Freddie Mercury is famous for a multitude of reasons. He had few peers as a vocalist and rock frontman. On top of that, he had a wild personal life.
Part of that personal life was his love of partying. While he enjoyed his fair share of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, one party outshines them all. Here’s the story behind Queen’s launch party for their album Jazz.
The most discussed party in rock history?
Mercury was known for partying like there was no tomorrow. His good friend Elton John has said as much. In an interview for a Mercury biography, John said “[Mercury] could out-party me which is saying something. We’d be up for nights, sitting there at 11 in the morning, still flying high.”
In 1978, Queen released their misleadingly-titled album Jazz. Jazz is perhaps most famous for including the song “Don’t Stop Me Now,” one of the greatest odes to debauchery ever written. The album was launched with a party that lived up to that track.
The band held a party in honor of the album’s release in New Orleans’ Fairmont Hotel on Halloween. In keeping with the aesthetics of the holiday, the place looked rather spooky. The ballroom had 50 skeletal dead trees in it. Bob Hart of record label EMI said the party had a “witchcraft theme.”
The entertainment at the party
In the book Rock Bottom: Dark Moments in Music Babylon, Pamela Des Barres says that the party’s entertainment included cross-dressers, strippers, snake charmers, and little people. NME adds a few other elements to the list: “nude waiters and waitresses, a fellow biting heads off live chickens, naked models wrestling in a liver pit.” Mercury drank lots of the finest champagne that night. Mercury’s bill for the party allegedly totaled $200,000.
Things got very risque in the back room. Music executives could go there to get intimate. Mercury joked about the practice with one of his trademark witticisms. “Most hotels offer their guests room service. This one offers them lip service.”
Freddie Mercury, little people, and a persistent rumor
According to a persistent rumor about the party, Mercury had little people attend the party with plates of cocaine strapped to their heads. Is the rumor true? NME says it is. Interview Magazine reports the rumor is uncorroborated albeit plausible.
Mercury’s assistant, Peter Freestone, tells a different story. It was Freestone’s job to make sure Mercury had cocaine when he wanted it. Freestone said, “It’s rock ‘n’ roll legend, but there were never [little people] walking ‘round parties with bowls of cocaine on their heads.”
Regardless of the rumor’s veracity, it’s a popular story. If Sacha Baron Cohen had his way, the anecdote would have been dramatized in Bohemian Rhapsody. However, the surviving members of Queen wanted Bohemian Rhapsody to be a family film and Cohen left the project. Perhaps this was a missed opportunity!