Back on the greatest hits.
Here we have May re-establishing the band’s rockness pretty damn firmly, in a song that can’t be pinned down.
The vocals go from side to side, delay effects creating matching silhouettes. It’s smoke and mirrors but it sells itself. Urgent but lonely introductory moments, rolling solos. Angry cities.
It’s about touring with Mott the Hoople. Brian got sick after the tour, and wrote this in hospital. (For much of this record, the band would be writing most of the track, just leaving gaps for May’s harmonies and guitars. It’s surprising how much they got away with this.)
It’s not what I ever thought it was about. I always found this song faintly threatening. Warm, but lonely. There’s love, but it sounds a lot like getting lost.
But maybe that’s a joy of touring that I just don’t know about. Getting lost in a new city, with new people.
Down in the city just Hoople ‘n’ me
Don’t I love him so
Whatever comes of you and me
I love to leave my memory with you
I always heard ‘move hold of me’. But there you go.
There’s two voices in the song. A kind of fear (and a thrill in that) and a comfort, a love. It’s abstracted into nonsense at time, but I love the twin feelings. Adventure and fear, and slow burning love and closeness.
I can’t really connect with the idea of Mott the Hoople, beyond a song written for them by David Bowie that I always thought was actually just David Bowie, but I still find heart in the image of Brian finding such companionship, travelling across America.
It makes sense on a record that has taken us on so many journeys, to explore the city from this angle as well. Not the thing to be escaped, but as the thing to get lost in.
From the first moments, the song is entrancing. Freddie stands, looks around. Disappears and moves. Then keening, shrieking guitars wrap around him, and a huge stonking riff takes him out into the city.
You can see a dark alley opening up into the bright lights of the city, and excitement pouring out, as two bands run into the night.
You can see why it became a solid fixture of the live show. Not just the roaring drama of it, but the closeness. Every band should have a song like this, to remind them and the show why they’re out there, slogging across the world. Taking hands and burning bright.
It’s a simple rocker. At core, once you lose the delayed vocal passages, but it’s got so much damn verve. The way Freddie sings ‘eye’, just before the Hoople line. It’s incredible.
To hear Freddie, the senator of pomp, putting on the graces and tics of a more trad rock band of the era is enticing.
There’s so much affection on every level. A band so happy to have toured supporting someone they’ll later eclipse. It paints a sweet picture.
It’s May at his most vivid, capturing Mercury’s mood and selling every line with relatively straightforward guitar work, Taylor’s drums pumping the whole thing full of energy. Deacon’s bass providing some added heft.
And that piano glissando, buried in the middle of everything else as we roar back into it.
Now they’re here.
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.