Promoting Queen and jamming with Roger Taylor

In 1969 I stood on the side of the stage in Hyde Park and watched The Rolling Stones perform perhaps the greatest show I have ever seen. Seven years later, I wanted to put on my own show – but this time with Queen in the headline slot.

I had known Queen’s drummer Roger Taylor since we were teenagers, and thought the show would be a great way to highlight some brilliant new bands (and get Virgin Records on the map), really send Queen into the stratosphere, as well as celebrate the summer.

Queen agreed, and I worked day and night cutting through the red tape from the Metropolitan Police, the London Parks Committee and other rules and regulations to get the gig agreed. The show was all set for September 18th, at the end of a blazing hot summer in the UK. 150,000 people agreed, and showed up.

The atmosphere at a free show in the centre of London takes some beating, especially with Freddie Mercury and co performing. Beforehand, I remember Kiki Dee singing Don’t Go Breaking My Heart to a cardboard cut-out of Elton John, who couldn’t make it. The likes of Supercharge, The Rich Kids, Steve Hillage and Broken Wreck Chords (loved that name) also played.

Then Queen came on, to the iconic tune of Bohemian Rhapsody. “Welcome to our picnic in the park!” said Freddie, and the place just erupted. The show flew by in a flurry of solos, showmanship and singalongs, and I was so proud to stand next to the stage and see so much happiness in everyone’s faces, from the band to the fans to the crew. It was what being in the music business was all about.

Since then I have always kept in touch with Roger Taylor, and we’ve enjoyed many adventures over the years. He was visiting Necker Island with his family recently, and naturally music wasn’t far behind. Jamming is a favourite past-time on the island, but normally it’s my son Sam who leads the way. Before we knew it, Sam, Roger and his son Felix were playing together – a huge treat for everyone present. I decided to get involved on lead tambourine! 

Richard Branson and Sam Branson jamming with Roger Taylor

A video posted by Sam Branson (@bransonsam) on

It wasn’t quite Hyde Park 1976, but Necker Island 2016 sounded pretty damn good!


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