Oh. My. Days.
There’s so much going on here.
I really think this is supposed to be the second half of a little fantasy diptych. But that just might be because I like the word diptych.
So what is My Fairy King?
It’s a shrieking, howling, piano storming, rhapsodic, overblown mass of gorgeous, is what it is.
It’s a shocking and wonderful climax to the first side of the first record, and it has one of the most shocking and wonderful climaxes I’ve heard in song.
It’s also a pretty absurd bit of lyrical faeritude. ‘Dragons fly like sparrows thru’ the air’, apparently.
One thing I like here is that Freddie appears to be testing out the sound of his stage name, calling ‘Mother Mercury’ for support. (I’m going to keep calling him Freddie, at least for now, but don’t worry, I want to look a lot deeper into Farrokh Bulsara…I’m just not quite ready yet. We’ll get there).
But let’s look at the music. We can take the fey wordplay at face value, I think; let’s look at the landscapes behind it. The way it’s sung, the way it’s hung. Because it’s fascinating.
We’re very much piano led here, Freddie at the piano leading the composition and moving the super-structure forward.
I’m tempted to spend the rest of my time here just talking about the final minute of this, which is a glorious, elaborate, stunning, and generous piece in it’s own right, but I’ll get to it. Because there IS more here than that.
Rising back up from the rolling drum fade of the the last track, we have a sequence of guitars pulling upwards, one over the next, before a hard rock’n’roll piano sets the pace. Processed high pitched wails (I’m pretty sure they’re vocal, but in a testament to Brian May, I can’t quite tell, they could be guitars) introduce our scene. It’s a diamond of an intro, exactly as dense as necessary to set the stage.
Everything drops out to leave space for falsetto fairy talk and staccato piano.
In the land where horses born with eagle wings
And honey bees have lost their stings
There’s singing forever
Textures of guitar and and bass and drum slowly fill in the gaps, but that piano defines the space. The vocal line, as it’s joined by complex multi track harmonies and further shrieks and wails, drives the story onward.
There is no time or space for chorus here, just a building, ebbing and flowing of urgency. Mostly building. Mostly flowing.
I love the way it pours into itself. One type of movement, pushing into another at will, that forward motion maintained by all manner of different gaits. The strangeness of some of the vocal harmonies.
Then the quiet bit. Freddie’s vocal pulled from one speaker to the other, then harmonising with himself from the first. Simple, shifting piano gives him all the support he needs.
And it’s just, again, setting the stage.
Those layers of guitars from the intro, building and growing over each other, return. Summoned by Freddie’s desperate ‘I cannot run I cannot hide’.
In turn, they, pull forth the rest of the instruments, bringing them, and some wordless vibrato vocals together to bring about one last desperate dash to the finish. And it’s absolutely enthralling.
Layer upon layer of everything, indescribable. I’m utterly at a loss here.
It’s that moment in the movie. The last chance.
Piano cascading over itself. Drums elaborating and pounding. Guitar ever hopeful, with at least eight different ways of pushing upwards. The music thickens and quickens. Pulses race and spill over into a final coda.
It’s just a couple of bars, a really small section, but it’s deep, it’s gripping and it’s perfection. If this achieves anything, I hope it’s that you’ll listen to that last brief section and hear something so many miles ahead of it’s time, such a ripe story telling moment.
I live for bits of music like that. Small moments in larger pieces where everything comes together and pulls at the heartstrings.
Queen taught me about music production, to some extent. Certainly they taught me it existed. Taught me to look for it.
I assumed it was a thing they developed later in their careers, the way the Beach Boys slowly blossomed as Brian Wilson (and, to be fair, most of the rest of them) figured out how to express what was in him.
My Fairy King proves to me that Queen were already well on their way by the time they got together. That they and their engineers were already building tiny masterpieces within their work.
Listen closely, and you can hear worlds being built.
This is what I’m into Queen for. Not the pomp and theatre (although that helps) but the depth, the structure, the craft.
It’s just music. Obviously. Just music doing what music does. Grabbing you. Moving you.
I hope this one gets you. Because it got me hard.
This is Queen, you know. Moments like this.
This is my Queen, anyway.
How about yours?
Queen: An Exploded Diagram is me having big and little thoughts about every Queen song in chronological order. If you want to support me, making it more financially viable and easier to explain to people at parties, please back my patreon.
Illustration by Emma.