Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury recorded a three tracks at MJ’s private home studio in 1983.
One was the dramatically charismatic frontman on Queen, the other was known the world over as the King of Pop and together they recorded a handful of duets, only one of which ever made it officially to the light of day.
The two first met when Michael Jackson would come to see Queen perform: “In the early days, three, four years ago, he used to come and see our shows at The Forum in L.A., and I guess he liked us and so I got to meet him,” Freddie told music journalist Lisa Robinson in a 1983 interview.
“He kept coming to see us and then we started talking and, in those days, I think he would actually go out. He’d go out and have dinners. I remember going to dinner with him.”
The friendship continued to grow and was documented in a 1983 Rolling Stone story during one of Jackson’s backstage visits to see Queen. A reporter is said to have blocked his path and asked Michael, “Can I tell my viewers that Michael Jackson is a Queen fan?” he replied back, “I’m a Freddie Mercury fan.”
The Rolling Stone article continued to describe the scene backstage: “The band is merry. Michael is shy, standing quietly at the door until Freddie spots him and leaps up to gather him in a hug. Freddie invited Michael. He has been calling all week, mainly about the possibility of their working together.”
“The two have been friendly since Michael listened to the material Queen had recorded for The Game and insisted that the single had to be ‘Another One Bites the Dust,’” the Rolling Stone piece continues, adding that Jackson then said, “Now, he listens to me, right Freddie?” with Mercury answering, “Righto, little brother.”
“When I’m talking to him, I’m think, my god, he’s 25, I’m 37,” Mercury said of their age difference. “Yet he’s been in the business longer than I have.”
Listen to Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury’s ‘There Must Be More To Life Than This’ below:
Whilst there is arguments over whether the pair worked on songs for Jackson’s forthcoming album, Queen’s Hot Space or an album of duets, either way the duo started recording in Michael Jackson’s home studio in 1983 and produced demos for three tracks; ‘There Must Be More to Life Than This,’ ‘State of Shock’ and ‘Victory.’
“They were great songs, but the problem was time, as we were both very busy at that period,” Mercury later said in Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury.
Queen’s manager Jim “Miami” Beach, remembers getting a frantic call from Mercury during the sessions. “Freddie said, ‘You have to get me out of the studio’,” Beach said on the documentary The Great Pretender.
When Jim asked why, Mercury allegedly said, “Because I’m recording with a llama. Michael’s bringing his pet llama into the studio every day and I’m really not used to it and I’ve had enough and I want to get out.”
Listen to Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury’s ‘State of Shock’ below:
The three songs were never released as intended, but ‘State of Shock’ was re-recorded by Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones and released as single in 1984.
While Freddie Mercury released his own take ‘There Must Be More to Life Than This’ on his 1985 solo debut Mr. Bad Guy, it wasn’t until thirty-three years later in 2014 that Queen finally released the Freddie and MJ version on the compilation album Queen Forever.
The album was a big success, with Brian May saying it was an assortment of “things that we have collected together that are representative of our growth rather than the big hits”.
Producer William Orbit, known for his work with Madonna, was recruited to finish the song, “When I first played it in my studio, I opened a trove of delights provided by the greatest of musicians,” he said in a statement.
“Hearing Michael Jackson’s vocals was stirring. So vivid, so cool, and poignant, it was like he was in the studio singing live. With Freddie’s vocal solo on the mixing desk, my appreciation for his gift was taken to an even higher level.”
Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury’s friendship’s faded as the two superstars started to deal with fame in different ways.
“I think he now just stays at home. He doesn’t like coming out at all,” Mercury said of MJ in the 1983 interview with Linda Robinson.
“He says whatever he wants, he can get at home. Anything he wants, he just buys it,” Freddie mused.
“That’s not me, but that’s his bag. I wouldn’t do that. I would be bored to death. I go out every night. I hate staying in one room for too long anyway.”