Save Me

Composer: Brian May
Album: The Game
Single: 25 january 1980 (UK)
Meter: 4/4 (occassional anomalies?)
Key: G Major, D Major
Form:

      | Verse (ABCD) | Bridge (EFCD")  | Chorus |
      | Verse        | Bridge          | Chorus'|
      | Instr. Verse | half Bridge (CG)| Solo (Chorus') - Chorus ending | Outro |

Save Me is a two-faced rock ballad. The Verses a have a more balladistic instrumentation dominated by piano and acoustic guitars, while the louder Choruses are dominated by distorted guitar chords, and vocal harmonies.
We don't know whether this song was composed on piano or guitar or simply in head as May have claimed writing many of his tunes. Neverheless he plays both piano and guitars on this record.
The songform is tad problematic to interpret. The first section is definitely a Verse, and the third section is definitely a Chorus, but the second section is not really a textbook-like Bridge because the arrangement arrangement does not creates bridge-like contrast with the verse, moreover the second half of the section is close variant of those of the Verse, which makes one tempted to treat this section as an alternate Verse. On the other hand the section puts less emphasis on the tonic (as Bridges often do). Queen-esque detail in the form department is the use of half-sections and reprised phrases. We have two instrumental sections, second of which is a traditional guitar solo, the first one is rather "just" an interlude, the two are intervened by a short half-section. On the simple side the song has square phrasing (8 measure sections with 2 measure phrases) most of the time.
The harmony of the song makes use of function-wise simple chords: five of the six basic chords (no iii) plus two borrowed chords in the Chorus (iv and bVII). The often scalar descending bassline puts many chords into inversion, a classic Queen trademark. The verses and bridges both are in G Major, the choruses modulate to its dominant.
The rhythm deserves special attention. Unless you don't have a trained sense of rhythm, the 4/4 beat end of the Verses will be problematic to follow, just try it out!


Walktrough

Verse, interlude
The song starts without intro, with a 1/8 upbeat. All phrases start with an upbeat. The second phrase parallels the first a fourth higher both melodically and chord-wise.

G:
| G D/F# | Em  G  |
| I  V   | vi  I  |

| C  G/B | Am     |
| IV  I  | ii     |

| C  D -7| G  C   |
| IV V   | I IV   |

| G (C G)| D      |
| I      | V      |

Compared to the loud Chorus the first Verse is seemingly low mixed, partly because it's accompanied only by piano (shades of "...Lover Boy"). Freddie sings with a relatively soft voice here.
The second Verse has richer ensemble: drums, bass, acoustic and eletric guitars (tone setting is similar to "... Seven Days"). Piano is buried, hardly audible.
The interlude follows the chord progression of the Verses. The first half of the section is arranged for acoustic guitars (mostly arpeggios), the second half has harmonized (4 parts) lead guitar with a tone setting similar to what we heard in "... Seven Days".
In the last two phrases of the Verses in the catchy and natural lead melody there is a disorienting rhythm casued by the main accents being displaced. This is a gambit that we have seen earlier (eg in "The Prophet's Song"), but never (?) afterwards. What is this about? For first try to pick up the beat (1-2-3-4...) at "how i LOVED you", or earlier at "glory and your LOVE" (3-4-1-2...). Except the transition to the Bridge it sounds natural, doesn't it? This approach results in metric anomalies with measures in 4/4, 7/8, 4/4, 9/8 (mm. 5-8).
There is another rhythmic interpretation with 4/4 measures throughout, but this approach is very disorienting, just try out!

Bridge
Similarly to the Verses the Bridges are 8 measure long and have square phrasing. The third phrase is musically more or less identical with those of the Verse.

G:
| Am  G  | C      |
| ii  I  | IV     |

| Am  C G| D      |
| ii IV I| V      |

| C  D -7| G  C   |
| IV V   | I  IV  |

| G/B G C| G      |
| I    IV| I      |

The arrangement is joined by doubletracked acoustic guitars and bass guitar. Despite the imported third phrase this time it's easier to stay in 4/4 instead of using 7/8 and 9/8 masures, because the "TILL i die" syllable falls on a strong 4/4 beat (3).
Comaperd to the first Bridge the second one adds drums and piano overdubs, simple vocal harmonies, but drops the acoustic guitar arpeggios.
The third Bridge is represented by only its second half. The acoustic guitars are back, no vocal harmonies.

Chorus
The chorus is the loudest section of the three. The phrasing is square except the second chorus which ends with a deceptive cadence prolonged for an extra beat longer.
All phrases start on the tonic chord the first and the last also close on that. The often step-wise (bot diatonic and chromatic) descending bassline creates many inverted chords. The I > V6/4 > I7  cadence is familiar from "Teo Torriate". The last phrase ends with the modally inflected double-plagal cadence. These chords creat a smooth transition to the Verses (in G Major), where these three chords (C, G, D) will be the basic chords.

D:
| D A/C# | G(9)/B D |
| I V    | IV     I |

| D  E   | A   G  |
| I V/V  | V  IV  |

| D A/C# | D7/C G/B Gm/Bb |
| I  V   | V/IV IV  iv    |  

| D   C  G/B | D      |
| I bVII  IV | I      |

the alternate ending in the second Chorus:

| D  C G/B | Am     | -     |
| I bVII IV| 
      G: I | ii     | -     |

The arrangement adds electric guitars along the strummed acoustic guitars, the piano (buried in the mix) cannot be heard. The second half has simple (ie. strictly follow the chords) vocal harmonies. Note Freddie's five-note ornament on the "aLONE" syllable.
The second Verse has more vocal harmonies (still simple), and also background guitar harmonies. The modified ending adds acoustic guitars introducing the instrumental Verse, and also guitar feedback noise (B) can be heard, which is sustained further in the next section.
The third Chorus is reserved for the guitar solo. It drops the lead vocal but keeps the backing vocals. The solo lasts until the last phrase, where the lead vocal returns (overlapped with the lead guitar). The solo is very passionately performed.
This last Chorus closes on the subdominant chord providing tension to resolve for a tag-like repetition of the last two phrases. After this two phrase tag (with slow down), there is an instrumental one phrase "tag" for piano only (reminding to the ending of "No One But You").