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10 June 2022, 11:57
The first ever known footage of a shy Freddie Mercury from his time as a student in 1964 has come to light.
The film was made while the singer was studying for the A-Level in art at Isleworth Polytechnic - now known as West Thames College.
The footage was recorded just months after his family's arrival in the UK - Freddie's mum and dad moved the family from Zanzibar to Feltham near Heathrow, in the spring of 1964.
That autumn - just days after Freddie's 18th birthday on September 5 - the singer started at the polytechnic two-year art foundation course.
In an article for Mojo Magazine, journalist Mark Blake spoke to Freddie's ex-classmates to get an insight into the star's time at the school.
“We met at induction and were put in a class together,” recalls ex-Isleworth Polytechnic student Adrian Morrish.
“Fred was charmingly shy, but also very engaging, and he desperately wanted to fit in. He dressed weirdly in drainpipe trousers that weren’t quite long enough and middle-aged jackets that were slightly too small.”
A keen piano player - and a fan of a youthful Rod Stewart who he would regularly watch perform on weekends - Freddie would spontaneously play the upright piano in the college's assembly hall.
“He’d hear a pop song on the radio in the morning, then come in and play it on the piano,” recalls ex-student Patrick Connolly to Mojo.
“He’d say, ‘But we can do this or we can do that…’ and start improvising to try and make [the song] sound better.”
Patrick also visited Freddie's family home. “He struck me as quite lonely,” he says. “But you could tell he’d come from a cultured background and was just seeking a way for himself to develop.”
Freddie persuaded Patrick and another student, a trainee sculptor and guitarist named Paul Martin, to sing together and start to write songs.
“I wasn’t very interested in pop music and I didn’t think I could sing, but the three of us would sit around the piano [at Freddie's home in Feltham],” says Connolly.
“Fred’s enthusiasm brought us together. He’d actually encourage me: ‘Look Patrick! You’re singing, you can do it’.”
In his second year at Isleworth, Freddie held auditions to start a band.
“I designed a poster and we sent it to all the colleges and schools in the area,” says Patrick, who says as many as 40 musicians showed up to be auditioned by Freddie.
Nothing more came of it, but “there was one amazing guitarist that Fred liked, and, of course, years later, I always wondered if it was Brian May,” he recalls.
In 1966 Freddie enrolled Ealing Art College and in 1970 - six years after the first known film footage of Freddie was shot - he would join the newly formed band, Queen.