Second bite of retro, and Freddie knocks out a rockabilly classic in the bath, in ten minutes.
That’s the story anyway, ten minutes of songwriting in a bath in the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich. Then half an hour in the studio (a more believable six is reported by Mack). It doesn’t quite stack up, as I reckon it’s pretty hard to play the guitar in the bath (although admittedly, the Bayerischer might have a bigger bath than mine) and Freddie attributes the quality of the song to his being restricted by his unfamiliarity with the instrument, and so not getting to put as many chords in as he’d normally like.
I actually prefer the self effacing bit of that, damning himself for one of the things that gave his music such depth. Much nicer than showing off about how quickly you can bash out a number one hit (in the US, only number 2 in the UK).
Anyway, the thing we know for sure is that it’s Freddie’s and it’s the first time he’s played guitar on record.
And it’s not a bad try.
I mostly like it for the vocal. The chatter between Freddie and the backing vocals is addictively light, and the whole thing begs you to sing along. Freddie’s Elvis impersonation beckons you to impersonate his impersonation, revelling in the little squeaks and swaggers.
To me it feels like a much more fitting tribute to The King than Dreamer’s Ball, but also a less interesting song.
The breakdown is great though, especially hilarious in the video, where the handclaps emerge from underneath the catwalk. The on the nose-ness of the flattened boogie woogie bass is emphasised as the accompaniment kicks back in.
I shouldn’t pull away from it. My cynicism doesn’t belong anyway near such a radiant and precise track. While the guitar and vocal are looser than usual, they are pitch perfect for the intention. Everything is exactly in place, in a way that gives it a particular kind of timelessness.
Until I’m ready (Ready Freddie)
Crazy little thing called love.
There is little apart from Freddie’s inimitability that marks this as anything other than the authentic thing. It feels absurd to say this about a band as fluid as this one, but this actually doesn’t sound like a Queen track. It lacks the bombast. It’s too authentic a tribute, and that’s somewhat jarring.
It’s a lovely, simple song, that does everything it sets out to do, and is part of the band’s greatest successes. It’s a huge hit. It’s a huge part of the Queen canon, and it’ll be stuck in your head for days.
It really does swing, jive, and shake all over like a jelly fish.
But it doesn’t feel to me like Queen. Except that it is. It obviously is.
The swagger is different. The pace is off. The bombast has been turned too far down (not that the video would let you know).
But I guess that’s the crazy little thing.
Queen were whatever they did. Ferried to the top on a smorgasbord of styles and tones.
And whatever I say, I still want to sing it.
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.