Midway through a conversation to discuss his new The Outsider Tour Live album and other matters, Queen’s Roger Taylor casually remarks, “I’m getting toward the end of my career now — but I’m still at work and loving it, really enjoying it.”
There’s plenty of evidence to support that assertion.
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A year ago, Taylor released Outsider, his first new solo album in eight years, and went on a 14-date U.K. trek to support it. Earlier this year he played in Europe with Queen + Adam Lambert. In March, he received a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) honor at Windsor Castle from then Prince, now King Charles. And as we speak, Taylor is just a few hours away from the second Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert, held in Los Angeles, where he and Brian May will play Queen songs with Foo Fighters, P!nk, the Darkness’ Justin Hawkins and Taylor’s son, Rufus.
The Outsider Tour Live, out Sept. 30, features 22 tracks from various locations on the 2021 tour, including Outsider material as well as Queen favorites and other covers, such as Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” David Bowie’s “Heroes” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” with May making a guest appearance on the lattermost, as well as Queen’s “A Kind of Magic.”
It certainly sounds like Taylor is having a good time of it, which — age aside — makes us take any comment about the end being nigh with a grain of salt.
Did you have as good of a time on the solo tour as it sounds like on the live album?
Well, I hope it is fun to listen to the album. Obviously I’m not the best judge, but the whole tour was really conceived to be fun. It’s not a big, ambitious stadium thing or anything like that. It was a smaller, intimate tour, and I just enjoyed being there, at the front again, which I hadn’t done in a long time. And I have such a great band, it was a joy. I enjoyed every show. I looked forward to every show, and hopefully that comes over on this recording.
Are you naturally comfortable as a frontman?
I certainly was on this tour, I think mainly because the venues weren’t massive like the (Queen) mothership would be playing. I don’t think I’m a stadium act, but I really did enjoy that size of venue.
Did Adam offer you any of his wardrobe when he heard you were going to do your own tour?
(laughs) No! I would not… Adam’s clothes would not suit me in the slightest. I always like dressing up a little bit, but not quite to that extent. Or like Freddie — you never knew what he was going to turn up in from one day to the next.
How did you choose which Queen songs were appropriate for you to perform?
I have “Radio Ga Ga,” “These Are the Days of Our Lives.” These are songs which have been sort of hits, so people knew them. I think people like to hear songs they know — the old saying, “Play the hits!” So it’s nice to have the hits to sprinkle in amongst some not-quite-so-well-known songs. It wasn’t difficult, really. I’d never think of singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” or even “We Are the Champions.” You need sort of a more diva-ish singer to put those songs across. I’ve sung “The Show Must Go” on occasion, but it’s difficult.
You make a crack before “I’m in Love With My Car,” which you wrote, about its portrayal in the Bohemian Rhapsody film. Were you really annoyed by that?
No, not at all. You have to have a sense of humor. And I remember — I don’t think Brian did take the song seriously; he felt like, “really, how can anybody be in love with a car?” But he’s not very car-minded. So, no, it didn’t bother me. I thought it was quite funny, and there was an element of truth in there as well.
How did Brian wind up playing at your London show and appearing on the album?
Obviously, Brian and I, we’re in contact all the time. We have been for over 50 years now. We’re very fond of one another. He obviously expects, and he should expect, to be asked to come and be a guest on the London show. It’s always great to have Brian on stage. I think he’s one of the best guitar players around, and a great musician. It was obligatory that he’d be on one show, at least.
Back in March you received on OBE. What were your thoughts about Queen Elizabeth’s passing?
Well, it was obviously inevitable. It was a mammoth event, really, in the U.K. She had been sort of the one linchpin of our life. She’s always been there. She’s on the money. She’s on the stamps, and she’s been the great constant in British society in the whole of my long life. The Queen was sort of everyone’s imaginary mother in some ways, so it was a big deal. She was the consummate professional, whether you support the idea of monarch or not. It’s a pretty strange concept, really, but she was very good at it, at her job.
Did she know of and like that there was a band called Queen?
(laughs) She certainly knew, ’cause Brian played on her rooftop for her 50th and then we did the Platinum Jubilee recently. And she made a little film with Paddington Bear and she tapped out “We Will Rock You” on a teacup and saucer. She definitely was aware of us, yes.
You quite kindly dedicated your OBE to Taylor Hawkins…
If it would bring him back, I’d let them have it back.
Did the Los Angeles show feel different than London a few weeks before?
It WAS different, actually, because the one in London was more of seamless show with a lot of little filmed sequence in-between and so many acts. (Los Angeles) was more like a real rock parade. It was an emphasis on hard, heavy rock, and just one act after another and a parade of drummers like you’ve never seen, all the best rock n’ roll drummers in the world. It was a fantastic night, just a wonderful night for my great friend Taylor.
Did these remind you at all of the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert back in 1992?
Well, actually, Pat (Smear) and Dave (Grohl) were telling me that was the model they used, the tribute concert to Freddie. I was very heavily involved in that, so that was sort of the model they built these shows on — which is nice because we’ve always been tight with the Foo Fighters. We just love that band, like family.
Does it say something about Queen’s music that it can be done so well in such circumstances, with a variety of different people performing it?
I guess it must. I do think one of our strengths is our body of work. I think the songs are very strong — obviously there’s a lot of really well-known songs, but also some of the deeper cuts. I think our songwriting is good and solid and has quality. It seems to have a lot of staying power. I guess that’s proof of the pudding, in a way. That’s all we wanted to do; we wanted to entertain the maximum amount of people.
I don’t have any solo ideas at the moment. I think Queen will tour again, and I would hope we might tour North America — but I think not for a year. I think we deserve a little time off now. Brian and I both really enjoy what we’re doing these days. We don’t do anything we don’t feel like doing, but thankfully we’re still able to do it — when we want.