Here are five lots that stood out in the Sotheby’s sale of items belonging to Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in London on Wednesday.
On his prized Yamaha G2 baby grand piano, Mercury wrote many of Queen’s songs, beginning with the worldwide hit “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After spending weeks looking for a piano to meet his goals but tiny enough to fit into the living room of the apartment he shared with his close friend Mary Austin, he purchased it in 1975 for approximately £1,000, which is equivalent to $11,000 (or $13,800) today after accounting for inflation.
Austin, who received Mercury’s inheritance as a bequest and is now selling the collection, claimed to have maintained the piano with “perfect respect” by never smoking at it or setting a drink on its spotless surface. “He considered it to be more than an instrument, it was an extension of himself, his vehicle of creativity,” she added. It was sold for £1,742,000 ($2,198,927).
The majority of the time in Mercury’s west London house, it was coupled with his “favorite piano stool,” a satinwood two-seater from the 1920s or 1930s that he had acquired in 1977 from upscale department shop Harrods. The stool is being auctioned separately Friday, with bids already lodged for at least £8,500.
One of Queen’s most well-known and streamed songs, as well as the third-best-selling UK single ever, was originally going to be called “Mongolian Rhapsody” by Mercury.
15 pages of lyrics and music, written in pencil and black and blue ink on stationery from the now-defunct British Midland Airways, chronicle the surprise. The term “Mongolian” was eventually crossed out and replaced with the word “Bohemian” by the song’s author. The pages, which included seven pages of harmonies and eight pages of lyrics, brought in £1,379,000 ($1,740,712).
Crown and cloak
Throughout Queen’s 1986 “Magic” tour, which saw the band sell out arenas all across Europe, Mercury wore the trademark suit.
His friend, costume designer Diana Moseley, created the duplicate of the British royal crown and a cloak made of fake fur, red velvet, and crystals. The imitation gold and jewel-encrusted crown recalls the St. Edward’s crown used for the coronation of British monarchs. It has four dipping arches and a crimson velvet top with imitation ermine trim. King Charles III wore the authentic version when he was crowned in September. The gold-tone metal chain-fastened 327-centimeter cloak cape was modeled by those worn at Napoleon’s coronation.
The outfit was worn by Mercury during the final Queen performance of the tour, which took place at Knebworth, England, on August 9, 1986. It cost £635,000 ($801,560) to buy it.
Mercury’s teenage pencil notes can be seen on numerous pages of a copy of “Poems of Spirit and Action” from 1964, the year his Parsi Indian family fled Zanzibar for London due to turmoil. His notes are annotated using the moniker Fred Bulsara (Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara), and they include analysis and evaluations of poems as well as word definitions and other “whimsical comments.” It also includes a poem he wrote on his own, “Bird (‘Feather flutter in the sky’)”. It was put up for auction online and was anticipated to bring in up to £1,200, but it has already received an offer of £7,500.
Mercury owned a multicolored, illuminated Wurlitzer jukebox in his kitchen that was coin-operated in 1941. It has bubble tubes and chrome metal fretwork, and is housed in a walnut laminate-veneered casing with yellow and red plastic panels and a glazed peacock panel front.
Even though it was no longer functional, it brought in £406,400 ($512,999). ✪