Freddie Mercury’s Predecessor ‘Bathing in the Glow’ of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
Actor Jack Roth plays Staffell in a scene set in 1970, in which the vocalist and bassist is seen quitting the Smile trio after two years because he believes they’re going nowhere. The band’s song “Doin’ Alright,” which appeared on Queen’s debut album, is featured in the soundtrack, and Staffell was invited to record vocal and bass tracks for it.
“I was desperately envious,” he told the Daily Express of Queen’s success. “The only thing I’d say in my defense is that I was never destructively jealous. But by God I was envious.” He attended school with May, and later studied in art college alongside Mercury. “He used to say, ‘Some day I’m going to be a superstar,’ and everybody used to say, ‘Yeah, sure you are, Freddie.’ He was a civilized guy, not rough round the edges. I never ever saw him swear or say a bad word at anybody. Some people’s egotism is offensive, but not with Freddie. He was always a lovely, lovely guy. There was none of that avarice for fame.”
Staffell remained friends with the members of Queen, and even took part in a reunion performance in 1992. Recently May – who guested on one of Staffell's albums – asked him to re-record “Doin’ Alright” at Abbey Road Studios in London. “I never knew if I could still hack it,” the singer recalled, noting that evidence suggested “the boy done good.” He added, “Then they said, ‘Will you overdub the bass as well?’ and it made perfect sense. Then they said they were using it for the soundtrack album, and ever since then I’ve been bathing in the glow.”
Listen ot ‘Doin’ Alright’ from the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ soundtrack
After Smile, he joined folk-rock band Humpy Bong, who broke up a year later. “Although I was envious of them, I wanted a more homely existence,” he said. “I’m so glad I didn’t go on the road because I just couldn’t cope with it. What I really wanted to do was write songs, record them in the studio and maybe do the odd gig close to home.”