I was the original lead singer and bassist in the late ’60s band Smile with Brian May and Roger Taylor. When I left Smile to pursue different musical projects in 1970, my college friend Freddie Bulsara – later Mercury – took my place, later renaming the band to Queen.

The Bohemian Rhapsody biopic, in cinemas now, tells this story. Jack Roth plays a young me singing at a Smile concert. I re-recorded new vocal and bass parts at Abbey Road Studios in May 2018 for this scene and the official soundtrack.

Following my departure from Smile, I went on to collaborate with many renowned musicians including Colin Peterson (Bee Gees), Snowy White (Pink Floyd, Thin Lizzy), Morgan Fisher (The Love Affair, Mott the Hoople), Chaz Jankel (Ian Dury & The Blockheads), Jonathan Kelly, and others.

During the ’80s and ’90s I was also involved in creative work away from music, as a designer, sculptor, illustrator, animator and commercial director, especially for television and film special effects. Among the projects I worked on were the BBC television adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and I was the head modelmaker for the first series of the children’s TV show Thomas the Tank Engine.

I never stopped playing and making music. In 2003 I released my first solo album, aMIGO, which featured guest performances from Brian May. I have just released the second, Two Late.

Two Late:

Buy limited-edition signed CD

Stream / download digitally


Buy on Amazon

Other links:

My official website




Some photos for proof: (sorry for the potato quality)

Me and Brian

Brian, Roger and Me in Smile

Comments: 257 • Responses: 93  • Date: 

King-Boss-Bob103 karma

Were you friendly with any of the queen members after your departure?

timstaffell166 karma

I never personally knew John Deacon but I have remained close friends with Roger and Brian ever since. I rarely saw Freddie after we both graduated from Ealing College.

SplendidCoffee078 karma

Did you have any regrets when it came to leaving the band, or were you proud of what became of your former band?

timstaffell182 karma

Of course I am proud of what became of them. At the time I was moving in a different musical direction. Don’t forget I was only 21, it was just moving from one band to another. It took the global success of Queen to bestow these events with such retrospective significance.

Hutchence9752 karma

Tim, are there any plans of (finally) officially releasing Smile recordings ? If I'm correct, you recorded 6 songs: Earth, Blag, April Lady, Doin' Alright, Step on Me and Polar Bear. Also, do we know who owns the rights to your music, Universal, perhaps ?! Thank you.

timstaffell79 karma

The Queen establishment own the rights to these tracks and I have no knowledge of any plans to re-release them. Of course, they were released in the ’90s as Ghost of a Smile during a period when (I believe) the rights briefly lapsed.

ethanf3343 karma

The 2018 version of “Doing All Right” sounded amazing! I would love to hear the other Smile songs in the same fashion. Can you share with us some stories of recording the song for the film?

(And can we expect any more Smile recordings to be released?)

timstaffell48 karma

I had a call from Brian explaining that it was important to get a sense of the vintage nature of the song for the movie. Since everything else was so clearly Queen, they felt it was important to revisit the characteristics of Smile, and they couldn’t use the original recordings because they were made so long ago on such primitive equipment. I also played the bass part, which really helped contribute to the required flavour.

It seems to me another digitally remastered working of the original Smile album could be interesting, but I think that’s all that is likely.

Chintan_Mehta27 karma

What was Queen like before it became famous?

timstaffell57 karma

I wasn’t closely linked to them in those years and I didn’t see them very often. I think it took some time before they got up and running properly. When I saw the film Bohemian Rhapsody, it filled in a lot of details that I had not been aware of.

cheshyre25 karma

Saw the BoRhap movie yesterday.

Was the "Don't Forget to Smile" logo used in the film real, or something they created for the movie?

timstaffell42 karma

It was absolutely genuine. If you trawl some of the old photographs online, you’ll see it on Roger’s drum kit.

Snowbank_Lake24 karma

What do you think about Adam Lambert singing with Queen in recent years? Do you think he's a good fit for the band?

timstaffell33 karma

Yes, I do.

AIUMelodyNelson24 karma

Hi Tim! Huuuuge lifelong fan of everything Queen and related - I even have a Gettin' Smile vinyl! A few questions from me...

1) Up to the point that Freddie Bulsara replaced you in Smile, you knew him considerably more than either Brian or Roger did; so how did you feel when your pal Freddie took the place you had vacated? Did you feel betrayed, were you encouraging, or were you too focused on Humpy Bong at the time to really care?

2) You have said before that one of the primary reasons for leaving Smile was that you weren't comfortable with the direction they were heading. Do you feel that Brian and Roger were already developing the "Queen sound" in Smile, before Freddie and John Deacon were on the scene, and was that the style you were uncomfortable with?

3) One of your Smile co-compositions - "Doing All Right" - featured on Queen's debut album, making you one of only five non-Queen members to share this honour. How did this come about? Were you made aware of this? Were the royalties ever an issue?

4) I can never decide if Freddie has been almost completely covered as a subject, or if we have barely scratched the surface. Either way, you were once close to one of the last century's greatest enigmas, and a bona fide icon of popular culture. How did the real, uncensored, human Freddie Mercury compare to the myth?

timstaffell72 karma

  1. Of course I didn’t feel betrayed, I didn’t want to be there, I’d left to pursue other things. Humpy Bong was very short-lived, and by the time that Queen were accelerating I was working with Morgan.

  2. It wasn’t quite as clear-cut as that. It wouldn’t be wrong to see the foundations of the Queen sound in the Smile material. But as I’ve already commented here, I was beginning to become interested in music that allowed the players lots of room to improvise, and Smile’s material didn’t really have the open spaces that would allow that.

  3. ‘Doing All Right’ (originally ‘Doin’ Alright’) is as you say a joint composition with Brian, and obviously it continued to be part of the repertoire after I left, so it made sense that it would appear on their album. I’ve always been adequately remunerated.

  4. I can’t answer that because I wasn’t close to him during the Queen years – I only knew him at college. But I suspect that the ‘iconic’ Freddie was just a public exaggeration of what he was really like, and don’t ever underestimate the role of the media in the creation of myths.

arinatale23 karma

Hey Tim! How are you doing? Is there any chance to see a one off Smile reunion as you had in 1992 at the Marquee with Brian and Roger? You still have a great voice Tim! All the best from Argentina, cheers, Ariel

timstaffell37 karma

Thanks for those kind words Ariel. Who knows? It would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it?

amalgamatron20 karma

What was your favorite memory of Freddie Mercury before he became internationally successful? He seemed to just have a magnificent presence about him.

timstaffell57 karma

He was just a great, fun mate at college. The other day after I watched Bohemian Rhapsody, a vivid image came to my mind of him playing air guitar on a 1-metre steel rule in the classroom with Hendrix blaring out of the speakers.

TobyBulsara16 karma

how did you feel going back in the studio with brian and roger to record doing alright for bohemian rhapsody ?

timstaffell30 karma

I was honoured to be asked and relieved that I was still up to it.

pimderks198516 karma

Hi Tim. In 1992 you reunited with Brian and Roger for the Queen Fanclub Christmas Shows. Where there instances between the demise of Smile in the late 60's and 1992 where you guys met up and jammed? For example, I know you did the Fun In Space alien for Roger's artwork - but were you actually in contact with each other about it? Do you know what happened to the original alien?

timstaffell22 karma

The Marquee gig in 1992 was the first time we’d performed together since the end of Smile, and we’d been in contact very little in the interim. The peculiar fact is when I went to Roger’s house around this, the Fun In Space alien was on his mantelpiece. I was astounded because I had made it but I had never known for whom the project was intended. It was commissioned by the album designers Hipgnosis. I delivered it, banked the cheque, and forgot about it until that day. I have no idea where it is now, I assume Roger still has it.

cheshyre11 karma

Whoah! You did the artwork for Fun in Space?


I actually bought that issue of Creepy Magazine because of the album cover!

timstaffell14 karma

Yes, as I’ve explained in another reply, when I made it, I had no idea it was for Roger.

Elimin8or200013 karma

Why did you not want to be a part of smile and did you feel jealous when Freddie took your place?

timstaffell23 karma

I’ve answered these questions in other replies but in summary, I was becoming interested in other kinds of music, and because the decision to leave was mine, I was absolutely not jealous at all when Freddie took my place.

TobyBulsara11 karma

Do you sell Humpy Bong t-shirts ??

timstaffell23 karma

No, but it’s an interesting concept.

bcrutan10 karma

Do you wish Queen recorded other Smile songs like they did with Doing All Right?

timstaffell42 karma

For purely avaricious reasons, yes.

werton349 karma

What was it like to know Freddie Mercury/other Queen members before Queen? What were they like?

timstaffell30 karma

Of course Brian and I were in a band at school together (called 1984) so we had already gigged extensively. When we left school and went on to different colleges, Brian to Imperial College and me to Ealing Art College, I met Freddie Bulsara and we were good mates. We were both children of the ’60s, and we were very much part of the creative explosion that was taking place at that time. Freddie was a funny, creative and personable guy and we had more or less identical tastes in music, and he was part of the social scene which surrounded Smile, but of course he had his own band that he was playing in at the time. Brian was always studious and focused. I didn’t know Roger beforehand but when he joined the band I realised that we had an awful lot in common, we were similar characters.

cabridges8 karma

Thank you for doing this! (Also for Smile songs, and the Vogon :) )

What's it like seeing yourself fictionalized on the big screen? Were you happy with the actor chosen and how you were depicted?

timstaffell32 karma

It’s a pleasure and thanks for the kind words! I thought Jack Roth did a cracking job. Of course he’s a lot better looking than I am so I guess I have to thank the casting director for improving my public profile.

Esmadya8 karma

Would you do a new Smile album if Brian and Roger asked you?

timstaffell10 karma

Oh yes, absolutely!

BugByte147 karma

Who was your inspiration growing up?

timstaffell20 karma

Being a product of the ’60s the British cultural explosion enveloped me and I absorbed every influence equally. At the turn of the 70s (when I was beginning my twenties) I had several epiphanies which set me on a quite different road. For example, I discovered Ry Cooder, who has remained for me one of the great innovators of the guitar. And from there I discovered jazz, great players like Larry Carlton, incredible songwriters like Jim Webb and film composers like Dave Grusin.

Beatlejwol7 karma

Hi Tim!

Love the "Doing All Right" revisited version from the Bohemian Rhapsody film soundtrack. There are elements of it which come from the original Smile versions; what was the thought process behind including those in the final mix?

And just a comment: I absolutely adore all the Smile tracks and they join the Beatles' Decca audition tapes as being a classic example of "before they were famous...but they were already awesome" historical documents. Glad to hear you're still rockin'! :)

timstaffell8 karma

I wasn’t involved in the production, but as I’ve said elsewhere it was important to the producers to recover the flavour of the ’60s and I entirely approve of the end result.

Thanks for the kind comments.

Beatlejwol3 karma

Interesting. So you just tracked a new version of the song with Brian and Roger and they did the rest?

Sounds fantastic. :D Thank you!

timstaffell3 karma

Yes, essentially!

pimderks19856 karma

Hey Tim, as we all know Doing All Right was featured on the first Queen album. When the band were at their peak popularity, did it mean that just having one track on one of their albums provided for a healthy extra income for you and your family, or were the royalties very small - because of it being on their (probably) least selling album...?

timstaffell4 karma

As I mentioned in another comment, I was always adequately remunerated.

SupremoMemeo6 karma

How’d Humpy Bong go for you?

timstaffell17 karma

It was first and foremost a recording band, and even thought it was short-lived, it heralded the start of my friendship with Jonathan Kelly, who remains to this day one of the seminal influences in my music education. I worked with Kelly for years afterwards as a direct result, and these remain some of the most satisfying and fruitful musical endeavours that I have ever experienced.

cheshyre6 karma

What work did you do in Hitchhiker's Guide? I loved that show.

timstaffell23 karma

As mentioned earlier, we made the Vogon captain. I worked for a well-known London prop house and we simply took on overflow work from the BBC. There was also plenty of Doctor Who.

cheshyre6 karma

As a science fiction fan, I've loved "Earth" since I first heard it.

Can you share some background on the song and your influences?

timstaffell18 karma

I’ve always been a science fiction nut. ‘Earth’ was pretty much the first song that I completed to my own satisfaction. It was logical that I would draw on sci-fi lyrics. There is of course a version of ‘Earth’ on Morgan’s first album ‘Nova Solis’ as part of the suite: https://open.spotify.com/track/6LdxvNPhlL6se0ym4Ub0em?si=cHrmkqsmRrStDhD9i7KQ5w

johnbarnshack6 karma

How do you feel about being known as essentially "the guy Freddie Mercury replaced'? Do you think this is too negative or do you see it as a kind of honour?

timstaffell30 karma

You have to consider this: It took two people to replace me! No, but seriously.. I don't have any kind of problem with it... in my own way, I'm as confident as Freddy was... I've never had the slightest doubt about my music or my ability... it's simply different....

johnbarnshack12 karma

That's a very nice attitude to have in life. Thank you for your reply (and for your great music)!

timstaffell14 karma

You'all are very welcome!

TimBuh6 karma

I love your latest solo albums! Who is the artist of the covers and do they have a special meaning? Thanks you for doing this! Hope your doin alright!

timstaffell10 karma

Thank you for your very kind words. I have to own up, the artist and typographer and designer of both covers is entirely me. I generated all of the artwork and sent it to the printers and specified the colours.

If other readers haven’t yet seen the covers, here are links to both albums on Spotify:

Two Late: https://open.spotify.com/album/78FHj6uGScQZt3WhuJMtrU?si=GFU9ps\_uSlqxU1uB\_dJlpQ

aMIGO: https://open.spotify.com/album/5jQxPOvOlIYnWzqd2pbgY9?si=7UxgXcmlSTqfoMVtI5HvqQ

TimBuh2 karma

You really did?! Thats incredible! I did not know that! Amazing job sir!

johnbarnshack4 karma

He also did the cover art for Roger Taylor's Fun in Space, though unknowingly (see one of his other comments in the thread)

timstaffell6 karma

I have actually done quite a few album covers... All of the Morgan originals, albums for Jonathan Kelly, Snowy White..Big Steam/Little Steam etc etc...

Kingcentaur5 karma

Looking back do you regret leaving the band to pursue other projects?

timstaffell19 karma

Not at all. If you listen to my solo albums, you will see that the reason I left was that I discovered I was not really a rock musician, but also wanted to incorporate many other influences in my playing and writing. My second album ‘Two Late’ came out last week, I would love for everyone reading this IAMI to have a listen and hear for themselves the kind of songs I love to write and play: https://ffm.to/timstaffell

ThomasFernandoMusic5 karma

Do you have any interesting recollections/memories of the time when Smile recorded those six songs at Trident and De Lane Lea? What was the experience like?

timstaffell7 karma

It was the first time we’d ever really been in a professional recording studio, paid for by a record company, and I guess we felt this was the big time. It was harder to record in those days, because the equipment was so much more primitive. Everything was analogue. Multitrack recording suffered from spillage across tracks. I’ve released my second solo album, and the joy of recording and producing nowadays with digital technology is incomparable. Listen to Two Late: https://ffm.to/timstaffell

Batou20345 karma

did you make marvin the paranoid android? and where is it now?

timstaffell14 karma

If you’re referring to the one from the BBC series, no I didn’t. We worked on a prosthetic costume of the Vogon captain.

Deadpaninthenight5 karma

What were Morgan's live performances like? Did you play solely album tracks, or were there others? Also, what did you do for the instrumental sections of the songs? Additionally, how did Smile's performances of See What A Fool I've Been differ from the Queen versions? Lastly, was Silver Salmon ever in the running for a Morgan album? It seems like there would've been room to extend it

timstaffell11 karma

Morgan was a prog rock band, the music was penned by Morgan Fisher himself and I wrote and sang the lyrics. Morgan was an innovator on keyboards on synthesizers. The material had multiple tempo changes and unique chord sequences and rhythmic syncopation. It was difficult material to play. Interspersed amongst the concerto length pieces we included some of my songs. The live performances were exactly like the album ones, with the instrumental sections as on the albums. Two albums constitute the complete catalogue, so to speak.

The Queen version of ‘See What A Fool I’ve Been’ is uniquely extemporised. Smile’s version I believe was much closer to the original Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and it might even have derived from (Hampton School band) 1984.

‘Silver Salmon’ was never in the running for Morgan, because I never fully completed the song and was absolutely staggered when I heard recordings of Queen doing it at a rehearsal.

ozzraven5 karma

Hi Tim. What bass did you use in the smile years?

What is your favorite Smile track?

What is your favorite Queen track?

What musicians were your influences?

Thanks for the good music!

timstaffell8 karma

Basses: I had three, a 4-string Fender Precision, a 4-string Gibson EBO, and a short-scale 6-string Danelectro Longhorn.

Smile track: I can’t decide between ‘Earth’, ‘Doin’ Alright’ and ‘Step On Me’. What’s yours?

Queen track: oh please, there are too many.

Musician influences: I’ve written about this in another reply, but some key ones are: Steely Dan, Ry Cooder, Larry Carlton, Van Dyke Parks, Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour. I’m preparing a Spotify playlist of some of my favourite musicians and tracks from over the years, I’ll share it soon on my Facebook page (https://facebook.com/timstaffell)

ozzraven3 karma

Smile track: I can’t decide between ‘Earth’, ‘Doin’ Alright’ and ‘Step On Me’. What’s yours?

'Step On Me' lyrics make me want to sing it, often...

‘Earth’ melody, it's unique and I love those bass /guitar runs in the bridge

The latest version of 'Doin’ Alright' takes the best of both worlds in a convincing way

'Blag' is a fun song because of all those future 'Brighton rock' riffs, and is something that Deep Purple could have done

'Polar bear' is an odd song that i've learned to love over the years

timstaffell2 karma

I'm with you. My favourites are exactly those three... and I can't really choose between them. I always found Polar Bear quite challenging... If I was considering recording it, I would do it as an acoustic song, Guitar, Piano, Standup Bass, and light drums... There's a deep personal sense in those lyrics that needs to come through the treatment

BobaTheFett1235 karma

Hello Tim!

What was it like meeting Freddie for the first time? Could you tell he was a legend before he became a legend? Was it clear he'd lead the band in a positive direction?

Thanks again!

timstaffell32 karma

Freddie was simply a classmate at Ealing College of Art. I have to admit he was always telling everyone “I’m going to be a legend, darling!”. He was really impressed with Hendrix and the way Hendrix could command a stage. On the other hand he could be really quiet and reserved and he focused on his college work when he was required to. Queen really got into their stride long after that.

pimderks19855 karma

Are you aware that several of 1984's (your band before Smile) rehearsal recordings have leaked through to Queen fans? Have you heard them and if yes, what did you think of it? What are your feelings about these recordings being "out there"? Have you got any audio/video of Smile of any other of your early bands which has yet to surface?

timstaffell7 karma

One of the fans sent me a recording of 1984 at the Vesta Rowing Club in Putney in the mid 1960s. We played a number of covers, the recording quality isn’t great. I have no trouble with that at all. I believe there was a short bit of black and white footage of Smile at the Albert Hall but I don’t think anything else exists. I have not tended to be archivist of my own back catalogue. This possibly explains my logic in revisiting the early material for my 2005 album aMIGO, which as you know contains sterling vocal and guitar performances by Brian himself and indeed Snowy White and Morgan Fisher. Listen on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5jQxPOvOlIYnWzqd2pbgY9?si=vdGJzDGgTtajs-DAcATkOQ

daveharwoodvideo4 karma

Hi Tim, what were your thoughts of Freddie the very first time you met him ? Did he seem theatrical and flamboyant in the very early days that you knew him

timstaffell2 karma

I’ve written about my memories of Freddie in various other replies, but he was flamboyant and reserved by turns.

robotalk4 karma

TtTE > Queen ?

Yes, No, prefer not to answer

timstaffell6 karma

I’m sorry, I don’t understand how the two can be compared.

asel894 karma

You are extremely successful but do you regret not sticking with smile at all?

timstaffell9 karma

Apologies for the repost - I answered the same question below ...

Not at all. If you listen to my solo albums, you will see that the reason I left was that I discovered I was not really a rock musician, but also wanted to incorporate many other influences in my playing and writing. My second album ‘Two Late’ came out last week, I would love for everyone reading this IAMI to have a listen and hear for themselves the kind of songs I love to write and play: https://ffm.to/timstaffell

StrongNoz4 karma

Was there any Queen songs other than Doing Alright that originated with Smile?

timstaffell8 karma

No, except Queen did attempt a version of ‘Silver Salmon’ which was one of my own compositions (but Smile never recorded it).

AIUMelodyNelson4 karma

You performed on Top Of The Pops (I believe, miming to a song you didn't actually perform on?) with Humpy Bong; the story goes it was a matter of weeks after leaving Smile. How was that as an experience? Were you as disappointed as Roger Taylor would later be?

timstaffell8 karma

We did Top of the Pops twice... once for Jon Kelly's single 'Don't You Believe it' and once for Humpy Bong's 'Don't You be too long' In those days you could only mime on ToTP if you re-recorded your song in front of BBC Inspectors.. As I was only singing on the Humpy Bong, there was no problem... on the other one, Eric Clapton had played the guitar part and couldn't do the session.. so I had to learn his guitar part.. It was terrifying...but I managed it..

ReloadedMichi4 karma

How involved were you in the productions of Bohemian Rhapsody and did you make any changes regarding your role?

Edit: changes not chances

timstaffell7 karma

I was not involved or consulted at all. My first and only involvement with it was when I went to Abbey Road Studios to record the voice and bass parts for ‘Doing All Right’: https://open.spotify.com/track/69VE5kmfqG4dJSkrB1OtCI?si=N8WBxXBPS52T7ZmUS\_XMpw

smileisagoodband4 karma

What an honour Tim! A few questions:

  1. It has been remarked that you and Freddie had similar voices (singing-wise). I can hear it a bit. What was it like doing harmonies with Brian and Roger?

  2. I know that both Doin' Alright and Step On Me were co-written by you and Brian. What was your party of those tracks?

  3. Did you consult at all with Jack Roth for the film?

  4. Were there any other songs written by you or the others during Smile that aren't currently known? Also, it seemed that Roger only wrote Blag, are you aware if he wrote any others?

  5. How proficient is your bass playing? And back in the late 60s, what was your opinion of Brian and Roger's playing?

Thank you for your time. You are a legend.

timstaffell5 karma

Thank you for the kind words.

  1. I was in the Marquee Bar around the time that Queen released their first album and a friend came up to me and said he’d just heard it, and said to me “oh come on, it was you singing that, wasn’t it?”, which I of course truthfully denied. In the early days there probably was a similarity, but Freddie’s voice blossomed in different directions. I’m sure many singers will tell you that singing close harmonies is one of the great joys of life, and it’s continued to be a central part of music right up until the present day, as you can hear on both of my solo albums, ‘Two Late’ released last week, and ‘aMIGO’, released in 2005.

  2. Mostly the lyrics, as far as I can recall, and some suggestions on bass parts and phrasing.

  3. No, I have never met or spoken to him.

  4. I have an idea that ‘Why Can’t We Be Free’, which is track 8 on my solo album aMIGO (https://open.spotify.com/track/6HbppTS8R8bJYQltC9DiJL?si=GhyViD7zTXyMNSxbePPKMg) came into being during the Smile years. But it didn’t find its true essence as a jazz ballad until that recording. As for Roger and Brian’s other songs from that era, I just can’t recall, it was so long ago.

  5. I can play an adequate simple bass, rhythmically sound, melodically perhaps somewhat restricted. In the 60s I thought both Brian and Roger were up there with the best of them.

IgorGMKD4 karma

Is aMIGO your first ever solo release, or there was some song/single before ? Is it true that Roger was also invited to take part of your first album, but he was busy at that time ? Are your Live recorded songs (from aMIGO album) during making of 2Late in 2007/9 ever gonna be released ?

timstaffell5 karma

I recently discovered a quarter-inch reel-to-reel tape of 5 tracks (4 original and 1 cover) recorded in the late ’70s with Richard Lightman as the band Tailfeather. Two of these songs (‘Stray’ and ‘Country Life’) are the original versions of tracks that were on ‘aMIGO’. I have now had the tape transferred to digital, and will be releasing a special-edition EP in the future.

I did contact Roger at the time of making aMIGO but his commitments prevented him from taking part.

Regarding the live recordings you refer to, of the 5 tracks, only ‘Just Couldn’t Say’ is from aMIGO, which can already be heard on my Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/timstaffell/just-couldnt-say-live

The other live tracks are versions of those on Two Late and all five of them will be available to download within the next few days on my Bandcamp.

LoneRangersBand4 karma

When you got your letter back from Paul McCartney at Apple Records, where he said he liked your logo, how did you guys feel that the Beatles were somewhat aware of you?

And what memories/favourite tracks do you have of your other band, Morgan?

timstaffell8 karma

Morgan recorded two albums at the fabled RCA studios at Via Tiburtina in Rome, and did a five-week tour as far north as Switzerland and as far south as Naples. We drank a lot of cheap wine and the food was of course fantastic. The second album was by far my favourite and my favourite track on it is ‘What Is, Is What?’: https://open.spotify.com/track/21NcXS7wjRzuT28IAjsEtj?si=y9iH8bRfTdGHLus7xam8eg

Edit: Missed a bit about the Paul M....." For readers who don’t know this story, as far as I remember, somebody had dropped one of our business cards at the Apple Records office. I was extremely flattered that McCartney responded. "

chasspencer4 karma

Hello Mr. Staffell, any insight or recollection on your song Silver Salmon ?

timstaffell1 karma

I’ve written about that track in various other replies. :)

Batou20344 karma

Since Queen perform with guest lead singers from time to time, would you ever want to be that guest? Satisfy that 'what if' itch for you, the band and the fans one day?

timstaffell9 karma

I think the fans just have to understand that I’m neither a rock singer, nor do I have a stage presence of the kind that Queen’s music requires. In the hypothetical scenario that there was another collaboration, it would be something else entirely.

mystery_tracks3 karma

Hi Tim,

Did you play -with Smile- early renditions of Queen numbers that made it into later records besides Queen I?

For example See What a Fool I've Been.

Extra Question: do you own any live recording from that era?


timstaffell2 karma

I’ve answered elsewhere about ‘See What A Fool I’ve Been’, there was very little similarity between the Smile and Queen renditions. The only other song that both bands performed was ‘Doin’ Alright’. I don’t own any recordings from those days.

Nessimezz3 karma

Heya Tim!

What were your plans for Smile before you left? What direction did you want their sound to go in, as compared to how they actually turned out?

timstaffell6 karma

Smile was a joint endeavour, the three of us dictated policy and Smile. I don’t think any one person had any particular plan, it was just evolving the way it was. I was beginning to become interested in music that allowed the players lots of room to improvise, while Smile’s material was gradually becoming more dramatic than I felt comfortable with. This is one of the reasons why I decided to move on.

DryChips_3 karma

How was Freddy Mercury during college? Aside from music, was he interested in anything else?

timstaffell3 karma

I’ve written about Freddie during college in several other replies. Regarding his other interests, don’t forget he was a practising artist at this time – he designed the Queen logo etc. He enjoyed paintings and artwork with the rest of us.

smileisagoodband3 karma

A few other questions:

  1. How did you come about designing the iconic grin for Smile?

  2. How did you come about naming the band Smile? What were your reasons?

  3. Last one. Brian has spoken of his impression of Roger when he auditioned. What were your impressions when he auditioned? And did you guys ever have any other drummers audition?

timstaffell6 karma

  1. The Smile logo represents something different nowadays. At the time I think I rather regarded it as an ironic reflection of the insincerity of the music business fraternity. Nowadays it’s much more benevolent, as time has eviscerated it of its comedic content. You might be interested to know that I have commissioned a limited run of high-quality enamel Smile lapel badges, which will be available again in the next few days through my Bandcamp: https://timstaffell.bandcamp.com/merch/limited-edition-smile-lapel-badge
  2. The name Smile is almost the antithesis of the irony of the logo.
  3. We may have given Richard Thompson, the 1984 drummer, an outing, but I don’t think he was available. Roger was the most flamboyant drummer I had ever seen. He would stand on the bass drum pedal while simultaneously thwacking the crash cymbal and deadening it with his other hand.

TypicalExcuse3 karma

How accurate is the movie's portrayal of the rise and fall of Freddie?

timstaffell12 karma

You have to accept that in order to contract a 15-year period into 2 hours and maintain an accurate sense of the emotional content of the narrative, it may well be necessary to condense some events so that they depict the true outcome without being factually perfect. The best directors are masters of this form of storytelling. To me it was as accurate as it needed to be and I felt that emotionally it was spot on. Also, don’t forget that I am no expert in the events which occurred in Freddie’s life after we both graduated from college.

Baguettely3 karma

Hey Tim. My question for you is how big of a Queen fan are you and what’s your favorite Queen song/album? Thank you! :)

timstaffell5 karma

I'm a huge Queen fan.... I just don't know how to answer that I don't really have special favourites.When my kids were small, and we used to go on holiday together in a minibus, they always wanted me to play 'The Works' in the bus, so that's got a special meaning for me... but do you know I'm STILL discovering new songs I hadn't heard!

michvd6039993 karma

What was your favourite memory of Freddie before Smile?

timstaffell8 karma

I've covered this in other answers, but briefly... It was Freddy miming to Hendrix... playing air guitar in college!

OSHA-Slingshot3 karma

Did you ever get the question to stay as bass for the band?

timstaffell6 karma

No, but that might have been an interesting turn of events... especially where the harmonies are concerned! Maybe in a parallel universe......

Deadpaninthenight3 karma

Forgot to ask earlier, but when did you hear Silver Salmon?

timstaffell6 karma

I think I someone sent me the recording of Queen performing it some time ago, but I couldn’t tell you when.

johnbarnshack3 karma

What non-music work do you have the fondest memories of?

timstaffell5 karma

Well, in the eighties I directed several TV Commercials, mostly European ones, and inserts, title sequences for programmes. For a year I directed commercials for Oxford Scientific Films, the Wildlife Film people. I loved directing and animating for movies... and of course, Thomas the Tank Engine was a gas!.. I also enjoyed teaching set construction at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in the 2004-2014 period

johnbarnshack2 karma

Did you ever have students recognise your name from Smile?

timstaffell3 karma

Hahaha, Yes.. Once in a while.. actually I seem to remember it was often older relatives who caught sight of my name in a prospectus or something, and said.. 'Hey, wait a minute.. isn't that....?

wowwhatacree3 karma

Would you be interested in joining the Queen Discord Server?

timstaffell7 karma

What's the Queen Discord Server?

wowwhatacree3 karma

First of all, Discord is an app/program you can use to chat with other people and talk to them. You can have servers too. A cool guy called HarveyC02 made a server dedicated to Queen with over 500 members that is linked in the Queen subreddit.

timstaffell12 karma

I will think about it. I hope you don't mind if I am non-committal at the moment.

Sad_Independence3 karma

Did you ever hear Freddie sing during the early days? I know I've heard that it took him a while to grow into his voice. I was wondering if maybe you could share some insight into this.

timstaffell6 karma

I think that's probably fairly accurate. I know he'd had a small band in Zanzibar, but in comparison Brian and I had worked for a few years in a regular gigging outfit, even if we were still at school. and after all... singing is, as much as anything, about developing stamina.. I guess it took him a while tom develop that; and with it comes better pitching, better sustain, better tonal quality...

oligneisti2 karma

Did you see him with Ibex and/or Wreckage? If so, what were those bands like?

timstaffell4 karma

Yes, I did once... I think I went to see Wreckage in Liverpool ....they were fairly average.... funnily enough, I'm having lunch with the guitarist from Sour Milk Sea, his other band, this week!

Not_Freddie_Mercury3 karma

Hello Tim! Thank you for this!

Do you remember recording White Queen or any other track besides the ones in Ghost of a Smile? Do you own any live recordings from your gigs?

timstaffell1 karma

I’ve answered the questions already in other replies, but in summary, no.

DaDopePenguin2 karma

Hello there Tim. I wanted to know what the writing and performing process was like for See What a Fool I've Been in Smile's day?

timstaffell2 karma

‘See What a Fool I’ve Been’ is not an original song, it was based on a Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee song.

only-a-northern-song2 karma

Hey Tim. You mentioned in another reply that Van Dyke Parks was an influence for you - did the unfinished Beach Boys album which he co-wrote have any part in the choosing of ‘Smile’ as a band name?

I think your songwriting is terrific - it’s funny to think that you wrote Earth, a song about the loneliness of space travel, years before Brian May came up with ‘39.

timstaffell4 karma

Interesting Question, and thanks for the kind words... funnily enough the Smile name evolved independently of the Brian Wilson classic... My introduction to Van Dyke was his two superb albums 'Discover America' and 'Clang of the Yankee Reaper' and of course his production work... interesting to think that one of his first jobs was scoring the orchestra for 'Bare Necessities' from Disney's Jungle Book...

oligneisti2 karma

Do you remember Robert Rankin from college?

timstaffell3 karma

Yes, but I can't recall if he was in the Fashion School, or in Jerry Hibbert's class below us?

oligneisti2 karma

He is now an author I've read quite a bit and he sometimes mentions Freddie in his books. Also says he beat Freddie at chess by cheating.

timstaffell3 karma

I think I must have confused him with Ian Rankin on more than one occasion... I didn't realise he was at Ealing. , but actually I guess he's more akin to Terry Pratchett.. I haven't read any of his work

oligneisti2 karma

Yeah, he calls it far-fetched fiction, my favourite is called Fandom of the Operator.

Because of the film I've been wondering, did Freddie have an accent at school?

timstaffell3 karma

Not so you'd notice... if anything a kind of refined colonial English, if you see what I mean

oligneisti2 karma

Not so you'd notice... if anything a kind of refined colonial English, if you see what I mean

Yeah, the movie seemed to portray at least a small accent, Indian, in the early days which struck me as odd. Do you think racism and slurs were a problem for him, as seen in the movie? Did he even mention his background?

Btw. I registered here just for this. One of the first things I ever bought online was Ghost of a Smile in the late 90s. The Smile songs are great, made me very happy. Were you surprised when they showed up on Gettin' Smile? I've heard that Roger and Brian had forgotten about recording so many songs.

timstaffell3 karma

I don't know whether Freddy ever suffered any racial abuse. Sometimes I think that it was less prevalent in the old days than it is now... I can see it might be useful to allude to it in the context of the movie, even if strictly not true.. One thing I could never work out about the rights to the Smile Tracks... Were they up for grabs right until after Ghost of a Smile was released? GoaS was 17 years after Gettin' |Smile.. and they were Public Domain all that time?

mystery_tracks2 karma

I just wanted to say that I really LOVE Step on me. It's like one of my favs tracks ever!

Being a musician, I'd love to play some Smile tunes these days. (Maybe a tribute band?)

timstaffell5 karma

Thanks for the kind words! a Smile tribute band! Now there's an idea!

Chengweiyingji2 karma

Would you do it all over again? Or would you have stayed with Smile?

timstaffell2 karma

I’ve answered this in other replies, but in short, yes, it was what I needed to do.

Joblacksmith2 karma

How do you feel about leaving? Do you think that Freddie would’ve become what he did without Smile? Do you ever feel as if you missed out on an opportunity by leaving?

timstaffell6 karma

I’ve answered many similar questions in other replies, but I left to pursue new musical projects and it was the right decision then, as now.

I think if it hadn’t been for the existence of Smile, Freddie might have pursued a career as a solo artist. But really, who knows?

logangrey1232 karma

Hi, what was the best thing about Freddie Mercury and your friendship with him?

timstaffell2 karma

I’ve written a lot about my memories of Freddie in other replies, sorry for the short answer :)

McJumbos2 karma

your favorite story about Freddie and his cats?

timstaffell3 karma

I'm ashamed to say I never heard any stories about Freddie and his cats... oh, except I heard he used to talk to them on the phone... is that right?

The-Forgotten-Man2 karma

Hi Tim - Thanks for this AMA. It is a refreshing change from the typical AMAs where somebody answers questions for an hour and then flies off never to be seen on Reddit again. You are spending time answering each question in depth, and I'm enjoying every minute of it. It's brilliant.

My question involves modern recording equipment. It seemed so much easier for an up-and-coming musician back in the day where recording a demo involved a tape, recorder, microphone, a good song, and some playing ability. These days somebody can have a full recording studio right in their own laptop. Musicians not only have to be songwriters and players, they need to be recording engineers too. Sometimes I feel like the gear can get in the way of the performance, when more time is spent tweaking the equipment rather than tweaking the song.

Do you have any suggestions how to break through my technophobia, or should I embrace the equipment available and spend the time learning the tools as if they were an instrument themselves? Most of the time I tell myself "Nah, why bother" and my songs go unrecorded, which is bad for a variety of reasons.

Edit: I realize I should've said that my ultimate goal is releasing songs online, so at some point they need to end up digitally formatted. I'm not just recording so I don't forget them. I could pull out my old Tascam 4-Track for that...

timstaffell6 karma

Great question, and I am happy to try and provide some form of solution. I had exactly the same problem for years... and the thing that solved it for me was Garage Band on the iPad.. it's a rather simplified version of the OsX software, but I found it immensely easy to use, and I still do for demos... The thing is, my material relies on the ability of musicians to improvise, and the kind of software that generates a drum track and automatic sequencing isn't for me... but if you can live with that, The iPad does wonders.. I spent a little time getting to grips with it... experimented by generating rhythms for demo tracks, you can use onboard samples with graphic interfaces, or just plug your instrument in... You will need a little device called an iRig to allow playing and monitoring with headphones, but it's very user friendly, and WELL worth the effort. I still don't produced finished tracks, because I desperately need the input of great soloists, and doing it all myself is pointless except for demos. That's by far the best solution I have found to try and transcend the old reel to reel or cassette multitrack limitations. And of course the iPad records digitally... In fact I do believe that Gorillaz recorded and released a complete album recorded on Garage Band! I hope that's some help. It does require some application, but it's a handy (and effective) method of assimilating the way that digital recording works...

johnbarnshack2 karma

Did you play Everlasting Love live with Morgan?

timstaffell3 karma

The MUsic that Morgan played was virtually classical music... the only deviation from that was the inclusion of several of my relatively simple songs that were included in some of the suites...

johnbarnshack2 karma

Thanks for your reply. I've heard some of Morgan's work and it sounds pretty nice. The reason I asked was that Fisher's previous band, Love Affair, had had a big hit with Everlasting Love a few years prior (though he wasn't on the actual record).

Did anything from Morgan end up being on a Mott record after he joined them?

timstaffell5 karma

Interesting idea... No, I think in the same way that Morgan was a really radical departure from what had gone before (i.e. the Steve Ellis years), Mott was the same... a good old good-time rock & roll band (with thoughtful lyrics) replacing a prog rock extravaganza !

tubbywubby20012 karma

Any interesting stories about freddie, anything bizarre or interesting he did that caught your attention? What was your first impression of him?

timstaffell2 karma

I’ve answered these questions in other replies but in summary, he was just a mate at college. I’ve shared one or two small anecdotes in the other replies, sorry for the stunted response! :)

Galactius2 karma

Hey Tim!

First of all, thanks for taking the time to do this!

I asked my dad (who is waaaaay more familiar with Smile & Queen) if he had any questions for you. He was wondering how that band you left Smile for turned out to be. Would you do it again?

Thanks again!

timstaffell1 karma

Yes, I would do it again, I was moving on to new musical projects and it was the right thing for me then, as now. Humpy Bong itself was short-lived but I had many interesting musical projects afterwards.

RobbyBloodshed2 karma

I apologize if this was asked already Tim there are so many comments! ...but

  1. Did you ever see Queen live? (If so what were your thoughts)

  2. Did you ever run into Freddie after the Smile days? (If so how was that?)

  3. If you could collaborate with any musician past or present, who would it be?

  4. I remember you posting that you didn’t hear Doin’ Alright the Queen1 version, until more recently in life, was there any reason for that?

timstaffell3 karma

Sure I saw Queen live, although not until later on. It was pretty awesome, the theatre we were in was literally bouncing with people stomping! I saw Freddy a couple of times briefly, but never had a chance to chat.. The musician I would most like to collaborate with would be Donald Fagen, or possibly Dave Grusin.. Do you know, I thought I had heard the Queen version years ago... but when I recently heard the album version I realised that it might have been a live cut I'd heard before,,,,

geoagus2 karma

Hi Tim!!!! Any concert of Smile was recorded? Do you have any concert in your Archive? Were an early version of the White Queen in the live concerts? Or any other unreleased Smile song?

timstaffell5 karma

There's some brief footage of Smile at the Albert Hall, I believe... I've already covered the question elsewhere in the comments, but briefly... everything that Smile ever recorded is on the original album...

McJumbos2 karma

what is the biggest misconception about Queen?

timstaffell7 karma

Good heavens. An interesting question,,, are there any misconceptions? They are entertainers. Their public image is as much a media construct as it is reality. This however does not have a negative bearing on their talents. I think that what they do is an amazing example of what it means to be rock & roll entertainers. Few have ever aspired to such heights. Their audience has every right to hold them in the highest esteem...

daneqvl2 karma

Hey Tim,

Great to hear you're still creating art!

How did Brian's Red Special hold up in the early days in '1984' when it was just made? I can imagine it was trial and error getting it to sound the way it does nowadays.

And did you ever consider creating your own bass guitar during that time?

timstaffell6 karma

Yeah... of course in those days, the Red Special was virtually new. Brian's Dad was still around as guitar tech! They used Burns single coil pickups, and fiddled around with them. In many ways, The Red Special was like a Stratocaster with a chambered body, and several phase reversing pickups... I've built loads of guitars, but funnily, never a bass!

McJumbos1 karma

Which song do you think is the most overlooked?

timstaffell2 karma

Are there songs which are overlooked? I'm not completely familiar with their entire output... I keep coming across little gems I'd never heard before.... besides, it's bound to be personal. I'm sure you have a view and so will many others...

IvePaidMyDues1 karma

Hi Tim, thanks for this AmA! What was Freddie's attitude towards practicing playing the piano/singing? Was he the kind of guy who locks himself in a room and practice for hours or would he do it in a more spontaneous way? Thanks again, I'm a big Queen fan!

timstaffell3 karma

This isn't something I can answer... I only saw Freddy very rarely after we graduated... the movie gave me more of an insight into his personal life than I'd ever had before....