rock in rio festival

This shot of Queen guitarist Brian May about to jump in the swimming pool fully clothed (and with bandmate John Deacon looking on in surprise) was taken by photographer Justin Thomas. “It was at the first Rock In Rio festival in 1985”, Justin recalls. “We were at the Copa Cabana Palace Hotel and they threw this huge party with lots of sexy girls in white bikinis and G-strings, and there were guys banging drums. It might well have been Brian’s birthday, but I can’t remember! But it was after Queen’s gig where Freddie Mercury had come on stage draped in a Union Jack that had a Brazilian flag on the other side - when he turned it around, the crowd went bonkers. After Brian got out of the pool, he went out of the hotel where fans had written his name in the sand in candles - it was very sweet.”

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On this day in music history: May 13, 1996 - “Older”, the third album by George Michael is released (US release date is on May 14, 1996). Produced by George Michael and Jon Douglas, it is recorded at SARM West Studio Two in Notting Hill, London and Aegean Studios in London from Mid 1993 - Early 1996. The pop superstar’s first full length release in nearly six years, it comes after a long legal battle with Sony Music where Michael battles his label for his release over the terms of his contract, and what he feels was the under promotion of the “Listen Without Prejudice, V.1” album by the US division. He winds up losing the case, and remains bound to Sony until 1995, when Virgin Records in the UK and the newly formed Dreamworks SKG label jointly owned by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen purchase George Michael’s contract from Sony. In the interim period, Michael has been working on and off on new music, though for the first time in his progress is slowed by writer’s block as well as dealing with other issues in his personal life. Having met Brazilian fashion designer Anselmo Feleppa after performing at the Rock In Rio festival in 1991, Michael enters into his first committed relationship with a man. Tragedy strikes when only six months later, Feleppa discovers that he is HIV positive. Michael himself is not infected, but ceases all work to care for his partner who passes away on March 26, 1993. Shaken by the loss, Feleppa’s death is the catalyst for one of George Michael’s most poignant and moving songs, writing the lyrics to “Jesus To A Child” (#1 UK, #7 US Pop) in just an hour and a half. Once again confident in his creative ability, Michael begins writing and recording again. Musically, “Older” picks up where “Listen Without Prejudice” leaves off, taking on a moodier and jazzier feel and is a direct reflection of what the singer has experienced over the previous three years. The album is an immediate smash in Europe and throughout much of the rest of the world, though the response in the US is decidedly muted and less enthusiastic, with American fans being more accustomed to Michael’s more pop oriented material. It spins off three singles (six internationally) including “Fastlove” (#1 UK, #8 US Pop) and Spinning The Wheel" (#2 UK). In 1997, an expanded edition is released in Europe with a bonus disc titled “Upper” featuring six bonus tracks including remixes and two previously unreleased songs. “Older” spends four weeks at number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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Queen was the star attraction for 470.000 fans at the rock festival Rock in Rio, Brazil.

“It was awe-inspiring and mind-boggling to be up there with all those people in the palm of your hand.” says Freddie. “But the other side of the coin is that. though was surrounded by masses of people who love me, I must have been the loneliest person there. Can you imagine how terrible it is when you’ve got everything and you’re still desperately lonely? That is awful beyond words.

"I don’t want people to think, poor old Freddie, because I can deal with it. But I’m so powerful on stage that I seem to have created a monster. When I’m performing, I’m an extrovert yet inside I’m a completely different man.