Queen guitarist Brian May has kept almost everything from the group's years of recording together, but there is one thing he regrets misplacing. In a recent interview, May said the late Freddie Mercury once made a tape of every Queen guitar solo he could fit onto it. Unfortunately, the tape is missing, but it was evidence that Mercury was proud of everything the group did, even the parts he was not directly responsible for.
"One day Freddie had a big smile on his face when I came into the studio and he popped a cassette into the player and said, ‘Listen to this, darling. This is going to surprise you,'" May recalled in a new interview with Guitar World. "And what he’d done was spend the whole morning putting together all the guitar solos that he could find in the work that we’d done, and he’d strung them all together."
May said the tape was "quite amazing" and one of his "big regrets" is that he cannot find it. " I never throw anything away. I’m a bit of a hoarder," May, 73, admitted. "So it ought to be somewhere. But Freddie was very proud of the stuff that I’d done and that we’d done together."
May spoke with Guitar World after the magazine's readers picked his "Bohemian Rhapsody" solo as the best guitar solo of all time, even beating out Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" solo. However, May gave a lot of the credit for creating the song to Mercury, the song's sole writer. "This track had been evolving for a while. It was very much the product of the fevered brow of Freddie. We knew it was something very special," May explained of the recording process. "It was recorded in pieces, as I think everybody knows. We would rehearse and record. We’d do it until we got it right. The various bits were put together."
Mercury knew he wanted a big guitar solo, but had not "mapped it out," May said. May thought it would be a good idea to "effectively sing a verse on guitar." He explained, "I would like to take it somewhere else. I would inject a different melody. There was already a lot of color in there, but I would like to have a free hand. And I could hear something in my head at that point – long before I went in there and played it."
The solo did not take too many takes to perfect. "I could hear this melody and I had no idea where it came from," May said of the famous solo. "That melody isn’t anywhere else in the song, but it’s on a familiar chord sequence, so it dovetails in quite nicely. And of course, the job of the guitar solo is to bring that extra voice in, but then it’s a link into what everybody now calls ‘the operatic section’. You know you’re into something very different."
"Bohemian Rhapsody" was featured on Queen's 1975 album A Night at the Opera and was also used as the title for the Oscar-winning 2018 movie about Mercury's life. Mercury died in 1991 from complications of AIDS. May and drummer Roger Taylor still perform as Queen with singer Adam Lambert, but bassist John Deacon has retired.