White Queen (As It Began)


Another slab of tedious manfeeling, over a pretty glorious arrangement of guitars.

I appear to still be in a mood with Brian May.

But to my credit, he does use the line ‘stars of lovingness in her hair’.

As usual, Freddie salvages, and turns the fairly humdrum poeticals into something that feels surprisingly honest.

White Queen (As It Began).

To be fair to the lad, it is based on a confluence of Robert Graves poetry and fancying a girl in Biology. So I shouldn’t get all uppity about a clichéd turn of phrase or eight. There’s no need for nastiness here.

It’s actually quite nice.

It’s harder to write about the slow ones though. Less thundering (though it gets there in the end), more meandering.

A few introductory chords make way for a spare acoustic guitar. It’s a lovely little bridge between the looping singalong of the last track and the delicacy of this one.

Freddie sings a little prologue, and the song proper begins.

It’s got that slightly unnerving minor guitar key guitar sound, echoing around the vocals like it’s following them down an alley. Hints of Abbey Road era Beatles guitar work, a kind of deft unhappiness. Longing, I guess. That’s certainly the theme here.

And it keeps being contrasted with these bursts of louder guitar, complementing the softer noise.

The second part of quietness is wrapped in expansive drums and haunted by lingering guitar thrums.

Eventually the balance tips, and the rock has it in hand for a while.

Spanish guitar helps build up to it. With raging high pitch guitar tones.

That thundering noise dances around the same sort of vocal lines, but lifts them into a greater urgency, a weightier sense of flight. Drums clatter through and upwards. Until it falls back down again. Sinking into an inversion of the prologue.

So sad it ends

As it began

It’s true; it’s a fair assessment, the piece ends as it began, looping around the internal structure that drove through it.

You really should be reading the much more accurate and thorough Queensongs.info (aka ‘the competition’ if I’m willing to let myself get blown out of the water) if you want an actual assessment of the musical elements of the works of Queen, but I do want to talk about structure a little.

Queen write pretty complicated songs. A lot of their biggest hits don’t really have conventional choruses (and one of the biggest is a bloody rhapsody, never really repeating a theme in full).

Here we do have a chorus but it’s different every time. A pattern of vocal with entirely different lyrics each time, and an instrumental version in the middle.

It’s actually pretty gripping. You get used to hearing that structure, and forget to think of it as a chorus. It’s more a of a motif. So that ending, bringing back the beginning, makes you realise you’ve already heard it three times, in three different modes. Quiet, loud, wordless (still loud). And back to quiet.

It’s a lovely structure for the rest of the work to pass between. This isn’t just a simple battle between the loud bits and the quiet bits (although these dynamics are used pretty emotively throughout), it’s a web of intrigue: four statements of longing and sadness, and a shifting net of suspended emotions (made more delicate by Freddie’s delivery).

The music is just so much more honest and open and heartfelt.

Maybe this is a fallacy. Music is inherently meaningless, not capable of the lies and charmlessness of attempting to actually say something. Can I really call something that only really abstractly indicates emotion as more emotionally honest than something that is actually trying to say a thing?

Yes. Yes I can. I just did.

Words a rubbish. Music’s great. Listen to this. Do you really care about the words being a bit trite? Are you really not buying into it anyway, just because the music tells you there’s a real thing going on?

Music’s amazing. I love it.

I think I love this.




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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