Freddie in Panchgani
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Lesley Ann Jones, in Mumbai to promote Freddie Mercury's biography that she has rewritten, speaks about the musician's formative years in India.
Last September, I attended a bash that celebrated what would have been musician Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday at London's Savoy hotel. From one corner came Brian May and another came Roger Taylor. Before I knew it, they were hugging me," said Lesley Ann Jones, adding that her reunion with the two members of rock band Queen took place after a gap of 15 long years.
Currently in Mumbai to promote the rewritten version of her 1997 biography, Freddie Mercury: The Definitive Biography at Literature Live!, she said, "My publishers asked me to update the book in order to time its launch with the release of a film on Freddie Mercury, an ambitious project starring Sacha Baron Cohen. But I decided to rewrite it by revisiting my tapes, and getting in touch with more people." The film, however, is still in the pipeline and is being written by British film writer Peter Morgan (of Frost/Nixon fame).
A UK-based journalist-turned-author, Jones is a biographer of several other celebrities, such as supermodel Naomi Campbell and singers Kylie Minogue and Marc Bolan. During the chat, she recollected her experiences with the band Queen, whom she toured extensively with in the '80s. "Back then, if you were a music journalist, you'd get to travel with them in their plane or limousine, stay at the same hotel and even be friends with them. Today, there is a whole entourage that comes along — be it the manager, the assistant, publicity team and so on," she said.
When Jones started researching for Mercury's biography for the first time in 1997, she struggled to track down Mercury's birth certificate in the country of his birth — Zanzibar. "I looked for it but never found the original, though I did hear rumours about it turning up in Oman," she said. She then headed to St Peters boarding school in Panchgani, where Mercury studied. When there, she realised the importance of this phase in Mercury's life. "It was a trying time for him to be miles away from his parents. So he took refuge in music, having been inspired by the works of Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley and rock-n-roll in general. He even formed a band called The Hectics. He later took his love for music to London, where he formed the band Queen with bass guitarist John Deacon, drummer Taylor and guitarist May."
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