It’s a tribute to Elvis, who died a year previously, but it feels like something else.
I guess this is because I forget about movie Elvis, and early Elvis, more laid back Hawaii and courtship than hips and swing.
But to me, possibly because I’ve drunk too much Queen at this point, it sounds more like a tribute to Freddie.
It’s possibly a mis-step to think of the individual band members as having very distinct styles, mostly because all of them have such a massive range. But this feels like Brian May doing the sort of thing Freddie would do, only with a Brianish tilt.
So where Freddie might plunge himself into tin pan alley or vaudevillian piano, Brian plumbs the history of guitar music. He brings out an old timey blues number, turning brass into guitar (with slightly less panache and literality than Good Company), and just taking us on a nostalgic jaunt.
Which I guess isn’t a Freddie thing, it’s just a Queen thing.
It’s clear Freddie revels in it. If there’s one thing he adores, it’s putting a face on and pouring his voice through it. The sultry seductiveness on sale here is very different to his usual sort. Maybe it’s the sultriness that’s missing, actually. And if anything, the song is sulky.
Oh it’s someone else you’re taking
Someone else you’re playing to
Honey tho’ I’m aching
Freddie’s quiet little spoken bit over the solo is lovely. Again, all performance, any opportunity to take a voice and play with it.
I feel that very few people could pull off some of these lines, and it’s a testament to Brian that he can write so well for Freddie (I often think he writes better for Freddie than he does for himself, to be honest).
Make my life worthwhile
With the slightest smile
Or destroy me with a barely
I love how Freddie can make bitterness sound like the peak of romance.
The song is miserable and lonely, but the greatest feeling you get is of a band having calm, measured fun. The guitar and rhythm is so simply structured, but the harmonies flow through and the delivery of everything is perfect. The parts are in awe of the whole, totally committed to the idea being expressed, the feeling of nostalgia, lightness and the fantasy of it all.
It is, quite literally, a dance for dreamers. When the vocal harmonies support Freddie’s voice, or the guitar harmonies swing their way upwards for the solo. It’s all dreams. It’s all pictures of something not necessarily contained in the song.
Queen stand as a rock band that loved playing with the broadest range of musical history they could find. As long as it could be given a theatrical bent, as long as it felt like a performance, they were up for it it seems.
This is in contrast to something we’ll increasingly see, as the band pulls forward and sideways, rather than just back. The band’s structural experimentation was foundational, their studio approach inventive, but increasingly, we’ll see them playing with weirdnesses and textures that are ahead of their time or outside the rock wheelhouse.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride, and some people will fall off as a result. But it’s striking to think about in light of these little nostalgic bursts.
Because it’s the same trick, even when it’s done with the future of music, or the contemporary vibes. Queen loved to emulate a sound. They loved music for music itself, and they wanted to explore it.
It probably hurt them, in the long run, but it’s also literally the only thing that makes a project like mine viable.
We never know where it’s going to go next.
I guess we’ll find out in the dreamers ball.
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.