The global success of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody (which generated more than $903 million in ticket sales) has revitalized interest in Queen lead vocalist Freddie Mercury who died from AIDS November 24th, 1991. Rami Malek won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Mercury and even though the movie received mixed critical reviews, Queen faithful and a generation of new fans packed theatres worldwide, many of whom were turned on to Queen’s music for the first time.
At the same time, Dave Clark, former drummer and group leader for The Dave Clark Five, was working on a project to revive and re-issue a Freddie Mercury solo track, “Time Waits For No One”, the title track of `Time’, an ambitious stage musical he produced which enjoyed a successful two-year run in London’s West End, beginning April 9th 1986.
A `Time’ concept album featuring 28 tracks featuring the likes of Mercury, Cliff Richard, Julian Lennon, Dionne Warwick, Leo Sayer, Ashford & Simpson, Murray Head and a spoken verse by Sir Lawrence Olivier, had been released worldwide and sold more than 14 million copies. Of all the tracks, Mercury’s rendition of “Time Works For No One” gave Clark “goosebumps”.
Typical of the time, Mercury’s performance, recorded January 1986 at Abbey Road studios, was heavily produced, 48 backing tracks and 96 tracks in total were utilized in the original recording. A quick three-hour, four camera shoot of Mercury’s performance was also shot at the Dominion Theatre but went straight to video, to run on that week’s `Top Of The Pops’ television show so the original 35mm film was never developed.
“Time Waits For No One” is a tribute to the musical force of Freddie Mercury; the performance, the drama, the vocal range, and after four decades waiting in the wings, it will finally be released for new and old fans alike; a stunning eulogy to the Queen frontman, produced and directed by one of his closest friends, Dave Clark.
Clark formed a strong personal relationship with Mercury and was by his bedside when the Queen frontman passed away in November 1991. As years have gone by, he remembered that powerful performance of “Time” by Mercury and started searching for those original tracks.
“I haven’t released the song just to cash in on the success of the movie,” noted Clark on the phone from London. “I literally spent four decades trying to find those tracks and several times I gave up trying to find them. Then we finally found the tapes in the Spring 2018 and I set about making the impossible possible. We stripped away the 96 tracks back to one, we had the original pianist Mike Moran come to my own studio in Buckinghamshire and re-record a new backing track.”
As for the video, Clark took the negatives from the 4 camera shoot and developed the 35mm previously unprocessed film which involved a four-day lock-down in a special facility which allowed him and his editor a chance to pour through the negatives and create what Clark calls “a visual masterpiece.”
As all of this was going on, Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie was being filmed, after many delays, so Clark had the dilemma of not releasing his re-recorded track and video to coincide with the movie launch.
“I waited for the movie to die down, I didn’t want to compete with the movie promotion and I didn’t want to be accused of capitalizing on the movie’s success,” explained Clark. “Initially, I just did it for my own personal benefit. It was just dumb luck that the movie did so well.”
So what was Clark’s response to the Mercury bio-pic and some of the negative criticism it received “I turned down an invite to go to the premiere, I just wanted to view it on my own with a group of friends and I have to confess that I loved it? Rami Malek is great as Freddie, he had his mannerisms down to a tee, the whole cast was great,” Clark enthused. “It’s true that it didn’t get great critical reviews but it just shows the power of music that despite all that negativity, the movie still put bums in seats in record numbers. It has proven to be the most successful music movie of all time, bigger than A Hard Day’s Night, bigger than Woodstock bigger than any Barbra Streisand movie.”
Drawing comparisons to Elton John’s Rocket Man bio-pic and its graphic depiction of Elton’s gay lifestyle, Clark notes that “Elton is still alive so he agreed to the movie content whereas, Freddie is dead and had no control of how he was depicted.”
This 3-minute interview between Freddie Mercury and Dave Clark from 1986 went live on Thursday, June 20 alongside the single. In the interview, they talk about how they ended up working together and how the track came to be.
Clark first met Mercury following a 1976 Queen concert at London’s High Park. “I had never seen him perform before so I am positioned in the wings when comes on and he’s wearing black leotards and has black, pointed nail polish, he looked like Lisa Minnelli but when he opened his mouth, Wow!,” Clark reflected. “So after the show, Freddie and myself went to a restaurant called Mr. Chow with Elton John and we became fast friends.”
Clark utilized that friendship to procure Mercury for his `Time’ soundtrack, even though his label EMI thought he had no chance of getting him to contribute and the memory of that powerful performance of “Time Waits For No One”, was never forgotten, prompting a 4-decade search for those missing tracks.
He doesn’t want to talk about those final hours with Freddie before he passed away, just to say it was personally heartbreaking and he hopes that the release of the newly restored single and video will continue to cultivate Mercury’s legacy.
Those of a certain vintage will remember that The Dave Clark Five emerged in the early 1960s as a legitimate threat to the Beatles, knocking “I Want To Hold Your Hand” off the top of the British charts in January 1963 with their hit “Glad All Over”. They enjoyed major U.S success, appearing several times on The Ed Sullivan Show and in March 2008 were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
Clark, himself has proven to be an astute businessman. He personally owns all of his bands’ masters and publishing (allowing him to profit from a series of band re-releases), he had the foresight to salvage the surviving episodes of the seminal Ready Steady Go television series from ITV which featured live performances by all the top British artists (The Beatles, Stones, The Who etc) and many U.S performers (especially Motown) who launched their British tours with appearances on that show.
His penchant for meticulously saving and storing everything paid dividends when Clark was able to restore that memorable Mercury recording and now he is in a position to re-release the entire ‘Time’ album on iTunes in conjunction with Mercury’s single release.
“Ultimately I want this to be a celebration of Freddie’s life,” concluded Clark. “He was an amazing talent and this performance will only support his legacy.”