Freddie Mercury’s earliest draft for Queens Bohemian Rhapsody has raised more than 1.5 million euros at an auction in London. The crown and royal mantle worn by the singer at the end of performances on the band’s latest tour was auctioned for just under $750,000 at Mercury’s estate auction.
Bohemian Rhapsody’s fifteen calendar sheets of scribbled lyrics and melody provide new insight into how the British band’s biggest hit came about. For example, Mercury initially chose the title Mongolian Rhapsody and considered the opening line “Mama, there’s a war began”, instead of “Mama, just killed a man”. On another sheet he scribbled catchphrases to use, from the familiar “Galileo” and “Scaramouche” to dropped words like “Belladonna” and “Matador.”
In addition to this composition, the original lyrics of other major hits were also for sale, such as Somebody to Love, We Are the Champions and Don’t Stop Me Now. They all left for amounts between 2.8 and 3.75 tonnes.
The snake bracelet that Mercury wore in the music video for Bohemian Rhapsody raised a record amount of more than 800,000 euros. This easily surpassed John Lennon’s leather talisman, which sold for €340,000 in 2008 and has since been the most expensive rock jewel ever sold at auction. Mercury’s piano was the object that raised the most at the auction with 2 million euros.
All 1400 lots of the multi-day auction at the renowned house of Sotheby’s come from Mercury’s London home, Garden Lodge. He left it to his ex-lover Mary Austin after his death in 1991. She now thinks it’s time to say goodbye, although she calls it “a difficult decision to close this special chapter in my life”.
“It has been a joy and privilege to be surrounded by all the wonderful things Freddie has collected over the years,” she said in a press release. “This is an opportunity to share the many facets of Freddie’s life, private and public, so the world can better understand and remember his unique and amazing personality.” She calls the auction the best way to do that, “because there was nothing Freddie loved more”.
In addition to much Queen material, from the lyrics and Mercury’s logo design to a room full of gold records, many of the singer’s personal items were offered. His flamboyant stage personality is subtly reflected in the baroque elegance of his bedroom’s Fabergé clock, lalique lalique or a Tiffany silver mustache comb.
In addition, the artworks that filled Mercury’s home were for sale, from the Picasso hanging in the kitchen to the Chagall on his mantelpiece. The famous Garden Lodge door, on which fans wrote messages en masse after his death, also came under the hammer, as did a jukebox full of rock and roll classics by Little Richard and Bill Haley.
With a sales price of 480,000 euros, the door yielded a multiple of Sotheby’s estimated value of around 30,000 euros. The auction house had estimated the jukebox at the same value, but it turned out to be worth much more and sold for just under half a million euros.
For example, most objects fetched much more than the appraised value. An onyx ring that Elton John had once given Mercury even flipped over 55 times.
Mercury’s clothing was also popular. From the tight catsuits of his early years to the cat waistcoat from his latest music video, These Are the Days of Our Lives he had kept his outfits. Fans can easily recognize the salmon pink suit from The Great Pretender, the Radio Ga Ga jacket or the bombastic costume nicknamed the Shrimp from It’s a Hard Life.
Sotheby’s put everything on display for four weeks for the fans, who regularly stood in long queues at the door. Especially for them, the auction house also offers trinkets from the singer that would normally not make it to the catalog under the motto Crazy Little Things.
The fact that the singer is still popular is evident from the prices here: for a simple cat figurine or Japanese porcelain that was estimated at a few tens of euros by the auction house, bids of twenty times have already been received.
Until next Wednesday, six auctions will be held to sell everything, tonight it was the turn of the masterpieces first. In total, this opening night, on which all 59 lots were sold, raised more than 14 million euros. Those in evening dress closed the meeting with the rhythmic clap of We Will Rock You.
Assistant Peter Freestone explains how precious the auctioned items were to Mercury:
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