Saturday, 4 July 2015

(Freddie) Mercury and Me by Jim Hutton

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

I can't count the amount of car journeys I had growing up when my father was playing Queen.  My father is a massive Queen fan and admirer of Freddie Mercury (he even sprouts a Freddie Mercury style moustache).  Sadly, I am the only other Queen fan obsessive in the Walker household and so when I saw Jim Hutton's autobiography I leapt at the chance to read it and it was a highly enjoyable read.  Jim Hutton, who sadly passed away, was Freddie Mercury's self-professed 'husband'.  The story starts with a Hutton newly single meeting (and being pursued by) Freddie and his relationship with Freddie until Freddie's death.

One of the main things I enjoyed was the fact it is very readable.  The danger with autobiographies is that they can either contain too much (pointless) information and read like a textbook or they can be monotonous with "I did this.. Then I did this... Then I..."  Hutton's work strikes a great balance between the two.  Although a 'professional'* writer has helped, it feels very authentic as Hutton's story and I don't think it detracts in anyway from the book.  My only criticism is that some parts read like a shopping list with "he bought... this which was really expensive and... and he bought so and so... " but I think that is just personal preference.  *(does anyone know what they are doing?)

For those curious, I'll let you know what it covers.  This autobiography gives more insight into Freddie, his personality and his antics than it does the band.  There are very few behind the scenes glances into 'Queen', mainly because Hutton didn't spend a great deal of time with the band when it was being Queen.  This probably isn't the best read if you just want all the inside details on Queen.  I was surprised to learn that Freddie was not closer with the other bandmates but, I suppose, after spending so much time in the studios and on tour together a little time apart is refreshing.  Having said that about the band, Hutton does cover Freddie's relationship with Monserrat Cabelle or Montsy as she was known by Freddie.  I was hoping that it would address the factoid that Freddie refused to continue working with Michael Jackson because Jackson insisted on bringing animals into the studio but all Hutton suggests was that Freddie found MJ difficult to work with. (Perhaps someone can confirm or discredit this?)

I found reading about Freddie's final months and days very difficult to read.  I am glad I stayed up through the night reading (and crying) until the last page because I doubt I could have found the strength to face reading the rest of the book.  It is not a case of 'oh he died' peacefully and unexpectedly one day in his sleep.  Hutton is very honest that Freddie's descent was protracted, painful and unglamorous.

On the other hand, this autobiography has many laugh out loud moments.  There are a lot of anecdotes too which I now share with my parents that they seem to enjoy, more than my others anyway.  Two of my favourites ones are that Freddie's pin up was Burt Reynolds and that Freddie bought Butler and Wilson jewellery; by sheer coincidence I have a few pieces and so now when I wear them I think of Freddie.  I have more anecdotes but why spoil the book?

I usually read other reviews before I write my own.  This mainly is to see if others shared 'my' opinion or if I missed anything and I have to say I was surprised to read about the whole Mary vs Jim controversy over Freddie's will and whether Hutton was 'cashing in'.  For those who don't know, Mary Austin was Freddie's fiancĂ© until Freddie confided he was gay.  I'm not going to spend long on these controversies because, frankly, I'm not a historian - I don't have access to any additional facts other than my humble Sherlockian skills of abduction.  I remember when my own grandmother died from cancer, and although I was ten, I remember relatives saying things they shouldn't have.  I think that grief warps our emotions (and in turn our perception and reactions) and I don't think either of them are, or were, overtly reliable.  Also, there is a noticeable absence of John Deacon in the post-Freddie "Queen" line up so a few Hutton criticisms could equally be levelled at May and Taylor.  It all ends there as far as I'm concerned, no good is going to come of raking up that particular patch of time.

Overall, it was a really great book, a real roller-coster ride and is a must read for any obsessive Freddie/Queen fan.  If you can buy the book, I would recommend getting a physical copy as the Kindle pictures are obviously in black and white.  Do you have a favourite Queen or Freddie song or album or any memories connected to Queen?  I'd love to hear from you!  I'm going to leave you now with my all-time favourite song, how I wish I was Debbie Lang in this video.

Book Facts
Publication Date: 1995
Pages: 222
My Edition: Bloomsbury 
Shows Freddie in a dressing gown, with a crown looking regal on which would later be his stage costume

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  1. Hi there,
    I was googling Jim Hutton and came across your review. I'm a 40 year old Australian woman who grew up a massive Queen and Freddie Mercury fan. I started listening to Queen at around the age of 5 when Crazy Little Thing Called Love came out (it was my first ever favourite song) and I recall being shocked and upset at Feddie's death in Nov 1991.
    I recently bought a biography on Freddie that I'm reading at the moment (by Lesley-Anne Jones) but I was googling to see what other books are out there on Freddie. I found Jim Hutton's book online and read through it over a day. I was a bit hesitant to read it as my understanding was that Freddie was always very private and didn't really do interviews much and often deflected personal questions. After reading Mercury and Me, to be honest I wished I hadn't. The extent of highly personal detail in the book on Freddie's health decline and his death I found upsetting. As noted I've always loved Queen and in particular Freddie and I found it highly inappropriate that Jim Hutton would write about Freddie's final moments to the world especially his final words, his very final moments etc. I found Hutton's comments about Mary Austin a little catty especially his comments about her after Freddie's death.
    After putting the book down, I couldn't help but think that Freddie would have dumped Jim Hutton like a hot potato if he had betrayed him like that while he was still alive. Freddie certainly did so with ex lover and manager Paul Prenter when Prenter gave revealing tell all interviews to the press - once the lurid details hit the papers Freddie refused any contact with Prenter. I therefore wonder how he would have reacted to Jim Hutton's warts and all memoir. I do think Jim Hutton loved Freddie but to write about EVERYTHING for anyone to read I personally found disgusting. A few other reviews of the book elsewhere on the Internet have noted that Jim's book "humanised Freddie". I disagree. It gave every personal detail of Freddie's demise and death in indignified and lurid detail and left me disgusted at Jim Hutton's lack of discretion.
    Mary Austin on the other hand has kept a dignified silence with only a few interviews in over 20 years with no deeply personal reveal-all details, despite being arguably the one who found Freddie's death the most difficult. S with such a huge responsibility managing his estate. I've personally seen how ugly things get when people die and those closest to them fall out over wills etc. I really admire her for looking after Freddie's home and belongings as he asked her to when it would have been easier for her to sell the lot. I also personally think it would be hard living in the house by yourself and surrounded by all the memories so I take my hats off to her for being a person of such strength, loyalty and dignity. No wonder Freddie referred to her as the love of his life.
    She has continued to refuse to detail where Freddie's ashes are and to be honest I really admire her for her unwavering loyalty and for refusing to sell him out.
    All I can say if I hope Jim Hutton is resting in peace because after I read his book, I felt mostly disgust toward his complete lack of loyalty in releasing such personal information about Freddie Mercury. I certainly couldn't look myself in the eye in a mirror after betraying the love of my life just to make a quick buck and get some publicity.

    So there you go, just my 2 pennies worth! Thanks for your review, I enjoyed reading it and it's always great to see other's opinions.
    Great blog by the way!


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