Yes, you read that correctly. Michael Jackson and rock star Freddie Mercury –frontman of the legendary Queen–apparently recorded a handful of songs together for an unfinished collaborative album project–songs which the Jackson Estate is now releasing for the first time. No, it’s not a mosh-up or some post-mortem ‘remastering’ magic. The King of Pop and the um, Queen of Rock actually spent considerable time in the same room, putting down tracks at MJ’s home studio in his Encino, California crib. The year was 1983. Queen was riding high off their 1982 opus Hot Space (think “Under Pressure” with David Bowie) and Jackson had just melted down pop music and then refashioned it in his own image with Thriller, released the very same year. The mutual fans decided to work on an album of duets which produced at least 3 songs: “State Of Shock” (leaked in 2010, stream below); “Victory” and “There Must Be More To Life Than This.” But the songs never made it past the demo stage and the LP was never completed, for the reasons you’d expect when two 80s megastars with such larger-than-life eccentric personalities get in one room. Yup…best believe there’s llamas (and lots of cocaine) involved. Read on:
According to an interview conducted with the Times of London, Queen’s former manager, Jim “Miami” Beach claims that Mercury called him and said, “Can you get over here? You’ve got to get me out of here, I’m recording with a llama.” Jackson was also reportedly less than thrilled with Mercury’s behavior during the recording session.According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Mercury subsequently fell out with Jackson because the U.S. star objected to Mercury taking too much cocaine in his living room.”
After that Jackson and Mercury (who, in defiance of all that is logical and right will not be portrayed by Sacha Baron-Cohen in a forthcoming biopic) never managed to “coordinate their schedules” to get back in the studio and the tracks lay dormant until the Jackson Estate cleared them for release in 2011. Now, according to Time Magazine, the demos are being fleshed out by the surviving Queen crew for release in the next few months. Specifically:
Mercury’s former Queen bandmates drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May are in the studio with producer William Orbit, adding what the Daily Mail refers to as “new guitar solos from [Brian] May along with Queen-style vocal harmonies” to the tracks. May told the Times that there will be, “something for folks to hear” in two months time.
So there you have it, straight from the llama’s mouth (excuse me while I ‘womp’ myself). Listen to “State Of Shock” below, a sparsely arranged banger that not surprisingly combines Jackson’s unstoppable catchiness with Queens’ dramatic rock chops–a sort of preview of the ever-more-rock tinged sound that characterized later Jackson hits like “Dirty Diana”–and imagine what might have been. And may yet be, when get the other two extant tracks in our hot little hands.