I feel like this creepy little guitar portrait (or is it high bass?) is supposed to mirror the ominous chord at the beginning of the space capsule. If so, it’s beautiful theatrical musicology at work, bookending the first act of the film with the same tone, and reminding us of the threat and fear we first felt.
I remember being genuinely unsettled when I first saw this (or at least, when I first remember seeing it…as I’m pretty sure it being a beloved film of mine predates that memory). I think I still am.
It’s a beautiful sketch. As gas fills a clear glass bubble, our heroes naked torso is vulnerable and threatened. We see his hand, strapped to a chair, resist, panic and fail, before the gas fills the space and he is taken from us.
Genuinely unnerving, as a child. Probably one of the first times I thought about death (failing memory aside, I am an unreliable narrator). Wrapped in this little freaky deaky jam. Just a bit of plucked scat.
Flash is led to his fate nude except for leather hood and pants. (Is this a false memory of another sexual awakening?)
And he disappears into a cloud of gas.
This was my model for capital punishment for a long time. All glass domes and gas and ripped bodies.
With John Deacon playing guitar.
It’s really weird how we learn stuff. And for me, it’s really weird how I can’t really remember how I learned stuff. I make claims about first memories, and how I thought about stuff, but my brain was too mushy and non-linear to actually make it feel like that.
I don’t know what is stories I tell myself about my childhood, and what is how it actually happened. I find it hard to relate to it as a true thing, or at least as a true linear thing. It just feels to me like these enormous swoops of emotion and thought, blurring into one mess, and only viewable through individual tiny moments, that, without context, it is impossible to locate.
But still, those moments shine like diamonds. Terrifying diamonds.
And the first time (or at least that first time) I saw Flash’s hand crumple onto the arm of his chair….
Deacon’s guitar captures that fearful melancholy, but doesn’t actually make it feel sad. The sudden absence of life is just like suddenly being in an empty unknown and lonely space. That mirror of that tiny tin can, floating in space.
The emotions get swept up more dramatically at the end (likely actually part of Howard Blake’s score, rather than the band’s), with the bells tolling and the swelling strings.
But it’s that guitar that left the psychic imprint on me. That made me feel the genuinely hollowing fear of death for the first (maybe) time.
Some people had Bambi.
I had Flash.
And John Deacon.
I remain glad that he was beside me.
With his creepy little guitar.
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.