At the time, recalls Patrick Myers, it was just a way for four newcomers to university life to get to know each other.
“We started talking about the music we all loved,” Myers recalls, “and although everyone had pretty broad tastes — from Bowie to Nirvana to the Pixies — the one thing we all had in common was that we liked Queen.
But as that first semester at Goldsmiths College, University of London wore on, that shared love of Queen’s music took on greater resonance.
“It was the fall of 1991,” Myers said. “Someone lazily mentioned that he wished he could have seen the band’s last gig, which was in 1986. Freddie (Mercury) was still alive, and we assumed we’d have another chance to see them in concert.”
However, in November 1991, it was announced that Mercury, the flamboyant frontman of Queen whose powerful multi-octave voice and commanding stage presence could fill arenas, had contracted AIDS. Twenty-four hours later, Mercury died at age 45.
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“It was such a shock,” Myers said. “I remember you could walk through our residence and hear Queen music coming from every room. There was just that kind of collective grief, and immersing ourselves in their music was a way of dealing with that grief.
Being immersed in Queen’s music has become a way of life for Myers. He is the founder and lead singer of Killer Queen, a band that has been recreating the look and sound of Queen in concert for nearly 30 years.
The group is scheduled to perform Thursday, July 21 at the Tulsa Theater, as part of their 2022 US tour.
Myers said the original band formed in a most unlikely place.
“The laundry room in our residence had an old, dented piano, so you could pass the time while you did your laundry,” he laughed. “I would go there and start playing Queen songs. I was in college studying acting and had developed a range of impersonations including Freddie Mercury.
“I remember looking in the mirror one day and pulling a face and thinking, ‘Wait a minute – I’m doing this, and maybe I could do a physical impersonation as well as a voice. “, said Myers.
Myers and his colleagues decided to pool their resources and do what they could to replicate a Queen concert. They managed to book a room and performed in front of an audience of like-minded students.
“Honestly, we had no idea if it would work,” Myers said. “But the wave of love that comes from that audience was just overwhelming. I had always wanted to be in the crowd when Queen performed ‘Radio Gaga’ and clap hands with everyone. It was a feeling really strange to be on the other side of that – to be the one on stage that had everyone clapping.
“That wasn’t how I imagined this rite of passage,” Myers said with a laugh. “But what he told us was that these people knew where we were from. It was out of love for this music, these songs, and we were all celebrating together.
Myers said they were immediately offered more gigs at universities around Britain. Then came an offer to perform in the West End, London’s equivalent of Broadway. Then came the opportunities to perform around the world.
“We went from banging songs on a piano in a laundry room to playing many arenas where Queen played,” Myers said. “It was really amazing.”
Myers said the original college lineup didn’t last long, as some didn’t live up to touring demands. The band’s current lineup includes Simon Small on guitar, Brad Waissman on bass and drummer John Howells, with Myers on piano and some guitar parts as well as vocals. The other band members also contribute vocals.
This gives Killer Queen a slight advantage over the original.
“Queen only had three singers,” Myers said. “(Bassist) John Deacon wasn’t singing, and (guitarist) Brian May was often rushing onstage, so most of the vocals were Freddie and (drummer) Roger Taylor.
“We’re able to do a lot with four-part harmonies,” he said. “And in songs like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, we’re able to emphasize the harmonies with guitar and piano, to make them sound louder.
“We try to make as few compromises as possible,” Myers said. “There are a lot of details in these songs that need fixing – and the songs are difficult enough on their own. But we work to make everything as good as possible, because it’s all about these amazing songs. And if we’re able to help people get lost in those songs for a night, then we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.
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