It's A Hard Life

Composer: Freddie Mercury, Ruggiero Leoncavallo (Intro I)
Meter: 4/4
Key: (g-minor) Bb-Major, Eb-Major, c-minor,
Form:

        | Intro I - II (AA)| Verse | pre-Chorus  | Chorus (AA')|| 
                           | Verse | pre-Chorus  | Chorus |
            | pre-solo I-II | Solo  (pre-Chorus')| Chorus'-ext / Outro (AAAAAA-) |

If there is a typical Mercury song (especially harmony-wise), than this is it. The song is not very complicated. It consists of three cycles the third of which starts with pre-solo section instead of a verse. We have a pre-chorus section which is relatively infrequently used by the band compared to contemporary pop music. This one also could be threated as the second subsection of the Verse.
The harmony makes frequent use of the I > V6/3 > vi cliche.

Intro
The first part of the Intro is a quote from Leoncavallo's opera "I Pagliacci" (1892).

g: 
| Cm7  | -    |
| iv   | -    |

| Eb   | D7   |
| VI   | V    |

The chords suggest g minor to be the opening key but the harmony does not resolves to its tonic but to that of Bb-Major.

The second part of the intro is a piano hook played twice.

Bb:
/----- 2x -----\\
| Bb   | Ab/Bb |
|  I   | bVII  |


Verse
The verse is 12 measures long (4+4+2+2, ABCD), the four measure phrases start on the second beat, the two measure ones start with upbeat. The second melodic phrase closes on a dissonant note (4th degree).

Bb:
| Bb   | F    | Gm   | -    |
| I    | V    | vi   | -    |

| Eb   | Bb/D | Cm(4)| -    |
| IV   | I    | ii   | -    |

| Bb   | -    | (Dhalfdim/Bb)
| I    | -    |

| Ab/Bb| -    |
| bVII | -    |

In contrast with the second verse which is backed by proper drumbeat, the first verse has no drums beat just adlib played cymbals. The seond Verse adds some single part backing vocals.

pre-chorus
The twelve measure pre-chorus has three phrases (AA'B 4+4+4), where the B is in fact the extension of A'. The music modulates to the neighbour key Eb-Major. The first two phrases re-use the I > V6/3 > vi cliche followed by iii chord reminiscent of "...Lover Boy".

Eb:
| Eb   | Bb/D  | Cm   | Gm   |
| I    |  V    | vi   | iii  |

| Eb   | Bb/D  | Cm   | Gm   | 
| I    |  V    | vi   | iii  |

 |  Ab   | -    | F    | -    | 
 |  IV   | -    | V/V  | -    |
Bb: bVII | -    | V    | -    |

Each three phrases of the second pre-chorus is melodically changed. In the last harmonic phrase the B melodic phrase is followed by yet another melodic phrase with rising shape. Here Brian plays a step-wise oscillating figure on guitar.

Chorus
The 20 measure chorus has two subsections (AA') plus an instrumental spacer with two jingling guitar chords. The harmony is very basic except the semichromatic ascending figure closing the first subsection.

Bb:
| Bb   | Dm   |
| I    | iii  |

| Eb   | Bb   |
| IV   | I    |

| Eb   | Bb   |
| IV   | I    |

| F1 G1  | Ab1 A1|                   
| 5  6   | b7  7 |

The harmony of the second subsection is altered and extended from m.7 on. The last melodic phrase ends on the downbeat of the last harmonic phrase. The IV > bIII figure with pedal bass strongly resonates with the intro-hook.

m7                           
| F    | -    |
| V    | -    |

| Eb   | -    | Db/Eb | maj7 |
| IV   | -    | bIII  | -    |

In the second chorus the closing chord is Db6/Eb and the first harmonic phrase is altered, but the backing vocals sing the original melody. The semichromatic figure is completed to chords this time:

m7
| F Eb/G | Fdim/Ab F/A |
| V    chromatic       |

The third chorus lest you hear the backing guitar harmony arrangement much better.
The outro is developed from the extended third chorus. The melody rises from the second phrases on reaching a climax on the downbeat of m.9 where the outro starts. Harmony-wise it is almost like a slow down version of the ending of the second chorus. Note the F note added by the guitar in m.1-3.

m.7
| F     | -    |
| V     |

| Eb/G  | -9   |

| Ab    | -6   |

| F(7)/A| -    |

The outro repeats the intro hook six times, then only slow dyades (Bb1/Ab) are played (shades of the "Life Is Real" intro) starting on the third beat of the sixth repeatition of the hook.

/----- 6x ----\\
| Bb   | 7,2  |
| I    |      |

|Bb1/Ab|


pre-solo
The first two measures are arrangemet-wise extending the piano closing of the preceding second chorus. The harmony suggest a c minor tonality for the first two phrases.

c:
| Ab    | G (4>3>4>5)|
| VI    | V          |

| Eb    | -      | -      | Eb D Eb | top
| C     | Bb1    | Ab1    | G1      | bass
| I     | 7th    | 6th    | 5th     |

The third phrase adds guitar harmony chords followed by stepwise moving lead guitar figures turning antiphonal for fourth phrase which ends with a long ascending scale in fast triplets (see also "White Queen"). For the last phrase the gutar is harmonized and also some vocal harmony chords are added. The key modulates to the relative Major key (Eb). Harmony-wise the fourth phrase parallels the third one with the I > V6/3 > vi cliche (see also "Save Me").

Eb:
| Eb    | Bb/D   | Cm     | -       |
| I     | V6/3   | vi     | -       |

| Ab    | Eb/G   | Fm     | -       |
| Iv    | I6/3   | ii     | -       |

| Eb/Bb | Bb     | -7     | -       |
|"IV/V" | V      | -      | -       |


Solo
The prolonged dominant ending of the pre-solo does not resolve to the tonic but to the subdominant. The tonic-role of the Eb not very convincing due to the inverted voicing and also the harmonic similarity with the pre-chorus which suggests here Ab to be the key. On the other hand the catchy lead tune (featuring D instead of Db) suggests Eb-Major, which modulates to the neighbour Bb-Major in m.9-10 where the lead guitar gets harmonized.

Eb:
| Ab    | Eb/G   | Fm     | Cm      |
| Iv    | I6/3   | ii     | vi      |

| Ab    | Eb/G   | Fm     | Cm      | Cm/Bb Bb   | Bb      |
| Iv    | I6/3   | ii     | vi      | vi    V    | V       |
                                  Bb: ii    I    | I       |

Bb:
| F     | -      |
| V     | -      |  

The last phrase of the melodic guitar solo is a May-esque descending figure (see also "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "You Don't Fool Me").