Flash’s Theme

FlashTheme_final-01

Klytus, I’m bored. What plaything can you offer me today?

Well, your majesty, today we’ve got…

Flash’s Theme.

The first thing to get out of the way is that because we’re sticking to album tracks, this isn’t the one you’re thinking of. This has a different set of vocal samples, including a much more glorious intro, ripped straight from the start of the film.

The second thing to get out of the way is that right now, when focussing on just his voice, and not the racist trope of a costume/name/character, Max Von Sydow sounds incredible here. Chewing the proverbial scenery with fabulous aplomb. Surrounded by swirling gong reverberation, Sydow sounds like the perfect ham filled villain. Genuinely bored, and lacks the clear contempt of Klytus that somehow sounds genuinely threatening. That might not last well in the film, but to start us off, he purrs.

The rest of this version is free from the infamous quotes from the film. No Gordon’s alive, no warhawk Ajax. These quotes are actually scattered through the rest of the album, at those moments when the theme returns. It’s a pleasing structure, and because of the ubiquity of the single version, it gives the album a sense of increased nostalgia, even for one who didn’t grow up watching the likely dreadful film.

For the record, I’m reviewing the first half of the record entirely fueled by only my memories of the film. For the second half I’ll actually watch it again, and report back on how it feels.

It’s a weird attempt to undermine the inherent nostalgia of the project, particularly at a time when we’re dealing with a film that I remember as brightly coloured, gleefully camp trash, but should probably recognise as a masterpiece of orientalist othering and manifest destiny promotion.

But here, right now, we’re looking at Flash’s theme.

King of the impossible

You know how it starts, just a single bass note. repeated into infinity, joined for occasional emphasis by piano. A warming, cosy sense of dread, meant to accompany the Von Sydow’s artificial environmental catastrohpising on Earth.

Then the yelling begins. Each Flash ‘a-ah’ joined by some kind of guitar synth response.

Other moments try and occasionally succeed at bursting through the throbbing tension of it. First we have the energetic call for help. Then later, the melancholic humanising.

Just a man

With a man’s courage

We’ve got to remember this is a song about a guy whose only feature is being an american football player. We never even hear his real first name (I think). He introduces himself as Flash. Because he is his own nickname.

Which of course is enough to make him a hero.

Because that’s the comic book land we’re in. Everything flattened in a kind of warm pastiche.

Interestingly, the main thrust of this song isn’t about that. The two breakout moments are two ways of articulating that valourisation, and the lyrics throughout are tritely heroic nonsense.

But the ominousness is there. Trying to squeeze a romance into a suspense theme. Happily letting them war with each other.

It’s a stretch, but you can see this most in the way the music blends different instruments together. The piano is there to augment and adapt the bass or add precision to the synth. The guitar routinely gives way to quivering synthesiser. This textural mishmash is the point. The blending of grit and power and energy.

The thing is, Queen were kind of perfect for this job. And it came at just the right time. A chance to toy with their newfound passion for synths, a chance to camp it up to the extreme, whilst also doing something they’d never done before. If the band are pure drama, it’s amazing it took them this long to do soundtrack, and all of them appear to revel in a little bit of science fiction world-building.

It’s just the right sort of over the top.

No-one but the pure in heart

May find the Golden Grail

…………..ah……………..

Flash

On the lyric sheet, after every time the word flash is used, there’s a little lightning bolt emoji. Presumably representing that smashed thunderstrike.

Yes. It’s ridiculous. What the hell did you expect?

It’s Flash.

For god’s sake, strap yourselves down.

 


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.

In the space capsule (The Love Theme)

SpaceCapsule

Actually probably one of the loveliest pieces of music on here.

In the space capsule.

As I remember it, the film starts, after the apocalyptic effects of the opening theme, in a torrent of chaos and panic and kidnapping. Trying to explain the narrative in my head isn’t doing much good, but I do remember the moment the first chords of this song hit.

It’s a sudden and terrifyingly quiet stillness.

It’s a terrible special effect, a Button Moon like tin can floating in front of a swirling painted space scape, but there’s a surprising power in the music, and those chords kind of haunt me still.

So that’s what we have, two near discordant guitar chords, and the empty stillness of space.

Assuming of course, that space sounds like synthesisers washing over each other.

There’s dual tones, a deep, low dread, and a higher, more beautiful sweep.

And then the drums come and pull you in.

Strange object imaged in the imperial vortex

I bet you say that to all the…

No, wait, sorry.

I actually really really love the interplay of the music here. Synths become strings become orchestras. Every element brings in a different tone, and pushes the narrative of the music further and further.

I think it’s a rare moment where you wouldn’t have had to see the film to have a sense of what is going on. The suspension, the fear, the ominous pull of the drums. The dreadful thickening of the sound, space age synth becoming a more grounded and controlled set of strings, and then the final blasting doom of brass.

This is one of Taylor’s and I think it shows. His willingness to experiment and ear for rhythm pulls this piece from wafty space nonsense into something with a real surprising sense of direction. It has drama and power, a real sense of action.

Basically, it’s a good piece of film soundtracking.

If it wasn’t for the vocal samples, it might even be a great piece of dramatic music. With them, we’re pulled back into the kitsch, but I think that’s probably okay. Most people would probably grit their teeth a bit at that synth anyway.

But for me, it’s all held in those opening chords. They hold such a pure sense of dread, such a perfect alien loneliness. It’s the perfect palette cleanser, the perfect set up for the slow brooding melancholy that follows.

I guess what is most strange here is that the piece is noted as the Love Theme. It’s an odd choice for the terror of space. (And odder when it reappears for an execution).

But of course, this is sci fi. Space itself is the source of all love. The passion for exploration and adventure, even in the face of terrifying forces more powerful than you could imagine. That’s all about pulp sci fi, and it’s a type of love dreamers have grown up on for years.

Maybe.

Maybe it’s just the prettiest sequence they came up with. And if Dale and Flash have a love, it’s based on being in terrifying situations together. And this is one of them.

In a tin can, floating through space, hanging by the merest thread.

It’s a beautiful. I have to give it that.

 

 

 

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.

Ming’s theme (in the court of Ming the Merciless)

MingCourt_

Sigh.

Ming’s theme.

The redeeming thing here, is that neither Von Sydow or Queen attempt to orientalise the villain of the piece. The visuals, ripped directly from the cartoon, are based on racist tropes and vile stereotypes, but the actual performance lacks them.

Apart from of course, the fact that we’re still quietly associating evil and villainy with the othered and stereotyped image.

The music here has almost nothing for me to hold on to, just an ominous low bass motif, slowly wandering around, it’s clearly just Freddie being doomy and told to repeat himself. The bulk of the duration is taken up with dialogue from the film. A failed attempt to kill Ming, (actually quite efficient, in plot terms, setting up a tyrannical empire, a network of resistance, and a penchant for random cruelty in just a few moments), and then the heroes introducing themselves.

Flash Gordon, New York Jets

Something about that does make me smile. Half way across the universe, desperately looking for something to help identify and impress, and you have nothing to go to but your sporting credentials. Of course, they’re actually standing in for the American way (running and smugness?). At least Dale has the wherewithal to describe her actual job.

Anyway. I’m prevaricating. I don’t want to engage in any apologism here. The camp villainy and occasionally attempted comedic detachment aren’t enough to erase the problems we find here.

There’s always a weirdness in portraying aliens as just slightly different humans, as if we have some kind of archetypal universality. It’s a nonsense, largely borne of laziness. Here in particular, it’s borne of a clear othering. Are we supposed to take our emporer as evil because of his summary judgements and casual mayhem? Or because he’s presented as embodying an outdated image of decadent oriental luxuriousness? We’ll see in the next track another side to this trope, but I don’t know if I have the guts to go that deep.

But there’s a clear division. The black alien is the one that dies almost immediately, dying in protest, but never given a chance to develop a character (not that character development is a really big part of this film for anyone, but still). Later on we’ll meet the English guys, inevitably good guys (once united with the blond avatar of American Heroism, at least).

The one with that beard and outfit and palace though? Wrong un.

Like I say, I’m glad it isn’t performed as such, and that the tropes don’t extend to the music, but it’s a small comfort when I’m aware that the costume alone is enough to call back a whole load of imperialist, othering bullshit.

It’s hard to revel in the scenery chewing thespiness of it all. But that’s probably what I’m going to try and do, if only because I’ve got myself into a position where I have to write 9000 words about thirty minutes of music, and it’s going to be a lot easier if I can talk about the film some.

But I’m aware.

To be honest though, what I’m most aware of is how little idea I had at the time. One of the biggest problems with these tropes, even as weird campy nostalgia, is that we are inundated with them when we are tiny and young and have no fucking idea what is going on.

I remember as a child being blind to race, and only realising later that the blindness had just been a kind of weaponisable ignorance. In primary school, I accidentally joined in with racist bullying, unaware that this was something beyond forgettable name calling. It took me years to realise what was going on. I still regret it, and hate my childhood self for it (and my grown up self too).

I don’t entirely know what I actually thought of Flash Gordon at the time. It was exciting and exhilarating and stupid and wonderful. Glorious technicolour, simultaneously ancient and futuristic. Beckoning me to space.

I have no idea what I made of Ming the Merciless at the time. But I hope I didn’t let the cliché and stereotype pour out into the real world.

But sadly, that’s part of how it works.

Be mindful. And if someone tells you something’s racist, it’s probably time to shut the hell up and take a long look at yourself. Because it’s too easy.

And apologies in advance. I’m probably still being ignorant.

But I promise to try. And I promise I’m trying.

 

 
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.

The ring (hypnotic seduction of Dale)

4.Ring_Dale_-01

Bigger sigh.

The Ring.

Ugh.

Basically a spacey sexual assault. Freddie does an unsettling job of soundtracking a mystical mind control power, and using pitch bend to simulate some kind of unsettling climax.

It’s really unpleasant, and that’s all there is to it. You could just pitch it as some more wonky space ominousness on something a little Theramin like. But of course, they leave in Dale’s moans, turning it into a cheapy, creepy, synthy, rapey 50 second version of Je t’aime.

If it wasn’t coercive, we could have some discussion about teledildonics and sexuality as represented in music, but I just can’t face it.

Which means I’m stuck.

Again, this was a moment I read simplistically as a child, just a bit of evil objectification, a villain forcing someone to dance for them. I can’t remember if that’s all it is, but the soundtrack version really emphasises the sex side of it, leaving you with just moans and synth to judge the mood with.

And of course, it ends with another man stepping in an claiming ownership.

Ugh.

I’ve been worried about writing about this record for ages, just because of the sheer volume of tracks (and stupidly promising wordcount per track, not per album), but in fact the challenge is talking about something that doesn’t just have lyrics to be problematic, but whole narratives and sets and story and pastiche.

Soundtracks are weird, I guess. They aren’t intended to stand alone, but we do isolate them, and put them in new contexts. Listening to the ‘hypnotic seduction of Dale’ feels much more shocking here than on camera, because we don’t have the technicolour fantasy to distract us, all we have is a title and a set of sounds.

And maybe if I took it back to those sounds, it would be okay, being aroused by music is a fine thing, and consensual magic ring play is all fine. If it was just the sound of someone getting excited, it would be weird (because the music isn’t sexy, and the pitch bend would break the mood into one of those mid sex sniggers) but it would be fine.

But you can’t quite divorce the sound from the image, if you’ve seen the film, if you read the title. Hypnotic seduction is already a problematic term, as it already implies coercion. So we’re left with a creepy set of notes, made creepier and creepier the more context you give it, whether that’s the vocal arousal or the stereotypes surrounding it or the plot and narrative itself.

Or just the moment when Flash barges in and reasserts ownership of someone he met a few hours ago (most of which spent asleep in a tin can, surrounded by Roger Taylor).

Ugh Ugh Ugh.

Sci-fi is often creepy. It’s got a male gaze problem up the wazoo. The audience is assumed, and the attitudes are wrapped around them. There’s still fun and interest to be had in the pulp, but you have to pick your moments, and sometimes hold your nose.

It’s occasionally worth it, but to be quite honest, the film Flash Gordon is not an artistic hill I’m willing to die on.

 

 
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.

Football fight

FootballFight-01

I wish this didn’t come so soon after all the horribleness, but this is what we actually came here for, right?

Freddie belting out some ridiculous action scene nonsense. A perfect mix of energy and synth and guitar and stupidity.

Football fight.

If you ask me to picture Flash Gordon, this is the scene and sound that I’m thinking of. It has almost nothing to distinguish it from any action scene soundtrack from any 80s film ever, but it is permanently lodged in my head as just the perfect, perfect thing for my childhood brain.

This is what I wanted my life to sound like.

I tried to make this the case quite often.

The scene is ridiculous. Flash attempts to take on the might imperial army using the basic strategies of American Football.

And for one minute fifty seconds, it works.

I reckon the only reason it works is the music. The scene is silliness incarnate: a terrifying emperor who we’ve just seen literally executing people in an instant suddenly only sends his least effective soldiers, the sort that take one bonk on the head to collapse.

Missing from the music is General Klytus telling the troops to ‘match him, like this’, as if the only way to beat American Football is more American Football…not lasers, or actual fighting, or anything.

Of course, to ten year old (and before, and after) me, that didn’t matter one bit. It was just a perfect blend of action and synthesisers.

It amazes me that I spent much of this time saying that dance and electronic music was boring and repetitive, when so much of the music that made me excited was exactly the same sort of artificial excitement.

Kids, eh?

I think I even found it ridiculous then that capable journalist Dale Arden felt that the only thing she could bring to this ludicrous fight was cheerleading. But I guess if you’re going to have a knockabout conceit like this, and you’re already proving yourself flagrantly sexist, it is the next logical step. And actually, ‘go flash go’ really does add to the joyful, adventurous rhythm of it.

I love the way it escalates, those big rips of synths, flying upwards to meet the next wave of guitars. If this record was space for the band to play with synthesisers, this is them doing just that, working out how they mesh and mash with their older textures.

But all that doesn’t matter. I’m here for feeling like a child again, screeching around the room at full pelt, bouncing through the air.

And inevitable smacking my head on some huge lump of metal.

It feels appropriate to end a scene and song so silly with a simple but of cartoon stupidity. It’s the right thing to do, even if it so quickly pours into genuine fear again.

This film actually has less of an idea about tone than this record. The film never knows quite how much to take the piss out of itself.

Queen do though, they always have, and it’s one of their great joys. Here they juxtapose the tracks perfectly, chucking in dialogue to amplify the disjointedness as much as possible, and own the weirdness of it.

As cliché as this track is, I don’t think there’s many bands that could slam between this and sci-fi soundscapes so readily.

But they’ve been training for this nonsense for years.

Just like the New York Jets, presumably.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the death cell (Love theme reprise)

DeathCell_

This is basically just a more doomful repeat of what we’ve heard before. With darker synths, worse acting and, well, just more doom, it loses a little charm, but still stands as a lovely piece of sound work.

In the death cell.

I love the way the tone shifts and opens up. The simple theme is repeated over and over again, with more or less noise passing through it.

Eventually the doom coalesces into a steady, heavy drum, and the synth finally builds to an obvious terror.

It’s narratively solid, the trapped lostness is repeated, swapping tin cans for prison cells. The overwhelming might of the empire is still an irrestistible force, pulling us forward, but this time it is more ritualistic, more purposeful. There is no excitement, we know what’s coming.

Even as our narrators tell us it’s all a dream, we know what is coming. Even if our pulpy narrative instincts tell us there has to be a way out.

It broods though. Death runs through the love theme. Not just the pull of the drums, but the massive weight of the synths. There is no escape.

It’s a genuinely effective piece of music.

Marred only by weak dialogue and bad acting.

‘Look, water is leaking from her eyes.’

There are two love stories here. Aura seeing something in Flash’s rippling abdomen (which, if I remember rightly, has the word ‘Flash’ written on it, so you don’t forget who he is…though possibly he’s topless now), or perhaps hoping if he has such a powerful effect on Dale, maybe he can make her leak wat…

Oh god I’m sorry, that one snuck up on me.

Anyway, I guess that what makes it the love theme, even though I’m pretty sure ‘doom theme’ would be much more appropriate, as it only seems to crop up when our ‘heroes’ are at their most doomed. Dale loves Flash for some reason. Aura sees something in Flash too. Maybe love can save him?

Well, I reckon we’re less than a third of the way through the film, and if Flash dies now, that song at the beginning will sound pretty ridiculous.

I still really like Roger Taylor for his synth work here. I really think it’s a beautifully constructed soundscape. A perfect distillation of the dramatic tensions at play, and a dark brooding atmosphere suggested just through simple tones. The synth is used to create a deep structure, beyond the main theme. It is texture, rather than just noise. It is depth and weight.

It is laden with death.

Which is an impressive thing to say about a short piece of synth sound track work.

Sure, these days a synthesiser sounds too corny and kitsch and unreal. The tools of the time were unsubtle and now have a peculiar nostalgia to them, in the same way that you can tell how old a film or tv show is by the type of colour it uses (although interestingly, Flash is one of the last films to use actual technicolour, and so looks much, much older than it is, albeit in a way that suits the comic book mood perfectly…it’s a genuinely brilliant artistic decision, in a film you wouldn’t expect to see many of those in).

Synth sounds like this date a sound, but if you’re willing to look past those associations, I think you can hear a rich and poignant moment here.

And while those glorious chords are missing from the beginning, they are mirrored in the next piece…

 

 

 

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.

Execution of Flash

executionofflash-01

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.

Execution of Flash.

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.

Doom.

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.

The Kiss (Aura resurrects Flash)

TheKiss-01

We’re definitely hitting the point where the film’s other scorer, Howard Blake (of Walking in the Air fame) is at least as in control as Queen.

The Kiss.

Apparently Freddie wrote the actual melody, but it’s almost certainly Blake that arranged the orchestral moves around it. We don’t entirely know though, as far as I can tell, what happened in the studio.

But we have a beautiful, haunting melody, repeated in a number of different formats. First lonely, then increasingly optimistic and dramatic.

From memory, Aura comes to find Flash’s body, kisses it alive (because alien love is magic, even if they can’t cry), and takes him on a spaceship ride.

Now, I guess this is technically embarrassing, but while I may have had a rapidly repressed sexual awakening seeing Flash tied up in tight leather shorts, I definitely had a less repressed one about Aura’s arse at around this point in the film. She’s wearing these awesome pink and gold eyebrow shields (although my memory could be retconning all of this) and a red catsuit type thing, with possible shoulderpads and other sharp eighties accoutrements on the top half.

But mostly, I’m just focussing on her shiny, tightly clad arse as she climbs over the seat of the space ship.

If she’d Rikered, maybe I’d have a totally different sexuality by now?

Sorry. I’m guilty of a bit of gazing myself. But this was my childhood, and I was a ball of hormones, and I’m probably now far too into shiny tightness as a result of this film.

And so, this Kiss is romantic for me, powerful. Not because it cheats death and brings Flash to life, which was, retrospectively, inevitable, but because I remember this sound accompanying me being legitimately turned on for one of the first times.

I guess it probably tells you a lot about me that I learnt about death and sex within the same five minutes of a pulpy 80s action flick (that I later realised was enormously problematic).

But I was definitely always team Aura. Dale had my respect, as a journalist, but we didn’t get to see her do much except get rescued. Aura on the other hand, had magical lips, and got shit done.

Yes, I know. I’m falling into the pit of the ‘strong female character’ where reductively flat characters are ’empowered’ in a way that still leaves them as available sex objects for the male gaze. I know, I know, I’m tacitly accepting this.

But I was also only wee. And now I’ll happily wear something for YOU as tight and shiny as you like.

It’s weird how we end up.

I don’t think I actually ascribe to the idea that childhood flashes of imagery build what you end up being into. Possibly I’ve just got a bit of sexy magpie in me, and always have. Who knows where it all comes from?

I don’t think it matters. Just that we find ways to learn and explore and enjoy our bodies (and those of consenting others).

Whether I was taught that by Freddie, Aura’s arse, or just years of trial and error and shame and acceptance, I still think I’ll stand by it.

Love your arse.

 

 

 
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.

Arboria (Planet of the Tree Men)

Arboria

Basically, John Deacon is only really credited with the smallest moments of music in this soundtrack. He’s here just for the death of Flash, and this tiny bit of flute atmosphere (performed by Richard O’Brien in the film, which I’ve now officially watched again).

Arboria.

I don’t think there’s much useful worldbuilding here. Just ‘spooky swamp music’, some nice sound effects in the background, and some derivative slightly spacey flute jams.

Arboria is one of the weirdly low tech locations here. Mostly just guys in green vests, swamps, and a highly memorable initiation scene that I was pretty certain was in a different film. (At different points, I thought it was in Wrath of Khan, the second Star Trek film, and Dune…which is a particularly odd one, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen that, but on reading the book recently, there is a vaguely reminiscent scene in there…at least in the ‘putting your hand somewhere nasty, but it’s a test’ archetype).

The main scene here is Aura being quite bad at polyamory politeness. She fancies Flash, so she sauces her Doctor partner into resurrecting Flash (it wasn’t a magic kiss, although she does claim it was, in a way that makes me like her a lot), then proceeds to take him to her other partner’s house unannounced, and ask him to look after him while she gets her sex palace ready. There’s a lot of poor communication of needs and boundaries, is what I’m saying. I come out on Aura’s side though, she’s basically working for the goal of bringing people together, and is possibly a much better person to be next in line that Barin, who appears to be in the line of succession simply for looking like Timothy Dalton.

Which I guess is as reasonable a system as any, but who knows.

And putting your partner’s new partner in a swamp is never an acceptable reaction. Even if you do feel trust has been breached.

I’m obviously prevaricating here. The intiation scene (spiky worm in a log) and Aura’s sexual politics aren’t even accompanied by Richard/John’s snakey flute, but I’m really struggling to bring anything to a two minute piece that is mostly rustling wind and awkward flute.

And we do at least here Barin and Aura’s exchange, so it’s sort of justified.

I do always find myself wondering about political and sexual structures in science fiction worlds, even when they are in settings that haven’t really bothered to think about them themselves. Flash offhandedly shames Aura repeatedly, even though he does almost exactly the same thing to Dale (the next time they meet, he avoids the subject with the bold play of suggesting they ‘tell the story to their grandkids’).

But Aura’s pretty ace, in many ways. She’s the main driving force behind this portion of the movie, and even after spurned suitor Klytus tortures a confession out of her (and, it’s worth noting, it’s he that kinkshames her later), she still saves Dale’s life and generally fucks shit up.

I can’t believe she ended up with Barin, and not just ruling the empire herself.

Fucking misogyny.

Apologies if this makes almost no sense if you haven’t watched Flash Gordon recently. It’s where I’m at right now. Got a lot of stuff to work through.

Sorry John.

 

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.

Escape from the swamp

Swamp

Taylor at the helm, again showing that he’s probably the one best adapted to soundtrack work.

Escape from the swamp.

I’ve got some friends who started a band after a discussion at a party about how great drums and synths are. They wanted a band that was just drums and synths, and they wanted to both be able to play drums and synths in it. So they did.

This track sounds nothing like them (maybe they need to by a timpani), but it follows the principle, and it sounds great as a result. It’s just a rolling drum exploration, wandering and meandering, with energy and purpose, but not a huge amount of structure, and a big wide synth wading through it slowly.

I guess the synth is the swamp, and the drums are trying to escape it, and they do, through persistence and roaming. It’s an unsubtle musical narrative, but it’s pretty clear, and it suits the energy well. There’s a claustrophobia to it, a weightiness, and a sense of adventure. It pulls together threads of doom and hope and trappedness from previous motifs, and reconstructs them as this wandering thread of movement.

There’s not a lot of variety to it, and the end sounds like someone pulling a plug on it, and then mooing in complaint, but it’s a perfect little bit of soundtrack work. Interesting, but not distracting. Informing the narrative, without actually obscuring whatever is happening on screen.

And actually, I even like that final synth sucking noise. That last burst of loss, as incongruous as it is.

When you think about it, it’s pretty weird to have a rock band doing a sci fi soundtrack, especially when they don’t really create a rock soundtrack in any real way. They’re just doing straightforward soundtrack work, figuring out how to use synths, and toying with sound effects and ways of meeting up with action and dialogue. They were clearly committed to doing the whole thing with verve and swagger to meet the comic book origins and Technicolor absurdity. It appears nobody making the film knew what tone to go with, and so Queen ran with what they saw. Drama, action and space.

So they went deep, all space age synth and drama. But then they still had the natural Queen thing of giving control to different band members for different pieces, and so ending up with very different approaches.

Freddie just wants to lark about on badly tuned synths. Brian is saved for swooping guitars and that one big Flash motif. Deacon makes little incidental noodles (to varying effect).

But Roger, once again proving to be a dark horse, is the one that goes for it, goes for real soundscaping and dramatic narrative work. He’s no Carpenter, but I reckon he could find a tone and make it work. I’d really like to hear his work on a larger sci fi project. But obviously the ground has shifted on what that would mean these days.

Flash Gordon was already a nostalgia piece when it came out, despite pushing some boundaries in terms of visual effects and design and, indeed, in the music. The soundtrack is brutally of it’s time, but in that makes it clear it was also ahead of it.

Basically, if you want a swampy escape theme with drama and claustrophobia that feels alien…you could do a lot worse.

 

 

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.

Flash to the rescue

FlashRescue.jpg

Quite literally, in many ways.

Flash to the rescue.

The piano thumps back in, and what we have here is essentially an effects laden version of Flash’s Theme. No lyrics (except an occasional ‘Flash, ah-ah’), just lots and lots of vocal samples, ominous synths, laser beams and atmosphere.

It includes some of those samples from the single version that we all know quite well.

It’s weird the impact that song’s success has on the film. Certain moments and phrases are suddenly given so much weight by their familiarity. It feels like an early variant of the snipping impact of macro/gif culture, just on a more top down scale. Certain words in the film just make your spine tingle, which is an odd effect in something so ropily put together in many ways. They feel like cultural events, punching above their weight through a weird avenue of fame.

Dispatch War Rocket Ajax, to bring back their bodies.

I’ve spent my entire life thinking that was ‘Warhawk and Ajax’, and being confused as to why their wasn’t two spaceships.

Anyway. The drama of this moment in the film is amped up so much by the reappearance of Flash’s theme, and the drama that entails. It’s very smart soundtracking. On a narrative level, we get to see Flash resurrected again, musically, at the same point that General Kala does.

What do you mean, Flash Gordon approaching?

The piano pulses underneath a heroic rescue trick, in a way that brings alive an emotional moment. It’s exactly what soundtracking is for. It doubles down at this point, retrospectively and nostalgically, because of the hugeness and recognisability of that particular motif.

What we’re left with on the record is this skeletal version of this narrative, presented as a constant march.

It’s got these awful horn stabs in them, but you forgive it because it’s selling the scene, and the scene is selling the music, justifying it.

The fact that actually the scene is just the appearance and running away of Flash, and the setting of bait for the trap. The whole piece ends up being an introductory section for the ambushing hawkmen, shown in the next track.

The middle act of the film is almost entirely devoid of Queen soundtrack, so this energetic reappearance, and the way it pulls the story towards its climax is massive. From here on in, as in the first act, the record retells the story in full. We languished in Howard Blake’s score on most of Arboria and the palace of the Hawkmen (which was perfect for the general action presented, but offers a very different tone to Queen’s work). Now we’re back on board, and it’s not going to stop until you’re ready to go home.

Because this is the point when Flash is doing his job. Uniting the kingdoms under the banner of a lightning bolt, and overthrowing the oppressive regime.

So yeah, Queen are back, and they’re going to be yelling about it until the end.

It’s the right use of their time.

Queen to the rescue.

As always, it’s all about coming together.

 

 
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.

Vultan’s Theme (Attack of the Hawk Men)

Hawkmen-01

Freddie takes over from May’s set up, and after some rollicking drums, basically runs a synth through it’s paces with a pumping bassline, and an aggressively over the top melody.

It’s all rather grating and energetic. But it’s also interspersed with Brian Blessed and laser guns, which, well, is enough for me.

Vultan’s theme.

Apparently, in the battle scene that follows, Brian spent the whole time making ‘pew pew’ noises, as he shot.

They had to reset and refilm the whole thing, which involved a lot of stringing up people with giant uncomfortable wings in front of blue screen.

Pew pew.

One thing that is quite vivid throughout the film is just how much fun Brian Blessed is having. It’s the thing that’s given me a pretty permanent attachment to him throughout my life, just that sheer glee he takes in being strapped into leather and wings and titting about on a spaceship set.

Weirdly, Vultan’s theme seems to match that pretty nicely.

This is, once again, Freddie having a lot of fun, and making an energetic blast of noise. It sounds fairly sci-fi staple, more like the start of a tv show than a piece of soundtrack work, but to be honest, it’s one of those ridiculous scenes that’s more about flying about and shouting than it is drama in any traditional sense of the word.

It’s fitting, is what I’m saying. It segues perfectly between the iterations of the Flash theme and the hero theme that bookend it.

In fact, it’s really just a synthesised take on the guitar riff from The Hero (yet to come), run through at high pace and with enthusiastic drive, and at least one beautifully timed pause to give a little more space to Brian Blessed yelling.

Is there anyone else who it is more delightful to hear yelling than Brian Blessed? Is there anyone else who has built a bigger career out of being rousingly loud than Brian Blessed?

I can’t believe they crowned Barin and not Vultan at the end of the film. Though the idea of watching Timothy Dalton and Brian Blessed flatshare in the palace as general and emperor is fairly pleasing.

Anyway. The music.

It’s quite loud.

It’s another part of the texture of all the excitement of the climax of the film. This is synths and hawkmen. The ambush going to plan. The visual effects are stretched beyond their limits, and we’re encouraged to ignore it because of the synths and shouting.

And it works.

I guess that’s an appropriate use of the soundtracking toolest, so I think I’m going to allow it.

The drums at the beginning are pretty cracking too.

Dive

The whole of the rest of the album is punctuated with Brian Blessed occasionally yelling ‘dive’ with increasing amounts of glee, and decreasing amounts of clarity.

He reminds me of a childhood friend’s Dad. Larger than life, faintly terrifying, but obviously quite warm and caring. I guess that’s what beards and drama schools did to men in those days.

So this one’s for Brian. Brian’s theme. Attack of the Hawk Brian.

Dive.

 


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.

Battle theme

Battle-01

May’s back, introducing the other key guitar theme, the fighting heroic theme. This will make up a big chunk of the finale, but right now, it’s more of Brian shouting, and the pitched battle on board the war rocket.

Battle theme.

It’s covered in lasers and dialogue snippets, but otherwise, it’s mostly just Brian May playing guitars at himself. He settles into a groove, then he finds different ways to burst out and back into it, and it’s all layered over and over again with synth horns and bursting sound effects and a cackling Brian Blessed. Eventually there’s some ‘Flash’ shouts, but it’s mostly just this meandering blast of guitar after guitar after guitar.

And then a big bomb.

If you took away the set dressing, we’d just have Brian jamming, but of course, the way Brian jams is pretty convoluted. Here we have different guitars duelling each other. The core riff stays fairly consistent throughout, but different elements push and pull at it, and different fills and breaks, of increasing elaboration, break it apart.

It’s the classic guitar squadrons approach, given a looser form by the need to just maintain that particular tone. There’s no need for the piece to break up into sections and evolve and shift into choruses and vocals, you can almost hear Brian’s hand being freed by the soundtrack structure, allowing him to just let rip.

But he doesn’t really. It never hits solo territory (though there is some clear lead work at points), it just shows up a groove and toys with it a little.

It’s very, very Brian.

And  it fits perfectly, feels like an evolution of the Flash theme into something less tense and more explosive. This is the action, this is the heroism itself, this isn’t the need for a hero. This is the hero.

This battle is actually the climax of the theme. The simultaneous struggles in and out of Mingo city pitch together, as Dale faces her fate tearfully. Here we are mostly on the War Rocket, climbing and crawling and fighting across wobbly cardboard sets filled with smoke.

It’s lent weight by the music, and it’s necessary, because it’s a weird fight, and it happens oddly apart from the actual villain of the piece. It’s not the final heroism, but it is the last proper fight.

So we have a battle theme, and Brian rocks along in a fairly straightforward way. And of course, it’s the first time we’ve really had a traditional rocker here. I guess the guitar is supposed to save the day. Again, the restraint and holding back has made the dramatic reveal more so.

Apparently they did play it live, although I suspect it was really just an extension of the Hero, with which it shares it’s core riff. I don’t know if they actually added in all the bleeps and whirrs and giggles on stage. I wouldn’t entirely put it past them.

It fits the record. It fits the scene. I find it more boring than the soundscape work, even though it’s arguably more accomplished, and it does a better job than some of 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.

The Wedding March

MarchMarriage

Wagner, meet Brian. Brian meet Wagner.

There’s one thing I know, for certain, if there was one piece of music that needed an extra ominous minor chord key change, it’s that tune people walk down the aisle to.

The Wedding March.

Yup. It’s the actual Wedding March, given the full force of Brian’s guitar, and an extra glimmer of evil.

It’s kind of perfect, and doesn’t need me to say anything to prove it. This is the full bombast of all of Brian’s guitar blaring out something huge and familiar, but with a roughened brutalist texture. Full bombast. Utter rage.

And a perfect minor key change. Just like every wedding deserves.

Actually, Wagner’s march is called ‘The Bridal Chorus’ and belongs to the beginning of act three of the opera Lohengrin. There it heralds a pretty bleak start to a marriage, with a bit of bridal chamber murder, and the titular groom leaving in exile before the end of the day.

It’s not really the ideal wedding situation.

But then, nor is Dale’s.

There’s a really weird moment earlier in the film, where Dale explains to Aura that she can’t run away, because she’d promised Ming that she would try to be a good wife, on condition of him not hurting Barin and Zarkov. Aura explains that Ming is not going to stick to that, and Dale explains that she has to keep the vow anyway, because it’s one of the things that makes humans better than all this alien riff raff.

The whole film is obsessed with the supposed superiority of humanity to the aliens. Zarkov makes himself immune to mind conditioning by singing the Beatles to himself. Aura’s never heard of team work or tears.

And here, humanity is really good at keeping vows? Has anyone in this film seen any of history? Dale’s ‘a New York girl’, and she thinks every promise is kept?

Anyway, it’s a weird moment, and entirely ignored during the vows, when Dale actually refuses, and just screams a bit.

Not that I’m saying she should, just that it’s all a bit odd. Marriage is a problematic institution at the best of times, and Ming’s vows aren’t exactly an improvement on the standard.

It’s all pretty bleak.

But somehow, the application of a surprisingly appropriate wedding piece, with such verve, and the sky writers demanding ‘All citizens must make merry. On pain of death.’ Makes a pretty disturbing chain of events into something surprisingly funny. It’s one of those moments where the soundtrack carries the tone to a place the flim doesn’t quite hit upon visually. It marries the farce and the drama well, creating something bleakly wry.

And I’m always disappointed when I’m at a wedding that nobody ever plays this version.

Wagner and May make a surprisingly strong match. A particular type of tonal bombast that marries together beautifully.

There’s not much to it except familiarity, tone and noise, but it’s kinda perfect, for all that.

Because it’s dark, and brooding and familiar, and a bit scary, for all it’s intended optimism.

And that damn minor key change.

 

 

 

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.

The marriage of Dale and Ming (and Flash approaching

MingDaleMarriage

You lonely bird. Get out of here, they need you on the ground.

Basically, here we have two pieces running in tandem. Flash is getting closer, and the wedding is in full swing.

The marriage of Dale and Ming.

There’s something quite intriguing in the fact that Ming’s wedding vows are cruelly one sided, he still has to make them. Dale actually just inserts her refusal into the vows, despite not actually being asked to do anything. It’s really unclear what commitments she’s making (or rather, refusing to make, after recently stating that promises were a key part of humanity, and she’d already promised to be a good wife).

Anyway, if I do get married, I’m expecting a reciprocal promise to not blast each other into space.

Flash approaches on a crest of pulsing piano, as usual. There’s some guitar too.

A lot of passion is put into the scene, where Flash is set up as willing to sacrifice his life, crashing into the city to try and stop the destruction of earth in the nick of time (there’s a timer and everything, despite Ming having previously said that it was too far gone for Earth to be anything but a shadow of it’s former self by now). It’s the noble sacrifice motif, a doomed suicide mission.

Which has quite a lot of thunder taken out of it when Flash just pops out of the cockpit and prepares some finishing sass for the emperor.

Roger Taylor is on marriage duties. Basically just providing some romantically evil synth backdrops. It’s a pleasing mix of dramatic church organ and ominous synth, and it’s a really pleasing chord structure, obviously attempting to capture some classicity. It’s basically looped here. Played once unaccompanied, once over the vows (interrupted by more flash) and then it pops back in for more vows.

It’s a weird imitation of the cutting for dramatic tension, but it’s great for me, because it actually combines two tracks into one, saving me a lot of potential hassle.

The only time the transition feels particularly effective is the jolt from ‘with this ring I thee wed’ into Flash and guitar. It’s a big bold swoop, and feels effective. Elsewhere, it’s just bouncing back and forth. I actually didn’t really register this section as separate from the next bit. The whole of the second half of the record is trying to maintain a level of tension, and it largely succeeds, even as it does change texture.

It actually does maintain that tension better than the film, which seemed to have Flash crashing towards the city for a good five minutes, despite a visible timer exclaiming only thirty seconds remaining.

But as much as it doesn’t look like it, we are writing about an album here. Not a film. And musically, this is fine. It’s obviously more of a dramatic piece than a song, in any real sense. But it does what it sets out to do, balancing and contrasting the elements, pushing between action and a kind of dramatic sadness. It maintains the prominent theme while, amping up the angst of the marriage.

But I’d struggle to play it at a party.

And especially a wedding.

 

 

 

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.

Crash dive on Mingo City

CrashDiveCity

Obviously, we’re reaching full drama.

Crash dive on Mingo City.

It’s actually surprisingly restrained. Just escalating guitars, escalating drums, and then an eventual splurge of drums, horns, guitar and everything. Lasers throughout, and a big crash at the end of the musical part. Dale shouts ‘Flash’ desperately at one point.

In a surprisingly bathetic appearance, there’s then just a bit of silence until the golden drone bot tells Flash he’s won.

There’s actually a little spooky bit too, to allow for some of the emperor’s stumbling around at this point.

Ming’s pretty badass at this point, even if he failed to step out of the way of the spike on the end of the war rocket. In the film, Flash demands surrender or death, and Ming points out that his death is not a matter to be left in the hand of mere Earthlings, using his ring to vanish himself. I think it’s a fair point. Flash is kind of a smug git.

And of course, Ming’s magic ring gets picked up at the end, so it’s possible he had a get out of death free card.

It’s all very weird though. I don’t think stabbing someone with a spaceship is the most reliable means of regime change, and for a crash landing, Flash is remarkably unscathed.

So a weird climax for a weird climax. The music never quite gets up to eleven, in the way Queen normally find pretty natural. Perhaps it’s just listening to this piece in isolation. Separated from the build up, the persistence of the different interlocking themes and dramas of the preceeding tracks, this just feels like a brief exercise in guitar crunching. More like a warm up than a finale. But as the evolution of the steady pulsing throb, and whirling guitar dynamics of the previous fights, weddings and dives…

This is my problem. I’m once again attempting to deconstruct an isolated element of a much larger whole. No track on the second side (well, at least since Flash came back) is supposed to stand alone. It’s all supposed to be accompanied, not just by the visuals, but by the dramatic build up.

It’s a fool’s game. A cruel trap set up to mock any naive reviewer intent on breaking up the music of Queen into it’s internal parts. It’s a record that can’t be exploded.

Despite the explosion in this very track.

It’ll be fine though. The problematically represented villain has been destroyed by the avatar of manifest destiny. That crash is the crash of a despotic tyranny being destroyed by a footballer whose only contribution is having women fancy him and mewling about teamwork.

But it’s fine, because he’s pretty, and that means he’s the good guy.

It’s a weird film, politically, is all I’m saying. Even beyond the obviously racist stereotyping running through it like a spine of ‘if you borrow your aesthetics from racist sources, you’re going to run right into racism’.

But it crashes, it ends, and the drama is there. Guitars rage, lasers blast, drums wail and Dale calls out.

Bam.

Rubble.

 

 

 
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.

Flash’s theme reprise (Victory celebrations)

Print

From the perspective of the drone, we see Flash leap into the air, a moment of pure fiero.

Yussss.

Flash’s theme reprise.

Obviously, it’s more of a ‘yeeeaaah’.

He’s for every one of us

stand for everyone of us

He save with a might hand

Every man every woman

Every child – he’s a mighty Flash

It’s kind of striking. Just a repeat of moments from the main Flash theme. With a focus on the bridges and choruses, not the prominent and most obvious tension building.

It makes sense, structurally, it’s the moments of the release, instead of the moments of tension. It’s the motifs of his heroism, not the stuff he’s saving us from.

Where we do have the pulsing piano, it’s accompanied by more snippets from the film. The adulation of Barin. Dale’s passion for New York (which is a heck of a line, I think you can admit).

As Barin calls for peace, and the piano rolls out under the gang as they converse. And it feels like such a pay off. All that drama, just for one chance at something casual.

I’m a New York City girl, it’s a little to quiet here for me.

It’s impressive that they’re managing to pack an emotional wallop under such a bloated mass of celebratory cliche. There’s no opportunity to question the worthiness of Prince Barin, who’s suddenly in charge without discussion, despite him relatively recently shown a passion for abritrary murder and imprisonment (cages in swamps, a pretty brutal way to leave people to die) that is actually one of the main markers of the unpleasantness of Ming’s rule.

There’s no shake up, just a promise of peace from Timothy Dalton.

But fuck it, right? Because there’s a lovely piece of piano gliding underneath, and it really does pay off emotionally.

Dividing the theme up across the movie, and holding back on the calm melancholy bit, and just bringing it back as an instrumental? It’s bloody smart. As the whole record has been.

Which is impressive for such comic book melodrama. The thing to note here isn’t the shallowness of the script, it’s the power of the music.

And the whole thing is a perfectly fine adventure. We romp, we roll, we fall down and stand back up. Who cares what you’re fighting for as long as you get murdered, seduced, imprisoned and befriended on the way. We’ve seen swamps and sky palaces, war rockets and mind control. We’ve blasted through the immensity of space (mostly, apparently made of up dyes and smoke diffusing), and seen worlds explode.

It’s a story. It’s a silly story. It’s bold, it’s dramatic. It’s stupid. It’s fun.

And the music as worked for it all. It’s sold the moments, and emphasised the drama. It’s built the tension, and released it. It’s contrasted and segued and pulled us on for the ride.

I think the thing that stands out here, is that the record stands alone as a work of drama all its own. It tells the story in a different way, and some how packs the same emotional weight.

Not that emotional weight is the film’s strength, but you take my point.

There is something to celebrate here.

Even if it’s just that we’re nearly done.

 

 

 

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.

The Hero

TheHero

It’s a whole actual song!

The Hero.

I’ve been in to big promises and arbitrary deadlines for a while. So it’s no surprise I’ve done National Novel Writing Month more than once.

The first time I tried properly, I even succeeded. I needed an emotional kick to get me over the line. I felt the moment needed marking. I chose The Bad Plus’ dramatic rendition of Chariots of Fire. But even more appropriately, and entirely randomly, the next thing my computer spat out was this. The Hero.

It’s shockingly apposite. And frankly, I think everyone should play it whenever they are finally finishing anything they’ve been planning and stressing over for a long period of time.

I’m obviously pretty into it right now.

It’s a huge blast of guitar and words. A fully realised and differentiated companion piece to Flash’s theme. Borrowing the occasional motif, but standing alone as a huge burst of release, relief and unburdening. It is an immense and overpowering explosion of upward motion. It’s inspiring and wonderful, and actually represents everything heroic that Flash Gordon himself doesn’t necessarily pull off.

Lift your head to the stars

And the World’s for your taking

(All you have to do is save the world)

May is on top form here. Releasing every bit of restraint he used to build tension, and just letting it fly out and all over the place.

Freddie belts out his vocal, just revelling in heroism for it’s own sake. For everyone’s sake. He wants to be the hero (and he is), he wants us to be the hero (and we could be). Flash is irrelevant at this point, this is something purer and bigger.

Or maybe I’m just glad we’re nearly done.

I’m glad this was the end though. I’m glad this was how we finish. Squadrons of guitars, the battle theme reborn as part of something bigger. Drums raging and flying, and Freddie let loose.

I also love the way it gives precis of the film in the final moments. Bursts of synth and string, from Howard Blake’s score and the band’s. It effectively takes the place of a solo. All raging emotions, surging strings, blazing synths, all woven into the piece before it segues into an actual Brian solo, which builds to huge epic bursts, and actually restates the Flash motifs.

It even ends with a final goodbye to Flash himself, bringing his theme back in yet again (dooming my ‘it’s not really about Flash’ theory).

But it makes a cracking coda. Going all out on the vocals for an increasingly high paced yell.

And of course it ends with a bang.

But the second verse is what actually takes my heart. It’s obvious Brian sappiness, but it’s just kind of perfect.

So you feel like it’s end of story

Find it all pretty satisfactory

Well I tell you my friend

This might seem like the end

But the continuation is

Yours for the making………

(Yes you’re the hero)

We know I have a predilection for squeezing too many syllables into a rhyme scheme, but also that I just enjoy a call to power. Queen have always been beckoning us in, and so of course they want to pass the mantle of heroism on.

Because it was never about Flash, he’s just an avatar for American smug pride. It’s about being a hero. A stupid, bombastic and yet probably wonderful idea.

And that’s for everyone.

Especially the stupid bombast part.

So next time you’ve spent too long working at something, but you’re nearly at the end, remember to inject some heroism into the moment.

And just put this track on to soundtrack your finish.

You’ll feel like a hero.

(Yes you’re a hero)

 

 

 

You may also want to check out the alternate video, with better visuals but worse sound.


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.