You don’t need bells and whistles when you have a voice like Freddie Mercury’s.
That’s what singer/producer Dave Clark realized when he met the larger-than-life Queen front man in 1985 at London’s Abbey Road Studios to record “Time,” the title track from his sci-fi rock musical. Mercury sang a version of the song for the show’s concept album, and it was later released as a single.
Before recording the final version — which features thunderous percussion and backup vocals — Clark asked Mercury to sing a take accompanied only by piano, which is now being released as the new single “Time Waits for No One.”
Listening to Mercury sing the bare-bones ballad in the studio that day “gave me goosebumps,” Clark says. “It [became] a mega-production, which I was happy with, and Freddie loved. But I didn’t think about what we had originally done until a decade or so later, when I thought, ‘I’ve never felt that sort of goosebumps feeling that I got on that original run-through at Abbey Road with just Freddie and piano.’ “
It wasn’t until the spring of 2018 that Clark finally unearthed Mercury’s stripped-down performance, which he updated with a new piano track by the session’s original pianist, Mike Moran. Not wanting to have the track’s release overshadowed by Queen’s blockbuster biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” last fall, Clark decided to wait to release the previously unheard version until now.
But Mercury’s stirring vocals and the song’s poignant message that “time waits for no one” resonate just as much now as they did when he recorded it three decades ago, Clark says.
”Freddie just wanted to have fun and live in the moment,” he says. In the studio, “He gave his all. If Freddie didn’t like something, he’d stop and say so. He was very meticulous. That’s why I was surprised we hit it off so well because everybody said he’d be a nightmare to work with. But Freddie was great. We were both aiming to create something special. And it certainly was special.”