The 1982 Hot Space tour had been grueling for each member of Queen: releasing an album that had been received with more of a mild cheer than a deafening roar, and then having to slog off on a lengthy tour to promote it to largely unenthusiastic audiences and dwindling numbers took its toll on the band, and a break from Queen activities was proposed for 1983. However, Freddie still felt the funk in his bones, and had gathered up a backlog of material that he felt was unsuitable for a Queen record, and, following a stay in Japan at the conclusion of the tour, began to assemble musicians and book studio time for what would become his first bona fide solo project.
There had been, of course, the Larry Lurex single from 1973, which was more of a Freddie solo project than a Queen project (even though Brian and Roger contributed guitar and percussion, respectively, to the A-side), but it wasn't conceived as such, nor was it promoted as a Freddie solo single – least of all because nobody had any idea who Freddie was at that time. With the passing of a decade, though, and having fronted arguably the world's most popular and successful band, Freddie felt that a solo album was long overdue. His allegiances were still with Queen, though, and he never threatened to leave the band if he ever became too famous; but judging by the tensions and lukewarm band reception to material on Hot Space, Freddie knew that there were some styles of music he wanted to explore that the others just were not be interested in.
Because of the perfectionist in Freddie, the sessions took place only when he felt he had a sizable amount of material ready for an album, with each note labored over until it met his precise requirements. While sessions probably didn't begin in earnest until the middle of 1983, they wouldn't conclude until early 1985, meaning that it took him a good two years, off and on, to complete what truly was a labor of love. The reason work was sporadic was because Queen had commitments toward the end of 1983 to work on two albums – what eventually became The Works and the soundtrack for the film adaptation of John Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire – and tour South America in November. While the latter two projects were abandoned for various reasons, Queen work always took precedence, though Freddie continued to squirrel away material he felt was more suitable for his solo album. One song that began life as a Queen track was Love Kills, originally destined for The Works but submitted to Giorgio Moroder, who was working on an update of the 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis. The update sparked an enormous amount of debate, because Moroder added a modern rock soundtrack in lieu of the original orchestrations; however, it allowed Freddie a good deal of exposure, and Love Kills, released as a single in September 1984, hit #10 in the UK. Brian confirmed in the liner notes to The Solo Collection that the backing is essentially a Queen track, with his guitar and Roger's programmed drums, though it's not known if John's contributions were kept intact.
Mr. Bad Guy, as it came to be, was deep-rooted in dance and disco, with some of the more bombastic explorations of Queen's trademark sound brought in so as not to alienate curious casual fans. It was an interesting mix and clash of styles, probably more in line with what Queen might have done if Hot Space had been more successful and better accepted by fans. Intriguingly, There Must Be More To Life Than This and Man Made Paradise were both first recorded by Queen in 1981 and originally earmarked for Hot Space, and were once again brought to the table for sessions for The Works in 1983, but were rejected both times. While Freddie did his best to differentiate his solo career from Queen's sound, guitarist Paul Vincent contributed alarmingly Brian May-esque solos to Man Made Paradise and She Blows Hot And Cold, which reportedly did not sit well with the curly-haired guitarist. Brian later commented, with a touch of irritation, that the line "thanks to Brian, Roger, and John for not interfering" was far from the truth, and that the others added particular bits to some songs that were often replicated by the session musicians.
The lyrical themes are far more personal on the album than they had been on Queen albums in the past, with Freddie devoting many of the songs to the pursuit of happiness and love, and ruminating on the pain of rejection and betrayal. While his personal life was still very much, as he called it in a contemporary interview, a Russian roulette, he had struck up a long-lasting romantic relationship with Austrian actress Barbara Valentin, to whom he would dedicate album closer Love Me Like There's No Tomorrow (a reference to a film she starred in, Kiss Me Like There's No Tomorrow). However, there's a sense of joy to some of the songs too, with songs like Let's Turn It On, Your Kind Of Lover, and Foolin' Around being a whole lot more simplistic in lyrical approach, with a stated desire for the object of Freddie's affection to just have a little bit of fun.
On the rarities disc devoted to the Mr. Bad Guy sessions, released as part of The Solo Collection in 2000, not only were a slew of outtakes presented, but so were many works in progress of released songs, which shows the attention to detail Freddie paid to his songs, in the ongoing pursuit to get things just so. Several verses of lyrics were tried and then abandoned, though the musical skeletons were often complete, using drum machines and synth bass lines that would later be recorded over by drummer Curt Cress and bassist Stephan Wissnet (though some of the original performances would remain). Fred Mandel, who had toured with Queen on their US and Japanese legs of the Hot Space tour, was brought in to help out on additional keyboards and guitar; this was his second of three Queen-associated recording sessions, having played synths on Brian's Star Fleet Project, and he would later play a substantial role on The Works. On the title track, an orchestra was employed at Freddie's insistence, having always wanted to use one on a recording.
At the heart of it, Mr. Bad Guy was a vanity project that Freddie had wanted to complete, and he was rewarded with a relatively successful album: released in May 1985, just after Queen finished their final tours of Australia and Japan, it shot straight into the UK charts at #6 and stayed in the charts for 23 weeks, though its initial success was limited; by the end of the fifth week, it was out of the Top 20 entirely. The singles selected weren't all that much more successful: debut single I Was Born To Love You peaked at #11 in the UK and #76 in the US, while Made In Heaven (#57), Living On My Own (#50), and Love Me Like There's No Tomorrow (#76) struggled to reach the upper reaches of the UK charts. Freddie was undaunted by the lack of success, having felt more relief at finishing the project than it being an overwhelming success; Queen fans (and the remainder of Queen, no doubt) breathed a sigh of relief that they weren't about to lose the charismatic vocalist to a solo career. Indeed, just as quickly as the album came out, Freddie astounded the world with an appearance at Live Aid, and promptly went back in the studios to work on the next Queen album. Although Freddie's solo career was brief, it would be his next project that made a lasting impression, and was more satisfying, not only to the singer, but to his fans as well.
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