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According to Brian May, Queen had an inside joke that involved Paul McCartney. It wasn’t at all disrespectful. On the contrary, it was the ultimate compliment to their idol.

Paul McCartney at a CD signing at Virgin Megastore, 2006. Brian May posing in a suit in 2004.
Paul McCartney and Brian May | Jason Kempin/Robert Knight Archive/Getty Images

Brian May said Queen had an inside joke that involved Paul McCartney

In a 2021 interview with NME, Queen’s guitarist revealed that Paul was on the top of his list of people he’d like to work with. He also said Queen used to have an inside joke that involved the ex-Beatle.

“When people ask me who I’d like to work with, Paul McCartney is at the top of my list because the Beatles are still ‘The Bible’ to us. As struggling musicians, we had a joke whenever the phone went, somebody would say: ‘Oh, it’s Paul McCartney for you’ and we’d say, ‘Tell him to f*** off!.’

“Not any disrespect to Paul – just a bravado thing because he’s like the Pope. When we were rehearsing for the [1992] Freddie Mercury Tribute [Concert in London], the phone went and the message came back: ‘It’s Paul McCartney for you….‘”(Laughs).

NME asked May if they finally told Paul “to f*** off.” May replied they didn’t, of course.

“No, but it felt surreal,” he said. “He was phoning to wish us luck and say he was sad he couldn’t appear with us at that show, as I’m sat on a chair looking at Robert Plant, Tony Iommi, Roger Daltrey, and Seal.”

That’s an impressive group of rock stars, but May would have loved Paul to be among them too.

May said Queen were jealous that artists covered Paul McCartney and The Beatles instead of them

The Beatles have inspired many artists over the decades, including Queen. So, naturally, the Fab Four have influenced many covers. May revealed that Queen was a bit jealous of that initially.

“When we were going round the world getting hits, we’d think: ‘Everybody covers Beatles and [Led] Zeppelin, why don’t they cover Queen songs?’

“Then there was a trickle that suddenly became an avalanche and suddenly we became part of the language that people wanted to speak in music. Hearing people playing our songs is the greatest compliment.”


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The Beatles were one of Queen’s biggest influences

Many artists love The Beatles, but they were Queen’s “Bible.” In a 2019 interview with Guitar World, May explained that Beatles albums like The White Album inspired them the most.

“The Beatles built our bible as far as musical composition, arrangement and production went,” May explained. “The White Album is a complete catalog of how you should use a studio to build songs. ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’ and ‘Dear Prudence’ are blinding examples of how music can be like painting a picture on a canvas.”

Queen built on what The Beatles accomplished in the studio. “In a sense, the Beatles were unburdened because they didn’t have to play the songs live,” May continued. “We became passionate about building stuff in the studio but also making it come to life on a stage.”

The only thing May has left to do is collaborate with Paul, and it’ll truly come full circle.