Steve Howe recently spoke with Classic Album Review about his involvement with Queen and his experiences working with the late Freddie Mercury. The discussion touched on his contribution to ‘Innuendo’ and which musician he attempted to resemble. The Yes guitarist performs a flamenco guitar piece on ‘Innuendo,’ which was released in 1991. Howe’s involvement with Queen’s record occurred organically, as a result of a chance meeting with Martin Groves at a restaurant. Though he initially felt that the tune didn’t necessitate his participation, Howe quickly grasped the opportunity to engage in improvisation. He admitted that improvising came easily to him. The musician also stated that the band wanted him to imitate Paco de Lucia, widely considered as one of the best Flamenco guitarists of all time.
When asked what it was like to work with Freddie Mercury, Howe replied: “Working with Queen was pure magic.” That is, it happened by magic. I was in a restaurant with Martin [Groves]. [He] invited me to come to the studio, play guitar, eat supper, and inspect the guitar. It was a fantastic experience. Freddie is one of the most wonderful persons I’ve ever met. It wasn’t our first encounter. We had several in the 1980s when Richard Branson’s Town House studio was popular with Asia and GTR. I’m not sure. You could have gone on, but basically, there was some running into the band. There was like Asia and like Queen having lunch in the same studio. It was good to bump elbows. They always made room for us. We never imposed on ourselves, and we never imposed on them, but when the opportunity to perform on the record arose, and I’d already heard the entire album before they played ‘Innuendo,’ they asked, ‘Would you play on this?'”
He went on to say: “I said it didn’t really need me, but I’ll jump on board,” and the improvisation began. That is one of the most lovely gifts. So I wasn’t involved in any of the construction, but I just played on top, which I think I didn’t realize I did at first. It was just something I did without thinking. I made things up. So it may have been stupid at first for me to think I could make something up, but you simply learn how to open that channel up and just improvise. That’s all there is to it. There was a reference to Paco de Lucia, who is the greatest, if not the greatest, Flamenco guitarist of all time. Many people adore him, as do I, and if someone asks, ‘Can you play like?’ I actually said, ‘No, no.’ So I immediately went on board, and it was fantastic; beautiful people.” Although Howe did not contribute to the song’s composition, his distinct guitar work added another level of brilliance to the record.