Driven By You
There is a touching moment at the end of a live version of Driven By You when Brian May, with his legendary signature Red Special in hand, turns momentarily away from the tens of thousands of fans in the stadium and gently smiles to the camera. The clear message of that moment is ‘everything I do is driven by you [the fans].’
This message is underlined by the re-release of his 1992 solo album Back to the Light - unavailable for many years -, which contains a number of new songs. “I’m very excited,” he says, “I’ve been putting a lot of work in and polishing that up, finding some tracks that weren’t on the original; a nice new package.”
The man who penned the Queen classics’ Who Wants To Live Forever, Tie Your Mother Down, and We Will Rock You, sought to find solace in his own music following the untimely death of singer Freddie Mercury. In making Back to The Light he drew on support from friends including Neil Murray and Gary Tibbs (Roxy Music, Adam & The Ants), drummer Geoff Dugmore, keyboardist Mike Moran and singer Chris Thompson.
The Dark is the album’s symphonic starting point, which acts as a nice counterpoint to the top 20 UK single, Back To The Light. It is easy to see why many Queen fans would have latched onto this latter track after the passing of their hero, and May shows that he can hold his own on vocals as the song grows. Love Token was co-written with drummer Cozy Powell and, as can be imagined by the pedigree of the duo involved, is a powerful and engaging rock track. Resurrection also features the pair producing hard rock, which again made the top 30 in the UK.
Too Much Love Will Kill You is probably the most intimate song on this album, and May himself says that it is possibly his most important recording. May wrote the song around the time he was separating from his first wife in 1988 and starting his relationship with Anita Dobson. In some compensation for his inner conflict and heartache, the song hit number 5 in the UK charts and won an Ivor Novello Award.
The rocking Driven by You is not everyone’s favourite as it was reportedly originally written for a Ford car advertisment, but the song met with similar success in the UK. On the other hand, Cozy Powell and Queen’s John Deacon lent a hand with the bluesy cut, Nothin' But Blue, which May wrote the night before Mercury’s death, and on which he soars on one of Joe Satriani's guitars.
Last Horizon provides a beautiful guitar instrumental that features in our accompanying video, and is well worth a listen. The album closes with the only cover, Rollin' Over, which I suspect is May paying homage to the authors, The Small Faces. What better way to close this highly personal record but with a nod to the musical heroes of his youth?
As can be assessed from the large number of hit singles Back to the Light spawned, it was an outstanding success; making number 6 in the UK album charts. “In 2021, proudly and fondly presenting this work to a new audience…” May writes in his introduction, “and noting carefully my original liner notes, I can report that I am still on the quest of finding answers to most of the questions posed in this suite of songs, and to this day, the Light still glimmers darkly, tantalizingly, always a little out of reach. Music gets us through.”