(hennemusic) Queen revisit the 2002 concert at Buckingham Palace in honor of Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee on the latest episode of the band's 50th anniversary video series The Greatest.
In 1975, Brian May's arrangement of the British National Anthem, "God Save The Queen", appeared as the closing track on their "A Night At The Opera" album, and from that point onwards, a recording of the track has brought the curtain down on every Queen concert.
However, it was a piece the band never performed live, until an opportunity to change that came 27 years later. In 2002, May and Roger Taylor were invited to perform as part of a special concert for the Queen's anniversary, and organizers had a special request for the opening number...
"They said originally, would you come and play a version of 'God Save The Queen', strolling through the state rooms of Buckingham Palace and in the style of Jimi Hendrix?," May recalls. "Now there's a few things in that I didn't feel comfortable about. I mean, trying to be Jimi Hendrix is one of them.
"And then I had this thought, I remember waking up with the thought the next day, and I thought where I need to be is not strolling through Buckingham Palace rooms, but up the top. I need to be on the roof. I need to be the lone piper who's been up there for the last 50 years in wind and rain. Grizzled old campaigner still playing. So I rang them up and suggested it and they went, 'Yeah, OK.'
"That is the moment which sticks in my mind because then I thought 'Oh God, I've got to do it now!' The enormity of what I've suggested comes through to me and I think, 'Oh my God, can I really do this thing?'"
Prior to performing before a television audience of 200 million, May and the crew faced logistical challenges during rehearsal, including being unable to sync an audio or visual link between the guitarist and the orchestra on stage 80 feet below.
"I had these three AC-30's in my face...it sounded colossal, huge up there," says May. "And then eventually, only a couple of hours before I was due to go up there, we managed to get the feed from the orchestra. So I had big speakers with orchestra on one side of me. Big speakers of my amps on the other side. It was an amazing feeling, I must say, the most incredible, energizing moment. But of course, terrifying. And the combination of that was just electrifying. I remember thinking, if this works and I pull this off, I will never, ever be scared again."
The Golden Jubilee celebration concert is considered by many as the greatest concert in Britain since Live Aid and the most impressive collection of musicians ever on a single-stage featuring Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Annie Lennox, Joe Cocker, Ray Davies, Bryan Adams, Brian Wilson, Steve Winwood, and Queen.
Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating a Platinum Jubilee in 2022, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms and the Commonwealth. Watch the episode here.