Staying Power

Composer: Freddie Mercury
Album: Hot Space
Single (B-side of Back Chat):  9 August, 1982
Meter: 4/4 (with occassional 2/4 and 5/4 measures)
Key: E mixoydian
Form:

        | Intro I (AAAA) - II(BBB') | Verse - Chorus - Tag (AA) | 
                 | pre-Verse (BBB') | Verse - Chorus - Break | 
| Intro'I (AAAA) - pre-Verse (BBB') | Verse - Chorus - Bridge I (CCC' inst.) - II |
                 | pre-Verse'(BBB') | Verse - Chorus - Tag-Outro | 

Staying Power as the opening track of the album had and still has much influence on the listener's first impression on this album. The fan basis who were used to more rocking Queen albums were not very impressed by the new trends that can be perfectly seen on this song. The succes of "...Bites The Dust" inspired Queen to experince with more minimalistic arrangements (less harmonies, more synths), more repetitive songforms with riff-driven sections, and repetitive beat. Staying Power embodies these trends. While the "black" influence is undeniable on this song, we will see this is not a routin-wise written disco song, the experimental feel is there.
Major surprise on a Queen record were the feaure of "hot and spacey" horns that were arranged by Ardiff Mardin a wellknown arranger of those days (worked with Bee Gees among others). If you listen to the pre-Mardin demo of the song, you can hear that Mardin's orchestrations were added as overdubs and have not affected the framework.
In the arrangement synth substitutes the bass, there are no guitar harmonies (except the demo version). The guitar tracks are fregmentary, clean guitar (played by John) plays funky staccatto chords and double stops. While rock-oriented fans are often not very keen on this song, many point out that the live version with poverfull drums rocks. Roger recalled it as a hard to drum live song.
The songform is based on four long cycles with one Break and a Bridge. There is a long verion mix of the song.


Walktrough

Intro
It has two subsection repeating two riffs. The first subsection repeats a two measure arch-shaped riff four times. Guitar doubles the synth riff from measure 3. Additional double stops (clean guitar) and stereo panning makes the arrangement more interesting.
The second subsection repeats a two measure riff three times. Horns in harmony and octaves added.
This section has weak modality. The first subsection has no chordal backin except a couple of guitar double stops, the D dominates in the bass, the melody line makes use of flat third and seventh. (The riff starts with major third.)

D:
/----- 4x ----\\
| "D7" | -    |
|  I   | -    |

In the second subsection subsection we have chordal backing (on chords), but the tonal ambiguity goes on.

/----- 3x ----\\
| E7   | -    |

The B riff is pentatonic E-G-A-B-D which has no new pitches compared to previous subsection. Again both minor and major third is presented here, the latter in the funky E7 chord.

Verse - Chorus
The Verse has two phrases. The first of these has four mini-phrases backed with four-times played one measure riff, and vocal harmonies. At last we have something we can call cadence. For first listen it might sound like a G-Major cadence, but from a wider perspective D major is the tonic.

D:
/---- 4x ----\\
| D   C  G   |
| I bVII IV  |


| G    C  | G  C    |
| IV bVII | IV bVII |

Later verses are changed in details, for example the third verse has unisono (ie double track) lead vocal in measure 5 and 6, while the last verse has a short crazy harmony (shades of Body Language):

   top:  F    E  F#
middle:  D    C  D
bottom:  B    G  C
chords: Bdim  C  D57

The last phrase of the Verse has a arch shaped parallel third harmony between guitar and lead vocal. I wrote below the chord progression that follows that harmony. Note Freddie adds a dotted eight before stepping to B, which gives ****

               voc:  A  G  (F)   (2nd and 4th verse)
 voc:  | A  B D  E | F  E   D   | 
 gtr:  | F  G B  C | D  C   B   |
 CRD:  | F  G G  C |Dm  C   G   |
(d/)D: bIII IV bVII| i bVII IV  | 

The Chorus is not sharply separated from the Verse. Its upbeat is also the closing of the Verse. The harmonic backing is very sparse, only one chord arranged for horns.

|  Dm6  | -    |  (more accurately Dm6/G)

The next phrase has a similar parallell third harmonies we saw some measures earlier.:

voc: | F  E  D  C B |     Dm7|   (more accurately Dm7/G)
gtr: | D  C  B  A G |        |
CRD: |Dm  C  G Am G |        |

The first and last Choruses are extended with a tag that is similar to the first half of the Intro, but half as long (2x2 measures) and has lead vocal. Check out that long ornament on the last syllable.

Pre-Verse
This tag is followed by a pre-verse (BBB), that is close variant of the second half of the Intro. The first "B" phrase is instrumental, the next two phrases have almost almost identical lead vocal.

Break
The second Chorus is followed by an instrumental break with some interesting chord progressions of major chords and occassionally disorienting rhythm.

|  G  F   D   C | Bb  G  N.C.   |
| IV bIII I bVII| bVI IV (I)    |

                  half
|  G  F   D   C | Bb  G  |
| IV bIII I bVII| bVI IV |

The first two phrases are almost identical except the last half measure of second phrase starts a new phrase.

| N.C.  | N.c.   |

         5/4
| N.C.  | N.C.   |

These two phrases (3rd and 4th) are almost identical except the closing. The horn-harmonies are moving in parallel fourths and octaves with the bass, while in the original harmonies (guitar harmonies of the demo version) parallel fifths and thirds (major and minor) were used. Parallel harmonies Brian used in Dancer too (with only major thirds in that case).

| N.C.  | Bb7    | -     | G1  C1  | A1  D1 | 
| -     | bVI    | -     |"IV bVII   V   I" |

The last phrase starts with octave harmonies. Measures 2 and 3 have a climactic dissonant build up orchestrated for horns. The original dissonance was just a B7, Mr. Mardin added a couple of other dissonant notes (eg. C and G#). The last two measures were originally not harmonized. With full chords it would be the "chromatic bVII" progression (1-5-b7-4, see in "Pain Is...") in reversed form. The last measure has triplets.

Bridge I-II
We already had a bridge-like break section. Freddie thoght that the second half of the songs also needed something fresh material: this Bridge. In this section Mardin could use his creativity more, and added some unusual orchestration foreshadowed by a crazy horn-fill in the third chorus. That fill is repeated (sligtly rhythm-altered) in the last Chorus.
The first half of the Bridge (could be called pre-Bridge) is backed with three times played two measuree synth figure ("C" riff). Horns in octave harmony enter in the second phrase, the third phrase is a variant of that (with different ending). Only the fregmentary synth-bass line with many off-beat accents came from Freddie. The hot and spacey horn orchestration is in rhythmic contrast with it.

The second subsection has no chordal backing. The unisono horn harmonies in the first phrase are arranged antiphonally with the lead vocal. The second phrase is similar to the first. It's a whole step higher, and the lead vocal is different: the second syllable is sustained long and ornamented.

/- 4x -\\
| (G1) |

/- 2x -\\          half
| (A1) || -     | *    |

Instead of returning to the home-centre setting "A" figures (ie. the main riff of the song), the half-measure ending of the section drives to the last pre-Verse with tonal center on E (= bVII of D) causing one feeling a whole step key-shift downwards.