Yes’ Steve Howe Names The Musician Queen Wanted Him To Emulate

During a recent chat with Classic Album Review, Steve Howe discussed his collaboration with Queen and his experience working with the late Freddie Mercury. The conversation touched upon the contribution he made to ‘Innuendo’ and which musician he tried to imitate.

‘Innuendo,’ released in 1991, features a flamenco guitar section performed by the Yes guitarist. Howe’s involvement with Queen’s album was an opportunity that arose organically, stemming from a chance encounter with Martin Groves at a restaurant.

Though initially feeling that the track didn’t necessarily require his involvement, Howe eagerly seized the opportunity to engage in improvisation. He shared that improvising came naturally to him. The musician also mentioned that the band wanted him to emulate Paco de Lucia, widely regarded as one of the greatest Flamenco guitarists.

When asked what Freddie Mercury was like to work with, Howe replied:

“Working with Queen was just sheer magic. I mean, it happened by magic. I was in a restaurant, and Martin [Groves] was there. [He] invited me down to go to the studio, play the guitar, go to dinner, check the guitar. It was a wonderful experience. Freddie’s one of the most wonderful people. It wasn’t the first encounter we had.

We had several in the ’80s when Richard Branson’s studio, the Town House, was very popular with Asia and GTR. I don’t know. You might have gone on beyond that, but basically, there was a bit of running into the band. There was like Asia, and there was like Queen in the same studio, having lunch. It was nice to rub shoulders.

They always gave us space. We never imposed on us, and we never imposed on them, but when that opportunity came to play on the record, and I’d heard the whole album before they played ‘Innuendo,’ and then they said, ‘Would you play on this?'”

He continued:

“I said it didn’t really need me, but I’ll get on board, and it turned the improvisation. That is one of the most wonderful things to give. So I wasn’t involved in any part of the construction, but I just played on top, and I guess that’s something that I didn’t really know I did at first. It was just something I did automatically. I made stuff up.

So at first, it might have been like really quite naive for me to sort of think that I could make stuff up, but you just learn how to open that channel up and just improvise. So that’s all. I did like there was a mention of Paco de Lucia, who is the greatest, well, if not the greatest ever Flamenco guitarist. Many people love him dearly as I do, and if somebody says, ‘Can you play like?’ In fact, I said, ‘No, no.’ So I just jumped on board, and it was wonderful; very nice people.”

Although Howe did not contribute to the song’s construction, his distinctive guitar work brought an additional layer of artistry to the album. The members of Queen allowed him the freedom to express himself musically while maintaining a respectful and collaborative atmosphere.