Freddie Mercury was one of the most enigmatic figures in rock history. Eccentric and shy, dissolute and modest. Hardly any rock star has been reported on as much as the frontman of Queen, but little is known about his years in Munich from 1979 to 1985. This book aims to change that. It describes in detail Freddie’s pleasurable lifestyle in the metropolis on the Isar. Munich’s friends, lovers and the then internationally renowned club scene and drug parties are as much the focus as his musical ambitions. (Source: Blurb: Heyne Hardcore/Amazon)

One thing right away: I am a little biased when it comes to Freddie Mercury, as I got to know him personally in the 80s and met him a few times, because I was on the road myself in the Munich music scene from 1984/85 onwards. But this should in no way influence the impressions that Nicola Bardola, a literary and music critic born in Zurich and living in and around Munich for forty years, has collected, chronologized and written down in this book. Each reader should make his own picture based on the story.

Actually, the really appropriate title of the book is on the back cover: “Bavarian Rhapsody”.

The book starts with the prehistory of one of the greatest rock bands of all times, the career of Queen and its four players Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. But the main focus is always on the charismatic lead singer Farrokh Bulsara, better known as Freddie Mercury. Bardola tells the story of Freddie Mercury and his cohorts, both inside the band and outside and in their personal lives, in an easy-to-read, flowing writing style. Musical sidemen such as mixing desk legend Reinhold Mack have their say, as do personal friends, companions and friends of the scene. Much of this was previously known only to insiders or only in fragments to the public. Bardola has meticulously collected a lot of private information and put it in a very good form. If you yourself were on the road in Munich at that time, you will of course immediately recognize many places and people and know where you are in the story, and perhaps find yourself again. Not only the musical aspects are illuminated in detail, but also many private moments. Many private friends have their say or are quoted. Bardola describes the former scene of Freddie’s Munich “Bermuda Triangle” very accurately. Many clubs or bars mentioned, such as the Sugar Shack, Why Not, East Side, Ochsengarten,

New York or Pimpernel, the Old Mrs. Henderson or the Deutsche Eiche, were a household name in those days, and not only in the gay and lesbian scene. Unfortunately, most of them don’t exist anymore, or at least not in their former form. The often praised Munich laissez-faire was lived back then. The most dazzling birds of paradise stood side by side with Mr. and Mrs. Biedermann at the bar. Each one let the other live according to his or her own liking. Exactly this circumstance pleased Freddie Mercury at the Munich at that time. Original quote Freddie: “I have found a place called Munich where I can move around inconspicuously. It’s the purest relaxation for me.”

Musical stations such as the very famous Musicland Studios of Giorgio Moroder at the time, in which, in addition to Queen, countless music legends such as Bowie, Deep Purple or the Rolling Stones gave each other a hand, are finally mentioned in detail in Bardola‘s book for the normal reader, who did not yet know what legendary reputation Munich had in the music scene at the time. Five of Queen’s most successful records were recorded or mixed here, in addition to Freddie’s solo LP. A large part of the world-famous disco sound was created here in Munich. Munich is given the musical credit it deserves in this book. For the reader, the many personal views on the private person Freddie Mercury should be very interesting. For at least 95% of all people worldwide Mercury is “only” the singer of a world-famous band, who rightly has legend status and is regarded as one of the greatest frontmen who ever stood on the stages of this world. For Nicola Bardola, however, the human being Freddie Mercury was always in the foreground when writing this book. Most people don’t know anything about the private person Freddie. Freddie Mercury probably had his best years here. Representing the private Mercury I want to quote here a few lines which describe this state best. The first ones come from Herbie Hauke, the initiator of the Rock Museum on the Munich Olympic Tower. “Freddie was incredibly modest … they knew who he was, but left him alone … People didn’t see him as a rock star, but as a citizen of this city … He was a very withdrawn person, but then he could turn into a peacock within three seconds“. The second lines come from Helmut Birner, the former bouncer from New York: “Freddie always looked you in the eye with a kind word … he was a star, but he was on the ground next to you … you didn’t feel any airs and graces … and that also allowed the closeness … you didn’t need any distance to him, he let you get close to him … he could be the way he actually liked to be“.

The statements correspond 100% with my own experiences with Freddie Mercury at that time. I met him sometime around 1984/85, I think in one of my former regular discos, the Sugar Shack, met him a few times and experienced him exactly as described in the book. From the quiet, introverted person like Mr. and Mrs. Biedermann to the light figure, the ramp sow Mercury within three seconds and back again.

Nicola Bardola has managed with this book excellently to bring the readers both the private Freddie, as well as the superstar and Queen frontman closer. You take part in Mercury’s life while reading, you become a small part of it yourself. Including the complete scenery in Munich at that time. What was almost completely left out in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody is excellently described here. Also very interesting are the two street map sections in the front and very back of the book covers, in which many places in the book are marked. For Queen and Mercury fans this book is almost indispensable, but also people interested in music, Munich or just casual readers will like it.

It rightly deserves a full score of 5 / 5.

Nicola Bardola – Mercury in München: Seine besten Jahre
Heyne Hardcore, 2021
432 pages
Hardcover: 24,00 €