There is a really poignant backstory behind Queen guitarist Brian May‘s 1991 solo single “Driven by You,” which might later seem on his album Back to the Light the following yr. Originally written by himself for a Ford vehicle industrial, May had thought-about the band recording his tune. Years later, he recollects first taking part in “Driven by You” to Queen’s charismatic and magnetic lead singer Freddie Mercury prior to the latter’s loss of life on November 24, 1991, from AIDS-related issues.
“I said to Freddie, ‘What do you think?'” May tells Newsweek. “He said, ‘I really like it.’ And I said, ‘Do you think it should be a Queen song? Would you like to sing it?’ And he said, ‘No darling, you sing it beautifully. I think you should go for it.’
“He checked out me very carefully,” May continues, “and mentioned, ‘I believe you are anxious about this, aren’t you? You’re feeling that it is going to be some type of betrayal as a result of perhaps I will not be round for much longer. You should have no of these concerns in thoughts. Just go for it. The solo profession is what try to be doing.’ That was a really massive assist to me as a result of I had been anxious [of] exhibiting disrespect to Freddie. It was a really tough time.”
Not solely was the British guitarist dealing with Mercury’s passing at the time, however he was coping with different private points similar to the loss of life of his father Harold and the breakup of his first marriage. Those life occasions knowledgeable Back to the Light, May’s first full-length solo album from 1992 that additional showcased not solely his signature guitar taking part in but additionally his abilities as a singer, songwriter and producer in his personal proper. Having been out of print for about 20 years since its authentic launch, Back to the Light was not too long ago reissued as a deluxe version with bonus materials.
“I had a bit of time during lockdown to look at things like this,” May says about revisiting the file. “As I listened to it, I thought, ‘This is still me. It feels like me in the present day.’ Nobody’s heard this, so this would be like a new album to most of the people who hear it in 2021. So I got on it and thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself, giving it a little polish, remaster, and working on the packaging and everything, and a couple of bits of work on the [music] videos, which I really enjoyed.”
In the sonic vein of his work in Queen—for who May wrote such memorable songs as “Now I’m Here,” “Tie Your Mother Down,” “We Will Rock You,” “Hammer to Fall” and “Who Wants to Live Forever”—the materials on Back to the Light balances between rip-roaring rockers (“Love Token,” “Resurrection,” “I’m Scared”) and introspective ballads (“Nothin’ But Blue,” “Just One Life”). The album’s soulful title monitor sums up the theme and temper of the total file: discovering hope and resilience amid emotional and turbulent instances (A newly launched music video for that monitor depicts May in the current going again in time to 1992 and performing on stage with a youthful model of himself and his solo band).
“It’s a very personal album,” May says of Back to the Light. “It began in a very dark place. The whole journey is me looking for that place of light, looking for the optimism and the energy to get to the next place. So I relate to it still. I still feel very much that this is what I have to say. I’m very happy to get behind it.”
The aforementioned uplifting rocker “Driven by You” was launched in late 1991 and peaked at number six on the British singles chart. May acknowledges that the tune was kind of a catalyst for him to make the solo file. “I had been in the studio trying some things out, not really knowing where I was going. And then suddenly out of the blue, I was offered this little job, which was to make a TV ad theme song [for Ford]. And I was given this slogan, ‘Everything we do is driven by you.’ I quickly wrote the lyrics, wrote the melody, went in the studio, played everything, sang everything, and gave it to them. They liked it. They put it out, it was a hit. So suddenly I’m feeling, ‘Okay, I can do this. Maybe I should really do this solo album and have some belief in myself.'”
Another hit tune off of Back to the Light upon its launch as a single was the tender ballad “Too Much Love Will Kill You,” which May co-wrote with Frank Musker and Elizabeth Lamers. The guitarist first carried out the tune at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, and one other model of it later appeared on Queen’s 1995 album Made in Heaven. At first, the lyrics on “Too Much Love Will Kill You” appeared to counsel it was about Mercury, however the tune had first been written in the mid-Eighties.
“It was about my own personal feelings being in a very difficult [romantic] situation, and not being able to see a way forward,” May says. “I recorded my own version early on and then it was put in a drawer for a while. But when I played it to the band, they all loved it and said, ‘Look, this has to be a Queen song.’ And Freddie, in particular, said, ‘I’ll sing it.’ The Queen version is kind of dramatic and bombastic, and Freddie gives it an amazing performance. I didn’t know at the time what he was dealing with. He sang with such incredible passion. And now looking back on it, I realize he probably had other thoughts in his head. I now realize that the song in Freddie’s hands and voice became something different.”
Asked if he felt totally different now in contrast to his youthful self who recorded Back to the Light throughout a tough time in his life, May acknowledges that that individual from 30 years in the past remains to be inside himself. “I actually went into this thinking that I was a much more mature person now,” he explains. “But when I actually got to grips with it, that’s not what happened. I felt that I was still that same man. Of course, my life has changed, but I feel like the person inside hasn’t. So I feel that this album in every way expresses the way I am now. Curiously, there’s a line in “Back to the Light,” which says: ‘It’s still the same old me inside.’ That’s what I feel.”
In addition to the authentic album, the Back to the Light reissue additionally comprises a disc of bonus materials from that interval similar to guitar instrumental variations of “Nothin’ But Blue” and “Too Much Love Will Kill You”; stay performances by the Brian May Band; and the Ford advert model of “Driven by You.” The re-release marks the first installment of the Brian May Gold Series that will even see the eventual reissues of his different solo works, 1998’s Another World and 1983’s Star Fleet Project, a mini-album that featured May, the late Eddie Van Halen, Phil Chen, Fred Mandel and Alan Gratzer. “That’s where I’m heading,” May says of the sequence. “I’m already working on Another World, which I’m very excited about. We’re gonna treat it in a similar way [like Back to the Light] and do all the polishing that’s necessary. And Star Fleet, yes, absolutely. That’s on the table.”
In the final a number of years, May has immersed himself with different endeavors, most notably touring as Queen with founding drummer Roger Taylor and singer Adam Lambert; his different passions embrace animal rights by way of the Save Me Trust and his London Stereoscopic Company, which is devoted to the historical past of stereoscopic images (The firm’s newest guide Stereoscopy: The Dawn of 3-D, written by Denis Pellerin and edited by May, is popping out in November). The pandemic compelled the postponement of Queen + Adam Lambert’s Rhapsody Tour of the U.Okay. and Europe till 2022; throughout the interval of lockdown, May, who has a Ph.D. in astrophysics, took to social media during which he carried out Queen songs on guitar. And final yr, the guitar legend revealed that he suffered a heart attack and has since been on the mend.
“It was very tough,” May says of that latest interval. “I’m not going to say I had a tougher time than anyone else. But the shock was enormous because we went from striding around the world to being confined in our house. I couldn’t perform on stage. I couldn’t even get to my studio because we were not allowed to travel at that point So I found it difficult. And what I did was I had taken to Instagram, and that became my platform. It kind of saved the day for me because I was able to not just perform, but get very interactive with people out there. It became a real kind of savior for me. It kept me alive and my fingers going.
“I did get very sick as nicely. Unfortunately, I had this coronary heart assault and a variety of different issues that got here with it. I had a really robust few months, however my new faith is health. Every day I’m on that train bike. I do a variety of swimming, however a severe quantity of actual health stuff. I really feel stronger due to it. I additionally really feel mentally higher due to all that. It’s nice to have that self-discipline in your thoughts.”
Amid his present actions and that of Queen’s (the band is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this yr), May hinted that he would think about making one other solo file to comply with up Another World, which got here out practically 25 years in the past. “I kind of went off that road after Another World. I did tour both of those [solo] albums all around the world. But then I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to be the lead singer in the band—I wanted to give more attention to my guitar playing and writing and producing. I think that pulled me away from doing the third solo album. I started to write songs for [singer Kerry Ellis]—which is very interesting because I’d never written for a female voice before—and produced for her. And so I kind of got diverted. So I would like to make a solo album, maybe someday if I’m spared, as my mum used to say.”