Radio Ga-Ga

Composer: Roger Taylor
Album: Works, 1st track
Single: 23/1/1984
Meter: 4/4
Key: F-Major
Form:  

      Intro (I, Verse, Verse) | Verse | Verse | pre-Chorus | Chorus I-I'-II |
                       | re-Intro I'  | Verse | pre-Chorus | Chorus I-I-I'-II |
                 | interlude - (Verse) | Solo / pre-Chorus | Outro/Solo (pre-Chorus) | 

This was one of the most important lead-in singles of the band. It had to prove (and it definitely did) that Queen could stay on top in a fast evolving world of pop music. One of the most important ingredients of the modern sound was the synth which on the other hand happens to be a frequent target of critics against the eighties. Many underrate the experimenting values of using synths in the eighties. One cannot really imagine this song coming out earlier than 1983/84.
The catchiness of the song is supported by relatively heavy use of repetitions, double phrases. The one step up and back mini-arch is the leitmotif the song.
The arrangement is "thick": synths, drum synths, "robotic" vocals (see also in "Machines" and "Human Body"), spare use of guitar. The bassline is spiced with many slides and remarkably playfully. Synth bass parts were programmed by Fred Mandel.
It's not easy to find a close Roger-forerunner for this song, maybe "Action This Day" with its similarly impulsive Chorus. According to interviews the song had relevant input by Mercury whose fingerprint can be found in the form and harmony: chromatic bass-progression, flat-side homekey (F), diminished chords being not really Roger's songwriting trademarks. Roger afterwards did compose flat-side songs partly as an effect of using more freqently keyboards for writing songs. The sections show closed harmonic shape: they both start and end on the tonic chord. There's no modulation, no iii chord.
The songform is semi-cyclic. The song unusually closes with two instrumental pre-Choruses instead of choruses.

Walkthrough

Intro
The first subsection section consists of four two-measure phrases, the first of which is purely rhythmic exposing the synth drum ostinato. The next three subphrases feature half measure long octave synth arpeggios. They are building up in length:

4   1   2   3
    *******    1st
   ********    2nd
   **********  3rd

The second and third subsection of the Intro introduces the harmonic background of the Verse. It also introduces the playfull bassline, the signature machine-talk hook-tag which will close the second Verse and the each three pre-Choruses.
We have a 4 measure re-Intro section after the first chorus with similar octave arpeggios, and slap-like bassplaying.
The 9 (1+8) measure interlude is also a derivant of the Intro with the octave arpeggios starting and closing it. The middle measures are minimalistic in terms of harmony and melody (shades of "Another One Bites The Dust" intrelude). Strangely the arpeggios in the last measures sound flat then getting gradually sharpened out toward the end.

Verse:
We have three vocal Verses plus three instrumental ones. The phrasing of the nine measure verse is four-sqaured except the extended fourth phrase. The first three phrases have an AA subphrasing. A treble F note is present throughout the section but not really pedal-like (compare with "A Kind Of Magic"). The roughly arch-shaped lead melody roughly parallels the root progression a fifth above. Only three chords are used.

F: 
| Fadd2 | -     |
|  I    | -     |

| Gm7   | -     |
| ii    | -     |

| Bb    | -     |
| IV    | -     |

| Gm7   | Bb  F | -    |
| ii    | IV  I | -    |

There is a semi-instrumental Verse, with only the title phrase being sung (and echoed) three times which is curiously imported from the Chorus.

Pre-chorus
The 14 measure section can be parsed into seven two measure phrases some of them with AA subphrasing. The first phrase is a shifted up melodic variant of the first phrase of the Verse, while the last phrase is identical with the last two measures of the Verse. The dramatic arch is rising until the climactic fourth and fifth phrase with double-tracked vocals, the settle down last phrase provides dinamic space for the bombastic chorus. In the first phrases the lead melody moves around (mostly above) the 1st degree (F). In m.8 there is a melodic b3 note, the only non-diatonic note in the vocal parts.

F:
| Fadd2 | -     |
| I     | -     |

| Abdim7| -     |
|bIIIdim| -     |

| Bb    | -     |
| IV    | -     |

| G7/B  | -     |
| V/V   | -     |

| F/C   | -     |
| I     | -     |

|C(sus4)| -     |
| V     | -     | 

| Bb F  | -     |
|IV  I  | -     |

The phrases are added an step-wise ascending three-note motif. See similar (but descending) motifs in "Every Breath You Take" (Police, 1983). The ascending (chromatically in phrases 3-5) bassline creates some inverted chords. The second pre-chorus adds some synths. The third pre-chorus is for the buttleneck-slide guitar solo. Its very economic in terms of melodicism. The less is more rule is working perfectly here. The lead vocal returns for the climax (m.4-6). The fade-out Outro (pre-Chorus) repeates the solo note-by-note. This section drops the lead vocals but adds a "bass-solo". Its rhythmic leit-motif is this cliche which appears already in the Intro:

1   2   3   4  
* * ** **

See this cliche also in "It's Probably Me" (Clapton/Sting) or "Our House" (Madness).

Chorus
We have only two Choruses with two subsections. The first one is 7 measures long with 4+3 AA' phasing. The well-needed repetitions are provided by repetitive subphrasing (BB'B'B'and BB'B" respectively). In the first Chorus there are unisono vocals. This, with the suspended/altered drum-line (the legendary "handclap" motif that close each measure) and the "special" opening chord effectively sets the "vivace" mood. Guitar plays arpeggios.

F:
| F5/Dbadd2 | Bb F  | Bb F  | Bb F  | 
| *         | IV I  | IV I  | IV I  |

| F5/Dbadd2 | Bb F  | Bb F  | 
| *         | IV I  | IV I  |

In the second Chorus we have simple triadic vocal harmonies instead of unisono. Without the change in the backing beat and without that special opening chord (with Db bass) the second Chorus sounds somewhat less "special". Another change: the first subsection is exteneded: AAA' phrasing instead of AA' the bass and the guitar arpeggios return in the third phrase.

The second subsection has 2+5 phrasing and stepwise moving melody. The third measure can be threated as a separate phrase. The modal opening chord sounds surprisingly natural in the close neighbourhood of the dominant chord. We have pedal bass in m.4-5.

F:
| Eb   | Bb C  | 
| bVII | IV V  |

| Dm   | F/C C | Bb/C C | F    | -    |
| vi   |   V   |   V    | I    | -    |

Note the slight asynchronism between the lead melody and the paralelling synth chords.

Live version:
Since fade out outros don't really work on stage Queen had to creat a complete ending at the end of the second chorus (similarly to "Kind Of Magic").