Brian May on why physicality is ‘vital’ for rock music and proves the genre is ‘eternal’

Queen perform ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ in 1986

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When you look back at the early days of rock and roll from Chuck Berry to Elvis Presley, there was an intense physicality found in those live performances that was unlike anything that had been seen before. From Chuck’s duck walk to Elvis’ controversial (at the time at least) swinging hips, the genre took the 1950s and beyond by storm. Now in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Queen guitarist Brian May has shared why he believes physicality is so necessary for rock music.

The topic came up while discussing Elvis Presley’s influence on Queen, especially on Freddie Mercury’s similarly eye-catching stage charisma.

Brian May admitted that he believes performing with your whole body is very important in rock beyond just singing or playing an instrument and that’s why he’s not a fan of TV shows like The Voice.

The 73-year-old started off by saying: “I don’t think you can assess people purely on the waves that come out of their throat. There’s more to it than that.

“There’s a kind of whole-body commitment, experience and a conviction that takes place on so many levels.”

Brian continued: “Yes you can cram some of it onto a gramophone record, but that’s not all there is.

“There’s a spirit there that gets across to you in every way and I think Elvis had that. It was very physical. That’s very important. It’s vital.

“That’s why rock music, I would say, is eternal. It’s become one of the most physical manifestations of music in the world.”

The Queen legend then explained why he believes this goes right back to the art form’s beginnings.

Live Aid: Freddie Mercury warms up the crowd in 1985

Brian added: “I think it harks back to the origins of music, which are very much connected with pure rhythm, bodily movement and expressing something through voice.

“The noises you can make with your throat probably preceded language. Music is absolutely fundamental to our psyche.”

While on Elvis as a performer influencing Queen, the 73-year-old had said: “I think it’s impossible to have been a kid at that time and not been influenced by Elvis.

“Freddie in particular though, of course. He was one of Freddie’s great heroes.”

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Two years after Elvis died, Freddie composed Crazy Little Thing Called Love in about 10 minutes in the bath.

While around that time, The King’s daughter Lisa Marie attended a Queen concert in California with her mother Priscilla Presley.

After enjoying watching Queen, Lisa went backstage and gave Freddie a scarf once owned by her father.

On Elvis’ impact on himself, Brian said: “For me, his guitarists were a great inspiration. Scotty Moore was one, James Burton the other.”

Brian added: “I’ve had the absolute pleasure to work with both of them and James has become a great friend, which makes me very happy indeed. So yeah, Elvis was definitely an influence. And looking back, you know how you sometimes reevaluate when you listen to the old records? You think, ‘What was it that I saw in those things?’

“When you listen to an Elvis record you realise he probably done it in one or two takes. There’s no auto-tuning, there’s no jiggery-pokery. He was damn good.

“He was accurate, passionate, had fantastic range, fantastic tone; he deserved everything he got. He was the pinnacle at the time, I would say, of what a singer could be – no doubt about it. And he had a great team around him.”

Brian May’s new single with Kerry Ellis, Panic Attack 2021 (It’s Gonna Be All Right) is out now.

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