Why No One Heard This Freddie Mercury/Michael Jackson Duet for Years
Freddie Mercury had an incredible run in the 1970s and 1980s. Michael Jackson had an incredible run in the 1970s and 1980s. They could have collaborated. However, a llama got in the way.
Jackson was known for his eccentricities. One of these eccentricities was owning a llama. That llama once got in the way of Mercury’s creative process during the recording of some songs. Here’s how one of these songs eventually saw the light of day.
How a llama ruined a recording session
Jackson wanted to record with Mercury. The duo created a trio of demo songs in Jackson’s home studio in Encino, California. None of the songs were ever finished in Jackson and Mercury’s lifetimes, however.
There are a few reasons why the demos weren’t completed. First, Jackson and Mercury had conflicting schedules which made it difficult for them to finish the songs. Second, Jackson was becoming a recluse at the time. His unwillingness to leave his home made it hard to complete the tracks.
The most famous and odd reason why the demos weren’t completed was because a llama got in the way of the proceedings. Jackson brought a llama into the studio. Mercury was not having it.
Mercury’s manager, Jim “Miami” Beach, got an incredibly bizarre phone call from Mercury. Beach said “Mercury rang me and said: ‘Miami, dear, can you get over here? You’ve got to get me out of here; I’m recording with a llama.”
Freddie Mercury releases one of the songs
Of course, the idea that Jackson and Mercury made songs together is amazing to many fans of classic rock and 1980s pop music. Everyone wanted to hear these recordings. Eventually, one of the songs – “There Must Be More to Life Than This” – got a release in two different forms.
Mercury released his solo version of the song on his album Mr. Bad Guy. It wasn’t a hit, but Mercury’s fans seemed to like it. Much later, Jackson’s estate released a polished version of “There Must Be More to Life Than This” duet.
The duet version sees the light of day
In 2011, Jackson’s estate permitted Queen member Brian May to work on the demos. He worked with fellow bandmember Roger Taylor and producer William Orbit to work on the demos. Orbit is famous for producing Madonna’s classic album Ray of Light.
Orbit was completely in awe of the song once it was finally finished. “When I first played it in my studio, I opened a trove of delights provided by the greatest of musicians. Hearing Michael Jackson’s vocals was stirring. So vivid, so cool, and poignant, it was like he was in the studio singing live. With Freddie’s vocal solo on the mixing desk, my appreciation for his gift was taken to an even higher level.”
Mercury’s solo version of the track was fairly minimalist. Orbit’s polished version of the duet had much more lush instrumentation. When his version of the track was released, many were happy to hear Jackson and Mercury’s voices play off each other.