I’m going to give the opening of this review to youtube user RBLX minigear12, who comments: ‘IT Was A RUDE MAN ! YEA ! THERE IS MANy NAKED PEOPLES IS THIS MUSIC !!!!!!!!’
I invite you to take a step back before listening to this track. See if you can remember it. It’s a popular song. It’s obviously ridiculous. You may remember it as a stupid song about how lovely cycling is.
But is it?
Really, it feels like an exercise in automatic writing. A mash of cultural references, noises, rhythms and that bit with all the bells.
Yeah. That’s the other thing. This is the one with a Musique Concrète segue into its guitar solo.
If ever there was a song to represent the absolute best and worst of Queen, it was probably this one. It’s wonderfully experimental. It’s mercurial. It never rests. It’s got breathtakingly stunning hooks. It’s got a ridiculously overblown solo. It pushes and pulls between all sorts of different moods. It begs you to sing along. It spends 3 minutes doing everything under the sun.
It’s also stupid, irritating, silly, earwormy, nonsensical and all those other things that people probably hate about Queen.
Needless to say, I love it.
Not least because I’m pretty sure it led to me asking my Dad what cocaine was at a very tender age.
You say coke I say caine
You say John I say Wayne
Hot dog I say cool it man
I don’t want to be the President of America
The stream of consciousness ranting of the verses has literally nothing to do with the bicycle desire of the chorus. But by god does it get stuck in your head.
Also, Brian says that Freddie actually didn’t like riding his bicycle, but did like Star Wars.
Income tax I say Jesus
Apparently they were recording in Montreaux, and the Tour de France went by, and the rest was history. That the lyrics sound so lazily thrown together should make you wonder at how the hell they still ended up embedded in a pile of music so restlessly creative and changeable.
Really, it’s a microcosm. In the same way that the average Queen album takes in a stupid breadth of musical styles, so does this.
The chorus has two contrasting parts, Freddie’s calm warmth, and the harmonised demand, occasionally fighting each other within single phrases. The verse is as stripped back foreshadowing of later funk-infused numbers, with clattering piano, and two duelling vocals. The bridge is this expansive breathing out of all that tension and contrast, but actually just counts in the next load of ranting choruses, which in turn builds and drops out in time for the bells, a slowly building mass of bells. And those just herald the guitar solo, a squadron of racing guitars, each clattering upwards one after the other. The race itself.
Sure, structure returns, but even then, it feels like the song ends unfinished, a lingering vocal, part way through another chorus.
There is so damn much in this tiny, stupid song. It’s outrageous. It’s a complex idiocy. A byzantine piece of pop fluff.
And it’s wonderful for it.
I’m sure half of you hate it. And maybe you’re right. But to be honest, this isn’t about right, this is about Queen. This is about awesome.
And this, frankly, is awesome.
I’m off to ride my bicycle.
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.