A winter’s tale


Actually one of the first pieces of new music I owned. I’d saved up my money and saw I could afford a few tape singles. This was one of maybe five tapes.

A winter’s tale.

Freddie’s last song, in many ways. The last thing he performed and composed himself in full. And it’s just this quiet, beautiful and kind winter landscape.

There was no time, so all Freddie’s part, the keys and vocals is just one take. Everything else (there’s not much). Apparently Freddie usually insisted that the whole instrumental part be done before he would start laying down final vocals (this possibly helps explain just how vital and perfect his vocals are, always ready to respond to every little detail). Here we just get one clear and intimate moment.

What a super feeling

Am I dreaming…

Am I dreaming…?

It’s one of those perfect pastoral pieces, mostly a description of simple nature, immediate and whole. Like It’s a beautiful day, the song feels lodged in a very particular place, this idealised vision of Montreaux I still cling to. Mostly from the cover of the album, but also from fragments of film and the images in this song.

And here it’s real. This was written in Freddie’s Montreaux apartment, and you can here the cosiness of home through it.

A cosy fireside chat

A little this, a little that

Sound of merry laughter skipping by

Gentle rain beatin’ on my face

I feel like Freddie normally writes about people rather than places. And when it’s places, he becomes a character. I’m not going to claim to know we’re hearing authentic actual Freddie here, but it’s very clear that this is located in a simple and honest place. It’s about tiny warmths, simple sounds and not being entirely certain that anything this perfect can be real.

It’s a song about every day magic, I think.

Backed with Thank God it’s Christmas, recorded during the Works sessions, it becomes a little Christmas diptych, but this track never mentions the C word. It’s easy to tie it in, with the fireside and the children, but it’s not there. It feels so much simpler than that. Just a simple song about a moment, a brief snapshot of a season, and the feeling of being in it.

It’s called a tale, but there’s no movement in it, no development, just that simple image, etched in ever increasing detail. With ever more emotional heft behind it. Seagulls become children become magnificence becomes laughter becomes spinning and spinning and spinning and…

It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the sheer physical wonder of it. The backing vocals end up feeling overwrought at times, but so much of it is just in that simple lyric, sung simply (but powerfully) by dear departing Freddie.

If so much of Queen was about beckoning you into a world and asking you to sing and dance and take pleasure in it, this is like a more wholesome development of that. Here Freddie shows us what it’s like to step into a moment and glory in it. Not in the fame or the applause, but in the simple delight of being.

And frankly, it’s yet another thing I desperately need reminding of. That just staring out the window and feeling the air, and the motion and the people around me is legitimately unbelievable.

Which it is.


Oooh – it’s bliss



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.

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