May plays at The Prince's Trust
Rock Gala in 2010
In 1974 Brian May married Chrissie Mullen, and they had three children, Jimmy (b. 1978), Louisa (b. 1981) and Emily
Brian with his first wife Chrissie Mullen
Emily Ruth (b.1987). The marriage ended in divorce in 1988. In 2000, he married the British actress Anita Dobson. They live in Windlesham, Surrey.
Brian May was awarded the CBE. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2005 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to music.
Brian May CBE, with Anita Dobson
Brian May playing an acoustic guitar
Brian with his daughters
Brian's Save Me campaign
Brian May at the
Prince's Trust Rock Gala
Brian May performs in Munich in 2008
Emily & Louisa
Link to Brian May's Save Me website
published in 2007. It even has its own website!