Introduction by Margaret Sheard ….
There are many people in North Cyprus who will remember the fantastic concert of Killer Queen at Girne Amphitheatre in September 2019. I wondered how the current Coronavirus pandemic was affecting the members of Killer Queen and sent a message to Patrick Myers (lead singer) to find out how they were coping in the UK during lockdown.
By Patrick Myers – Killer Queen ….
“Life off the Road”…..
On the 14th of March at Brighton Theatre Royal we performed our last show. I’d already packed for a big tour of America – hopefully our biggest yet. I’d spent the last few months buying lights and having a touring Queen style set welded together. It was expensive but worth it. Planning the look is half the fun and we wanted to have a beautiful looking show for the States. Brighton was Friday night. Taxi was booked for Sunday morning to take us to the airport.
Brighton had actually had the first case of this Coronavirus thing. I live nearby and it was worrying but it hadn’t stopped me from popping there now and then. I was pleased to be singing there that night. Wonderful to have a local show and be able to get home. Family life is a rare and precious thing if you tour all year, every year. Grab it while you can.
I’d been following the news about Covid19. Turned down a corporate event in January in Mongolia as the news of this just surfaced. That seemed a needless risk and I didn’t want our precious work visas for America to be refused just by going out there. I thought I’d dodged the bullet. But the news story wasn’t going away. By late February this still seemed like a particularly nasty flu going round – something we needed to protect the very old from. Fortitude and grit would see down any virus in the general population. I’d put a plastic soap case in my pocket last time I’d taken the train to see my parents in early March but that was purely to protect them. This wasn’t something we had to worry about beyond that. It was only listening to late night World Service broadcasts that made me stop and wonder if we weren’t all massively under-reacting about this.
The night before we were due to play Brighton I got the call. The USA tour had cancelled. Despite the assurances from the Oval Office, each State had independently concluded this was going to be serious and had closed. UK venues were all still open at this point but that now was surely a matter of time. All the nightmare news from abroad was now here. Of course it was here. How could it not be? This was going to be everywhere.
UK Lockdown officially begins a week later. The news that comes through now is all from our doorstep. The shortage of PPE, the nurses coming back from retirement and succumbing, the bus drivers in London, the care-homes all over the UK, the lack of testing anywhere. The exponential nightmare that you vaguely remember Gwyneth Paltrow dealing with in some faraway film is now the reality. You go to bed and forget. Wake up and it’s still here.
I’ve spent all my adult life being lucky enough to have a job I love. Singing is brilliant fun. Performing Queen’s songs is special for me and I know their music is very special for our audiences. Music is a magic that unites us and speaks to the fabric of us. The privilege to be able to sing for thousands of people, all together on one night, their arms in the air singing those beautiful songs along with us, vanished overnight.
I was asked to write about how this is for me. I feel a lot of conflicting emotions all at once every day. I’m thankful I have a home and family. I have no income. I’m in awe of the frontline workers. I’m horrified to see daily tragedies unfolding all over the world. I’m scared I don’t know how the life I had a few weeks ago will return. I miss singing for people.
In the middle of all these things, life goes rolling on. My wife and I get used to washing and disinfecting our shopping – we develop a system with door handles and gloves. We go for walks and slow down at corners, stepping into the road in case someone is heading your way and you can’t see them.
Your parents get used to Zoom calls. Your parents-in-law insist they still don’t need the internet. They want you to tell them how long this will last for and that everything will be alright. You cheer each other up with jokes. There’s no family plans for that six day gap in Summer when you’re back from America before heading out to Europe. None of those plans exist anymore.
Here you are. You’re in the house with all your kids – including the hairy one you’d just tearfully said goodbye to for what should have been his first year at University. The time you dreamed of carving out for them is right here. There’s just now. A lot of now. And sometimes that’s scary. And sometimes now is beautiful. Sometimes you feel like your former militarily planned tour life is now a terrifying open vista. Sometimes it makes you feel like you’re a teenager again and your life is a fresh page.
I guess we all take this one day at a time and try to be there for each other. We’re all going to need a hug or a phone call and a smile. Life is always a mass of contradictions – and right now is a very concentrated measure of life. All it’s extraordinariness and it’s ordinariness. The unexpected beauty and the unstoppable loss.
At the end of all of this I have no idea if the life I had is one I’ll return to. But I do know I’m massively grateful to the people who put themselves out there in hospitals, care-homes, supermarkets or assembling and delivering food parcels for the hundreds and thousands of people who have needed help though all of this. I feel embarrassed when I catch myself dwelling on my own worries. These people step up day after day with or without protection for themselves.
I’ve tried to think what I had to offer positively with what I do. Your instinct is to give something of your own but that falls down. I work in a medium where people only know us and come to see us because really they want to see and hear someone else – a happy memory from a different time.
Then I remembered an old song I’d written ages ago. I wrote this as a homage celebrating Queen but also about the slightly surreal position of being in a tribute – the job didn’t exist when I was growing up. (I’m still a bit surprised this career ever happened to me.)
But the reason this song is seeing the light of day is because it’s also about staying strong when the magnification on life dials up too high. And that is now.
When I put the headphones on as a kid and listened to Queen it felt exciting, witty and brilliant but it also felt like a security blanket. Queen’s songs so often have their roots in a defiant optimism. A world that could dazzle you but look out for you.
This is my attempt at a makeshift home-made security blanket.
There’s a Justgiving page for the NHS if you’d like to donate to the NHS Charities Together. Click here
Be great to see you all again. Until then folks….
Video “We’ll Fight Again”
courtesy Killer Queen