If the central thesis of this project is ‘Queen is so much more than the greatest hits’, I probably shouldn’t get really excited about the first track to (sort of) appear that made it onto the greatest hits.
This isn’t the track you know. It wasn’t finished in time. Acting as a trailer for the second album we hear a just over one minute instrumental variation on the classicest era Queen track to make the cut.
It’s just the intro, and then a looping speeding up sample of the verse.
But what a noise. That piano hook remains instantly alluring, so immediate. The bass thrums in, the drums start beating, it’s all a little different to the later version, but we can hear something kicking off.
I really do wonder what people thought at the time. The first record wasn’t a great success, but I imagine anyone who bought it felt spoiled, and to end with this cliffhanger, pointing forward to something not yet completed. Lyricless, but utterly engaging. It’s impossible from me to detach it from the full version, but surely this already sounded like a hit.
I suspect the band knew, or they would never have included an unfinished artefact.
I guess this is how the first records sit, to be honest, a trailer of what’s to come. I was expecting them to be more prosaic, but they carved a mark pretty quickly, to my ear. So this short piece stands as a synecdoche for the promise of the whole thing.
‘Look what we’re doing now, and we’re only just getting started’.
Rhye is apparently the location of songs like My Fairy King (and therefore, I assume Great King Rat). A fictional backdrop we’ve already discussed. I’ll try to dig into that rabbit hole in time for when the finished version of these seas arrive.
But for now I’m just left with that piano. The circling guitars and plumetting bass. The start of something big.
A trailer, a statement of intent, an opening out.
There’s a boldness there. An assumption. It’s one thing that feels clear. Even as the band self deprecate, with quotes available saying that they thought the first album was over-arranged, as a result of being worked on for so long before being recorded. It’s not what I hear on the record. I hear an assuredness, a certainty of success.
And never more so than as they parade their unfinished work, and hang it in the wind.
I can imagine myself dying of anticipation, waiting for the close of the ellipsis.
Even a wordless promise is incredibly appetising.
An album closes, a career begins. The landscape of rock is never going to be the same.
I’m mythologising, I guess. Maybe nobody cared, everyone just thought it was another quirky decision from an unusually overwrought band. Why wouldn’t they chuck an instrumental coda in at the end?
But listen to it. Use your hears. It’s like holding a conch shell to your hear and hearing the seas.
It’s coming. Relentlessly.
Bring it 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.