A glittering piano heaves itself over the top of a hill, and drops down into a valley of bass and drum, beckoning a groove.
This is all the segue we need to introduce a piece of pure musical theatre.
Basically Freddie hating on the day job. Or the wider capitalist structure that upholds it and makes it necessary.
I don’t actually know if Freddie was a Marxist, but he certainly doesn’t like a boss.
Castrate your human pride
Sacrifice your leisure days
Let me squeeze you til you’ve dried
So the verses present a picture of capital as a flower press for humans. That’s pretty clear.
I can’t quite decide on the chorus though.
From one angle, it’s an exhortation to get the hell out of there, not turn around, and walk sassily and angrily away.
But there’s violence. And I can’t tell who is getting their heart eaten.
Flick of the wrist – he’ll eat your heart out
A dig in the ribs and then a kick in the head
He’s taken an arm and taken a leg
I’m hoping it’s the bosses, obvs.
But really, I think even after turning back, it’s Freddie being torn to pieces.
Like later angry ballad Death on two legs, this is purported to be about Queen’s manager at the time. This is openly admitted in regards to the later song, but apparently not clear here.
Musically, it’s pretty sparse, in some ways, and pretty ludicrous in others. It’s certainly got that penchant for drama. You can see how it became the back side of the Killer Queen single. It’s not quite up there, but it shares some of that aesthetic. Whilst being a different beast.
To be honest, this sounds much more purely like it’s lifted from a musical. It’s hard not to imagine Freddie striding and running back and forth on a stage, somehow inserting himself into a musical’s back alley scenery. I picture a Sweeney Todd style murder scene, all wrist flicking attitude, a song and a switch blade.
And the scene is injected in the midst of a tripartite segue. So this murderous wage slavery comes straight out of Taylor’s escape from the tenement. This fits the Norman Sheffield narrative. Rock provides an escape, but the music gets trapped by the money, and then…well, possibly escapes to Rhye. We’ll see that in the next track.
All of these tracks melding into each other really adds to these records though, and belie the nonsense of separating some of these pieces into individual chunks to discuss and digest. On one hand, they are separate things, and deserve attention, on the other, they clearly end up more than the sum of their parts. I think we’ve seen enough of that already (and I’m aware of enough of it later) to see that we could be on a fool’s errand.
But I’m okay with that, I think.
Because even as it is part of an emotionally inconsistent but pretty engrossing trilogy, this is also just a nice little vignette within the evolution of Queen’s approach to the dramatic. Another little vaudeville nod to a cartoonishly violent evil, all for the sake of a dig at bosses (or one boss in particular).
This is how Queen does it. You know?
It’s not quite my song, but it’s catchy as hell, and it does its job.
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.