It’s an odd one. Not particularly experimental, but very different in tone to much else that’s here.
It was part of a soundtrack to a film, but they decided they were too busy, and the film decided that it wanted to go classical.
That might be because this would’ve sounded really weird in just about any film.
It opens with a burst of drums, and a cascade of corny lyrics, sprawling slowly, before suddenly bursting up and out into a totally different tone.
You just gotta be strong and believe in yourself
Forget all the sadness ’cause love is all you need
It’s not the most original sentiment, and maybe the whole song isn’t.
But as the drum explodes, the bass thrums and the piano hammers, it starts to charm. Guitars are cut in and out, and eventually it all picks up, after a segue of odd guitar and percussion, into the core beat. Which is pulsing and energetic in a kind of optimism that feels so wholly eighties that it’s hard to resist.
Apparently the title is the catchphrase of the lead family of the film. Keep passing the open windows as a motivational statement, a way of saying ‘keep at it, carry on’. It’s grim though, it’s because someone failed to pass the open window and killed themselves. It reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s heartbreaking koan of a catchphrase, ‘so it goes’.
But it sounds like a mess of corn and cliche in this context.
The wrapping is strong though. It commits fully to that feeling. The sentiment is simple, so the tune is too. Pianos plug away, guitars occasionally go wild, but mostly just punctuate and stab. The bass and drum just hammer away, making sure everything keeps moving. It’s fairly by the numbers.
And really, it’s good advice, keep passing the open window, keep on moving, it’ll be okay if you keep moving.
So the song never slows, always passes. Naturally it’s a slow fade.
Those two slow bits, one at the start, one at the halfway mark, are the only times it opens out, and those are were Freddie tries to pull you closest.
Wake up screaming in the middle of the night
You think it’s all been a waste of time
It’s been a bad year
And of course, the lyrics are brutal and harsh throughout. As warm and forward moving as the song is, apart from the chorus and those breaks, it paints a bleak picture, and just asks you to carry on. On little more than a platitude and a pulsing drumbeat.
I kind of want to watch this film now, The Hotel New Hampshire. It feels like it might have a tone almost as awkward and confused as this song. Although I still can’t quite see how you’d fit this song into a film.
I guess it was the 80s, tone was different then, maybe.
Although that lost album, the potential soundtrack this could have spawned..sure, it would’ve given me more writing to do, but I wonder what the hell it would’ve sounded like. Without sci fi to let them be ridiculous, could Queen make something restrained enough for a real world?
I’d have liked to hear it.
But that’s not how it happened, and we’ve just got this.
I don’t think it’s going to help much, but I’ll keep taking the advice.
And keep passing the open windows.
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.