The disappointing thing here, is that apparently it’s just about driving. Roger Taylor following up on I’m in love with my car with a song about going really fast.
It’s disappointing because I assumed it was about dragons.
Let’s assume it’s about dragons.
However you read it, it’s pure and ridiculous escapism. Just a ludicrously fast paced song, with a Bangles drum and bass line driving ever forward, and guitars just providing a landscape to pass beneath you.
It takes me back to those fantasy visions of the first few albums, but approached with a more eighties aesthetic. Or, more specifically, The Never Ending Story, only with less Limahl.
It’s borderline tedious, but kitsch enough to carry it on.
Also, every time I hear Roger saying ‘don’t sit on the fence’ in the backing vocal, I can only hear him saying ‘don’t sit on my face’.
We got freaks on the left – we got jerks to the right
Sometimes I get so low – I just have to ride
It’s sheer, gleeful nonsense, throughout. With little to mark it out but an emphatic vocals, a driving energy, and some samples of a crowd going ‘hey, hey, hey’, that feels very of the time, and slightly gamey.
It was actually a long time later that someone made a computer game out of Queen’s back catalogue, but I can genuinely picture a high budget fast paced platform game coming out on the Amiga that used this as the predominant soundtrack. A tiny 256 colour sprite of Freddie bounding from bird to bird as landscape paralaxed behind him.
An of it’s time memory, for an of it’s time song.
Weirdly, it makes me feel very warm about the track even having never heard it at the time. I can imagine latching onto it as a child, swirling it around my head as I swooped around playgrounds with my arms in the pockets of my coat to turn it into wings.
There’s a vividness there, for all it’s simplicity.
I still can’t work out where to place the tone of this record. It’s moodier moments jar with it’s uplifting bursts of energy. I guess it makes sense to escape the darkness sometimes, and if you don’t have darkness you have nothing to escape. It’s no coincidence that headlong is about being out of control. It’s no coincidence that this song still pursues danger.
It ain’t dangerous – enough for me
Ride the wild wind
The truth is that Queen always contained multitudes, always bounced around, and rarely felt truly cohesive. There was always going to be a contrast between the simplicities of John, the bombast of Freddie, the creepiness of Brian and the over-excitedness of Roger. And even that’s not doing any of them credit for their range. Obviously.
The need to run away does feel right here. The band was holed up in Montreaux, to escape the invasions of the press and public, to have a quieter life.
Because however bright and sunny the ride might be, if you’re trying to escape, you’ve got something to run from.
Up on the back of this dragon, you just can’t hear 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.