After four decades, a previously unreleased version of the song “Time,” recorded by Freddie Mercury for the concept album of the stage musical of the same name, has been released by songwriter & producer Dave Clark.
According to USA Today, Clark had asked the Queen frontman to record the track for a concept album for the sci-fi rock musical.
Due to the success of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s pre-production albums for Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, the practice of asking popular recording artists to cover songs from an upcoming stage musical became a popular marketing tool for new shows.
The concept album for Time featured big name artists of the day including Mercury, Julian Lennon, Murray Head, Dionne Warwick, Leo Sayer, and Ashford & Simpson.
I actually attended the production in London’s West End in 1987.
As I recall, the story was about a rock star (originally UK pop star Cliff Richard, later replaced by David Cassidy) and his band mates being transported across the universe where they had to defend planet Earth from destruction before a galactic tribunal featuring a projected floating head (a recorded Laurence Olivier).
Relying heavily on massive, spectacular sets and special effects, the show ran for two years.
Mercury’s original recording of “Time” featured bombastic orchestrations and what sounds like a choir of backup singers.
But before the session with Mercury was done, Clark asked the rock star to record a bare-bones, piano accompaniment version of the song.
Clark tells USA Today that hearing Mercury sing the stripped-down version in London’s Abbey Road studios gave him “goosebumps.”
“It (became) a mega-production, which I was happy with and Freddie loved,” says Clark. “But I didn’t think about what we had originally done until a decade or so later, when I thought, ‘I’ve never felt that sort of goosebumps feeling that I got on that original run-through at Abbey Road with just Freddie and piano.'”
After finding the original recording in the spring of 2018, Clark asked the original session pianist, Mike Moran, to record an updated piano accompaniment to pair with the unreleased vocals.
The music video above was created using video footage shot at London’s Dominion Theatre in 1986.
The acoustic version is a compelling showcase for Mercury’s iconic vocals. And lyrics like “Time waits for no one” seem to resonate even more when considering Mercury’s early passing in 1991.
In this 1986 interview, Clark and Mercury discuss the evolution of the recording: