We will rock you

RockYou

New album, new territory, with what can probably be described as Queen’s first adventure in minimalism.

Except it manages to be an absurdly arrogant burst of bombast too. Maybe.

We will rock you.

It’s a tiny thing, with an enormous stature, partly just because of its simplicity. At just two minutes, this is a song that gives you everything it has to offer in the first few moments. I can’t present you with a story about how this one unfolds, it’s just a beat, a rant, and a chorus.

I guess there’s a solo at the end, but that’s your lot, and really I think its just a segue to lead us into the next shouting boast, which it is forever paired with it (the two were released as a single single, and apparently got a lot of radio play together).

According to May, it all stems from a live show, where the crowd tried to beckon them back on stage for an encore not by clapping and roaring, but by singing ‘you’ll never walk alone’. One classic football chant begets another, apparently, or two in this case.

It’s kind of fascinating, making the decision that they needed a song for people to sing back at them. As far back as in the lap of the gods (revisited), it looked like Freddie was trying for a sing along, an extra piece of the stage show, but it took this long to figure out just how simple it needed to be. Football simple.

And as much as this isn’t one of my favourites, by god did they nail it.

The beat is perfect, just a stomp stomp clap. So easily replicable, but also utterly recognisable. For the recording it is multitracked and delayed to all hell, so the four can sound like a thousand (apparently the delays are all timed to prime numbers THE MORE YOU KNOW).

Freddie’s verses are fast but clear. Each beat enunciated immaculately. Venom put aside for clarity, no matter how aggressive the lyric.

You got mud on yo’ face

You big disgrace

Kickin’ your can all over the place

And then they all sing together.

It’s barely there, but it’s immediate, loud, raucous and engaging.

It’s no wonder it caught on.

There’s something odd in the lyrics, too. The aggression is surprisingly personal, almost intimiate. And it’s really unclear whether the narrator is the one with mud on their face, or the attacker.

Beyond that, there’s a melancholy turn. The boy becomes a man becomes old. Mud turns to blood, and back to mud. Is it a lack of a rhyming dictionary, or something sadder.

I might be clutching at straws, but there’s also a line that you may not precisely recall.

Buddy you’re an old man poor man

Pleadin’ with your eyes gonna make you some peace some day

Make you some peace.

You can’t rock death.

But apparently, we will.

It’s not the most heroic chant, is what I’m saying.

If you want a change of pace, the ‘BBC’ fast version is a good listen. Though without the sparse blankness of the canvas, the song loses some of its shine.

Maybe.

 

 


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.

Advertisements

We are the champions

Champions-01

I always wanted this to be a song about mushrooms, but I just can’t make it scan.

We aren’t the champignon.

We are the champions.

There is actually a lot I like here. Freddie’s take on the bombastic sing along isn’t as much of a diversion from the ‘Queen sound’ as Brian’s is, but it is a strikingly weird take.

First and most, the piano song at the core of this is utterly, completely gorgeous. The opening notes pulls you right into it, Mercury purrs and softens and lures you in with so much delicate pain. It’s all wrapped around a perfectly strange and emotionally pulsing piece of piano. John’s direct input bass pulls out these delicate little details and Brian does some of the same.

And then the noise has to kick in for the uplifting dirge of the chorus.

Oh, it’s still lovely to sing. It does everything it sets out to do, and again, it has a melancholy conflict at it’s heart. A conflict between the hurt self and the bullying one. Freddie’s performance is irresistible, and pulls you between these contrary points.

When he says there’s no time for losers, you get the impression he’s somehow stopping there from being any losers. The ‘we’ here is completely inclusive, everyone is listening, there isn’t supposed to be an out crowd.

But there is. Isn’t there.

There always is.

The inclusive intent is immediately undermined by it’s ties to competitive sport and boastliness.

It’s the dirty side of the bombast, in some ways. The arrogance necessary to be this ridiculous contains within it too much actual arrogance.

Don’t get me wrong, I want Freddie to keep on fighting. I’m glad he’s come through, and I adore the way he calls everyone friend.

I just don’t know if that’s how everyone singing along hears it.

We are the champions –

We are the champions

At least it’s all so damn sad.

The whole song aches with longing. It’s the sound of someone cast aside and desperately lying to themselves. Like making a speech thanking the world for getting you here from a gutter.

Of course, it sounds different from a stage, with a thousand singing along, whilst wearing an actual crown.

It’s still about seeking togetherness though. So clearly. The one thing I can count on Queen for is that they are really just about bringing you together.

It’s precisely why the final line doesn’t resolve. The last ‘of the world’ is left hanging. On the record, it makes it sound like a dream being whisked away, cutting back to reality, slowly fading.

But of course, back on that stage, it never stops, it just passes into the crowd. Like in assembly, where it’s impossible not to say ‘said he’ at the end of every single ‘I am the lord of the dance’. (Or more accurately, settee).

The song is a part of the bands stagecraft. A part of the intense and wonderful audience rapport that Queen built themselves upon. The albums only tell one side of the story, and so some of the greatest moments end up sounding flat or arrogant.

But you’ve got to remember that other half. Just because it’s a thing I never experienced, doesn’t mean I haven’t dreamt about it. And it’s songs like this that make that dream easy, because they beg for that space, that noise, that environment.

You can barely hear it without closing your eyes and imagining being arm in arm with strangers, crying.

Because it’s so damn sad, that so often we turn into bullies just so we can feel somhow special.

 

 

 
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.

Sheer Heart Attack

SheerHeart

HELLO ROGER!

This little burst of anger is clearly brought to you by the glistening chest guy on the cover of that other record.

It’s a storming little riot of a track, with a wonderfully painful solo and finale. Utter bliss, really; bottled anger, poured over bitter ice cream.

Sheer heart attack.

Notably absent from the album of the same name, it was written for it, but not finished in time. Roger actually ended up pleased that it’s recording was delayed, as he felt the sheer energy found within the track much better suited 1977 (apparently, the Sex Pistols were recording next door).

It’s not exactly Queen’s punk track, but it’s not necessarily that far off. And if it is, then it was written a few years before punk existed, so that’s something.

It’s pleasingly DIY, with Roger doing almost everything apart from the most painfully noodly guitars and the verse vocals. As with much of his work, it’s also about being young and lost and in this case very angry.

I’m not sure it’s entirely empathetic though. Though that’s just an impression

It ain’t no, it ain’t no, it ain’t no, it ain’t no surprise

Turn on the TV let it drip right down in your eyes

It opens with one of the great rock clichés, the stroke down the strings before the chord kicks in. Then it just hammers forward, relentlessly. Lyrics repeat and punch at the air, never letting up.

The core of the specialness here, rage aside, is the horrific, noisy and unpleasant guitar solo. Overdriven and whammied into feedback, Brian steps in just to make some noises that genuinely punish the ear. The guitar wails and screams and claws at you. It’s the only thing angry enough to match the rest of the thrashing noise. Actual sonic violence.

I feel so inar-ticulate

The chorus pulls back in, and it’s a relief. The roaring guitar pounds onwards, and Roger continues his cry for help.

And then the end. Sudden, abrupt, once again painful. The heart attack ends with a permanent and threatening relief.

The noise carries the heart of this song. It’s not just angry, it’s brutalist. It pushes you away, and walks out on you. It slams the door.

Honestly, I think it’s a little piece of dynamite. Faintly terrifying. Utterly surprising. Genuinely dangerous.

I love it.

Lyrically, it’s mostly repetition and cliche. There’s not much to grab hold of, the chorus itself is nearly laughable:

Sheer heart attack

Sheer heart attack

Real cardiac

But the delivery is perfect. The music rips through and carries everything to conclusion. Meaning is delivered through pulsing guitars and violent feedback. It genuinely is inarticulate, and that’s correct, because this is pointing at something more dangerous and honest than words.

Pain.

This is special in many of the ways that Drowse was special. It’s nearly synaesthetic in its use of guitar effects, rhythm and sound. It sounds like angry suffering. Which is the (admittedly somewhat self indulgent) core of so much rock, metal and punk.

This is one of those moments that should make you stop and rethink who you think Queen are.

There’s a lot of them.

That’s the point here.

Real cardiac.

 

 
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.

All dead, all dead

Print

Brian May once again proves he’s at his loveliest when he’s at his weirdest (and saddest). This is his first piano ballad, and basically serves as a remarkably upset about losing a loved one.

Specifically, apparently, a cat.

All dead, all dead.

He admitted at one point that this lovely song about death, nostalgia and loss is basically about when his cat died when he was little. Which is a pretty reasonable way to learn about death, and this is a pretty good lesson to take from it.

Her ways are always with me

I wander all the while

But please you must forgive me

I’m old but still a child

The piece starts with a set of piano flourishes that sound like they belong in the credit sequence of a Hayao Miyazaki film. Brian sings throughout, mostly accompanied by piano, with bass and drum only dropping in for half of each chorus.

It’s May with almost no guitar. When his guitar does sweep in, it’s something totally incredible, a strange uplifting swirl of a solo that simply acts as a form of ascension narrative, just a chorus of upward motion (and a slight drop).

I really like this. It’s one of those strange entries into the back catalogue that sound like nothing else Queen have done, but could also only have been made by them. It’s a bouncily melancholy piano track, with additional instrumentation used simply to punctuate and emphasise. It’s only the repetitions that are accompanied, warmed with bass, drum and extra harmonies, creating this sense of motion and evolution. Moving forward, and then returning.

I don’t often pay attention to lyrics when I first hear songs, which makes a lot of what I’ve written in this blog somewhat disingenous. I’ll often assess something just from choruses, title and mood.

And weirdly, this track always struck me with a very specific image, that has little to do with the song itself. I always picturerd the narrator walking through an almost naive countryside apocalypse, surrounded by dead after some monstrous cataclysm, and managing to be surprisingly upbeat about the whole thing. A lovely country walk through mass graves, somehow managing to stay alive and sprightly as everything else fails.

I guess it’s partly the cover of the record. The enormous monstrous robot, the crowds fleeing, the sadness and incomprehension, the dead bad members. I was always looking for an apocalyptic reading within.

I love the cover, incidentally. Simultaneously terrifying and celebratory, it’s like nothing else.

Wikipedia is enlightening. The band saw the original painting, a robot holding up a dead body and asking ‘Please…fix it, daddy?’, on the cover of an issue Astounding Science Fiction. Queen approached the artist, and asked them to repaint it, with them in it. There’s an arrogance there, but it also creates one of the great album covers, and the sad uncomprehending face of that robot (Emma says he looks like Vladimir Putin) is intensely evocative.

Anyway, it’s worth remembering that Queen are an intensely visual band, creating one of the most iconic music videos of the early form, as well as valuing their stage theatrics so highly and wrapping themselves in big weird art.

But I don’t think the SciFi is actually here. The album doesn’t quite tell a story (although many of the songs do). I guess it is just news of the world. News from a world.

And sometimes a dead cat makes the news. And sometimes that’s a beautiful enough thing in itself.

All Dead All Dead

All the dreams we had

And I wonder why I still live on

It’s a terrifyingly sad song, on many levels, but it’s sprightly piano line lets it slip into your heart.

I love 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.

Spread your wings

Spread

John Deacon is here, sweeping up the Emerald Bar.

This is John doing what John does, simple uplifting songs, with hearts of gold. I’m fond of it.

I’m also tempted to shoehorn it into my stealthy narrative of Queen as romanticised Marxists, which remains a struggle.

Spread your wings.

Apparently the first single to have no vocal harmonies, Freddie’s voice stands alone here. (Weirdly, Roger sings some backing vocals on the video. There are none. He’s just trying to keep warm, presumably.)

We’re introduced to Sammy, ready to leave a dead end job for totally unspecified dreams.

Then their boss is a dick.

Then Freddie tells them to spread his wings.

Rinse and repeat.

His boss said to him

“Boy you’d better begin,

To get those crazy notions right out of your head

Sammy who do you think that you are?

You should’ve been sweeping up the Emerald bar”

Dick.

What we see here is the dehumanising nature of labour in a coercive economic structure. Sammy’s boss needs to undermine and infantilise them, so Sammy’s needs can be subsumed as less important than those of the Emerald bar. We’re talking classic false consciousness.

Now, my problem at this point is that Freddie’s chorus is almost as patronising. So I’m worried he’s representing a paternalistic totalitarian approach to revolution and class struggle. He may just be trying to demonstrating solidarity from a position of privilege, and so failing to undermine all the underlying ideological structures, a likely habit of being trapped within the state’s apparatus.

It’s also possible I’m just trying to push this a little too far.

Pull yourself together

‘coz you know you should do better

That’s because you’re a free man

I love it.

I just feel like so much of this song is layered to push the song upwards and outwards. The piano brings you into a nest, and the build up to each chorus sets it on fire, and the chorus itself sends you soaring. It’s a perfect match of music to narrative, simpler than so much of Queen’s output, but also just solid and heartfelt and honest.

This is all reflected in a sweet little video, where everyone pretends to play the song in Roger Taylor’s back garden, in the snow.

That Freddie manages to look so perfect in a dodgy aviator jacket, star-shaped sunglasses (on an overcast day in the snow) and thick gloves with duct tape wrapped around his fingers. Roger and John look like 8 year olds, and Brian’s got a really lovely scarf.

This is rock and roll.

For all the bombast, I think it’s the solid simplicity of certain Queen moments that make them so powerful. This gets me, possibly just because I love John so much, and love hearing his voice (through Freddie’s) expressing such simple and heartfelt hopes.

The final guitar solo is strange, as well, sounding nothing like Brian’s trademark sound, and actually just being a relatively simple part. It suits the song perfectly, and shows that Brian knows when not to stamp his mark on what he does.

At it’s simplest, it’s a song that makes me smile. That wraps me up warm and asks me to keep moving. Good music is often empathetic, our link to it more about feelings than meaning. That’s true here. It just feels like being lifted up.

And that’s what I need to get me out of the Emerald bar.

 

 

 

 

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.

Fight from the inside

Fight

It’s been really hard to get back into writing these.

Prince, the other royalty in my personal fandom, apparently meant more to me than I knew. Trying to catch myself up on his actual music (I’ve been trawling the entire back catalogue, rather than just settling for the greatest hits I already knew, because that’s apparently the sort of thing I do, I don’t know if you noticed) has been a fascinating experiment, but it’s really hard to jump from that particular brand of precise, abrasive, oversexed funk back into Queen.

So I’m struggling here.

I guess you could say I’ve been having to… fight from the inside.

Yeah. I’m definitely reaching here.

Hey you boy, think that you know what you’re doing

You think you’re going to set things to rights

You’re just another picture on a teenage wall

You’re just another sucker ready for a fall

It’s really odd switching from one type of arrogance to another. The assured, sexy certainty of Prince is very different from the hostile, needy anger of Roger Taylor.

Again, I can’t believe I’m trying to maintain comparisons here. It’s ridiculous. This song has nothing to do with Prince, but I can’t get him out of my head, so here we are.

Prince to me was always an icon, a symbol (appropriately), more than something I really grew up understanding. I don’t know the music that well, his sex, sass and obvious perfectionism were just another colour I could add to my DJ sets. A certain kind of androgynous queer sexuality (at least how I read it, I’ve since read criticisms of his latter attitudes to sexuality that clash with my previous readings) that I could dip into, and be fed by.

Plus Sexy MF is a song he wrote about me, so I’ve got a lot of affection there.

So it’s very different deep diving into his back catalogue than it has been diving into Queen’s. It’s a different experience, albeit a quicker one (not writing about it does make it simpler).

Prince has a consistency that Queen don’t manage. So far the only totally duff set I’ve discovered is ‘Kamastura’, a New Power Generation Orchestra second bonus disc on an already three disc album (the Crystal Ball boxset). It sounds like the soundtrack to an incredible 90s adventure game detective story, but was actually written for Prince’s wedding…fuck only knows how that happened. But anyway, Prince covers a more narrow range of tones. The funk is always there. The beats always follow a pattern, even when he pulls jazzier or rockier, it’s still fundamentally Prince. This is fine. The sound is incredible, and within it there is a diversity, richness and joyful experimentalism that is utterly engaging.

Now Queen, they have a sound, and it ties everything together, but the songs themselves are outrageously diverse, pulling in entirely different genres, and mashing them into weird shapes, then pasting the Queen structure over the top.

I’m not saying that one is better than the other. Prince’s attention to detail is incredible, and his song writing is second to none. Not to mention his constant and obvious desire to explore, nourish and nurture not just his own creativity, but whole scenes. His creativity radiates outwards, infecting everything it touches with the colour purple. His impact is immense.

But it’s fascinating how iconic acts approach the notion of a sound differently.

You gotta, fight from the inside

Attack from the rear

Fight from the inside

You can’t win with your hands tied

Roger Taylor phones in this standard angry rock number. It sounds like his earlier teenage stuff, and not his excitingly odd stuff.

I don’t gel with it. It’s got some nice guitar crunches in it, and apparently Slash’s favourite guitar riff, but who the hell wants to have that on their tombstone?

Sorry Roger, I’d rather be with Prince Rogers Nelson.

At least right now.

Still love you, hun.

 

 
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.

Get down, make love

GetDownMakeLove-01

Filth.

Stripping the sound down to nothing again, we have something slightly less minimalist to open the second side. Specifically, we have innuendo and weird noises.

It’s obviously brilliant.

Get down, make love.

On most levels, it lacks subtlety, although for Queen, it’s surprisingly sparse, oddly broken up. That the bridge is made of actual rock is the most out of place thing here, everything else is reassuringly off-kilter.

First the filth.

You take my body –

I give you heat

You say you’re hungry

I give you meat

I suck your mind

You blow my head

Make love, –

Inside your bed

Like I say, subtlety isn’t the strong point here. In fact, the absence of innuendo is what makes it stand out. There is only one way of understanding it, and it’s oddly surprising to hear the often sexual band push it right out there.

Freddie is horny, is what we’re saying here. And he wants everyone else to be horny too.

The fact that he decides to do this with such an oddly structured song, all tense bass thunks, and tiny interjections from drums and vocal and all sorts.

There’s one point where a break is played first on piano, then a moment later repeated on drums. That’s an odd moment, but it works perfectly.

There’s an agonising tension to the bulk of the song. A deeply suggestive abruptness, only briefly is movement actually permitted, for those brief bridges, which are actually when the vocals start pulling against each other. The tension is maintained, even as it is released

Every time I get hot

You wanna cool down

Everytime I get high

You say you wanna come down

You say it’s enough

In fact it’s too much,

Actually, reading that back, it’s creepy as fuck.

And so is the solo.

An unsettling mass of harmoniser guitar effects and vocal moans and loops. Definitively one of those times when they would’ve been accused of using synths. This is why we get those statements, it’s because people don’t believe quite how they make this sort of mass of noise.

It’s a Bosch painting of a solo, something to get lost and scared in. The vivid sexuality of the song apparently becomes much too much, and Freddie descends into a psychedelic hellscape.

It’s too much even for Nine Inch Nails to do more than imply.

Cackling terror overwhelms, and as we fall back, it pulls back to chorus.

It’s just another expression of bombastic strangeness, the weirdest part of this relatively restrained album. It almost feels like a satire of the overwhelmingly raw sexual undertone to much rock of the era. It pulls it to the surface, and then lifts it up a bit, making it absurd and weird and stupid and real.

Which feels right. In some ways it’s tame, in others it’s extreme, but it certainly feels honest, despite the over the topness of it all.

It’s obviously marvellous, just for being simultaneously so damn Queen, and so unlike anything else they’ve produced. I imagine many would be baffled by it’s existence, while also instantly recognising Freddie’s direct kind of coyness.

And yeah. The Nine Inch Nails one sounds roughly as you’d expect. Mostly interesting for Trent Reznor attempting to make the phrase ‘make love’ sound angry.

Which I guess is the core of this. Even at Freddie’s most sexually forward, it’s all about the love.

 

 
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.

Sleeping on the sidewalk

Sleeping

I’m likely to be a bit hard on this one.

It’s not terrible, but it is the only track I don’t like on one of the best sides in the back catalogue.

Sleeping on the sidewalk.

It’s interesting though. As it’s a rare single take track (not quite, the vocals were added later), so this is Queen playing as a more conventional band. Apparently apocryphally,  it’s been claimed the band didn’t know that they were being recorded.

It’s essentially a tribute to a certain kind of American jangly storytelling style. Brian’s choice, compared to Freddie’s poaching of the tin pan alley or vaudeville styles.

It’s a standard rags to riches to rags thing. Equating being fleeced by your record label to being kicked out on the streets.

Hmmm.

The saving grace is that at least it’s about a trumpet player.

They took me to a room without a table

They said “blow your trumpet into here”

I played around as well as I was able

And soon we had a record of the year

It is unclear if May is blowing his own trumpet here or not.

Double hmmm.

Anyway, it’s fine. It’s just a story, it’s just a song, it just doesn’t have much to shout about in it. It’s nice to hear May put on a bit of a character, and is kind of amusing sat next to some of Roger’s record label exploitation tales (or even Freddie’s). May definitely prefers a passive aggressive mode. Wrapping it up in a sweet little guitar song that sounds even more grandaddy than the song about being a sad old man.

It’s just  blues, I guess. That bland sort of blues that it’s hard to really get excited about.

And that’s where I am. Not particularly excited.

It’d be fine in most circumstances, but we’re getting close to one of my all time favourite Queen songs, and while I’ll allow Deacon to get away with a cowbell led track in a moment, a blues number just feels like filler here. And most of the previous moments of dramatic incongruity on these records haven’t felt like filler, they’ve always felt like a part of the structure, even if just as a contradiction or counterpoint.

But it does make sense. Queen are poaching all the little bits of rock history, and you can’t have rock without blues. And you can’t have blues without boring guitar blues with boring stories. It’s all part of the game they’re playing.

I understand.

I run so hot and cold on May. I feel bad for the man. His high points make me so much harder on his lows. What we have here is an accomplished little song, with a really nice change in form, simply by being a single track, and not an over produced studiowork. And I’m giving it absolutely no shrift whatsoever.

It’s odd. This record was intended to be stripped back to basics, after people slated Races for being all style and no substance (which isn’t necessarily entirely fair). Here is the band at their most stripped back, playing like a normal band, instead of the monstrous bombasts that they are.

But who the hell voted for that?

It’s fine, but it’s not really what we’re here with Queen for.

It ticks a box, but it’s not a box we needed.

I’m a right miserable arse today. Sorry.

 

 

 

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 needs you

WhoNeedsYou-01

I’m not going to lie to you. I think I just have a massive double standard when it comes to John Deacon.

His second jaunt into this album is jaunty as fuck. It doesn’t really follow the narrative flow of the record, it just slams in with some finger picked guitars and a cowbell, maraca combo, and it sails right damn into my heart.

Who needs you.

For the record, Freddie’s on cowbell, and Brian’s in control of the maracas.

They work the hell out of them, and it’s great.

The clever bods over at my clear superiors in the Queen charting game spend a long time noting how this song is both completely out of the blue, and shares a hell of a lot of features with the rest of John’s output.

I’m not sure I care about the hidden complexity, I think I just love the light, breezy air of it.

I don’t think it’s just my John fetish, my desire for the quiet one to be the best one. I think it’s just a charming track. The right way for Queen to do something unexpected. Take a new tone, and expose something new about Freddie’s voice, and give it an accomplished and engaging pulse.

The irony of course, is that this lovely charmer is a Dear John.

But it’s dog eat dog in this rat race

And it leaves you bleeding lying flat on your face

Reaching out, reaching out for a helping hand

Where is that helping hand?

I love the way the bleakness of it all contrasts not just with the bounce of the music, but with the cheapness of the mixed metaphor.

It’s a lovely bit of song writing, and it’s produced just perfectly, all sealed in that tiny final guitar for the outro.

I do like the subtle details, with Queen, not just the fierce rowdiness. I like the quiet moments and the self effacement, as well as the loud boastfulness. I like the silliness, as well as the overly sincere.

You have to, that’s the point of them. They’re all about these contrasts and changes and contradictions. If there’s one thing that’s kept my interest in them, and one thing that’s inspired this ridiculous, and currently difficult and painful project, it’s that I still don’t know what to expect. Even from the albums I know well, I don’t know when I’m going to turn up a new moment, a new feeling, a new noise.

Here, it is just a cowbell and a maraca, shuffling a simple lyric, punctiliously sung, directly into my heart.

I like it, I like it.

I know. I just slated Brian for being incongruous, and now I’m loving this, which makes even less sense. But maybe that’s the point. If you’re going to break the mood, go all the damn way.

Because by god, is that what Queen does.

There’s a reason people look at me funny when I play Queen at a party.

It’s because they don’t make sense. They don’t go along with anything. They’re either too loud or too silly or too long or too obscure. It’s hard to blend anything into a set, because you end up punching a hole through the dancefloor. Either by making people too excited, or by leaving them bewildered.

It’s fine though. That’s how I do. It’s how I want music to be. Not just a blur, but a series of highs and lows. Something that has an impact.

And even on these little quirky quieter ones, the impact is there.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I really do like John.

I guess I need you.

 

 

 
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.

It’s late

Late-01

It’s weird.

When I think of the big, epic Queen tracks, it’s more likely to be Bohemian Rhapsody, The Prophet’s song, March of the Black Queen or Innuendo that comes to mind. In comparison, this is a straightforward rocker, without the sense of theatre and opera, of those other beasts.

But this is actually the one that’s charmed its way deepest into my heart. Bohemian is the one to sing along to, The Prophet’s song is the one for marvelling at, Black Queen’s the problematic one and Innuendo is for the future. But this is the one that’s buried itself deepest in me, maybe.

It’s late.

It’s one of those songs I’ve been mistreading. I still think the first verse stands up as my interpretation, but the rest is actually a bit more complicated, at least according to Brian.

For me it’s of a particular archetype of song. Stories about late night romance…not sexual, necessarily, just that tension of being up late and refusing to sleep, just hungrily craving more time in a pile of affection.

It’s always struck me as a pleasing coincidence that I discovered this song at the same time as Fats Waller’s utterly gorgeous version of Two sleepy people. The two held the same charm for me, that late night love affair. Like Baby, it’s cold outside without the lingering threat of sexual assault and manipulation.

You say you love me

And I hardly know your name

And if I say I love you in the candle light

There’s no-one but myself to blame

It’s perhaps unsettling that I didn’t spot that actually a relationship falling a part. Brian has the tale split into three scenes, one with a lover, one with another lover, and one back with the first, riddled with guilt.

If I take you tonight

Is it making my life a lie?

Oh you make me wonder

Did I live my life alright

I’m going to stick with my version (same as all dead).

What can be stated simply is twofold:

  • this is a great song to play towards the end of the night, pushing for one last dance, reminding people that it’s late, it’s late, it’s late but not too late
  • this is a great song

It’s got all the trademarks, in pretty much their simplest and clearest form. Oscillating between pounding, raging and thudding, the harmonies lift us into choruses, Freddie’s belting and the solo is memorable, and makes you want to sing along (Freddie can’t help himself).

I love the roaring build up, and the way it settles back into that core simple groove for the third scene.

It’s everything I love about Queen, condensed into a surprisingly simple and accessible song. It doesn’t ask you to think of them as clever, it just asks to wrap its arms around you and not ever let it end.

So of course there’s a fake ending, and a little rock and roll riot for the ending. The drum crashes and about, trying too hold out that little bit longer.

It acts out its feelings, its story, with every beat and hook.

I don’t think it’s the song I would use to convince everyone that diving deeper into Queen is worth it, but it may well be one of the biggest reasons I want people to dive deeper into Queen.

Let this song into your heart, and you’ll have a riff to hold on to the next time it’s late and you think you might be falling in love.

Not that you should need one.

Just don’t pay enough attention to the lyrics to learn what it’s actually about, right.

Stick with me, and it’s just a perfect and believable little love poem.

 

 

 
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.

My melancholy blues

Blues

And this is just perfection.

Relish in Freddie, every inch of him, his voice and fingers massaging your heart, and once again beckoning you as close as any performer can get you.

It’s the perfect album closer, the lonely song at the end of the party, and possibly the third seduction track of the side, and certainly the most genuinely seductive one.

My melancholy blues.

Lyrically bluesy, it’s actually a perfect little jazz standard. Not an actual standard, but it should be. I wish it entered that canon, because I would adore any lounge that poured this into my ear.

I love Freddie so hard on this. It’s genuinely difficult to sing along, which is giving my housemate an unfortunate exposure to my desperately wonky falsetto.

It’s just simple bass and brush drums, and a whole heap of piano and vocal flourish. There’s not a whole lot to describe here, it’s just a sweet seductive loneliness. Freddie deals with fame more imaginatively than Brian did a few tracks back, singing about it, and using the loneliness as a tool for flirting.

Because it’s a damn flirty song, for all its melancholia.

So come and get me –

Let me –

Get in that sinking feeling

That says my heart is on an all time low – so –

Don’t expect me –

To behave perfectly

And wear that sunny smile

My guess is I’m in for a cloudy and overcast

It’s miserable, but it beckons you into it. It doesn’t even promise things’ll be better together, but it’s alluring. If it really is about depression, then it’s about the heartbreaking seductiveness of it. A dark and troubling illusion to paint so beautifully.

I don’t want to talk about it

Want to forget about it

Wanna be intoxicated with that special brew –

But maybe it’s just a bit of sexy wallowing, and it’s all fine. Freddie certainly pulls me in, and like his best, it begs you to sing it. It’s such a rapturous and engaging vocal line, and the rhymes are so playful and rhythm is so erratically charming.

It’s a one-sided conversation, and it traps and holds you tight.

I’m causing a mild sensation

With this new occupation

I’m in the news

Just getting used to this new exposure

So come into my enclosure

And meet my –

Melancholy Blues –

Oh god I want to get into his enclosure.

I still think there’s little more beautiful image than Freddie at a piano, singing some simple seduction. The languid, languorous ones are my favourites. The way he purrs so powerfully. The warmth and depth of his voice just irradiate this song with a perfect sensuality.

That such a powerful and bombastic voice can be so damn intimate so damn easily will always be one of the central charms of Freddie’s performance.

This song makes me feel like I’m already in his enclosure. I’m not hearing about his blues, I’m meeting them, feeling them, wrapping my arms around them, taking them in.

Except I’m the one taken in.

And frankly, I’m never getting out.

Because it’s perfect in here.

 

 

 

 

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.