From Smile to “Two Late”, with a special classmate: an interview with Tim Staffell

Tim Staffell Two Late

Tim Staffell is an English rock musician. He was a member of Smile, a band which included Brian May and Roger Taylor. Upon Staffell’s departure, Smile were joined by Freddie Mercury and John Deacon to form Queen.

Today, Tim Staffell is the special guest of MentiSommerse.it.

How strong was the influence of Swinging London for you?

‘Swinging London’ was a commercial construct. Most people cherry picked what interested them, and left the rest alone. Rock musicians were largely cynical about straight pop music, and this is what gave rise to the development of rock as a separate genre. Rock musicians like me wanted to distance themselves from the more commercial aspects of music, as we felt that it undermined the seriousness of our creative efforts.

You were Classmate with Freddie Mercury at Ealing Art College. What kind of classmate was Freddie Mercury?

Tim Staffell Freddie MercuryFreddie was pretty much like everyone else, but he began to develop his confidence at a faster rate than his contemporaries. He was a talented artist and musician, and a great personality.

In 1969, you played with Smile at Royal Albert Hall and, the next day, The Times published a review of the show. Do you have a special Memory of that show that you want to tell us?

The one overriding memory I have is that my bass guitar cable wasn’t long enough. As I ran to the front of the stage, it popped out of the amplifier. I had to replace it before we could start..

You, like Freddie Mercury and the other members of Queen, have a strong interest for science fiction: do you want to talk us about “Earth”? How was this song born?

Tim Staffell QueenWell, I was an avid reader and collector of Science Fiction. I had been reading a book of short storiesby William Tenn, called ‘Of All Possible Worlds’. The final story in the book: ‘The Custodian’ tells of a man who must leave Earth because the sun is going nova. As he leaves in his ship for the colony on Alpha Centauri, he notices Sol ‘expanding apoplectically’… It inspired me to imagine that Earthmen might one day be cast adrift with no solar system to call their home… that was the origin of the song

What got you interested in progressive rock in 70s?

I admired Morgan Fisher’s dedication and his musicality. It was a privilege and a challenge as the librettist for his music. I feel proud of what we achieved with the two Morgan albums

Two Late was released on digital platforms on 26 October 2018. Do you want to introduce our readers to your last work?

‘Two Late’ (which is also available as a CD from my Bandcamp) represents the development of my writing. Whereas aMIGO drew on songs from the previous thirty year period, ‘Two Late’ was written at the time, with modern sensibilities. It is an attempt to explore the format of the song; I have tried to create structures that go beyond the commonplace, and I try to make use of interesting chord progressions to inform the melodic content. I hope that I have achieved the right blend of structural intelligence, and emotional maturity. As always, ones’ best work is that which is in the planning stage; and my next album will drive the ideas espoused in ‘Two Late’ even further

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