Considering musical collaborations, few were as anticipated as that of Freddie Mercury, the dynamic lead vocalist of Queen, and pop icon Michael Jackson. The duo was slated to work together on a track called ‘State of Shock.’ However, the collaboration didn’t pan out as planned, and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones eventually filled Mercury’s place.
The concept for ‘State of Shock’ initially revolved around a duet between Mercury and Jackson, which was intended to be part of Jackson’s globally successful ‘Thriller’ album. This professional partnership stemmed from a personal friendship that had developed between Mercury and Jackson over the years, with the latter often seen attending Queen’s concerts.
Unfortunately, conflicting schedules hindered the completion of this collaboration. At the time, Mercury was occupied with his solo album in Munich, while Jackson was working on music for ‘Victory.’ Given the circumstances, the track was ultimately recorded with Mick Jagger instead of Mercury.
Freddie’s thoughts on this development were detailed in his 2011 biography, ‘Mercury: An Intimate Biography Of Freddie Mercury,’ written by Lesley-Ann Jones. According to the biography, Mercury harbored a sense of regret regarding the missed opportunity to feature on the ‘Thriller’ album, which would have led to substantial royalties.
However, he displayed a practical outlook on the situation. Mercury recognized that their demanding schedules and commitments resulted in the inability to complete the tracks they initially started working on together.
The late rock vocalist’s response to Jagger replacing him on the track was accepting rather than resentful. He considered the switch a necessary outcome of their respective commitments at that time. Freddie Mercury underscored the importance of the friendship he had with Jackson and the song itself over his personal involvement in the track.
Here are Mercury’s words on his collab with Mercury and his reaction to Jagger taking his place:
“He [Michael Jackson] has been a friend of ours for a long while. He used to come and see our shows all the time, and that is how the friendship grew … just think, I could have been on ‘Thriller.’ Think of the royalties I’ve missed out on! We had three tracks in the can [‘There Must Be More to Life Than This,’ which later appeared on Mercury’s first solo album; ‘Victory,’ which was featured on the Jackson 5’s 1984 comeback album ‘Victory;’ and ‘State of Shock,’ which became a Jackson duet with Mick Jagger], but unfortunately they were never finished.
They were great songs, but the problem was time — as we were both very busy at that period . We never seemed to be in the same country long enough to actually finish anything completely. Michael even called me to ask if I could complete [‘State of Shock’], but I couldn’t because I had commitments with Queen. Mick Jagger took over instead. It was a shame, but ultimately a song is a song. As long as the friendship is there, that’s what matters.”
While the potential of a Mercury-Jackson collaboration on ‘State of Shock’ remains an intriguing prospect for music fans, Mercury’s reflections on the situation illustrated the complexities of coordinating such collaborations amidst busy schedules.