The year is 1740 and a mysterious figure arrives in the court of Louis XV. Baron Frederique Von Mercury is an artist, musician and alchemist of some considerable reputation. He has travelled widely, lived amongst many different peoples and claims to speak over 200 languages.
His three friends are all equally remarkable gentlemen: the celebrated physician Roget Taylor, astrologer and philosopher Dr Byron May and 'Deacy', a man of considerable intellect with a passion for contriving devices from bits of tin and springs and elastic bands and stuff.
Collectively they travel under the name Queen but who are these mystical figures? Where do they come from? And is there any truth to the rumours that they are over five hundred years old and can count history's most powerful men amongst their closest acquaintances?
One thing is certain: they delight the court with their whimsical songs and their many wild and exotic talents. Baron Mercury rapidly earns a reputation as a fascinating conversationalist and it is often said that he can talk the hind legs off a donkey - a trick he performs many times at dinner, until popular opinion decrees that this is cruel to donkeys and inconvenient for the poor sods who have to drag the befuddled and legless creatures out of the dining room.
Reference book of synonyms
Roget Taylor, on the other hand, causes quite a stir by compiling a reference book of synonyms although he feels that the book is incomplete as he never managed to find another word for 'thesaurus'. Dr May, it is rumoured, had personally cast a horoscope for none other than Gallileo, which predicted that an unexpected relationship was on the horizon, his lucky number was nine and that Tuesday would be a good day to do the Fandango. Deaky, meanwhile, claims to have taught Vivaldi to play the spoons, a move which exerts considerable influence over the future development of European classical music.
But there are also dark mutterings of a more sinister nature. For example, it is alleged that Baron Mercury had assassinated the French King Henry IV and had afterwards confessed to his mother that he had just killed a man. Perhaps such unsavoury rumours are the reason they never stay in one place for very long. They arrive in a swirl of publicity, whip up a cyclone of excitement, then move on leaving nothing behind but faded t-shirts, dog-eared souvenir programmes and other assorted items of official merchandise.
For today's musicologists, piecing together their movements is not easy, although we do know that the band have cropped up at regular intervals over the last few centuries. Here is a moderately amusing and lazily written list of those appearances:
In 1789 Baron Mercury went into partnership with Luigi Galvani, the Italian physicist, opening a restaurant specialising in frogs' legs which ultimately failed when they were unable to pay their electricity bill.
In 1812 Taylor worked with Jane Austin on the initial draft of Pride and Prejudice, although his contributions were excised from the final manuscript, including the car chase and the bits with the flying saucer.
In 1879 Karl Benz enlisted the help of Dr May in developing the first automobile. Benz developed the engine, built the gearbox, refined the chassis and pioneered the ignition system. May put the stripe down the side.
In 1921 Deaky discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen and hid behind the sarcophagus for a year until Howard Carter arrived, just so that he could leap out and shout 'boo'.
And it is well known that Captain Robert Scott was considerably surprised upon reaching the South Pole to find that not only had Amundsen beat him to it, but Queen had played a concert there the week before.
Yeah, lists are easy. Anyhow, in 1970 Queen discovered spandex and black nail varnish and astonished a whole new generation. But are we any closer to knowing where they came from? A cabalistic cult from the middle ages? Maybe. Pioneering geniuses from the age of enlightenment? Possibly. Immortal warriors from another world struggling to reach the time of The Gathering? Almost certainly not. My money's on Dagenham.
None of this is true, by the way.
Ricky Stratocaster would like to announce that he is withdrawing from this year's 'Who Can Eat the Most Pickled Eggs' competition in Taunton following a gullet strain.