After it’s all over, there’s still more.
We start an album haunted by itself, and haunted by its most prominent feature.
As always, it’s Freddie.
At core, it’s exactly how you’d want to remember Freddie, simply singing at a piano and hammering out something light but huge and powerful and touching. That’s what he did.
It’s taken from a 1980 recording in Munich, just Freddie mucking about during recording for The Game. Anachronistically, for me it evokes much stronger the sense of those last days in Montreux, a place I feel familiar with just because of it’s place in Freddie’s final day mythology. It’s presence on the cover of this album makes this record feel like it has a very specific geography, for all its moves for heaven and the afterlife, it feels very specifically located.
Despite that being a lie, even from this early start.
Freddie’s piano and voice is draped in ghostly effects, and John Deacon (mostly, apparently) constructs a soundscape around it and tries to fill it out into something bigger, whilst also leaving it ethereal. To some extent, it’s unnecessary, but I guess that’s the way of this album. A sense of trying to claw for the hugeness of Queen, draped in an appropriate sentimentality, and a real affection.
It’s a strange record, but not as awful as I remembered.
It’s odd. When I was little everyone had this record. Except me. I spurned it, found it too creepy, too sad. Too obviously not Queen. I nearly didn’t include it in this project. But I think it makes a fitting end, as was intended. And actually, it’s still an incredibly emotionally effective piece of work.
Most of that is still Freddie, just hearing his voice is always magic, and by picking some more tender moments, it keeps an intimacy, even as the band try to overdo the tympani and drama.
Sometimes I feel so sad, so sad, so bad
But no-one’s gonna stop me now, no-one
It’s hopeless – so hopeless to even try
It’s odd, isn’t it.
A ghost telling you he’s sad but unstoppable.
It’s too hopeless to try and stop him.
It comes from an entirely different moment in the band’s career, but it’s impossible to not weigh up the words from when they were presented, when they were sung.
It’s actually a problem with the timeless immortality of music, it often gets tied to the wrong time, the wrong place, loses it’s author, becomes something else.
But that’s the dance we have to dance.
I love the Disney emotion of the strings at the end, John’s addition. I’m glad it was John, too, because as much as I wonder about the crassness of making someone sing their own eulogy, I’m reassured by my imagined picture of John and Freddie’s studio intimacy.
But that’s not the final image. The final image, entirely false, and detached from any reality of the production, is Freddie, at a piano, staring across the lake, smiling hopefully at the hopelessness.
It’s a beautiful day.
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.