7 – Blog 04 – The Knobs

Thinking we should clean up the mess we made in the Castle bar last night, MJ and I find the task has been done for us.

“There must be staff,” I conclude. “Let’s see if someone will make us breakfast.”

“I want my Aunt Jemima,” Mike craves flapjacks.

“Forget your rundown downtown Gary Indiana ghetto food. We need a continental petit dejeuner,” I fake sophistication.

MJ starts singing ‘Gary Indiana.’ I join in, remembering this song from a high school musical.

“You did ‘The Music Man’ in high school.”

“Just another random memory.”

We wander into the kitchen; there is staff.

“Nous voulons deux petit dejeuners, s’il vous plais, avec croissants,” I spout my multilingual abilities.

“How do you know French” MJ is impressed.

“Remember I have no memory. Every time I need to do something that requires talent or skill, I try my best and it works out. I just know how. Let’s wait and see if they understood me.”

MJ knows the way to the dining room. A soon as we sit down, coffee is brought in. Just life in the Castle. Juice and croissants are next, with butter and jam on the side.

“Plus des croissants, s’il vous plais.”

“Bien sur, mes garcons.” The server runs off.

“Is this anything like life in Gary Indiana?” I ask.

“I live in Woodland Hills, s’il vous plais.”

“I thought you ran away.”

“Now I live in a Swiss castle.”

“Maintenant un giton?”

“What’s that?”

“You don’t wanna know.”

MJ looks confused. I am the one everyone assumes is a rent boy.

The Knobs wander in. Our server takes their orders for an “English’ breakfast. They all ask for Bloody Marys to cure their hangovers.

“Hair of the dog,” I mock them.

They just glare.

“You boys woke us up too early,” Billy complains.

MJ and I stand up, belting out ‘ABC,’ loud as possible. They all look miserable.

“Have some coffee,” I suggest. The server brings a fresh carafe.

“Yank’s still got a bird up his arse,” Jock notes.

“His name is Laz and we both sing whenever we feel like it,” MJ defends me.

“No more songs,” they all squeal and cover their ears.

“You really are knobs,” MJ remarks.

“Well, eat up because we have three days to go before the first Knobs show. No time to waste with hangovers.” I am in charge.

“Yeah.” Mike pipes up. “Time to get to the studio and learn the song Laz and I are doing on Friday night.”

“What does Freddie think about that?”

“It will be the encore, if you boys don’t screw up too much on the Queen songs,” I warn them.

They all groan. English breakfasts just make them groggy.

Somewhat revived after coffee, MJ leads us to Bowie’s recording studio in the bowels of the basement. All the instruments are locked up. I start fiddling with the sound board while MJ runs to get the keys to the instrument cabin from the Master of the Castle. He returns with a bedraggled Bowie in tow.

“You boys get up at the crack of dawn?” his majesty King Farrok also appears.

“Mike and I have a song we want to do together,” I over-enthusiastically pull out a couple of guitars from the cabinet.

“Hang on,” Bowie grabs my guitar. “That’s my SG. There’s another one somewhere in there you can use.”

I hand Mike a Fender Mustang and find the second Les Paul SG in the back.

The boys grab what they want. Freddie feels left out. I hand him a tambourine.

“Perfect for the King of Zanzibar,” I smile at him. He shakes his head.

“What is this song you want to do.”

“It’s only if we get an encore.”

“I always get an encore.”

“Then we need to be ready.”

MJ is holding his Mustang by the neck, wondering how to learn how to instantly play it.

“It’s my trick,” I tell him. “Watch me shape the chords. You just pluck the top two strings, follow my leads.”

“You want me to pluck. Okay, I am the chicken inspectin’ man ,’” he sings a minstrel ditty. “I do my chicken inspectin’, way down in Zululand.”

The boys break up. Bowie looks distressed. Freddie is oblivious.

“That’s not our song. What we plan is even worse. The song is unconscious racism, ‘Mr. Bojangles,” MJ is not politically correct.

I strum the chords as MJ hits individual notes.

We sit and play through the whole sad story. The boys join in for the ‘Mr. Bojangles’ chorus. MJ has a big smile as he easily follows me in the acoustic performance. The stars just stare and finally do an awkward dance with each other.

Mike jumps up and grabs the bass from Jock and does the single note intro to ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’

“After the acoustic folk song, I’ll do the intro to the new song I wrote but can’t perform. Freddie can come in with the boys on the new, fresh Queen anthem to dance music, ‘Another One bites the Dust,’” MJ  orchestrates the encore.

The boys pick up their instruments and play as Freddie raps the song lyrics. MJ beams at how much everyone loves his song. I realize Queen is lucky to get it, since anything credited to Mike would be owned by the Jackson 5 and controlled by evil Joe Jackson.

“Great.” Freddie exclaims, “Now that we have our encore down, maybe we should learn to play the Queen songs well enough to get an encore.

I look at the sound board, where David is showing Mike how to use the built-in keyboard to play the single bass notes. Jock has retrieved the bass and is ready to move on to practicing the Queen songs. I move over next to David and control the feed levels from each player, muting the percussion when they go off-beat by moving the sliders down. I realize my ear is pretty good to be able to separate out each instrument. Soon I am mixing the individual tracks to better harmonize each song. Mike has moved away once Jock takes over the bass. David watches me running the mixing board.

“You sure you need me to be sound engineer. You seem to have it under control.”

I smile at his compliment. “When we perform, I will be on the MOOG filling in when anyone gets lost. The MOOG is at Freddie’s Lake house.”

“Am I stuck at the mixing board?”

“Oh. Well, we can switch off. We can even be on stage. I’ll set the MOOG to control the rhythm. You can do whatever you want. I’m just a kid playing whatever comes to mind. You make it professional.”

“So, you’re Queen’s new record producer?”

“I’m not in charge, just spurring them on. All this fun will end when the real Queen musicians show up.”

“You believe they will?”

“With you and Mike taking their places, they’ll show up. They don’t want to be like Pete Best in the Beatles.”

“Well, fame is fleeting. Your boys are counting on being the new Queen.”

“It will be ‘Off with their heads,’ very soon. This one show may be their swan song.”

“Freddie as the Queen of Hearts?”

“That would be Brian May, with Roger Taylor as the Mad Hatter.”

Bowie shakes his head as we all laugh.

We take a break from practice. The Castle staff lays on a lunch of bangers and mash for the Brits and burgers and fries for MJ and me.

”No Raclette?” I complain.

“Oui, c’est sur le burger.

“Merci, bien sur.”

“You speak French?” Bowie is impressed.

“I just pretend I know what to say and somehow it works. I call it New English.”

“Did you lived in New England, too?”

“I have no idea. Memories are slowly bubbling up. Freddie is keeping my personal file locked away. He likes me clueless.”

“You’re anything but clueless.”

“I’m just faking it. Everyone thinks I’m gay. I refuse to try faking that.”

David shakes his head and laughs at me some more.

Lunch over, Freddie decides it is time to return to Montreux. MJ gives me a longing look. David tells him to go with us. He suggests we rehearse at the Casino tomorrow/Thursday to get familiar with playing on stage. He will meet us there. I call Henri and arrange to use the Casino’s main stage during the day. I tell Bowie to be at the Casino by 10am.

“Yes, boss,” he laughs.

Off we go to Montreux in the Rolls. Mike squeezes in with me. No problem for skinny-ass boys.  Billy pulls out a joint. Freddie tells him to stifle it. Freddie is back to being in charge. I am glad not to smoke.

Once we are at the Lake house, Freddie announces he needs a nap. Maybe Bowie wore him out last night. I herd the boys into the studio.

The MOOG awaits me. I proudly show Mike how I can recreate the sounds of various instruments with just the adjustment of a few dials and sliders. The rhythm box makes everyone stay on beat. The boys patiently wait for me to tell them what to do.

“You roadies know how to tune a guitar, right?”

They all point at Billy.

Well, you all need to be able to do it. What if you break a string onstage or accidentally untune a string?”

Billy pulls out an electronic tuner.

“Oh, my gawd,” I am dismayed. “You will not use that on stage. Watch me tune up your guitar.” I grab Billy’s Stratocaster and loosen all the pegs.

“Give me a low E on the octave below middle C,” I tell MJ on the MOOG.

He hits a solid single note. I crank the peg until it creates a sustained harmonic.

“Hear that?” I ask.

They all nod, Knobs nodding.

I show them how to tune the other strings, pairing sequential strings with the higher seventh on the next higher string, then working back up the fifth frets paired with the open string below the fifth. Everyone practices tuning. MJ starts playing major chords on the keyboard. It all blends together.

“Always tune by ear. The keyboard will give you the lower E to start with. Once you hear the sustain, adjust the string you are tuning for the fullest sustain. If the sound engineer thinks you’re out of tune with the rest of the band he will block your feed to all the speakers except the monitor at your feet. Only you will hear the monitor. Quickly tune yourself and the sound man will bring you back up in the main speakers. We will be playing outdoors. Don’t worry. The acoustics will be screwed. Stand in front of your monitor. Once you trust your sound, you can move around. Know how your sound is coming through and if it sounds off, retreat to the monitor.”

The Knobs are completely bewildered by all this direction. Mike starts laughing at me bossing around adults. Jock looks like his head is whirling. MJ hits the opening notes to ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ on the MOOG, and Jock comes right in on bass. Tommy and Steve jump on the matching drums and repeat the funky beat. Billy is still tuning and looks bewildered, failing to come in. With Jock providing the bass base, MJ hits major chords and I sing, “And another one, and another one, and another one bites the dust.”

We play the whole song through. Billy looks chagrined by his non-performance.

“It’s okay, Billy. If you’re ready, are you ready to rock? Let’s do the Queen songs we know.” I am done with band camp for the day.

The first one is Queen’s first single, ‘Keep Yourself Alive.’ Do we feel desperate? Are we really the new Queen?

The Knobs respond.

After the long intro, I step in front and take Freddie’s role singing the opening verses. MJ joins me at the mic for the chorus ‘Keep yourself alive, keep yourself alive (Billy adds the ‘Yeah’). ‘

We make it all the way through the song, everyone is concentrating on their playing. MJ has set the MOOG to play the rhythm track at a rock steady beat.

At the end, everyone cheers. There were mistakes but no one stopped playing. ‘WE ARE QUEEN.’

“Next, a bit more attitude, please, on ‘Killer Queen’

I let Billy do the singing this time. As a first try at singing while playing guitar, it is weak. On the chorus, we all back him up. MJ’s high alto comes through brilliantly at the last word of the chorus:

‘She’s a Killer Queen
Gunpowder, gelatine
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind
Anytime’

Songwriters: Freddie Mercury

Killer Queen lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC,

We love it. Billy relaxes and pulls off the next two verses. MJ steps up to the mic each time for his one word solo: ‘Anytime.’ We repeat the song to give Billy more confidence. Mike nails it, twirls away and does that weird dance step of moving backwards like a movie running in reverse. Mike tries to show me this move; he calls it ‘Moonwalking.’ I have no talent at dancing, another white kid with no soul or rhythm. He finally gets behind me, grabs my hips and we pull it off. It looks obscene.

Time for a break. Mike sees the pool, where Freddie is working out.

We strip down to our briefs, dive in and swim a length of the pool. MJ is not a proficient swimmer. I reverse roles and have him hang onto my hips as I swim butterfly, easily pulling him along. At the edge of the pool, he pulls himself up my back and holds onto my shoulders. I am his personal dolphin undulating up and down the pool several laps. The Knobs make obscene remarks and gestures, claiming we are simulating fish fucking. With MJ riding my butt I can tell he is not excited in any way.

“You Knobs need to clean your dirty minds,” I excoriate their nasty ideas. “We’re just boys.”

“Oh, so innocent,” Freddie adds his two cents/deux centimes.

We jump out of the pool, ignoring the audience.

“We need to purify our bodies after what you think you saw. Lake Geneva has magical healing powers. I’m not going to ruin a perfectly innocent swim because you have perverted minds.”

“Wait,” Freddie demands. “You need bathing suits.”

He runs and bring us garish garments that barely cover the wet briefs.

Freddie joins us as we stroll to the lakefront.

“I promised David I’d keep Michael away from paparazzi attention,” he explains.

“Oh, Freddie. Just be a kid, too, going for a swim. Dr Jacques says the Lake water is the magic that brought me back from the living dead.”

“He brought you to me. It is a miracle.”

“You know I love you, Freddie.”

He turns bright red. MJ giggles.

“This is so much fun,” Mike enthuses. “Bowie is a perfect gentleman. I’m pretty bored there. At least I’m safe. This is more exciting. Just watch for photographers. No one knows where I’m at.”

I look at him and realize he cannot hide. The Afro gives him away.

“When we get back, I’ll cut your hair. How does a skinhead sound?”

“Joe will have kittens. I have to look just like my brothers.”

“You call your dad Joe.”

“It’s his name.”

“Well, Old Joe needs to know you’re now on your own.”

We all laugh.

“I wish,” MJ is suddenly sad.

“Cheer up buddy,” I tell him. “Time for a swim.”

We are at the edge of the lake. I dive in. MJ sticks in a foot, which I drag into the water. He freaks from being in over his head. I have him lay back and place his arms around my neck. I swim breaststroke about 50 yards offshore; MJ is totally relaxed until he looks around and sees the shoreline receding.

He panics. I roll over and he pulls himself up on my back with his arms again around my neck. I butterfly back to Freddie, who looks slightly frightened.

“Don’t drown him. I have enough trouble with the press.”

“No worries, Freddie. I feel totally safe with Laz.”

Freddie slips into the water and asks to ride on my back. MJ pulls himself out of the lake and I give King Farrok his ride out and back. We stop in the middle of the Lake, looking back like we are the only ones in the world, except for Mike, who anxiously watches us.

“Am I living up to your expectations, oh King Farouk, being a good slave?”

“I’m promoting you to Crown Prince. The Knobs will have their show. The boys are sure to come back. Everything is working out.  We have new songs. I don’t feel abandoned anymore. You keep us too busy to worry about all the music business bullshit. Maybe there is something in the water.”

“How about letting me see my file again?”

He kisses me on the forehead.

“I will not deny you anything you want but it is working so well. Can’t you trust Dr Jacques’ advice to become the person you are, not the one you were.”

“Some evil punk rock kid from LA.”

“Mike’s from LA. He’s not evil.”

“His dad sure seems to be. Mike seems so innocent. Being in Switzerland is his escape from Hell. I like having someone my age to play music with and just be kids. The Knobs seem obsessed with my sexuality.”

“They are really knobs, just working class ones. I chose them because they all are gay and don’t attract female groupies as typical roadies do. I won’t have crazed groupies with their screaming babies ruining my shows.”

“They love you, Freddie.”

“I’m married and only fool around with Jim.”

“I thought he was the butler.”

“Butt something or other,” he laughs.

“Nasty.”

“The lake water has proven its magic again. Does not being Crown Prince to my court satisfy you?”

“I think I’ll just be slave to the King. It’s not so complicated. Are you happy to be performing in the streets this Friday?”

“I’m always happy to perform no matter what the stage.”

I kiss him on the lips, roll him on my back and swim butterfly back to Mike.

“You kissed Freddie?” MJ wants to know the scoop as we change out of the swimsuits.

“He wants to make me Crown Prince of the Knobs.”

“What does that mean?”

“He’s happy with me, but I turned him down. I remain slave to the King of Queen. He will allow me to see my file but I decided to wait. Things are too perfect right now. I’m afraid I’ll find out I’m some nasty punk rocker from Hollywood.”

“I’ve heard stories. You’re nothing like what they say on TV.”

“Being dead for 1½ years may have mellowed me out.”

“You’re my best friend and I’ve only known you for a day.”

“Who was your best friend before me?”

“An ape named Bubbles.”

We laugh for about five minutes.

“What’s going on in there?” Freddie is banging on the cabana door.

“Mike told me he’s into bestiality and is showing me how that works.”

“Come out here this instant,” Freddie demands.

“Yes, my liege,” we both answer.

Time to show Freddie how many songs we learned this morning. We have sound check tomorrow morning. The Knobs play with spirit but lack of skill and practice is obvious. I need to fill in so much that I cannot also dampen the feed from any player who goes off. Mike jumps in and is the sound man while I play the MOOG to cover up when anyone makes mistakes. We are a good team. As we go through the playlist of Queen songs, the Knobs gain confidence and sound better and better. Freddie’s looks of dismay and distress slowly turn into grins and relief. At the end, we play ‘Champions’ and Freddie grabs the mic and struts the vocals himself. He sits at the piano to play and sing ‘Somebody to Love.’ All of us, including MJ, sing backup vocals.

Instead of trying to match Mike’s high alto, I drop an octave and allowing him a base to soar above the rest of us. Freddie is momentarily quieted, then soars with operatic heights that he perfected in ‘Night at the Opera’. Next we do our version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ with Mike flying to new heights with the ‘Galileos.’

‘I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning very, very frightening me
(Galileo) Galileo
(Galileo) Galileo
Galileo Figaro
Magnifico-o-o-o-o’

The song does go on. We are done, totally spent after a rough start, getting it together and at last creating our own Queen experience, not just a tribute band doing covers.

I suddenly realize we haven’t learned a song that Bowie can do. With MJ and me in the band as token teens, we should do ‘Young Americans.’

“We can’t do that song. It’s too depressing, all misogyny and violence,” Mike only hears the bad side.

“We are the Young Americans. They need Young Americans.”

I sing the meaning behind the words. He looks at me and gets it, singing along.

Young American, young American)
(I want the young American)
(All night)
You want I, I want you
(Young American, young American)
(I want the young American)
(All right)
All I want is the young American
(Young American, young American)
(I want the young American)
(All night)”

Writer(s): Bowie David, Jones David Robert

Freddie looks concerned that the show will not be strictly about him.

“Try singing , ‘We are the Young Zanzibarians,’ I mock him. “You can’t be King in America. Look what happened to Elvis, dead on the potty at 42.”

“Queen is loved in America,” he counters.

“We have a TV show called, ‘Queen for a Day.”

“Argh.”

“It’s just a song for Bowie to sing. We have to be ready,” I argue.

The Knobs are done. Two rehearsals in one day is enough.

“Okay,” I relent. “We have sound check in the morning. Let’s go eat. Raclette, anyone?”

“Never,” the entire English contingent protests.

“Well, back to le Museum, anyway. We need to prepare them for Friday’s pop-up. Your fans are sure to be stalking you there,” I tell Freddie.

That perks him up.

“Should we take the Rolls?” he asks me.

“Not until you are performing. We’re slumming at le Museum tonight. I bet we get a better table.”

“Hah. You are learning.”

First, we need to cut Mike’s hair, hoping a new, non-Jackson look will be enough of a disguise to fool the paparazzi. Montreux is enough of a backwater, not teeming with those bloodless soul suckers.

I find scissors and confront the King of Pop.

Let’s get rid of that Afro, Mike. I’ll chop down the forest,” as I approach with scissors ready to attack.

“Yeek,” MJ squeaks. “You’re not touching my hair. It takes years to grow out an Afro.”

“And just a match to set it on fire,” I joke. MJ backs away. Jeez, did I not just save him from drowning.

“Let me make an appointment with my hair dresser, Mike. You need a professional,” Freddie suggests.

“And end up a poof, like Brian May?”

“How about dreads. See if your hairdresser knows a Jamaican stylist. We need an ethnic solution to this fashion issue,” I tell Freddie.

Mike has his hair pic out trying to give body to his ‘do’ after the two swims.

“Lake water does not magically appear to work on African hair,” I kid MJ.

Freddie goes to call his guy and returns with an address.

“It is on the bad side of Montreux,” Freddie apologizes.

“Great. That’s exactly the look we’re going for.”

“Jim called le Museum. They are expecting us after 6. We’ll take a cab to the hair dressing salon. You Knobs take the Rolls. We’ll meet at the restaurant.”

The bad side of Montreux seems no different, but the salon is funky. It smells of burnt hair and strange chemicals.

“Are you Toots,” Freddie asks as we walk in. “Pierre from Au Courant told me to ask for him.”

The attendant looks startled, obviously recognizing both Freddie and Mike.

“No, mon. I be gettin’ the mon.”

He runs in the back. There is hushed, hurried conversation going on. Soon an older black man in colorful Ethiopian robes comes out, trailing the obvious odor of authentic ganja.

“I be Toots, mon. Proud to help me brother here. Or, do all you be wantin’ authentic roots?”

“No,” Freddie disappoints old Toots. “Just Mike here.”

The first attendant returns with a camera. Our visit to the salon is newsworthy.

“You must promise to keep quiet about giving Mike dreads. It has to be a disguise until we all play together this weekend,” Freddie demands secrecy.

“No problem, mon. Once it’s news, canna ya give ol’ Toots a boost?”

“No problem, Toots,”

“Well, Jackson, come ‘n get a Jamaica style makeover,” Toots indicates that Mike is to follow him. “There be fresh spliff in de front should ya hava need of the weed while ya wait,” he tells us.

Freddie returns to the front room and sits me down on the waiting room couch. He fires up the long openly rolled spliff and hands it to me.

“Dr Jacques might object,” I put him off.

“Fuck Dr Jacques. This will make you stop bossing me around.”

I take a long drag and immediately the smoke explodes out my ears, nose, mouth and maybe eyeballs. I start to pass out.

“It’s been awhile for you. But I can tell you that your file says you were a dedicated weed freak.”

Oh, no, more Hollywood waste case news of my past. I start laughing and cannot stop. Freddie takes several hits, declining to entice me to join him again. No need. I am paralyzed in my seat, floating above my abandoned body (on the wrong side of Montreux).

After what seems forever, Michael (or the new Mike) appears. He looks like a Rasta thug. Transformation complete.

He looks to me for reassurance that it is not a mistake. Seeing my unfocused eyes, he sizes up the situation quickly.

“You’re wasted,” he declares.

Time to sing again.

“Time for le Museum,” Freddie has the munchies. I do, too. Mike grabs the spliff and catches up. We thrash our way out of the salon. Toots and the attendant watch us leave, satisfied with their makeover job.

The taxi draws up at the curb, a hundred feet from the restaurant entrance.

The Rolls sits there with a coterie of girl groupies surrounding it and blocking the entrance. We wait until the Knobs exit from the Rolls and enter le museum. They are not what the groupies are there for. Once the Rolls is empty and pulls away, the frenzy subsides. We leave the cab, walk toward the entrance and Freddie casually asks the nearest girl, “What’s all the commotion about?”

She screams. He is instantly besieged. We have to push ourselves through the crowd. No one recognizes Mike. I am nothing more than a Young American. The press are taking photo shots of Freddie engaging a crowd of young girls.

“Stick around,” Freddie announces from the doorway,” “my new band will play for you after we eat.”

The girls all scream and try to rush Freddie again. The wait staff runs interference and we are soon seated in a cozy corner, away from the kitchen this time and not on display for the fans outside the front window.

The Knobs are coolly enjoying their beers while watching the scene they missed by arriving early. It takes them awhile to recognize Mike with his updated hair.

“Kool dreads, Jackson,” Billy pretends to make MJ one of their mates.

He has no response. He obviously enjoys being anonymous for once.

“What song will we do for the crowd?” Freddie is open to suggestions.

“Obviously ‘Another One Bites the Dust,’” I decide. “And tell the press it’s how you feel from being abandoned by the band.”

“Oh, I like that,” Freddie smiles. “I must have abandonment issues.”

Wine is placed on the table. The fussy proprietor from last time is anxious to please us.

“Se soir nous avons un menu prix fixe pour vous, s’il vous plais. Bon appetit.”

“What he say?” Billy whispers to me.

“Just relax. They are doing a special dinner for everyone.”

“I want to order a steak,” he whines.

I pour him wine.

“Stop guzzling your beer. Enjoy being a celebrity. It’s a feast for a king, or for a Queen.”

Freddie enjoys the déjà vu, remembering how he first reacted to fame.

I stand and sing Bowie’s fame song to the house.

‘Fame fame fame fame fame
Fame fame fame
Fame
What’s your name?
What’s your name?
What’s your name?…’

Songwriters: John Lennon / David Bowie / Carlos Alomar

Fame lyrics © Chrysalis Music Ltd., Tintoretto Music, Jones Music America, Unitunes Music, EMI Affiliated Catalog Inc., Lenono Music, Chrysalis Music Ltd

I receive polite applause. I hear someone ask, ‘Is that Freddie Mercury.’

Still working on my own fame.

The meal is incroyable. The Knobs remain oblivious, but nothing is left on their plates. The proprietor takes lots of photos – more self-promotion than memories.

We step outside where the crowd has grown considerably. Freddie hushes the masses.

“Thanks for showing up for us. It’s been a tough time lately with the rest of the band back home in London. I’m here because Montreux is my true home. “

He receives polite applause, muted Swiss enthusiasm about themselves.

“I know you wonder how we can play without instruments. But you will be surprised. Get up her Laz and Mike.”

That’s a twist. I hope Mike’s dread disguise works. We join Freddie on the step. The Knobs fill in behind us.

“Well, we may not be the real Queen, but we have a new song to play for the first time in public. Laz will start off with the mouth beats and Mike will back me up on vocals. This is a song for the traitors who abandoned me, ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’

Instead of pacing back and forth as usual in the stadium shows, Freddie has his arms around the two of us while the Knobs sing as loudly as possible with no mic or speakers.

The crowd presses forward. Some are shocked by the disco beat. The mostly young girls instantly start dancing and moving to the beat. We repeat the song three times without stopping.

Finally ending, we all sing ‘Champions’ to the thrill of the true Queen purists. We are a hit.

The Rolls rolls up and we all make an exit.

Freddie stands on the running board and announces, “Be sure to come to our next pop-up on Friday night in front of Taboo. And tell your friends.”

He bounces into the car door as we slowly exit through the crowd. Freddie grabs Mike and me and hugs us without letting go. He is a sweaty mess after one song. I kiss him on the cheek, like a good slave. Mike is shocked again.

It is still early when we get back to the Lake House. The Knobs and Freddie reconvene on the patio by the pool. Mike and I hang around until he falls asleep on my shoulder. The coke is about to come out. Time for youngsters to go to bed. Sound check is at 10. I hope there will be croissants for breakfast.

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