Almost immediately after The Miracle was finished in February 1989, Freddie flew back to Mountain Studios to record some demos of songs he had in his head. Chances are he was entertaining the thought of recording another solo album, but if this is true (and one can only speculate), it was a brief thought and was quickly dashed in favor of recording another Queen album. Regardless, one of the first tracks -- Delilah, written for one of his favorite cats (hence the line "Then you make me slightly mad / When you pee all over my Chippendale suite") -- for the album that would become Freddie's swan song was laid down in demo form at this time. For the next few months, the song remained incomplete as Brian and Roger went around the world to promote The Miracle, and the band reconvened to film the videos for the five singles that had been plucked from that album.
In November, preliminary sessions for the new album started up again, but progress was going deliberately slow: the band knew by this time that Freddie was suffering from AIDS, and he was only able to work a few days at a time, hence the prolonged recording process. But the band also knew they were recording something special: after nearly a decade of writing and recording albums where any song could have been a single, instead of working on a cohesive unit that flowed better as an album (much like their first seven releases), the band were finally letting their creative juices flow more freely (instead of keeping one eye on the chart and trying to score the all-important hit single).
The sessions continued throughout 1990, mostly at Metropolis Studios in London, though the band was occasionally reduced to a trio: John periodically left the sessions to go skiing with his wife, Veronica, in Biarritz. Perhaps because of his absence, he didn't contribute any full songs to the recording sessions (he only rearranged the original idea of The Hitman); as before, all of the songs were credited to Queen, but it's fairly simple to tell who wrote what: Roger's two contributions were Ride The Wild Wind and These Are The Days Of Our Lives, while he also helped write the lyrics to the title track; Brian wrote Headlong and I Can't Live With You, both confirmed by the guitarist as originally being submitted for his solo album, as well as the main bulk of The Show Must Go On, while he also co-wrote or co-arranged with Freddie Don't Try So Hard, The Hitman, and Bijou. Freddie, meanwhile, was writing more freely: I'm Going Slightly Mad was a recall to such vaudeville / music hall-inspired tracks as Seaside Rendezvous and Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy, while Don't Try So Hard, Delilah, and Bijou were more in the style of his current songwriting styles. All God's People was originally recorded as Africa By Night for his Barcelona album project in 1987, but rejected (hence the co-credit with Mike Moran, who also contributed keyboards to that track).
By the time the sessions wrapped up in November 1990, the band knew they had a great album on their hands; even the title -- Innuendo -- had a grandiose sound to it, recalling the days of A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races. The artwork was a return to form, and marked the first time since 1978's Jazz that a studio album cover didn't feature the faces of the band; instead, Richard Gray adapted some of the artwork of French caricaturist Grandville after Roger saw some of his images in an art book he was leafing through. The sparse black and white pencil drawings were cleaned up and colored up, creating a perfect atmosphere for Queen's newest album.
The album's release was preceded by the six minute title track's release as a single in January 1991, where it rocketed straight to #1, much like the album did the following month in the UK. The US issue peaked at #30, which was disappointing compared to the #24 that The Miracle reached, though it was awarded "Gold Record" status, certainly an auspicious start to Queen's relationship with Hollywood Records. Instead of the customary promotional tour, which was out of the question due to Freddie's failing health, Brian went around the United States, dropping by radio studios to answer calls from fans, play the new songs, and plug in his guitar and play along to some old songs. Inevitably, American fans asked him about performing live (remember, the band hadn't been there since 1982), which put Brian on the spot; he had no other choice but to say that it was a possibility at some point in the future. Further singles -- I'm Going Slightly Mad, Headlong, and The Show Must Go On -- all reached the Top Thirty, but didn't perform as well as the title track. It wouldn't be until December 1991 that the band would return to the top of the singles charts.
Throughout 1991, the band recorded songs with the intent of releasing them as B-sides (only one of these songs, Lost Opportunity, would end up on the CD single release of I'm Going Slightly Mad); the band were so pleased with the material that they started working on a new album, though progress was slow and finally halted in the summer of 1991, when Freddie became too sick to continue. He spent the rest of his days in his palatial London mansion at 1 Garden Lodge, living with Jim Hutton and his coterie of friends (though it was hardly peaceful: the tabloid press made it a point to camp out just outside his estate, printing any despicable story about Freddie's health they felt made sense), until an announcement was made on 23 November 1991:
"Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date in order to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come for my friends and fans to know the truth, and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors, and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease."
Barely did the ink have any time to dry when another announcement was made the following day, at approximately 6:48 PM GMT: Freddie Mercury had died.
In a rush to get his affairs in order, Parlophone Records issued a double-sided single as a tribute to Freddie: Bohemian Rhapsody and These Are The Days Of Our Lives, which became the band's second #1 single of the year. A week after Freddie's death, a distraught Brian and Roger appeared on Good Morning Britain to talk about their friend's brave struggle with the disease, while promising something as a tribute to him in the not-too-distant future. For the time, Innuendo filled that role just nicely.