One vision

onevision-01

It’s actually pretty rare for a track to be credited to the whole band, but if there was every a more appropriate time for them to bundle together, it feels like it’s on a weirdly processed slamming rocker about unity.

One vision.

The album version of this renowned track features a lot more weirdness at beginning, middle and end. The opening synth pulls out of monstrous demonic voices telling us that God moves in mysterious ways, before becoming even more unintelligible and doom laden. The intro is extended, and these synths and tape delay monsters will return for Roger’s drum solo and the close of the song.

But when the song proper begins, it’s with a slam of guitars so hard and immaculate, that it has to be May at his heaviest.

The lyrics are as trite as anything. Apparently cribbed bits of Martin Luther King and extrapolations from his work that could be lifted from an inspirational poster with a picture of a mountain on. At times, it even sounds pretty fascist, which is about as far from the alleged source material as you’d imagine. But I guess that’s the problem with unity. You either sound wafty, or like you’re celebrating authoritarianism.

One flesh   one bone,

One true religion

One race   one hope

One real decision

Wowowowowo   oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah

It doesn’t matter. It’s the sort of song that’s all about the delivery. Those guitars grab and don’t let go. The drums pulse steadily. The bass hums indeterminately. And Freddie shouts. You aren’t supposed to think too hard, you’re just supposed to fall for it.

Maybe it is about authoritarianism, actually.

This version has a large breakdown, more drum solo than guitar, as Brian fades into simplicity, drowning in synths and special effects.

In general, it’s the sort of song I could take or leave. Were it not for one thing.

Jump back to the beginning again, wait for the blur of noise and fuss to build, wait for the synths to swirl, wait for the drums to develop, the momentum to rise.

It pulses into one single fake string synth…and….

Rips open. A totally clear and totally clean guitar hook, bigger and louder and more precise than any you could imagine. For the moments that that guitar stands alone, it is a hulking and beautiful rock monolith.

As always, it’s actually multiple guitars, and that slide back is an artefact of that. It just sounds so perfect, such a clean statement of purpose, before any word is uttered. That hook alone, turns this song into something unforgettable, unputdownable.

I feel like the rest of the song radiates out from that one perfect riff, one perfect rip through time, space and everything. It’s torn apart when it should reappear late, not actually allowed to fruit ever again. That first time you hear it is the only time it’s performed fully throughout the whole song. Everything else stands in the shadow of that, and that’s as it should be.

That’s the one vision. Everything else is just an impersonation.

Who else could be that bold? That confident?

Why, it’s Queen, of course. Even after all.

 

 

 

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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A kind of magic

PrintOh no, my Roger Taylor’s on fire.

A kind of magic.

By all rights, this should be one of Queen’s kitchest, cheesiest moments. It’s a finger clicking pop song with some of the most tired drum and bass parts we’ve heard from the band. It’s barely thickened with roaming guitar and synth washes.

But it pulls, up and up. It lifts.

It has a weirdly alienated feel to it. As up beat as it sounds, there’s a pall of nervousness that runs through the music. It feels haunted and suspect. I genuinely can’t put my finger on why, but it’s the reason I find myself loving this song rather than discarding it as silliness.

I think it’s partly just that a thousand tiny synth parts burst in for moments at a time. There’s one single moment where Freddie’s voice is delayed, just for one line then later pan delayed in a totally different way. There’s one little purring bit. There’s various throbs and wobbles. Like different forces are trying to break into the song.

Weirdly, this is emulated perfectly in the video, with these drawn on cartoons bursting out of Freddie and into the weird house they’re in. (Seriously, how wonderfully awful is that video…it’s right up there with the bestworst of them.)

So of course we start with the corniest viable pop, because Roger’s testing out his subtlety. How far can he push and pull something? How weird can he make it?

The end result is not really weirdness. It’s just a lovely piece of music. Heartfelt, sweet pop.

About sci fi fantasy codswallop.

It’s a kind of magic,

There can be only one,

This rage that lasts a thousand years

Will soon be done

Because of course, this is the unofficial soundtrack to the Highlander. The title of album and song are lifted from the film. This track, along with several others from the record, appear (in different versions) in the film. So we’ve got to bring as many little nudges towards Christopher Lambert’s ancient Scotsman as we can.

I got confused as a kid though.

I always misehard that lyric as being about a ‘ray that lasts a thousand years’ and thought this record was actually a soundtrack to godawful (but I love it) sequel Highlander II (which featured a big laser shooting up into the sky to fill the gap in the ozone layer, but accidentally dooming the world to darkness). It’s a film so awful it was retconned out of existence by every other awful spinoff they made (I can’t believe they kept making those things, apparently even the first one was a box office loss, and they never had commercial success. It’s weird.)

I secretly love Highlander II, with all it’s dodgy SF and inexplicable resurrections of Sean Connery. It painted a brooding world, and filled it with awful cheesy jokes, which was exactly what I wanted as a young teen.

And to some extent, I feel like this song is part of that, even though, in many ways, it isn’t. It’s the most inappropriate way to bring to mind a dark and unpleasant fantasy world where the main focus is tearing people’s heads off. This bouncy little pop ditty.

But that’s what it is. And I think I’ll always love it for that.

Absolutely the most cheerful beheading soundrack you’ll ever get.

It is a kind of magic.

 

 

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.

One year of love

oneyear-01I do really want to chat with John Deacon. I’d love a cup of tea with him.

I don’t think I’d actually have the confidence to ask, but in theory, I’d like to know how he felt about Brian May, for reals. Because it appears from certain track notes I’ve found that he was constantly trying to get Brian out of his tracks.

This is one of the times he succeeded. Brian May will not be appearing on this track.

One year of love.

Sadly, it’s still mostly awful.

Awful’s a bit strong. It’s John, so obviously I love it.

It’s a mawkish as hell love song, all sweeping synth strings, purring bass and bluntly slowed drums.

One sentimental moment in your arms,

Is like a shooting star right through my heart

Freddie does his best with what he’s got, and almost manages to sound convinced. But at the end of the day, it sounds like the proverbial dime store romance novel. It sounds like the sort of track that would play over a romance scene in an eighties film (honestly, I think it does in Highlander), but if anyone ever put it on in a real bedroom you’d immediately start making excuses, or just run, run, run before the saxophone kicks in.

Because yes, what would’ve been May’s guitar solo (and god, let’s think for a moment on how little that would’ve done to help this track) is actually a sax solo.

Now. I’m generally the first person to defend the saxophone. I think the 80s gave it a pretty bad rap, and actually, it’s an incredibly expressive, brutal and wonderful instrument. Bowie worked magic with it, and Scott Walker and Colin Stetson have recently sketched beautiful nightmares with them. Like the cello, it’s an instrument whose range mimics that of the human voice, and as such it can be made to talk and affect like little else.

So yeah, saxophones are great.

But they often feel desperately uncool. The ever looming threat of smooth jazz surrounds them. There’s always the fear that someone’s going to start seducing you with one. And not like that scene in Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex with the clarinet. But like that scene in most eighties films where you’re in a mostly grey bedroom and someone plays something that might be Kenny G and somehow we’re supposed to be aroused as silk ripples around naked bodies.

There’s baggage.

And as much as I want to claim this song is something better than all that. It is exactly that.

The best I can say is that it achieves a certain kind of purity of intention. It nails the sound perfectly, even when it pulls in some unlikely but very Queenish harmonies. If you wanted to give a lecture on how to seduce someone in the style of a bad eighties film, you could do worse than point to this song.

After all, it’s still Freddie being alluring.

And the strings work pretty well too.

And no one ever told me that love would hurt so much,

And yet it does.

 

 

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.

Pain is so close to pleasure

painpleasure-01

You’re hoping for an exploration of kink dynamics, but then it turns out it’s mostly about how I feel about ‘bad’ Queen tracks. That mixture of love and hate. That feeling of not quite being sure if you’re enjoying this, or you just can’t face the alternative. That you’re forcing yourself to write lots of words about occasionally dreadful music.

Pain is so close to pleasure.

What’s to like? Freddie’s falsetto, and a remarkably solid motown core. Freddie and John (who co-wrote, based on a May riff) having a lot of fun with the lyrics. Two verses that sound nothing like each other, vocally. Some quirky little noises.

What’s to hate? It sounds like a cheap, naff Yamaha keyboard backing track.

John’s bass is kind of cool, but so washed out and rounded that it feels detached from everything else. Except that one moment when everything else drops out and two bass notes awkwardly butt in to the silence. The drums are insipid throughout.

What’s to feel conflicted about?

Well. It sounds like they’re having fun, doesn’t it. I love hearing Freddie putting on voices, just because you get to feel like he’s mucking about and having a lark. This is emphasised at the end, where he goes a bit Body Language, and just starts moaning the words ‘pain’ and ‘pleasure’.

Queen are silly. We can’t get past that. They did silly things that were sometimes bold and creative, and other times just silly.

This is one of them. I’m not going to throw it out just because it’s kind of awful. It’s a remnant of the disco queerness of Hot Space, and it’s important that the band kept that alive.

But inside if your mind you have to put up a fight

Because it’s important that Queen had this outlet, it’s a necessary counterbalance to the throbbing agression of parts of this record. Queen could never just be a rock band again, and never really were in the first place. Let go of that myth. Their fantastical operatic rock always had this stuff locked inside it.

Queen are queer. And John’s normcore and Brian’s masculo-tragedy isn’t goint to change that.

But if you’re feeling happy someone else is always sad,

Let the sweetness on love wipe the tears from your face,

It’s not about kink, necessarily. It’s about opening your heart, and realising that doing that can be painful. It’s trite, obviously, but it’s pointing to real pain and difficulty, and as such, I think it is about sexuality. It’s a subversive thread.

Or maybe it’s just a cheap motown setting on the keyboard, before that had become a staple of secondary school music room mockery. Maybe it’s just a cheap naff song.

But it’s got a cheap and naff heart to it, and it might be protecting itself with that cheapness and naffness.

And maybe Freddie just wanted to do a Diana Ross impression.

And I would never, ever stop want to stop that.

Would you? Really?

(If yes, maybe we can’t be friends any more)

 

 

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.

Friends will be friends

friends

Another Deacon/Mercury special, and apparently one of Queens last piano led singles. (It doesn’t feel hugely piano led to me). We’re looking at a song about friendship, and therefore we’re in ‘classic Queen’ territory. May’s making a guitar cry, and there’s some light synth washes.

I might be reviewing this one too fast already. I wonder why?

Friends will be friends.

Because it’s a fucking dirge.

I love Freddie’s sentiment, I largely love his delivery. I love some of the guitar slabs, the general tone.

But it’s got to be the most plodding track of all the greatest hit singles.

Downbeat sad ballad about friendship. Stodgy callback to past highs. A call for friends that feels lacking in so much of the warmth and love that Queen normally offer. It doesn’t feel like a hug, it feels like a platitude.

Which makes me sad, which is probably not the point.

Taking all the cash and leaving you with the lumber

I think the video makes the intention clearer.

Filmed in a bog standard venue, with members of the Queen fan club, it culminates in a transition from the album version of the song to an impromptu in situ sing along.

Because of course. This is one of those tracks made to be sung along to. That’s it’s purpose. It’s for filling stadiums, and bringing them together. It needs to go slowly to let everyone keep up with the words, and get their arms around their shoulders.

It’s not a song about friendship, per se, but a song about camaraderie. Performative friendship. Mass releases of Oxycontin.

It’s weird how many chunks of the Queen back catalogue are about maintaining a set of experiences for the live show. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but this project (and my life) are missing a critical part of the Queen experience by focussing on the records. Queen were always a touring band (although, this was actually their last full tour), the songs and solos building blocks for a live show.

So they needed a new anthem every now and then. Something to get arms on shoulders and tears on cheeks and voices ringing out.

And in that context, it all makes sense. It’s a slowly played out drama that builds until everyone is wrapped up in it. It’s predictable to let people catch up and join in. All part of the show.

This sounds like I’m being dismissive. Critical of a form of friendship that only exists when sung in a stadium. But I don’t think I am saying that. I think I just mean that I can get behind the song now. Or at least understand it.

Lyrically, it’s trite and either memorable or mumbleable, which is what you need. I do like how its mention of a pound in trouble and doctors on strike feels like it was made for this year, despite being a good three decades old.

I also like that it’s unclear if he’s addressing the audience as ‘love’ or pointing out that love isn’t easy.

I obviously prefer the former. Because it’s sweet.

Which I guess this song is too, for all it’s plodding bluntness.

 

 

 

 

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.

Who wants to live forever?

"Forever and Ever", published in the December 2, 2014 issue of The New York Times Magazine
The “immortal jellyfish” can transform itself back into a polyp and begin life anew.

Three words.

National. Philharmonic. Orchestra.

Who wants to live forever?

It’s probably one of the most offbeat parts of the Queen canon, really. One of the rare utterly serious moments, with full emotional weight, and drama all subservient to the melancholy sadness at its core. In the video, Freddie’s frock suit and pomp actually undermine it a little, as while the song has a melodrama to it, it doesn’t quite hit bombast.

It’s one of Brian’s songs about loss. Not about a cat this time, but about his father, and his marriage. It nails the not entirely original notion that people dying is sad, and surviving is hard.

It nails it best, of course, when accompanied by Christopher Lambert frolicking with Beatie Edney in the Scottish countryside. This is the most directly associated Highlander song, appearing, I think, in full in the film. Beatie ages, Christopher doesn’t, but they stay so solidly in love that it’s kind of perfect.

A synthesised intro gives way to strings and Brian’s voice. The verse is short, but quickly builds to the core theme, before letting it lie back down. Freddie picks the melody up, and it all scales up.

In the film, Freddie sings the first verse too, but I think the power of fleshing out the vocal as the music deepens is good. Brian’s breathy introduction sounds more honest and desperate. Freddie pomps up a bit, but therefore manages to help it transcend the immediate triteness, and expand to the scope offered by the orchestra.

Once it peaks, a guitar joins the rage, and then carries us into the body of the song. More broody. More moody. More lost.

Brian and Freddie still share, but the whole thing is just a break to escalate for one more swelling yell.

Forever is our today

It’s ridiculous. It’s a very simple piece, given a hugeness through the application of orchestra and Freddie. It fades into a downward heaving pile of strings, with little bits of guitar and drum before a final, lonely instrumental crescendo, another fall, and a weird synth bit that doesn’t quite fit. Almost like an ident.

Of course you don’t want to live forever. We’ve all seen the world deteriorate long enough to realise that, right? It’s not just aging, which we need to all get a little less judgemental about, but remains pretty damn vivid. The fact is that permanence is a terrifying thing, an unnatural thing, and I try not to use the word lightly.

Of course, I think this piece is thinking more intimately, more short term than this, possibly because of the terms laid out by the romantic origin story embedded in this rather pulpy film. It’s worth noting that the title lyric actually comes appears in a different film. Flash Gordon.

But it’s just simple and plain enough to make you willing to engage. Strings for heartstrings. Bombast to make you believe. Quiet moments to let you actually think.

It’s okay. I think. Though I always used to fast forward through it as a child. Too slow. Too sad. It didn’t appeal to my preteenaged affections.

I can listen now. Even like it. The mawk even speaks to me a little.

Maybe I’m getting old.

But feh, who wants to live forever.

 

 

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.

Gimme the prize (Kurgan’s theme)

gimme-01

The final three tracks of A kind of magic basically represent Brian, Roger and Freddie’s respective responses to the same design challenge: can you write me something tough and edgy and hard and rock for the Highlander soundtrack.

They’re an obvious triptych. Pretty hard rock, compared to the other Highlander commissions, which have involved an orchestra and a perfect kind of camp. It appears by this point they’d learnt that it was a pretty macho film about fighting with swords in car parks and warehouses (and Scotland, but they already ticked that box, I guess).

May’s the first to let rip.

Gimme the prize.

And that’s basically what he does. He launches into one of his most thrashy, trashy guitar solos ever. It’s just an absurd mass of heavy metal wankery. It sounds like something from Bill and Ted.

It’s joined by some ominous harmonies, and then the song proper begins, with a sample from the film some firmer, more pounding guitars, and eventually this tracks signature wailing guitar sound, which is, frankly, a delight.

The rest of the song plods on, with occasional bursts of these screeching, keening guitars, slicing through everything, and making the piece fascinating again.

Freddie’s delivery of the absurd pompous monstrosity of the lyrics is another salvaging factor.

Give me your kings, let me squeeze them in my hands,

Your puny princes,

Your so-called leaders of your land,

I’ll eat them whole before I’m done,

It’s a hell of a boast, and I kind of love it.

The mid section of the song manages to somehow be even more ridiculous than that. There’s a big section which sounds like it’s excerpted from some hypothetical Highlander version of Streets of Rage. Big pounding drums accompany samples and sound effects from fight scenes, presumably randomly triggered from a very expensive sampler. It’s stupid beyond all hell, but it’s also fully committed to what it’s working towards.

And it has further to go.

Next comes the first of two further guitar solos, this one based on a traditional Scots motif, and with Brian turning his guitars into bagpipes for a bit. It undermines any dramatic tension even more than the synthetic swordfight, but in this perfectly inappropriate way.

The final solo is actually fairly straight. Brian reminding us what he usually sounds like. It feels a bit redundant after all the ridiculous. It’s very rare for a classic style May solo to sound dowdy, but it manages it here.

The song repeats something like a verse, more boasting and ends in a cacophony of even more absurd sound effects, including a hundred panes of breaking glass. Not quite loud enough to be interesting, but silly enough to fit here.

The fairly surprising thing here, though, is that apparently Russel Mulcahy, the film’s director said this was his least favourite of the tracks made for the film. He didn’t like heavy metal, you see.

I don’t know how someone could make such a broodingly metallic film, and then complain when given something that fits the theme perfectly. But apparently, my theory about what Queen were asked for just doesn’t sit.

It really makes me wonder what he actually wanted?

Because this is, while not the best song, this is a pretty on the nose representation of Highlander.

I think May should be able to count this one as a win.

Although in just a few minutes, Freddie’s going to trump it in just about every way possible.

 

 

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.

Don’t lose your head

head

It’s possibly Roger has forgotten what rock is, and so misunderstood the instruction. His darker contribution to the Highlander project is legitimately dark and brooding, but significantly more electrical.

It’s a driving song about not getting decapitated, which has always been pretty solid advice.

Oh, and it’s got Joan Armatrading in it, being immaculately sultry.

Don’t lose your head.

While not exactly original, the echoing power pad drums of the opening mark a strong start. And in many ways, this is a piece of a particular driving aesthetic that people are now rebuilding. If you took out the kitscher vocal parts, you could end up with some of the new retro aesthetic minimal Los Angeles sound of a lot of modern electronic fans like making today.

Basically, the drums provide the engine, and everything else drifts around it, like dreamy, hyper-unrealistic landscapes.

Of course, this was the actual eighties, so it’s not minimalist, the arpeggiator is set too fast and Freddie Mercury is bellowing over the top of everything.

And the drums are too high in the mix.

And people keep on saying ‘don’t lose your head’ again and again and again.

It’s also the only driving song I know to take a break to encourage you not to drink-drive.

Don’t drink and drive my car,

Don’t get breathalised,

Don’t lose your head,

Anyway. That’s actually the only reference to cars. It just has that feel.

It’s also one of the time when the song breaks character, drops the broodiness of the main theme and bursts into something weirdly chipper and bouncy. Queen’s restlessness led them to all these weird and wonderful epic narratives and unusual song structures, but also meant that they were pretty bad at keeping a straight face for an entire song. We’ve seen this before. We’ll see it again.

It’s fine, if you came to Queen looking for a straight face, you actually got that with Who wants to live forever. It was pretty good. You felt feelings and everything. Now let them get on with their business.

Which in this case consists of making a perfectly cliche eighties driving song.

The synth is so precisely of its time. So exactly what you’d expect to hear here. A subpart Carpenter riff, too fast, too simple. Exactly what the era called for, exactly what you’d expect.

It works best accompanied by May’s oddly stilted and surprisingly guitar solo in the outro. Just an extended but jerky noodle of guitars. They dance around the core of the song in a way that fits perfectly, but also adds a bit of bite.

Of course, it’s too late by then, you’ve probably already got tired of people saying the title of the song in different intonations, moods and inflections.

I wish I could remember what the eighties sounded like in the eighties. It’s impossible to pull myself out of the nostalgic ironic version we’ve had pasted over the last twenty six years. The cartoon version we look back at, instead of the thing people actually lived through. What did that arpeggiator sound like to a real human living through it for the first time? What did those big slabs of reverby drums sound like the first time you heard them? Without the baggage of a hundred eighties nights and nostalgic talking heads.

I was six when the eighties ended, but I remember it profoundly. That night we watched Ghostbusters for the first time, and it was utterly and profoundly amazing. It blurred into the party I was surrounded by to the extent that I’m pretty sure I remember the marshmallow man actually being in the room with me.

So my patchy memories are surreal and broken. This track summons up memories of loving Dragnet. Of watching Tom Hanks get into scrapes. Of the Racoons.

But sonically, I just wrap it into the mass of things I’ve only really looked back on.

Which is true of all of Queen, I guess, I was always late to the party. But it didn’t stop some of it from being a real part of my childhood.

This sort of synth though, it only belongs in films for me. Films and maybe student club nights.

I’m not sure exactly what that means. But there’s something to remember there. It’s not just the fact that it’s partly a film soundtrack. It’s that films are bound up with certain kinds of music, shaping them, and affecting deeply the way we hear them.

So this song doesn’t sound like an isolated piece of work. It sounds like an example of a motif. A specific case of a specific time of a specific realm.

So even if I didn’t like it, it evokes something that fascinates.

Memory.

But that’s just me.

As always.

 

 

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.

Princes of the universe

princeuniverse-01

This is the only track on the record credited entirely to Freddie.

It’s a perfect alignment of pompous boasting, references to Highlander, restless structure and and a scale of noise, rowdiness and absurdity that somehow make it work.

It’s precisely the sort of song only Queen could make, and only Queen could pull off.

Princes of the universe.

Because they are.

If you want to someone to pull off arrogance on a universal scale. To lend authenticity to a song about impossible supremacy, Queen are your go to.

They nail it, every moment, every beat.

The blasting rock acappella intro is massive. The guitars start enormous, but start shrieking in pain (stolen from Gimme the prize, I think, but much thicker and heavier and bigger here) as soon as the stong starts. The first verse is this huge pounding mass of pride, with choral backing, monstrous synths and those huge, huge guitars.

It jumps to double time at will. Tears into weird little emotional breaks, that somehow still manage to end huge and throbbing and overwhelmingly confident.

The song tears through three and a half minutes, and goes absolutely off the wall at every possible moment. It repeats it’s motif, but in totally different contexts every time. There is a verse and chorus, but then a completely bafflingly over the top mid section.

And it all just ends in a wash of echoing vocals. Over before you’ve noticed.

The scale of it is ridiculous. Just a load of bellowing, belting and wailing. It’s one of the densest pieces of work we’ve seen. Packing one of the early Queen wandering structures into about half the time.

The whole band rip into it from the very first moment, and then just start throwing things into the pot before any idea ever settles. The horror choir appears only for a tiny patch of the first verse, the gentler backing harmonies only for a tiny piece of the middle section, trying to emotionally foil the pomposity but not actually managing to rein it in for more than two lines.

And that double time.

Again, the wailing and ripping and anguished guitars bring so much to the table. Just a huge sense of drama and awe. That Freddie finds a way to bottle that into his vocal his testament to his utter certainty. It’s perfect.

The production is ridiculous. Ripping whole elements out to just let a single part (usually Freddie’s voice) stand alone for seconds at a time before laying back into the back channel with all of the noise available. It’s thick and heavy and over the top in every direction, except when it wants to leave a simple element to stand alone, when it does. But never for long.

Everything here is big. Bigger than anything. Bigger than the universe.

Here we are. Born to be kings

We’re the princes of the universe.

And that’s the thing.

Only Queen could truly deserve that line. Their self aware theatre is the perfect home for that particular flavour of bold ridiculousness. Freddie can make you believe he’s immortal, even now. Maybe even more so now.

Because I don’t think this song is about the immortality of the Highlander characters. Not for a second. It’s about the immortality of music. Of passion. Of Freddie. Of rock.

It’s a huge obelisk of rock. A massive stone structure warning you to look on it’s works and despair.

We know where that leads, but the thing about a big wailing guitar is that it can sell the impossible. The thing about a big bellowing Freddie is that he can sell the impossible.

The thing about Queen is that they can sell the impossible.

And that’s why you get Queen to soundtrack your kitsch, brooding and dark film. Because they can take the edge of your silliness, warm it with their own, and then pitch it back to you as something somehow more solid than it ever was before.

And in the video, the whole band are inserted into the film, and Freddie actually squares off with a sword against Christopher Lambert.

And you know Freddie would win.

On the album, we’ve already heard the riposte to all this. Who wants to live forever, even if you sound like this.

It’s hard to believe though, with this ringing through, no matter how obvious the argument is.

Because as long as Freddie’s singing he sounds immortal. And maybe he is.

Wherever he is now, he’s still a prince.

 

 

 

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.