Blending perfectly with the end of the last, we come to one of the gentlest, loveliest numbers in Queen’s entire catalogue.
It’s a love song, but again, it’s for a friend.
Freddie’s deep love for his life partner Mary Austin is huge and transparent here.
I’m not going to delve into the nature of their relationship, apart from that it was life long, and marked by these beautiful words: ‘We believe in each other, that’s enough for me.’
It’s strange isn’t it, how songs about pain end up being some of the most romantic ones. On first reading, the lyric reads as pretty entitled, someone is hurt, and wants someone back, and there’s no measure of what’s gone wrong.
There’s a lovely bit of understanding in the middle eight, and honestly, I don’t feel like it reads rationally anyway. The words are a vessel for some other sentiment, some expression of the need and support that wrap around the idea of love and friendship and being there.
When I grow older
I will be there at your side to remind you
how I still love – still love you
The arrangement turns to guitar live, and apparently by 1985 Freddie had forgotten how to do the piano part. Brian now always does it solo (passing most of the work to the audience) and dedicates it to Freddie.
I’ll be honest with you, it’s powerful enough that even when watching a covers band, I’ve been moved to tears by this song live. It’s got a lot of wallop, emotionally. Particularly looking back, and remembering.
It’s a good way to remember people. Fondly, with gut wrenching harmonies.
Back in the studio, those final parts of guitar in The Prophet’s Song, when Brian first states the theme of this one, are like an unfurling, and unwrapping. As it’s joined by piano, and flurries of harp, it’s just enormous. But in a softer way than usual. The delicacy of the voice, piano and guitar left alone. No percussion to distract, just perfect tones, wrapping around you.
The harmonies are all the thickening you need, pulling the vocal forward, and adding weight to Freddie’s surprisingly restrained lead line.
Then Freddie and Brian duel a little for a sequence of piano and guitar solos, pushing against each other in a surprisingly aggressive flurry of emotion. Again, the sparseness gives them room for all the expression they could ever need.
I don’t know why I’m trying to get so descriptive about it. It feels churlish. What we have here is a gripping, heartfelt and delicately overpowering love song. It’s convoluted structure belies a simple emotion, a really honest and dedicated longing.
It’s a sentiment so clearly expressed that it wraps Freddie around you.
And that’s what brings the tears. It’s not the clever harmonising, the unusually formal guitar solo, the rubato piano.
It’s Freddie. You can hear it everywhere. In every note, and every word. Freddie’s heart, there for the taking.
Because you don’t know what it means to me –
Maybe you need to fall in love with Freddie to understand Queen. I can’t imagine anyone feeling a passion for them and being able to resist him. To not be fascinated by his beautiful expressiveness, joy, theatricality and compassion.
And I’m not entirely sure how you could listen to this without having a little bit of your heart taken by him.
Back – hurry back
Please bring it back home to me
Apparently I grew up in love with someone who died when I was young, who I could never have met.
I guess it was good training for all those closer to hand that I’ve loved and lost. Knowing that, as here, the important thing to remember was that the love didn’t end because the person did.
I still love you – still love you.
Love of my life.
Love of my life.
We’ll still be beside each other forever. Me, Freddie, and everyone we’ve loved.
Held in this song. With singing hearts.
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.