Read all 5 events for 20 May at diary.QueenSongs.info
Key: E phrygian, G# phrygian, Db mixolydian(?), a minor, C Major.
Meter: 4/4, 5/4, 6/8, 3/4
Intro I-II-III | Verse | Chorus | | Intro III | Verse | Chorus | | Interlude I - II - III - IV(AAA) - V - IV'(AAA) | | Intro III | Verse | Chorus'|
Queen were known (at least should have been known) by writing the most extravagant hit singles of their time (remember BoRhap, Bicycle Race, Under Pressure?). Innuendo was probably the most unusual hit single (UK No1) of the nineties in terms of form, meter changes, modes and dramatic changes in style (classic rock, operatic choirs, spanish guitar interlude), and its over six minute length is also unusual in context of singles. Of course the chart succes can't be explained directly by the built in musical values nor by catchy melodies. It can be treated as an once-in-a-decade chart anomly (and good promotion - not in the US tough). In 1991 the song was a major surprise even from Queen, the band seemed to have kept the habit pulling out surprising songs even after some twenty years.
Much have been said about the songwriting process of this wonderful song, but we still don't know who came up with which section's riffs/words/motifs, for example about the spanish interlude and Steve Howe's and David Richard's contribution on the
level of musical framework.
The form can be broken down to a simple Verse - Chorus - Verse - Chorus - "Bridge" - Verse - Chorus. The closer look shows a tad more complicated structure: the "Bridge" is a long multisectional interlude and the last Chorus is extended, and we
have instrumental pre-Verse sections first of which is the Intro.
The song starts with snare drumroll (shade of God Save The Queen) and Freddie's slow count-in. I'm going to transcribe the song with double as fast beat as what the count-in suggest.
On the opening downbeat enters the bass (and synth in octaves). Roger plays bolero-esque rhythm figure on snare drums. The synth F/E and A/G# dissonant chords (synth+bass) foreshadows the phrygian mode of the "spanish" interlude. From measure
five the arrangement is thickened by rhythm guitars fading in and fading to feedback harmonics. The lead guitar motif in the last measures rhythmically resonates with those in the pre-verse.
22.214.171.124 drums count-in | NC. | - | - | - | E: /----- 4x -----\\ | E1 | - F/E | | I | II | G#: /------ 3x -------\\ | G#5 | - A/G# | G#5 | - | | I | - II | I | - |
The Intro I subsection is four measures long (only two according to Freddie's count-in). The "body" of the intro consists of two roughly parallel four measure phrases.
Intro III consists of two short phrases (2+2 AA). The drum pattern changes from the bolero-esque pattern to a relative straightaway one. Guitar alternate E5 chords and a lead motif (note the subtle change of the later in the second incarnation of this section). The bass plays pumping E-s thorughout.
Square phrasing here, identical with Intro II. Compared to the latter the arrangement drops the lead guitar
The mode is phrygian with occassional ionian (ie. Major scale) infections (2th and 3th degrees in measure 4 and 8). The melody is not particularly catchy (in the "popular" meaning of the word), it oscillates around the 1st degree resonating with the "spanish" 8-9-8-7-8 ornament associated with the flamenco style. Note the extensive use of melodic (and rhythmic) variants in the three Verses in each four phrases.
The second half of the section paralells the first one a Major third higher. It's mainly a key shift from E to G#.
/------------ 2x -----------\\ | E | - F/E | E | - F/E | | I /------------- 2x ------------\\ | G# | - A/G# | G# | - A/G# | | I (V/Db)
The ionian infection (Bb, C) at the end helps to modulate to the IV key (ie: Db Major).
The Chorus is 16 measures long with square phrasing (ABA'C). The modality is mixed: the lead vocal features both natural and flat 7th, and Major thirds. The rhythm guitar plays flat-7th-s and flat-3rd-s. The second half of the section omits the
tonic (note its surrogate chord in measure 9 :the subdominant in second inversion). The phrase-long prolonged tonic chord in the last phrase gets no resolution, instead of that the harmony returns to E on the last beat of the section.
Db: | Db | - | Cb1 | Bb1 Gb1| | I | - |(bVII) | (IV)| | Db | - | Fb5 | Gb(4) Cb1 | | I | - | bIII | (bVII)| | Gb/Db | - | Cb(sus2) | Gb/Bb Gb1 | | IV | - | bVII | (IV) | | Ab | - (sus4)| - | - (E5)| | V | - ...
The sung phrases are completed with guitar motifs, similarly as in say We Are The Champions.
Variants (beside subtle melodic changes): both second and third Chorus resolves to A instead of E on a (deceptive cadence). The latter Chorus ending is also the ending of the song, The thirds Chorus is cleverly extended:
The first two phrases are more or less identical with the "original" version.
| Db | - | Cb1 | Bb1 Gb1| | I | - |(bVII) | (IV)| | Db | - | Fb5 | Cb/Gb Cb1 | | I | - | bIII | bVII) |
Then two extra phrases are added, these are variants of the first two. The third phrase adds cascaded harmonies (see also in "I'm In Love With My Car"), and the lead melody is not variant of.
| Db | - | Cb5 | Bb1 Gb1| | I | - |(bVII) | (IV)| | Db | - | Fb5 | Gb1 Cb1 | | I | - | bIII | (bVII)|
The next phrase is chord-wise and lyics-wise more or less identical with the "original", the lead melody is subtly varied (you have to listen to both of them next to eachother several times to get the picture), and adds an "echo".
| Gb/Db | - | Cb | Gb/Bb Gb | | IV | - | bVII | IV |
The rest of the section is doubled up in length compared to the first choruses. Melodically the two inner sub-phrases are the "extra" ones the second of which is instrumental (except the vocal pick-upof the next sub-phrase). Lead guitar enters on the downbeat of the second sub-phrase. The Ab-phrygian scale provides a tonic favor to the Ab chord. The descending solo fill with many step-wise ornaments is very May-esque (see also in Bohemian Rhapsody or You Don't Fool Me).
| Ab | - (sus4)| | V | - ... | | Ab | - (sus4)| | V | - | | Ab | - | | "I" | - | | Ab | - || A | "I" | - || bII
The song closes deceptively on A5. The guitar chord (second iversion: A5/E) fades into feedback harmony that distantly resonates with the intro of the song.
As the final fermata chord (A5) of the second Chorus fades away starts the interlude with a placid theme dominated by double-phrases. Two acoustic guitars (treble lead + open chord arpeggios). The two phrases are more or less identical.
/------ 2x ------\\ | Asus2 | A+sus4 |
The tonality is not clear here. The pitch set of this sub-section is: A B C# D E F (G) (A aeolean with raised third?).
In measure 4 enters lead vocal mimicked by the lead guitar and also partly by the arpeggio guitar. Again we have double-phrases:
/---- 2x ---\\ | E | F |
Also the last subsection consists of double phrases (AA'). The second of which adds vocal harmonies mimicking the guitar chords. The tonality is still not clear, so no roman numerals.
| C | Fm/C (addmaj7)| | C | G#/C |
This chord progression is built on pedal bass and chormatic inner lines:
G G# G G# E F E D# C C C C
Section IV and 'IV
This instrumental section is characterized by the Am > G > F > E "spanish" progression, and odd time signatures. Strangely Queen have never used odd-time signatures (except occassional measures of course, and maybe also BoRhap) except Innuendo. As you can see the second half of the phrases are in 6/8. The 3/4 interpretation would be tad disorienting: try to keep the beat while humming this part without playing the song along!
The subsection consists of three phrases:
/--------------------------- 3x -------------------------\\ | 5/4 | 6/8 | Am | G | F | E F | E F | E F7 | E | - | | i | VII | VI | V VI | V VI | V VI | V | - |
The first phrase adds handclaps from measure 3. The two lead guitars play in octaves until measure 6. In the last two measures Steve Howe plays a full two octave long ascending chromatic scale (24+1 1/16 notes).
In the second phrase the guitars go into harmony (parallel thirds most of the times). Measure 11 adds extra lead guitar, the other two lead guitar fade to just backing it in the third phrase.
In the third phrase the harmony guitar is dropped, the spanish lead/rhythm motif is subtly modified. The last chord is prolonged one extra measure longer.
This spanish section is reprised in a hard-rock style after the operatic section, this time arranged for eletric guitars and drums (and synth). Note Rogers drumming. Similarly to the "Spanish" section the first phrase has single tracked lead guitar, the second phrase adds a harmony guitar below that, and the third phrase adds an extra lead guitar backed by the harmony guitars. Both this and the acoustic solo end with a descending figure arriving on a low E note. Note the spanish motif remains harmonized here and aforementioned subtle change is not done here.
This section is in 3/4. The first phrase is uneven three measure long. The second phrase roughly parallels it but it's one measure longer. The arch-shaped non-snycopated lead melody in both first and second phrase move exclusively in steps, which is nicely reflected in the synth-orchestration (probably done by Dave Richards). No drums used. Note the chimes-like synth.
The first two phrases have single lead vocal, the rest of the section is harmonized. In the third phrase the vocal harmonies alternate the inversion of the same chord (Am). Note the step-wise ascending bass in measures 10-11. The fourth phrase parallel the third, but the harmonies here alternate chords. The last phrase prolonges a the bVI chord providing a special ending to this special section (with otherwise usual chords). The G# chord is resolved to Am through a diminished seventh chord.
| C | - | - |
| I | - | - |
| G | - | - | - Am|
| V | - | - | - vi|
A E A E A G F E : "bass"
| Am | - | - | - G |
| vi | - | - | - V |
| C G7| C G7| C G7|C |
| I V | I V | I V |I |
| G# | - | - | G#dim7 |
| bVI | - | - |...