The Queen song Freddie Mercury refused to play piano on

For all his stage moves, it’s easy to forget how much of a phenomenon Freddie Mercury was as a musician. Even though he may have been able to deliver Queen’s music to any crowd that would have them, Mercury was just as proficient behind any instrument that he tried, penning classic musical passages throughout ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and even the subtle guitar lick in ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’. While Mercury was willing to work on everybody’s song in a background role, one track hit a sour note with him.

It’s easy to forget just how many Queen songs were written without the help of Mercury. Although the frontman had his hands on most of the group’s classic hits, some of the greatest songs the band would ever make would come from the other writers in the group, with Brian May penning songs like ‘We Will Rock You’ and Roger Taylor indirectly providing the perfect backdrop for Mercury’s passing on ‘These Are the Days of Our Lives’.

If there were any unsung heroes in the group, it would have to be John Deacon. Although known as the quiet band member throughout their tenure, Deacon provided the basis for many of the band’s classic hits, taking little fragments and turning them into iconic lines like ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ and ‘I Want To Break Free’. When it came to one of his first major hits, though, Deacon was a bit lenient to give it to the group.

Putting together A Night at the Opera, May remembers Deacon being hesitant about most of his work, telling Classic Albums, “He was always shy. We would be going over material and we’d say ‘Have you got anything, John?’, and he’d go, ‘Yeah, I got this, I don’t know if it’s any good, but we could try it’”. That initial exchange would set the stage for the song ‘You’re My Best Friend’, becoming one of the most genuine love songs in the Queen catalogue.

Recalling the making of the record, Mercury always admired the style that Deacon worked in, saying, “His melodies have always come from a Tamla-Motown thing. And I love that, I love to sing on songs like that. I mean, you can never describe anything that he made as heavy”. While the song leads with Deacon’s iconic keyboard intro, Mercury was originally going to play the keyboards before being appalled by what they were using.

From the first notes of the song, Mercury was lenient about not using a standard piano for the song. Switching to a Fender Rhodes electric piano for the first time, Mercury initially was disgusted at the idea of playing the instrument, explaining, “I refused to play that damn thing. It’s tiny and horrible, and I don’t like them. Why play those when you have a lovely superb piano?”.

After working out the song on the Rhodes, Deacon thought there was no other way to translate what he wanted to say, eventually playing his own keyboards on the track. Even though Mercury was lenient about the electronic textures of the instrument, the sound of keyboards would become pivotal for the band’s subsequent output.

Across albums like The Game and Hot Space, Queen would dive headfirst into electronic soundscapes, making songs designed to be hits on tracks like ‘Body Language’ and ‘Machines’. Although the version of Queen fans knew in the 1970s was focused on an organic rock band, ‘You’re My Best Friend’ was the start of things to come just a few years later.

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