Published On: Fri, Nov 3rd, 2023
Books | By MDN

Freddie Mercury’s road manager reveals the backstage secrets of the rock god | Books | Entertainment

Freddie Mercury’s road manager reveals the backstage secrets of the rock god | Books | Entertainment
Freddie Mercury’s road manager reveals the backstage secrets of the rock god | Books | Entertainment


Peter Hince takes a photo of Freddie Mercury jumping on stage

Peter Hince takes a photo of Freddie Mercury jumping on stage (Image: Peter Hince)

The job of a pop band roadie involves so much more than lugging instruments onto stage and tuning guitars. Peter Hince, who worked with rock band Queen from 1975 to 1986, and eventually became head of their touring crew, describes it as “a combination of Jeeves, a hod carrier, electronics whizz, whipping boy, therapist and mind reader”.

After all, Hince had to look after one of the greatest rock’n’roll divas of all time: Freddie Mercury. “I was to Fred what Baldrick was to Blackadder,” he tells the Daily Express.

“You name it, we did it: ‘Freddie’s stereo’s not working. Can you go over and fix it?’ I was told. ‘Freddie’s bought a new bed. Can you get it transported from Munich to London?’ It was a 24/7 job.”

Hince, who spent much of his spare time in between shows photographing the band, has published a fascinating book called Queen Uncovered, featuring many behind-the-scenes photos, some previously unseen, insights and anecdotes.

He admits Freddie could be “very difficult if he wanted to be”.

“If something didn’t come up to his very high standards, even if it was no one’s fault, he could be unreasonable and let fly,” he adds. Hince remembers one occasion after Queen had played to 12,000 people at a show in the US Midwest when Freddie demanded to see the tour manager.

“He said: ‘I want the f***ing tour manager!’ He told him: ‘Did you see the front row of the audience tonight? They were all f***ing ugly and most of them were fat! I refuse to have that at a Queen show!’

Dressed for 1984 single I Want To Break Free. John took it seriously and Roger shaved his legs

Dressed for 1984 single I Want To Break Free. John took it seriously and Roger shaved his legs (Image: )

“It was ridiculous. The tour manager was like, ‘Yeah, Freddie, so in future, we’ll have a casting session before the tickets are released to the public’.”

Freddie’s voracious appetite for male lovers was also notorious. “He was pretty wild in his private life in the Eighties,” Hince says diplomatically. But he insists stories of drug abuse were very much exaggerated, and thinks it’s wrong to portray Freddie’s lifestyle as debauched, as the media did at the time. “I’d describe it as rock’n’roll,” he says.

Hince loved his 11 years with the band, a period when they created some of their greatest songs, such as Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, Another One Bites the Dust and Under Pressure.

He was in the thick of the action as the band performed all their greatest shows, including Hyde Park in the summer of 1976, Sao Paulo in 1981 – where over two nights they played to more than a quarter of a million fans – and of course, Live Aid in July 1985, where they arguably stole the global show.

Freddie Mercury looking moody in a leather jacket

Freddie Mercury looking moody in a leather jacket (Image: Peter Hince)

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“I was 24-years-old and head of the crew of the biggest band in the world,” he says of those heady times. “I was in charge of chartering 747 jumbo jets. When I look back, it terrifies me!”

But there were plenty of sobering moments, too. On one occasion, in 1976, when Hince was driving Freddie up the A40 towards London and the brakes in their Ford estate failed, so that they ploughed off the road.

Fortunately, both were unscathed.

Hince says the reality of being a roadie in the 1970s and 1980s was very unglamorous.

“Minus 40 degrees in Chicago, loading a truck, your hair is frozen, you’ve had no food and only two hours’ sleep,” he recalls of the lowest point. “Living for weeks on end with 11 other men who had differing levels of personal hygiene.” There were many fun times, too. He fondly remembers how the band used to play a special version of Scrabble where only rude words or innuendoes were permitted on the board.

Freddie Mercury and Brian May on stage

Freddie Mercury and Brian May on stage (Image: Peter Hince)

He’ll never forget the time Freddie came up with the tune for Crazy Little Thing Called Love while in the bath in a Munich hotel. And he laughs about anecdotes claiming Freddie once demanded “gay dwarves with moustaches in leather shorts” to serve drinks at a backstage party.

The band and all their crew and entourage were of course distraught when their inimitable frontman tragically died of AIDS.

Today, Brian May and Roger Taylor still tour as Queen, with American singer Adam Lambert as frontman, while John Deacon retired years ago.

But what if Freddie had survived? What would the original Queen line-up be doing today? Hince believes they’d still be recording studio albums, but certainly wouldn’t be playing live.

“Fred told me he would never become a parody of himself,” he insists.

“He said, ‘I will not run around the stage in a leotard, darling, with a bald patch when I’m in my fifties.’”

When he died young in November 1991 – just 45 years old – Freddie ensured his reputation as one of Britain’s greatest pop stars would live on forever.

  • Queen Uncovered by Peter Hince (Welbeck Publishing Group, £30) is out now. For free UK P&P, visit expressbookshop.com or call Express Bookshop on 020 3176 3832


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