Memorial Day 2007
Peter Freestone's report about the 2007 event
Once again the sun shone in Montreux for the 5th annual Freddie Mercury’s Montreux Memorial Day. Fans from all points of the globe arrived for this meeting of old friends and with the prospect to make new ones. Italy was largely represented, with people from as far a field as Argentina, Japan, and North America and closer to home, Russia, Norway, Hungary and Czech Republic. Montreux was happy to welcome back friends from the UK, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, and Holland. The show started with a gathering at Freddie’s statue. Jo the saxo was there and played a selection of Queen arrangements in his inimitable way, bringing a tear to some faces with his plaintive sound. Everyone made progress to the NED, a music club not far from Montreux station, where everybody was in for a great evening. First on stage in the smaller hall was "Queen Unplugged Project" from Hungary. They gave the spellbound audience a real treat, mixing some of the old songs, newer ones and of course Tavaszi Szel, which Freddie sang in the Nep Stadium in Budapest. Many of the crowd, who had come mainly for the Italian band MerQury, were totally won over with the amazing arrangements that the Hungarians produced. There was a great buzz going around the venue after they had finished! They were followed by MerQury, from Italy, who gave the fans a Queen show, created specially for Montreux, in the time honoured tradition, with costumes, lights and high notes. No-one came away from the evening disappointed !
Saturday dawned bright and warm. Any mist hanging over the mountains across the lake very quickly evaporated and the stage was set for a full morning and afternoon. It started, with boat trips at 9am for those fans interested in seeing "Duckingham Palace" and boat house photographed for the cover of Queen’s "Made In Heaven" album, and Freddie’s apartment in Territet, then continued in the banqueting room of the Excelsior Hotel, not far from the apartment Freddie acquired during the last couple of years of his life. Part one was Peter Freestone presenting much previously unheard material from the pre-Barcelona session Freddie, Montserrat and Mike Moran had at Garden Lodge, after Montserrat’s concert at the Royal Opera House. Many of the audience were near tears with laughter and sadness by the end of this hour and a half. This was followed by a break for lunch, and then it was the turn of Greg Brooks, Queen’s official archivist. He presented a selection of Freddie rarities which some people had heard from the Freddie ‘big box’. These were made special by the way Greg talked about how these items were discovered, and how they were mixed and were put together for the set. Altogether a very interesting time for discovering parts of Freddie many people didn’t know about. Afterwards there was a chance for the participants to gather in the garden of the hotel and discuss the previous few hours over a couple of drinks, seeing the view that Freddie saw from his home a few metres away.
In the evening there was a small parting of ways. Originally we had planned to have a concert with the German band Mayqueen. Out of the blue it was announced that Elton John would be performing in Vevey, a town a few kilometres from Montreux. What was to be done? To go to a show of a great friend of Freddie’s, or a performance with Mayqueen? It was decided that it would not be fair to Mayqueen if many people went to the Elton show and left only a few people to see them. This caused a lot of thought and discussion, the end result was a package for the weekend with Elton John and one without.
For the trip to Vevey, the participants took the ferry across part of Lake Leman. For many it was the first time they had been on one of these boats. Norbert arranged for the captain to swing close to the boat house featured on the Made in Heaven album which raised the spirit of the wind blown passengers. There was not one face that wasn’t smiling! The Elton show was 2 hours 20 minutes of non stop music. The first 5 songs were from the new album, and then it was hit after hit until the end. Elton was his usual bubbly self, talking occasionally to the crowd in French, and there was a nice moment when he sang "I’m Still Standing" to remember when he sang that song for Freddie in Munich in the 80s, at the time Freddie had his whole leg in plaster of Paris after straining the ligaments in his knee !!!
It was a bitter sweet parting of ways at the statue on the Sunday morning. Many were sad that they would not see new or old friends for another year. For some these few days seemed to be a week, but for all it was all too short a time together. For many they recounted their happy moments during the gathering and it was good to see laughter around the statue of Freddie, with his garland of yellow dahlias and surrounded by yellow flowers of many varieties.
Many thanks to Rita and Norbert for arranging yet another full weekend! Till next year...
Elton John’s venue "One night in Vevey", Saturday, September 8th, had been announced to the press only a little more than 15 days before. Our team contacted immediately the organisers of this event and booked some tickets to be sold with our Freddie Memorial Day program services.
The connection between our event and Elton John’s venue is evident.
Elton and Freddie were not only simple pales. They were very good friends.
Everything started in 1975. Queen and Elton John had the same manager named John Reid, and since they were touring a lot, they had not more than 3 opportunities to see each other in the same town! Then, of course, they spent their leisure time together.
And 1982, in Munich, while Freddie was present at Elton’s concert there, Elton announced to the audience: "And now, I shall dedicate this next song to my friend Freddie". The title was "I Am Still Standing"! As a reference to Freddie whose leg was in plaster that evening !
For the last 6 months of Freddie’s life, before he passed away on November 24th, 1991, due to bronchial pneumonia caused by aids, Elton would regularly visit him at Garden Lodge. Elton declared, some times later, in a BBC broadcast, in honour to his lost friend: "Freddie Mercury was an amazing and innovatory singer. A great showman and one of my best friends. It is a privilege to have been close to him, he was very funny and at the same time completely excessive and extravagant but also very kind."
Our team gave all Freddie Mercury fans the possibility to attend this unique Elton John’s venue with certainly a few surprises.
Sir Elton Hercules John CBE (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on 25 March 1947) is a multiple Grammy and Academy Award-winning English pop/rock singer, composer and pianist.
Elton John was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on 24 February 1998, granting him the title of "Sir". The honour was distinguishing him for his charitable work.
Greg Brooks about Freddie Mercury Montreux Memorial Day, 2007:
Over the weekend of Friday Sept 7th to Sunday 9th I attended the Freddie Mercury’s Montreux Memorial Day... a weekend actually. It was a brilliant event and again I met some people that I know will become good friends.
Montreux is STUNNING and worth visiting regardless of the Queen history and marvelous Freddie statue that demands attention by the lake. But, given its numerous links to Freddie and the band, and the people and the sights, it makes for a great few days you'll cherish like I know I will.
I wasn't at all sure what to expect or if the days would fly by or drag, but I must tell you it was a wonderful weekend. It was amazing from the moment we checked into the hotel to the minute we left. I genuinely cannot recommend this weekend highly enough. If you love Queen music or Freddie Mercury music, or some combination of both, and you appreciate great people and wonderful food and even better beer and wine, and talking with genuine passionate people who will become your friends uncommonly quickly, and you think you might also come to love sipping rum or vodka or wine while watching the sun go down over the gorgeous Lake Geneva, in the company of like-minded people, and with much laughter, you need to make sure you are in Montreux next year (5th and 6th November 2008).
It is an annual event now and it's a completely different experience to anything else I have participated in. It's relaxing and entertaining, tremendous fun, and, as if you need me to tell you, it offers the most breathtaking scenery imaginable. As you know, Freddie wrote A Winter's Tale while looking out over precisely the same views as we were all part of last weekend. There truly is a magic about that particular lake that you will not find ANYWHERE else in the world in my opinion. The 'feel' of Queen and Freddie (especially FM) is all over the place and inescapable. As you walk along the main street towards Norbert's wonderful Queen/Freddie goodies filled shop (Norbert co organises the event with Rita), Freddie's voice rings out from hidden speakers as if it were the most normal thing in the world. I think even the natives have now (those who did not like it before) warmed to this most exceptional voice, like you will surely warm to the town and its friendly people.
And then of course you can walk down to the lake side and experience the Freddie statue and the whole atmosphere around that area. I know you've seen it many times on the LP/CD cover and on other images, but being THERE next to Freddie, touching it, experiencing it, photographing it maybe, being around it and part of the strange vibe while also talking with likeminded Queenies, is very special indeed. I loved it - every second of it.
I have been to Montreux before, in 1998 to work on some Freddie tapes that were there at that time, but I was alone then and there were no 350 Queen friends to spend time with and to share the experience with, like we did this time around. Billy Baker... you are a ONE OFF!!! And You, Queen/Freddie fan, have to go next year if only to see this man's collection of neck ties!!!!!!
There are great boat trips to the place where the Made In Heaven album cover was shot, the Lake House, and it's one of those 'must do' things. The scenery is second to none, Queen music is playing in the background, and it's a million miles from yours and my normal everyday routines at home. It's chalk and cheese and you feel it with everything you see in Montreux.
On friday afternoon, by the Freddie statue, we were treated to Jo the saxo, from Montreux, and his fabulous saxophone recitals of Queen material. This was an unexpected and almost surreal surprise. Everyone listened intently and it was the perfect sound in the perfect location. On Friday night there was a live cover band, at a venue called the NED, and let me tell you right now they were BRILLIANT. They were a 4-piece Hungarian band called QUEEN UNPLUGGED PROJECT and they played only acoustic, unplugged material, obviously, and it was spellbinding. I loved it. We ALL loved it. They truly did bring the house down - so many times. In fact, it was clear to all that at certain points the band members were visibly moved by the massive support and encouragement they received as the show progressed. I was so impressed to see the audience clapping and cheering each time the singer, Tibor Toth, for example, pulled off a tricky high note, or equally when the lead guitarist played a delicate little solo and was rewarded with warm applause. It was evident that the band were as appreciative of the respectful attention they got, as the we the listeners were of their enormous attention to detail with the playing. What a great night we had. I only intended to see the first few songs, but stayed to see everything. I stayed until I could stand up no more!!!!
"Sail Away Sweet Sister" and a medley comprising Procession/Father To Son/Great King Rat/Ogre Battle were too fabulous to relay here, and I really mean that, and 'Those Were Days Are Our Lives' was, again, the perfect song to hear on the perfect evening in the most gorgeous setting there is. I love stripped down recitals of Queen music and these guys did an astonishing job - things like Dreamers Ball, 39 and Roger's In Love With My Car/Drowse (really cleverly merged). I rarely if ever say these things about a cover band - the first and only time so far was Miracle, who remain great - so please take my word for this.... you need to see QUEEN UNPLUGGED PROJECT if you can, and to do so in Montreux is unsurpassable. It beats the hell out of some smokey hole in central London - if you ask me. Great stuff indeed. QUP took on ambitious material, not the easy ones, impressively performed, and occasionally even mixing songs together - seamlessly - which you have to hear before you can offer comment - and that isn't easy. They really did pull it off and the audience gave them the respect they so richly earned.
How great it was to see those guys, as nervous as they were, so quickly gain confidence and win over fans that are not easy to win over. To see and hear that audience screaming and cheering and making more noise than a crowd ten times the size could, was a pleasure indeed. I think it true to say that the Montreux Queenies loved QUP hugely, and that it was certainly a two-way thing - in every sense. Hats off to those guys. A brilliant, original and refreshing, and, by the way, very moving in places, performance.
Unfortunately I did not catch the second cover band of the evening - MerQury, from Italy - but I hear they too went down a storm, with a very different and contrasting set to the Hungarian group. It was a TWO HOUR set that blew everyone away, and included covers of It's A Beautiful Day, Let Me Live, Tie Mum Down, Breakthru, Too Much Love, Lazing Sunday Afternoon, Headlong, Innuendo, One Vision, Princes Of The Universe, No One But You, Hard Life, WWRY.
On Saturday afternoon Peter Freestone played us all the entire (almost entire) "When Freddie met Montserrat" tape - their musical night together at Garden Lodge in 1987, singing around the piano with Mike Moran. This was great and of course it was a FIRST. Peter was in great form as usual.
Later on I did 'my bit' where I played Freddie rarities and explained in detail how and why each element came to be on the 2000 "Solo" boxed set, and a bit about our thinking on those ideas, etc. I went into stuff I'd not been into before and I enjoyed doing so. It went down very well by all accounts.
To close, I must remind you...... fab people, great beer and pastry and hot dogs and freshly made crepes on the lake-side, wonderful boat trips, you can take a train 2000 mtrs up the mountain and disappear into clouds at the top and generally be as impressed as hell as you nearly meet your maker, and the exceptional scenery will stay with you forever, the best people and conversations and laughs, Norbert's sovenir shop (Bazar Suisse - containing lovely Freddie things you will want to bring home no doubt... like I did), and, let's not forget, a boat trip on Saturday up the lake to Vevay to see Elton John in concert... golden circle tickets no less, also organised by Norbert & Rita. It was an unforgettable weekend and faultlessly organised from beginning to end.
The next Freddie Mercury’s Montreux Memorial Day is 5th and 6th November 2008. Like the Oleta Adams song says, next year... GET HERE. I truly hope your budget will stretch to it because you'll love it - and that I will personally guarantee. The UK fan club convention in May (usually) is always great, and always worth attending too of course, but let me suggest that this Montreux excursion is worth saving up for too.
Check out the site and register for next year's event because it really is an EVENT.
It's great fun, and it flies by in a flash.
Greg Brooks - Queen Archivist and still... property of Queen Productions !!!!!!
Everything started back on 1997. The band who is able to reproduce on stage the magic atmosphere that always accompanied Freddie's amazing voice... Merqury Band reserved a surprise for all fans coming to Montreux and a new show named : FROM HEAVEN TO MONTREUX INTO THE NIGHT.
Queen Unplugged Project
The music of Queen as you have probably never heard before. In acoustic version ! two acoustic guitars, percussion and vocals.
Formed in 2004 by Hungarian Queen fan musicians. Why should they play in the way Queen did ? When no one can do that better than them? And there are many tribute bands too... Laci, the percussionist and singer, opened a small rock club with live music, and because space was limited, bands could only play nicely, quietly, unplugged... and here came the answer to the band's question: why not try and play Queen songs unplugged?
The result was great !
We were all surprised.
Jo the Saxo
Born in Montreux, in 1966, Jo le Saxo grows up under influence of the superb concerts of the Montreux Jazz Festival. At the age of 12, he starts playing Saxophone tenor and definitely falls in love with this fascinating instrument which he plays passionately.
He is part of several bands, exploring all kinds of musical styles from Jazz to Rock, Blues and Pop.
As all musicians who dream to perform in Montreux, Jo le Saxo wants to associate his musical performance in this city to the story of one of the most mythic groups of Rock in the world: Queen.
In an amazing and unrealistic face-to-face between lake and mountains, the impressing bronze statue of Freddie Mercury expresses force and vitality –an eternal testimony of love for one of the most admired singers and musician ever: Freddie Mercury.
Jo le Saxo, flying in the eternal music star constellation powered by Freddie Mercury, invites us to join him in his musical world. The fan just shiver by listening to his magic touch of saxophone, dedicated to Freddie.
"Freddie Celebration Days", an annual event in Montreux around September 5th, Freddie Mercury's birthday.