Modern Times Rock’n’Roll



And we’re back.

This blasts into the outro of the last, and rises into a two minute blast of cheap metal.

To my unrefined metallic ear, it sounds like Black Sabbath. Just crunching rousing riffage, fast paced unintelligible lyrics. More energy than structure. More pace than experimentalism.

Which is all fine.

It’s also Roger Taylor’s first time at the mic and on the writing credit.

It doesn’t feel like a standout, just a little post in the sand saying ‘oh yeah, we can do this as well you know’.

I guess it’s the thing to do with a debut, make some statements about where you are and what you can do. Mark some territory.

That this particular piece of territory feels like an after thought, two minutes of ‘here you go’, jammed in between two of May’s more spacious jaunts.

But it’s got some heart. The lyrics you can’t quite hear veer between nostalgia and self loathing in a pretty exciting way.

Is this Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll?

Everybody in this bum sucking world’s

Gonna know just who you are

Look out

The last verse is pretty excoriating, mocking exactly the kind of theatre and bombast that Queen are pretty clearly indulging in already.

But prior to that it feels more like a song about the bit in Back to the Future where Marty McFly bootstrap appropriates Chuck Berry, only to take it TOO FAR for the crowd and try and introduce wild lead guitar solos.

Fifty eight that was great

But its over now and that’s all

Somethin’ harder’s coming up

Gonna really knock a hole in the wall

Gonna hit ya grab you hard

Make you feel ten feet tall

Which I guess is the point here. That ten foot tall feeling. The fantastic power of dressing up and playing a guitar really loudly.

It’s quite possible this is the most honest track on the record. Just some thoughts on why people like making a racket, and how weird it is that ‘a nice little man’ from a record company turns that into something bigger and weirder and sealed in vinyl forever.

I still can’t tell if it’s a celebration or a lament, which I guess is why I feel it’s honest.

Of course, there is a refrain. Basically consisting of the title, only the first two words are sung in a similar grating yell to that familiar one from Liar. There it added an extra layer of extremity to an already extreme piece of sonic exploration. Here it just alienates.

Perhaps it’s intended to, a Brechtian moment of disjoining. Drawing attention to the artifice, or emulating a screaming audience.

Or perhaps they just like screaming.

I’ve had this stuck in my head though, and it’s the scream that does it. The guitar never stayed, but the modern times did.

I’m not sure I like it.

It’s true. I don’t like everything Queen do. I’ve actually been pretty shocked by how much I’ve enjoyed this first album, how many surprises it’s held. I’m sad that Roger Taylor’s first joint doesn’t satisfy, but it’s fine, he’ll get there in the end (while May and Mercury hold most of the glory, a few of my absolute favourites belong to Deacon and Taylor).

It sits nicely in the record too. Leaping in between two tracks without much ceremony and making some space. It’s a Knee Play, really, in this giant overblown piece of theatre. You can’t hear the preparatory sawing in the background, but that’s the point.

The words give me something to bite into. Wondering exactly how the band felt, as they started a journey into pure stardom.

It almost sounds like Roger knew it would be a bit of a ride. Which means it bookends nicely with one of his much later Queen tracks.

Oh. And apparently Roger Taylor turned down being in Genesis to start Queen. Which means he could’ve been Phil Collins.

Make u think tho.



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.

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