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Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Queen Hardcover – March 22, 2011

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Hardcover, March 22, 2011
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (March 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306819597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306819599
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,363,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Creative Loafing Blog, 2/24/11
“Return to those thrilling days of rock ‘n’ roll yesteryear with Blake’s engrossing chronicle of talent and excess. It’s another one of those books that inhales you…Thought it’s over 400 pages, it’s the kind of book you’ll rip through in a day. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.”
Onion, AV Club, 4/7/11
“Mark Blake clearly knows the British-rock-supergroup terrain.”, 4/12/11
“If you're a Queen fan, don't hesitate to pick this one up…[and] if you have even a passing interest in the story you should give this a shot.  You really won't be disappointed.”

Houston Press, 4/15/11
“The most comprehensive bio to date about the over-the-top rockers…Blake's book effectively illuminates the band's story and music for both the casual fan and diehards.”
Instinct, 5/1/11
Is This The Real Life? uses interviews with the people who knew the band best to piece together a Behind the Music-style biography. It’s extensive and detailed…It’s a worthy read.” 


Under the Radar, Spring 2011

“A happy medium between fact and anecdote. Real Life rounds out the band’s history with plenty of ripe minutiae and lost details…[A] colorful account.”

Northwest Indiana Times, 7/31/11
“Reveals complexities in the lives of guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon individually and amongst each other.”


About the Author

Mark Blake is the author of Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd and a longtime contributor to Mojo. He lives in London with his wife and son.

Customer Reviews

This is a must read for Queen fans.
You can learn far more from reading Brian May's soapbox on his website than this book.
Floyd Turbo
A truly great story about the greatest entertainer of our time.
army reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Floyd Turbo on May 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book has a lot of flaws, not much new, is poorly researched, and is far more about Freddie Mercury's sexuality than the group itself, or its music.
It seems clear from reading the book and the acknowledgments that the author gathered a ton of quotes from interviews and other sources over the years and used that to write the book. Unfortunately, he didn't go much beyond the quotes to find any detail and will toss off things that should be explored but aren't. The result is a choppy novel with virtually no narrative or details. Let me give you some examples. He mentions that John and Roger were going through extreme emotional problems during The Miracle and then says nothing about what those problems were. Other lines tossed off - Roger being arrested, Freddie's friendships with Elton John and Rod Stewart and how they all gave themselves female names, and John running the business side of the group. The author also tosses out general statements about how tough Queen was to work with and how they would sit in on record company marketing meetings but that's it. There are no statements or stories to follow up and tell you what went on in the meetings or what they did to get that reputation. Brian's "Star Fleet" record is described by merely using the liner notes! How about checking with the others on the record to give us some detail? Or interviewing Brian about it? Nope, that would involve work and since there aren't many existing quotes about it, it gets pushed aside like so much about Queen. There are some new interviews with Freddie's classmates and Billy Squier, but they don't add much.
The only thing he does seem to want to provide detail about is Freddie's sexuality and way too much of the book is concerned with when people knew that Freddie was gay.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Victoria on April 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
To say I am a Queen fan is a gross understatment so I am surprised and pleased to say that this book does offer some things that even I never knew before. Mostly they are quotes Freddie said or funny things that happened in the studio. The author makes use of just about every interview and article ever published on his subject and because of that the books reads a little like a very long magazine article, which is not a bad thing. There is alot of direct quoting going on here so if your like me and have seen or read pretty much anything to do with Queen or Freddie you probably are going to recognize quite a few things in here.

All in all I think it was worth it. I would say its better for someone who is not very familiar with what went on behind the scenes of one of the greatest bands of all time.

As a side note I don't really like the cover artwork but thats just me.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By cinders2012 on April 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is rife with typos, punctuation errors, etc. Somebody did the spell check but didn't proofread it.

That said, there are anecdotes and band history that I had never read before. I guess as a Queen fan, I still want to read more about their musical virtuosity though. When you view the concert DVDs you see the great chemistry they had, so I think more upbeat anecdotes would have made this a better read. Some of it is clearly cobbled together from interviews on their DVDs. Seemed thrown together. Wait for it in paperback.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By triknite on January 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
...disrespectful, mocking at best toward all 4 members of queen and downright degrading of Freddie. Blake couldn't even muster the decency to show some humanity when telling of the awesome strength and bravery Freddie displayed in the last year of his life. This guy even finds ways to negatively pick at Queen's triumphant Live Aid performance and make asinine jabs at all the stars who showed up at the concert 6 months after his death to honor Mercury and raise money for AIDS research-- and ones who didn't. There are so many reasons why this is not the book to buy or borrow but i will wrap up with this: Blake has a lot of trouble telling Queen's story without piling on his mostly hateful opinions. He doesn't even bother with reporting the correct date of Freddie's death but oh who cares? Obviously not Mark Blake. One thing he does care about though is that we need to forget about the whole Freddie Mercury nonsense. Blake refers to him as Fred Bulsara over and over and over through the whole book. Why?? If Blake's subject was David Bowie, Elton John, Sid Vicious, Lady Ga Ga would he be compelled to repeat his/her 'real name' ad nauseam? Something about Freddie (and Brian, Roger and John) rubbed Blake the wrong way. Mercury would have been amused!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tom on July 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Blake does an incredible job of compiling the details surrounding the story of Queen from each of its members' earliest days through the post-Freddie years. I would dare say, there's not a single bit of minutiae surrounding any of the four musician's lives.....or seemingly anyone with whom any of them had any contact over the years.....which is not touched upon here. And that, precisely, is the problem. Blake fails to establish a narrative thread. He compiles the facts but doesn't make sense of them in any way. Having finished all four hundred pages, I can draw a few conclusions about the musical and personal legacy of Freddie, Brian, Roger and John, but it's generally muddled up within a mish-mosh of secondary (and tertiary) characters whom I care nothing about (and don't see any reason why I should). More to the point, what I expected--and this book didn't deliver--was a coherent story. The whole point of a biography is to present a history in some context that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. This book absolutely doesn't do that. Judging from the many, many technical errors (yes, I mean spelling, punctuation, basic grammar and such) I have to conclude that this book was rushed to production. It reads as if there was no editor at all. If you're a Queen/Freddie Mercury fan, which I certainly am, you'll enjoy sections of this book, which I certainly did. But be prepared to wade through a lot of passages which will try your patience. And in the end, what's missing--ironically--is drama.
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More About the Author

Mark Blake has been writing about popular music and culture since 1989.
A former Assistant Editor of Q magazine and regular contributor to Mojo, he is the author of Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story Of Pink Floyd (published as Pigs Might Fly outside the US), Stone Me: The Wit & Wisdom Of Keith Richards and the editor of Dylan: Visions, Portraits & Back Pages and Punk: The Whole Story. His latest book, Is This The Real Life: The Untold Story Of Queen, was published in 2010. His work has also been published in Classic Rock, The Daily Telegraph, Music Week, The Times and the London Evening Standard.
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