Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on Thursday September 5th1946 on the small spice island of Zanzibar. His parents, Bomi andJer Bulsara, were both Parsee (Persian). His father, Bomi, was a civilservant, working as a High Court cashier for the British Government.Freddie's sister, Kashmira, was born in 1952. In 1954, at the age ofeight, Freddie was shipped to St Peter's English boarding school inPanchgani, about fifty miles outside Bombay. It was there hisfriends began to call him Freddie, a name the family alsoadopted.
As St Peter's was an English school, the sports played there weretypically English. Freddie loathed cricket and long-distancerunning, but he liked hockey, sprint and boxing. At the age of 10 hebecame a school champion in table tennis. Freddie was not only agood sportsman, his artistic skills were incomparable.At the ageof twelve he was awarded the school trophy as Junior All-rounder. Heloved art, and was always sketching for friends or relatives.
He was also music mad and played records on the family's old recordplayer, stacking the singles to play constantly. The music he wasable to get was mostly Indian, but some Western music was available.He would sing along to either and preferred music to school work.
The principal headmaster of St Peter's had noticed Freddie's musicaltalent, and wrote to his parents suggesting that theymight wish to pay a little extra on Freddie's school fees to enable himto study music properly. They agreed, and Freddie began to learn toplay the piano. He also became a member of the school choir and tookpart regularly in school theatrical productions. He loved his pianolessons and applied himself to them with determination and skill,finally achieving Grade IV both in practical and theory.
In 1958, five friends at St Peter's - Freddie Bulsara, DerrickBranche, Bruce Murray, Farang Irani and Victory Rana - formed theschool's rock'n roll band, the Hectics, where Freddie was the pianoplayer. They would play at school parties, at annual fetes andschool dances, but little else is known about them.
In 1962, Freddie finished school, returned to Zanzibar and spenthis time with friends in and around the markets, parks and beaches.In 1964, many of the British and Indians, due to political unrest inZanzibar, left their country, although not under forcible pressure,and among those driven out were the Bulsaras who migrated to England.
Initially they lived with relatives in Feltham, Middlesex, untilthey were able to find their own small, terraced house in thearea. Freddie was seventeen, and had derided he wanted to go to artcollege, but needed at least one A level to ensure he could get in.In September 1964 he enrolled at the nearby Isleworth Polytechnic
During vacations he took a variety of jobs to earn some money; onewas in the catering department at Heathrow Airport, a stone's throwfrom home, and the other was on the Feltham trading estate, where hehad a job in a warehouse lifting and stacking heavy crates andboxes. His fellow workers commented on his 'delicate' hands, certainlynot suited for such work, and asked him what he did. He toldthem he was a musician just 'filling in time', and such was hischarm that those co-workers were soon doing the lion's share of hiswork.
He studied hard, although he preferred the aesthetic side of schoollife to the more mundane academic side, and easily achieved his ArtA level, leaving Isleworth in the spring of 1966. His grade A passand his natural skill ensured that he was readily accepted by EalingCollege of Art and, in September 1966, Freddie began a graphicillustrating course at that college.
After Jimi Hendrix exploded onto the scene in 1967, and Freddiebecame an ardent fan, he spent time sketching and drawing his hero;drawings he would frame and use to decorate the walls of his flat inKensington, rented by his friend Chris Smith, where Freddie hadmoved from the family home in Feltham. At that time Kensington wasan important place to be for the art crowd - it was the base of thefamous Biba boutique and the home of Kensington Market, frequentedby the then 'in' crowd.
A fellow student at Ealing College was bass player Tim Staffell,with whom Freddie became good friends. As Tim's and Freddie'sfriendship became closer, Tim took him along to rehearsals of hisband called Smile, with Brian May on the guitar and Roger Taylor onthe drums. Freddie got on famously with Brian and Roger and lovedthe sound that Smile had achieved; he also had immense admirationand respect for Brian's guitar-playing. Inspired by Smile, Freddiebegan to experiment with music for the first time since leavingIndia.
He initially began to practice with Tim, another art student NigelFoster, and with Chris Smith. "The first time I heard Freddie sing Iwas amazed," recounts Chris. "He had a huge voice. Although hispiano style was very affected, very Mozart, he had a great touch.From a piano player's point of view, his approach was unique."
"Freddie and I eventually got to write little bits of songs which welinked together," adds Chris. "It makes sense when you considerBohemian Rhapsody. It was an interesting way getting from one piecein a different key signature to another. But I don't think weactually finished anything. Freddie certainly taught me a lot atthose sessions. He had great, natural sense of melody. I picked thatup straight away. For me it was the most interesting aspect of whathe was doing."
Freddie left Ealing College in June 1969, with a diploma in graphicart and design, and a few commissions for adverts in localnewspapers. He moved into Roger Taylor's flat, and that summeropened a stall with Roger at Kensington Market, initially sellingartwork by himself and fellow Ealing students, and later Victorianor whatever clothes, new and secondhand, he could lay his hands on.
In the summer of 1969 Freddie was introduced to a Liverpool bandcalled Ibex, who had come to London to try to make a name forthemselves. Ibex were a three-piece, with guitarist Mike Bersin,John 'Tupp' Taylor on bass and Mick 'Miffer' Smith on drums. Theyalso brought with them their apprentice manager, roadie and generaldogsbody Ken Testi; part-time bass player Geoff Higgins used totravel down for occasional gigs. Geoff would play bass when Tupp, agreat Jethro Tull fan, wanted to play flute.
Freddie first met Ibex on 13th August 1969. Such was his enthusiasm,that just ten days later, he'd learned the band's set, brought in afew new songs, and had traveled to Bolton, Lancashire, for a gigwith them - his debut public performance. The first date was 23rdAugust, and the occasion was one of Bolton's regular afternoon'Bluesology' sessions, held at the town's Octagon Theatre. On the25th August, Ibex appeared in the first 'Bluesology pop-in', anopen-air event on the bandstand in Bolton's Queen Park, and theproceedings were covered in Bolton's 'Evening News'. This evenfeatured an uncredited photograph of Freddie.