Read all 5 events for 16 December at diary.QueenSongs.info
Composer: Freddie Mercury
Meter: 4/4 (one measusure in 5/4 in Verse)
Key: F-major, C-major (live version: D-major)
Intro | Verse - Spacer 1 | Verse - Spacer 2 | | Bridge | Solo 1 | Solo 2 (gtr.)| | Verse (third phrase) | Outro |
Spacer 1 = mainly the last phrase of the Intro
Solo 1 : starts with the first phrase of the Intro. Solo: for guitar, and piano.
This beautiful song is many fans' top-10 favorite: both the melody and the pseudo-classical arrangement, and the way "The Prophet's Song" introduces it really take one's breath away. This song is not only beautiful but also very creative: unusual form, smoothly arranged harmonies, uneven phrasing, mixture of "distant" style-elements, non-repetitive lead melody.
In contrast with "The Prophet's Song" where guitar is the dominant instrument and there's no piano, in "Love Of My Life" piano is the main instrument of the accompaniment, there's no rhythm guitar at all. On the other hand, the song features multitrack guitar orchestration and vocal harmonies in both the bass and the treble range. The vocal harmonies apply a lot of syllable-crescendo as a touch of sentimentalism. The piano-performance is played with rubato phrasing (no fixed tempo). Note the almost complete lack of percussion and the heavy use of the sustain pedal. Freddie's trill-ornaments on the piano and the use of harp (played by Brian during the Intro and Outro) also strengthen the Classic feel of the song. On the other hand, the tune makes heavy use of pop-music influenced syncopation. Due to the relatively slow tempo, the syncopation doesn't disturb the placid feel of the song. The style-elements of different eras perfectly work together.
The lead melody is remarkably spiky (similarly to "In The Lap Of The Gods... Revisited"), non-repetitive and covers almost two full octaves (F-D^^). The form is creative and it is shot through with clever Freddie-esque motif-variants. Note the title phrase appears behind four different melody, but always with the same rhythm. We can find some neighbor sections overlapping each other, resulting in smooth transition.
In terms of style, this one is a piano-ballad. Among "similar" efforts we can mention "Nevermore", "In The Lap Of The Gods", and "You Take My Breath Away".
Walkthrough section by section
It is seven measures long and has a 3+2+2 phrasing. The first two phrases feature contrapunction, including descending parallel-tenth motion combined with a pedal point (2nd and 5th measures) between the parallel moving lines. This concept is known from Classic piano pieces. The motif of the second measure (and the acoustic guitar fill in the third measure) appeared already in the outro of "The Prophet's Song". The harmony is interesting:
| C7 F C7 F | C7 F C G7 | C | F: V I V I | V I V * | V | V-of-V C: IV I V | I | | F7 Bb F7 Bb | Bb F/A "Gm7" F | "Gm7" : without 5th degree Bb: V I V I | I V "vi" V | F: * IV * IV | IV I "ii" I | * chord: V-of-IV | Bb F/A | G 7 | Bb: I V ... F: IV I |V-of-V | C: ... IV | V |
Note that the harp-arpeggio closing notes form an ascending motif.
Verse, Spacer 1, Spacer 2
The Verse is 11 measures long. The phrasing is 2+2+2+5 plus one phrase that is the spacer. The first three phrases start with melodies of similar shape. Bass plays in economic style. Second Verse adds single-part and then three-part harmonies. A similar half measure that closes the third phrase appears in "Bohemian Rhapsody".
| C | Am | Dm | G 7| C:| I | vi | ii | V | | C 7 | F | C: I V-of-IV| IV | F: V | I | 3/4 half | Dm Am | Bb F | Bb Am Dm Gm7 | C | F |... F: vi iii | IV I | IViii vi ii | V | I |
The instrumental Spacer 1 is three measures long, plus it has a half measure upbeat overlapped by a "preview phrase". Besides this, Spacer 1 is mainly the same as the last three measures of the Intro. Note the diatonic chain of fifths (a > d > g > C > F, see also in "Don't Stop Me Now" and "...Lover Boy")
Spacer 2 starts with an upbeat that is a variant of the one introducing Spacer 1. It is followed by several measures featuring the opening piano-motif (the first measure of the song) and the parallel sixths. Spacer 2 is four and a half measures long:
F: half meas. | C7 F C7 F | F/Eb Bb | Bb F F7 Bb | F "Gm7"| F | | V I V I | I IV | IV I * IV | I ii | I | V-of-IV
In the fifth measure the piano stops: the only time in the whole song. This pause is filled with a lovely lead guitar figure. The cello-like tone and the way it fades an octave higher (by feedback) are really fine touches. Toward the end of the song the last phrase of the Verse appears again with slightly modified lyrics ("hurry back") and harmonies.
This section is nine and a half (4+4+1 and a half) measures long. In the first and third measures many third beats have no emphasis (no syllable on them), which is very disturbing if you try to count the beats (don't hesitate to try it!); on the other hand, it sounds natural. Second phrase also has syncopated emphases on the 4th and 8th eighths (2nd measure). The bass in the third measure sounds a bit belated; in fact it is right on the first beat. In spite of all anomalies, the melody remains catchy.
F: | Dm | Am | Bb | F A7 | | vi | iii | IV | I V-of-vi| | Dm | Am | Gbdim7 Gbdim | Gm7 | | vi | iii | "V-of-ii"| ii | half | C 7| F | | V | I |
This section is nine and 2 x half (3 and a half + 3 + 3 and a half) measures long. The first half measure is the same that closed the Bridge and belongs to both sections.
First the lead-instrument is the guitar, then gradually the piano takes over the leading role (toward the middle of the section). The piano part of the first phrase is the same as the one of the first Intro phrase.
Second and third phrases also start with the familiar F7>C motif. The two phrases are the same during their first and a half measures. Both 2nd and 3rd phrases have accelerando (speeding up) parts (kind of "double time feel"), second phrase closes with ritardando (slowing down). The piano solo sounds like it was taken out of a romantic piano-piece. Let me omit the harmony-map this time, and only note it is driven mostly by parallel sixth/tenth motions.
It is four measures long. The first half of the section presents fanfare-like multitrack guitar harmonies. Note that the ascending part of this harmony is built upon only two alternating chords: Gm and D7.
F: | Gm | F | C7 | - | | ii | I | V | - |
It is four measures long:
F: | Dm | Am | Gm Bbm6 | F | | iv | iii | ii iv | I |
Bbm, as the iv chords usually do in a major key, creates a chromatic resolution to the root of the tonic (D > Db > C). The lead melody features the same off-beat stops behind the title phrase we have seen already in the Verses. The song is closed with wide harp-arpeggios let ring throughout.
The live versions
For live performances Brian May transposed the song down into the key of D-major/A-major, resulting in a simpler performance for both himself and Freddie. Freddie never performed the "piano" version again, not even off stage. That was his own definition of "throwaway" music/arrangement. The most modified sections are the instrumental ones. Still, Brian kept more extra motifs like the ascending parallel thirds motions.
The audience would always sing along the live performances, and Freddie let them sing some phrases, usually before the Bridge or the second Verse.
The live version intros have a pre-intro section that has been varied much over the years: the Live Killers version starts with parallel thirds combined with pedal bass, while the Magic-tour performances start with fingerpicked figure over D(maj7) chord.
The "real" intro is very different from the studio version: it is eight measures long and has an AA' form, and pre-motifs of the Verse, including the cliche-progression, staying firmly in the actual key (unlike the studio version) until the last measure where the song modulates to the neighbor key (like in the studio version).
The guitar-performance has a built-in melody, simple bass-line and parallel thirds/sixths.
D: | D | Bm | Em 7 | A | | I | vi | ii | V | | D | Bm | G D | E | | I | vi | IV I |... A: IV| V |
Verse, Spacer1, Spacer2
The Verse is mainly the same with the studio version, only the guitar uses different fills and appoggiaturas. The key is A-major that modulates back to D, similarly to the studio-version.
The chord-progression is similar to that of Intro II.
A: | A | F#m | Bm | E | | I | vi | ii | V | | A | D | Bm F#m | G D G | D Bm Em7| A D | | I | IV | ii vi | D: ... vi iii |IV I IV| I vi ii | V I |
Note that one chord is modified in 10th measure (I instead of iii)
In the following I'm going to discuss the single version (Live Killers)
Spacer 1 is a shortened (three measures) version of the Intro I-II. Note the difference between the motifs _6 1 2 1 and 6 1 2 1 (*) the former used in studio-version, the latter in the live-version.
( * : melody-notation with numbers of degrees)
Spacer 2 is about half-measure long extension of the Verse.
The syncopation makes the metric frame hard to outline around "how I still love you". There are no major differences compared to the studio version except the ending.
Spacer 3 I-II-III
The first segment is a combination of parallel tenths and a fixed A note between the two. The key is D-major.
The "II" segment is a combination of chords and built-in melody. The harmony sounds like G-major.
| Am7 G | C G | | ii I | IV I |
The third segment is the same with Spacer 1. As Spacer 1 modulates to A-major, Brian added a fourth measure to modulate back to D-major.
...| E 7| A 7| V-of-A V-of-D
The A7 chord is not resolved to the tonic but to vi (Bm), that starts the next coming mini-Verse (last phrase).
Nothing extra compared to the studio version.
| Bm | F#m | Em Gm(9)| D | | vi | iii | ii iv | I |