The March of the Black Queen

Freddie

Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on 5th September 1946 on the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania.
His parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara, were Parsis from the Gujarat region of the then province of Bombay Presidency in British India. The family surname is derived from the town of Bulsar (also known as Valsad) in southern Gujarat.
As Parsis, Freddie and his family practiced the Zoroastrian religion.

The Bulsara family had moved to Zanzibar in order for his father to continue his job as a cashier at the British Colonial Office. He had one younger sister, Kashmira.

In these pictures: 1947 - Baby Farrokh Bulsara at his hometown in Zanzibar. In the third picture he is with his mum Jer Bulsara.

Childhood in Zanzibar. On the last picture he is with little sister Kashmira.
 
 
In 1954, at the age of eight, Mercury was sent to study at St. Peter's School, a boarding school for boys in Panchgani near Mumbai, India.
At school, he formed a popular school band, called The Hectics, for which he played the piano. A friend from the time recalls that he had "an uncanny ability to listen to the radio and replay what he heard on piano".
It was also at St. Peter's where he began to call himself "Freddie".
Mercury remained in India for most of his childhood, living with his grandmother and aunt. He completed his education in India at St. Mary's School, Mumbai.

Various pictures of Freddie at school: second on the podium, with a coup, cycling and boxing.

THE HECTICS (1958-1962)

Freddie's first band)
Freddie Bulsara
Derrick Branche
Farang Irani
Bruce Murray
Victory Rana

At the age of 17, Mercury and his family fled from Zanzibar for safety reasons due to the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution. The family moved into a small house in Feltham, Middlesex, England.
Mercury enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic (now West Thames College) in West London where he studied art.

He ultimately earned a Diploma in Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art College, later using these skills to design the Queen crest.
Mercury remained a British citizen for the rest of his life. 

 

 Above: 1968 - A pre-'Mercury' Freddie Bulsara pìctured in the graphics department at Ealing College with fellow student Tony Catignani. The photographer was another student, Renos Lavithis.
Below: Pictures from the Ealing days (in the last picture he is with fellow student Tim Staffel, from the band Smile).

 

  

Following graduation, Mercury joined a series of bands and sold second-hand clothes in the Kensington Market in London along with Roger Taylor. He also held a job at Heathrow Airport. Friends from the time remember him as a quiet and shy young man who showed a great deal of interest in music.

IBEX / WRECKAGE (1969)

Ibex was a power trio comprising Mike Bersin (lead guitar, vocals), John 'Tupp' Taylor (bass, vocals) and Mick 'Miffer' Smith (drums). They were a Liverpool band who'd moved down London to try and make it. As Paul Humberstone explains "They stayed in Sinclair Gardens with the girls who ran their fan club, and met up with Freddie and the members of Smile". Freddie was keen to join Smile, but he couldn't persuade Tim, Brian and Roger. So he joined Ibex. 

Ibex changed few members and was renamed Wreckage. When this band failed to take off, he joined a second band called Sour Milk Sea. However, by early 1970, this group broke up as well.

1969, August 23rd - A rare 'Evening News' photograph of Freddie Bulsara, lead singer of Ibex, in action at the Bolton 'Bluesology' gig. This was Freddie's first-ever public performance.
The other Ibex members were:

Mike Bersin – guitar, vacking vocals
Mick 'Miffer' Smith – drums
John 'Tupp' Taylor – bass guitar, vacking vocals

1969, August - A 'sorft-focus safety copy' of a sharp Paul Humberstone photo of the fifteen-strong Ibex excursion to Bolton.
The people are: Freddie is fith from the right, arms folded. Ibex members include: Mike Bersin, at the back with the afro; John Taylor, next to Bersin, arms folded; Mike 'Miffer' Smith, centre with fists together. Wreckage's long-haired Richard Thompson is next to Freddie.

 

SOUR MILK SEA (1970)

Freddie Bulsara - vocals
Chris Dummett – guitar, backing vocals
Jeremy 'Rubber' Gallop - guitar
Paul Milne – bass guitar
Robert Tyrell – drums

In the picture: March 1970 - Sour Milk Sea. L to R: Freddie Bulsara, Chris Chesney, Jeremy 'Rubber' Gallop (seated on the ground), Paul Milne (seated on wall), and Rob Tyrell (back).

 

In April 1970, Freddie joined with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor who had previously been in a band called Smile. Despite reservations from the other members, he chose the name "Queen" for the new band. He later said about the band's name, "I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it".
At about the same time, Freddie Bulsara also changed his own name to Freddie Mercury.

 

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