Savage Young Mercury (Gypsy Eye GE 212)
(72:02) Ibex: Liverpool Sink Club, Liverpool, England – September 9th, 1969: Communication Breakdown, Rain, We’re Going Wrong, Rock My Plimsoul, Stone Free, Jailhouse Rock, Crossroads, Vagabond Outcast, I’m Going Home
Savage Young Mercury contains two important early documents related two Queen and Freddie Mercury. The first half of the disc contains a thirty-five minute audience tape of Ibex, Freddie’s band before Queen. Recorded on September 9th, 1969, it was taped by the Ibex roadie Geoff Higgins on his Grundig TK14 reel-to-reel machine, later sold in an auction to a private collector, then lent to Queen so that “Rain” could be included in the Freddie Mercury Solo Collection box set.
The entire tape was thankfully leaked and appears on this title. It is a good, clear recording but is also very loud and flat, lacking in significant dynamics. It exists as a very good early record of Freddie’s early development as a singer and entertainer. Along with Freddie Bulsara, the other members of the band were Mike Bersin on guitar, Mick Smith on drums and John ‘Tupp’ Taylor on bass. In October 1969, the band changed its name to Wreckage but broke up in November 1969.
As can be expected from a minor band, the set list is filled with covers from more well known acts of the day. The tape opens with the band playing Cream’s “I’m So Glad” including Taylor’s bass solo before it segues into Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” complete with Bulsara imitating Plant’s screams from the studio recording.
A cover of the Beatles’ “Rain” is interesting for Freddie’s interpretation of the vocal melody. He does not try to copy Lennon’s style, but rather reinterprets it for himself and adds some variation. “Rock My Plimsoul” is segued directly into Hendrix’s “Stone Free.” There is a tape pause at this point before “Jailhouse Rock.”
After covering Cream’s cover of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” they play the only original tune found on this tape. Introduced as “one of our own numbers,” “Vagabond Outcast” sounds similar to the Queen tune “Hangman” but more melodic. There is a breezy quality to the performance and arrangement that is appealing, but it breaks down and becomes very sloppy by the middle.
The final song on the tape is Ten Year After’s “I’m Going Home” during which Freddie’s can be heard ad-libbing beneath Taylor’s bass solo. Freddie than emerges with a loud shriek as the song draws to a close. At the end of the show Brian May and Roger Taylor, who were in the audience, join them onstage for the encore. This was the very first public performance of (most of) Queen but unfortunately the tape ran out.
It’s a ragged performance since the band sound under-rehearsed and showed some potential. Taylor in particular takes several bass solos and shows some talent. But eventually the band would not last more than two more months and would disappear.
Queen: St Bernard Center, New Orleans, LA – April 21st, 1974: Procession, Father To Son, Ogre Battle, Son And Daughter, Great King Rat, Liar, Keep Yourself Alive, Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll
Queen’s tour supporting Mott The Hoople in the UK in November 1973 was positive enough that when Hoople toured the US in the spring of 1974 Queen again opened for them. Aerosmith also joined the bill on some dates.
The earliest tape of Queen in North America is Freezer’s April 21st, 1974 New Orleans tape. Like all his tapes this is an excellent stereo recording of the entire forty-one minute set. Unfortunately Gypsy Eye used the best available copy which is several generations from the master. While it is duller than the best copies, it still is enjoyable to hear.
Queen II was released about this time but the set list remained very similar to what it was on the UK tour the previous year. “Procession” is played as an introduction before “Father To Son” opens the show. “Good evening New Orleans. We’d like to carry on with a number off our Queen II album. I think it’s been released this week. Oh, you got it!”
Brian May introduces “Son And Daughter” as “something more of you should know” since it’s on the first album. It is followed by “Great King Rat” from the first album. Freddie introduces it as about “a dirty old man” and although it’s known to have been played as early as 1972, this is the earliest live recording of the song.
“Keep Yourself Alive” contains a short drum solo in the middle and the set ends with Freddie singing “Modern Times Rock And Roll.”
After the show Brian May visited The Dugeon, a rock and roll ball on Toulouse Street in New Orleans and met famous jazz drummer Johnny Vidacovich’s wife Deborah “Peaches” Vidacovich and immortalized the encounter in “Now I’m Here” (“down in The Dugeon / just Peaches and me”).
New Orleans is one of the earliest and most important live Queen tapes in circulation. It would be good to have an updated version of this show pressed on silver if such a tape exists. But Savage Young Mercury contains two great tapes worth having.