The original “Living On My Own” was a highlight of 1985’s uneven but likeable Mr Bad Guy album, one of the tracks where the disco backing had enough muscle to carry Mercury’s imagination. That track rides on a steady, ambulatory pulse, creating the space for Freddie to run free, scatting and shrieking. For its 1992 remix, on the posthumous Freddie Mercury Album, the skibbedy-bobbedy stuff was pruned back and the mix focused on the track’s whoops and war cries, leading off with a swaggering yodel. And then for this release – carrying the song to the top of the charts – “Living On My Own” was remixed further, turned a little more sombre, that triumphant opening shout replaced with a slow synth build, in case we’d somehow forgotten that Freddie Mercury wasn’t with us any more.
Would he have enjoyed the reverence? Who knows. Later in the 90s I worked in a bookshop in Notting Hill, and it was known that Freddie Mercury had a house nearby. Each summer we would field enquiries from three or four tourists a week looking for it – usually Spanish or Italian, always very serious. Freddie seemed set to become the boring, pilgrimage-inducing kind of icon, Jim Morrison in medallion and white flares, which felt a little sad. For all its absurd ghastliness I think We Will Rock You derailed that, so there’s something in its favour.
And it’s nice that almost the last we see of Freddie Mercury comes from his solo career, where he wriggled free of his pomp rock obligations. It lets you imagine a parallel world and lost future where Mercury lived. Because – for all that this is a by-the-books remix of an old track – “Living On My Own” works. Queen never dabbled in it, but Mercury sounds terrific over house music, even when it’s not terribly creative house music. I can easily imagine him in semi-retirement, contributing the occasional show-stealing guest vocal to lucky producers. A shame it could never happen, but this is a fine, idiosyncratic way to take a bow.