well as his work with Queen, Mercury put out two solo albums and several singles. Although his solo work was not as commercially successful as most Queen albums, the two off-Queen albums and several of the singles debuted in the top 10 of the UK Music Charts. His first solo effort goes back to 1972 under the pseudonym Larry Lurex, when Trident Studios‘ house engineer Robin Geoffrey Cable was working in a musical project, at the time when Queen were recording their debut album; Cable enlisted Mercury to perform lead vocals on the songs “I Can Hear Music” and “Goin’ Back“, both were released together as a single in 1973.
Eleven years later, Mercury contributed to the Richard “Wolfie” Wolf remix of the song “Love Kills”, used as the end title theme for National Lampoon‘s Loaded Weapon 1. The song was originally recorded in 1984, when it was included on the soundtrack for the restoration of the 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis. First written by Giorgio Moroder in collaboration with Mercury, and produced by Moroder and Mack, “Love Kills” debuted at the number 10 position in the UK Singles Chart. Mack also produced the 1987 single “Hold On”, which Mercury recorded with actress Jo Dare for the German action drama Zabou.I won’t be touring on my own or splitting up with Queen. Without the others I would be nothing. The press always makes out that I’m the wild one and they’re all quiet, but it’s not true. I’ve got some wild stories about Brian May you wouldn’t believe.
—Mercury on his solo career, January 1985.
Mercury’s two full albums outside the band were Mr. Bad Guy (1985) and Barcelona (1988). His first album, Mr. Bad Guy, debuted in the top ten of the UK Album Charts. In 1993, a remix of “Living on My Own“, a single from the album, posthumously reached number one on the UK Singles Charts. The song also garnered Mercury a posthumous Ivor Novello Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. AllMusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia describes Mr. Bad Guy as “outstanding from start to finish” and expressed his view that Mercury “did a commendable job of stretching into uncharted territory”. In particular, the album is heavily synthesiser-driven; that is not characteristic of previous Queen albums.
His second album, Barcelona, recorded with Spanish soprano vocalist Montserrat Caballé, combines elements of popular music and opera. Many critics were uncertain what to make of the album; one referred to it as “the most bizarre CD of the year”. The album was a commercial success, and the album’s title track debuted at No. 8 in the UK and was also a hit in Spain. The title track received massive airplay as the official anthem of the 1992 Summer Olympics (held in Barcelona one year after Mercury’s death). Caballé sang it live at the opening of the Olympics with Mercury’s part played on a screen, and again before the start of the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich in Barcelona.
In addition to the two solo albums, Mercury released several singles, including his own version of the hit “The Great Pretender” by the Platters, which debuted at No. 5 in the UK in 1987. In September 2006 a compilation album featuring Mercury’s solo work was released in the UK in honour of what would have been his 60th birthday. The album debuted in the UK top 10. In 2012, Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender, a documentary film directed by Rhys Thomas on Mercury’s attempts to forge a solo career, premiered on BBC One.
In 1981–1983 Mercury recorded several tracks with Michael Jackson, including a demo of “State of Shock“, “Victory”, and “There Must Be More to Life Than This”. None of these collaborations were officially released at the time, although bootleg recordings exist. Jackson went on to record the single “State of Shock” with Mick Jagger for the Jacksons‘ album Victory. Mercury included the solo version of “There Must Be More To Life Than This” on his Mr. Bad Guy album. “There Must Be More to Life Than This” was eventually reworked by Queen and released on their compilation album Queen Forever in 2014. In addition to working with Michael Jackson, Mercury and Roger Taylor sang on the title track for Billy Squier‘s 1982 studio release, Emotions in Motion and later contributed to two tracks on Squier’s 1986 release, Enough Is Enough, providing vocals on “Love is the Hero” and musical arrangements on “Lady With a Tenor Sax”.