Pop icons on tour: Behind the scenes with George Michael, Queen, Bowie and more

20 March 2020, 17:45 | Updated: 20 March 2020, 18:05

Freddie Mercury, David Bowei and Rod Stewart pictured partying backstage on tour
Freddie Mercury, David Bowei and Rod Stewart pictured partying backstage on tour. Picture: Getty

By Giorgina Hamilton

From Freddie Mercury's antics backstage to David Bowie's rituals on the road, we round up the private photos of Queen, George Michael and Rod Stewart backstage at the biggest concerts in pop history.

Queen on tour in Japan

Freddie Mercury and his fellow Queen bandmates had a mutual love affair with the people of Japan throughout their careers

The rock band embarked on three big tours of Japan and Freddie became so enchanted with the country that he would later visit for weeks at a time to embark on huge shopping trips.

Freddie Mercury in private: Rarely seen photos of the star behind closed doors

It was in the Spring of 1975 that Queen first set foot in Japan, where they drank sake, met with sumo wrestlers and delighted fans all over the country.

Freddie Mercury of Queen on the Osaka Station platform leaving for Nagoya during the Hot Space Japan tour, Nishinomiya, Japan, 25 October 1982.
Freddie Mercury of Queen on the Osaka Station platform leaving for Nagoya during the Hot Space Japan tour, Nishinomiya, Japan, 25 October 1982. Picture: Getty
Freddie Mercury of Queen at Fukuoka Airport, on the Hot Space Japan tour, Fukuoka, Japan, 19 October 1982.
Freddie Mercury of Queen at Fukuoka Airport, on the Hot Space Japan tour, Fukuoka, Japan, 19 October 1982. Picture: Getty
Photo session for 'Music Life' magazine, in the garden of Hotel Pacific Tokyo on their Night At The Opera Japan tour, Tokyo, Japan, 21 March 1976. L-R Brian May, Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor.
Photo session for 'Music Life' magazine, in the garden of Hotel Pacific Tokyo on their Night At The Opera Japan tour, Tokyo, Japan, 21 March 1976. L-R Brian May, Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor. Picture: Getty
Freddie Mercury backstage at a hotel on the Hot Space Japan Tour in Fukuoka, Japan, 19 October 1982.
Freddie Mercury backstage at a hotel on the Hot Space Japan Tour in Fukuoka, Japan, 19 October 1982. Picture: Getty

Remembering Freddie Mercury's incredible final performance with Queen - video

Queen then returned to Japan just a year later in 1976 to promote their worldwide A Night At The Opera Tour and once again in 1982 for the Hot Space Japan Tour - and it seems their popularity has not waned.

Video: Listen to Freddie Mercury’s spine-tingling acapella voice backstage at last Queen concert

Bohemian Rhapsody has become one of the biggest hits in Japanese box office history, taking over an incredible $115 million - and counting!

George Michael's world tour with Wham!

Spanning between December 1984 and April 1985, The Big Tour saw Wham! perform at 39 venues across UK, Ireland, Japan, Australia, United States, Hong Kong and China - that's a lot of shows in just four months!

Forgotten photos of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley at the height of their Wham! fame

Wham! made history as the first ever western pop group to visit China, garnering publicity for the tour worldwide.

George Michael holds up a bra thrown onstage during a concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York during the North American leg of their 1985 world tour on 14th February 1985.
George Michael holds up a bra thrown onstage during a concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York during the North American leg of their 1985 world tour on 14th February 1985. Picture: Getty
George Michael blow drying his hair during the pop duo's 1985 world tour, January 1985.
George Michael blow drying his hair during the pop duo's 1985 world tour, January 1985. Picture: Getty
Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael holding koala motif sweaters during the pop duo's 1985 world tour, January 1985. Behind them are awards for record sales, including one for their first album, 'Fantastic'.
Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael holding koala motif sweaters during the pop duo's 1985 world tour, January 1985. Behind them are awards for record sales, including one for their first album, 'Fantastic'. Picture: Getty
George Michael lies on a bed watching television in a hotel room in Sydney, Australia during the pop duo's 1985 world tour in January 1985.
George Michael lies on a bed watching television in a hotel room in Sydney, Australia during the pop duo's 1985 world tour in January 1985. Picture: Getty

Andrew Ridgeley "misses" George Michael: Wham! bandmate opens up over grief

"It was still very much a communist country and was in the process of industrialisation and it was very, very tightly controlled – we were guests of the Chinese Youth Workers Party," Andrew Ridgeley recently said of the ground breaking tour.

Andrew also expanded on the 'bubble' of fame him and George found themselves in on tour.

George Michael impressing David Bowie and Seal with Freddie Mercury song is so powerful - video

"The success came very quickly and it was a different age so one's awareness, especially in a global sense wasn't quite the same as it was these days because of social media and because of the huge variety of media that people are exposed to," he said.

David Bowie at Live Aid

For one momentous night in pop, the great and the good of british music came together on a summer evening in 1985 to perform in front of 72,000 people - and party backstage.

Live Aid - which is still one of the most famous concerts of all time - held at Wembley Arena on July 13 saw David Bowie bring the house down with his mesmerising rendition of 'Heroes'.

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David Bowie posing with Paul McCartney backstage at Live Aid on 13th July, 1985.
David Bowie posing with Paul McCartney backstage at Live Aid on 13th July, 1985. Picture: Getty
David Bowie and Paula Yates at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium, London, 13th July 1985.
David Bowie and Paula Yates at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium, London, 13th July 1985. Picture: Getty
Bob Geldof has a word with Prince Charles, while David Bowie chats with Roger Taylor and Brian May of Queen, during the Live Aid Concert at Wembley Stadium, 13th July 1985.
Bob Geldof has a word with Prince Charles, while David Bowie chats with Roger Taylor and Brian May of Queen, during the Live Aid Concert at Wembley Stadium, 13th July 1985. Picture: Getty
David Bowie hold a beer backstage at the Live Aid charity concert, Wembley Stadium, London, 13th July 1985.
David Bowie hold a beer backstage at the Live Aid charity concert, Wembley Stadium, London, 13th July 1985. Picture: Getty

Performing straight after Queen's incredible 'We Will Rock You' and just before The Who, Bowie spent much of the evening before and after his show hanging out with Princess Diana, Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart - as you do.

Mischievous David Bowie pranks Annie Lennox by calling live TV show to make song request - video

The concert went on to raise £127m (nearly £390m today) that went towards helping famine-stricken parts of Africa and was watched live by over 1.5 billion people worldwide.

Rod Stewart backstage in the '70s

Having found success in the Jeff Beck Group, Faces and as a solo artist with his first single 'Maggie May' in 1971, Rod Stewart had many reasons to party!

Friends with everyone from Elton John to David Bowie, Rod revealed in his memoir in 2012 that Elton could easily out party him in the 1970s.

Pop icons at home in rare photos: Freddie, Bowie, Elton, Rod and their outlandish houses

“Whether it was drink or cocaine, he could see me right under the table every time.”

Elton John and Rod Stewart pictured backstage at a Ron Wood and Friends concert at Kilburn State Gaumont Theatre in London, 13th July 1974.
Elton John and Rod Stewart pictured backstage at a Ron Wood and Friends concert at Kilburn State Gaumont Theatre in London, 13th July 1974. Picture: Getty
Rod Stewart and Faces pictured backstage with footballer Dennis Law in 1975.
Rod Stewart and Faces pictured backstage with footballer Dennis Law in 1975. Picture: Getty
Rod Stewart posed backstage at the Oval Cricket Ground, London before the Faces Concert on September 18, 1971
Rod Stewart posed backstage at the Oval Cricket Ground, London before the Faces Concert on September 18, 1971. Picture: Getty
Rod Stewart talks with David Bowie backstage on February 24, 1975 at Madison Square Garden, where Stewart performed.
Rod Stewart talks with David Bowie backstage on February 24, 1975 at Madison Square Garden, where Stewart performed. Picture: Getty

Rod recently revealed he has had a falling out with the Rocketman star over his three-year Farewell tour.

Rod Stewart's 15 greatest songs ever, ranked

"I do love Elton, only we’re not talking at the moment. We’ve had a spat,’ he said, 'Because I criticised his tour as being money-grabbing."

Fingers crossed the two stars don't lose their four decade friendship.