The second single from Innuendo was the surreal “I’m Going Slightly Mad,” at first glance a lighthearted comedy number, but in retrospect a haunting insight into just how ill and how scared Freddie was at this point. The video would be the last to feature any creative input from Freddie, and would take its toll on his ever-worsening condition.
The accompanying video — like all other Innuendo videos directed by Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher of DoRo Productions — was filmed on 15th February 1991 at Limehouse Studios, and Freddie followed the lyrical content of the song quite closely. The Queen frontman wrote this song in which he describes a descent into madness. It has a lighthearted feel, as if turning daffy might not be such a bad thing. Freddie wrote this in London with some help from his friend, the actor Peter Straker, who suggested some of the lyrics. The pair traded lines back and forth, developing the various idioms for insanity (“You’re missing that one final screw,” “One wave short of a shipwreck,” etc.).
As a result, on set were one thousand and one yellow (and silk) daffodils, an enormous screw, a boiling kettle (making a rather delightful hat for Roger), a child’s tricycle for Roger to ride around on and of course, the banana tree… or rather Freddie with an enormous bunch of bananas on his head! Also, harking back to 1973 and the photographs featured on the back sleeve for the band’s eponymous debut album, Brian recreated the penguin costume he wore for the photo shoot in Freddie’s flat, waddling about on the set of the video with real penguins, one of whom, Cleo, endeared herself to all present by relieving herself all over the black leather couch the band were posing for photographs on!
Filmed in black and white , the monochrome photography helped hide Freddie’s frailty, as did his over-the-top make up. Despite the enormous strain filming the video put upon him, he and the band clearly enjoyed making it, perhaps sensing that this was the last time they could do so. After Freddie’s death, a large amount of behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot emerged on tribute shows and documentaries, including the infamous penguin pooping, and Freddie directing the action, clearly still wanting to be artistically in control.
The single was only a minor hit in the UK, reaching number 22, but it managed to break the Top 20 throughout much of the rest of Europe, and even reached number 1 in Hong Kong. Not surprisingly, this success coupled with the eccentricity of the video meant that the promo instantly became a firm favorite with fans. It received its home video premiere later in 1991 on the Greatest Flix II VHS, and also featured on the American release Classic Queen.