While Queen represented the foundation of Freddie Mercury‘s career, the late iconic vocalist also spread his wings as a solo act and produced music he’d have been incapable of creating within the confines of the group. After all, they were a rock band, but there was more to Mercury’s artistry than he could present with Queen.
In 1985, Mercury first went solo with Mr Bad Guy. The LP was recorded during a time when Queen put their career on pause to pursue new endeavours. This project allowed Mercury to pursue the genre of disco, which wasn’t a possible prospect with Queen, who would have never signed off on his ideas to venture down this road.
Mercury released the operatic collaborative album Barcelona with Montserrat Caballé three years later. The project was born after Barcelona was awarded the Olympic Games, prompting them to ask Mercury to team up with the acclaimed local artist he greatly admired. Initially, the collaboration was supposed to only be a song but became an entire album.
The title track was a resounding success, charting worldwide and expressing a new side to Mercury. However, according to Mike Moran, who composed and co-wrote the tracks with the Queen singer, later revealed that Mercury was unsure how ‘Barcelona’ would turn out.
Speaking about the collaboration in the Finding Freddie documentary series: “I don’t think Fred sung better at any other time in his life. Fred never tried to sing operatically, but Fred was a great performer. He could have done anything, really, I suppose. The power and the passion he put into it is the same as a tenor in an opera.”
Moran continued: “Fred… was excited for one thing because she was an absolute idol of his. But on the other hand, he said, ‘We might not get on, personally I don’t know what she’s like.’ So we tried to lighten the atmosphere a bit in case it turns out to be a complete disaster.”
Thankfully, he bonded with Montserrat over dinner at his home in Kensington, which gave him confidence in ‘Barcelona’. Furthermore, when the Catalonian singer laid down her vocals on the track in the studio, he was awe-struck and couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing.
“When Montserrat sang ‘Barcelona’ after her first take was the nearest I ever saw Freddie to tears,” Moran recalled. “Freddie was emotional, but he was always in control of his emotions, because he could let them out in performing or writing songs. He grabbed my hand and said: ‘I have the greatest voice in the world, singing my music!’ He was so elated.”
Despite his vast success with Queen, Mercury couldn’t help himself from getting over-excited while in the studio with Montserrat, who successfully exceeded his expectations and provided him with one of the proudest moments of his glittering career.