So dear friends, your love is gone
This basically sounds like a tiny hymn.
Everything’s there, churchly simplistic piano chords. Old fashioned vocal harmonies and something like a mawkish sentiment.
There is nothing here for me to talk about.
It is a sweet little lullaby though. I don’t dislike it. And as a soporofic break from the hi-octane chase of Stone Cold Crazy, it does its job.
It’s just a lullaby.
It probably seems surprising to anyone who strongly associates Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody, but one of Queen’s charms is the concise brevity they are willing to approach a piece with. If a song or idea only needs a few lines and a simple piano part, they don’t feel the need to shower it in baroque ornament or stretch it out. I get the feeling that here, May wanted to say something simple, and so he laid it out.
We’ll later see how brevity is the soul of wit, but here, it’s just a way to keep things simple. Make a short statement (still exposing the fateful balance of the side, never out of sight), provide a buffer between the raucousness of the last and the….wait for it…of the next.
Like Nevermore before it, a transition is needed, or the album would overwhelm. I love this focus on the overall flow of an album. Again, breaking it into chunks does it a disservice (as well as forcing me to waffle on these sharp vignettes). But it’s okay. It means I can always obsess over the structure when I’m running out of time.
I’ll be honest.
I’ve worked too hard this month, and I’m currently nearing panic attack levels of anxiety, trying to work out whether or not I’ve correctly filed a tax return for my worker’s co-op.
I needed a lullaby. I found one.
I’m writing to calm myself down, you see. Maybe Brian May was doing the same.
It’s incredible the effect a simple traditional styling can have. Those simplistic piano chords should put you at ease. That bed of harmonies should relax and soothe.
It’s simple. It’s a bit boring. It’s what the album needed. It’s what I need right now.
Honestly, I don’t normally use lullabies to calm me, though music does help. There’s something special in the way sounds surround us. Music is like a bath or a duvet, it wraps around you and holds you close.
So when I’m called a dear friend by a stranger, when I’m sung to, harmonised with and told to calm down…
So dear friends your love has gone
Only tears to dwell upon
I dare not say as the wind most blow
So a love is lost, a love is won
Go to sleep and dream again
Soon your hopes will rise and then
From all this gloom life can start anew
And there’ll be no crying soon
I don’t think he’s singing about a tax return. But I can hear it like that.
Music is the best and worst communication. It gets us so deep, but it isn’t always clear. Even something this simple is full of mystery. Why are we being reassured? What has gone so badly wrong?
Queen are about friendship, in many ways. And this is just as simple as someone picking you up when the tears are on your face.
The bare minimum time (but the maximum heart) given over, to let you know it’s alright, before they get up and get ready to move onwards.
You barely notice it when you’re listening as an album.
But I’m glad it’s there.
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.