My Fairy King

Composer: Freddie Mercury
Key: f minor, G major, e minor, a minor, D major, C Major, d minor, F major, (a phrygian)
Meter: 4/4
Form:

  Intro I-II | Part A (I-II) | Part B ((Part A I)) | Part C (part A II') |
      Part D (... Intro II') | Link with solo | Outro |

My Fairy King is considered to be the beginning of Freddie Mercury's progressive songwriting (on piano) that paved the way for later masterpieces like March Of The Black Queen and Bohemian Rhapsody. There's something right with this statement, even though we should not underrate the importance of Liar, Great King Rat, or even the mystic Green (from Freddie's pre-Queen period). In terms of harmony and formal freedom this song is definitely Freddie Mercury's most complicated song to date. The song goes through many modulation. The most of these are neighbour or relative key modulations.
A leitmotif of the song is the vamping chord changes of fourths (eg. Am-Dm).


Intro I
It's eight measures long and consists of three-part backwards recorded ascending (originally descending) guitar harmonies plus four-in-the-bar hits on the hi-hat, moreover piano plays sparely 2x2 notes in the second half. In a simplified form the harmonies go like this:

f:

   Top : F  G  Ab Bb C   Db   F  F
Bottom :    G  Ab C  F   G    Ab Bb
Middle :       F  G  Ab  Bb   C  Db
vertical harmonies:  Fm Gdim Fm  Bbm

You can see it's not perfectly canon-like. The four last vertical harmonies are almost cyclic, foreshadowing certain canon-licks to come later on Brighton Rock and The Prophet's Song.

Intro II
It's a simple 4/4 piano-based rock and roll pattern with bass and drums, plus some lead guitar fills. Roger starts his screaming in measure 3. (Shades of "Highway Star" by Deep Purple, 1972)

G:

/----- 4x -----\\
| G    | G   C |
| I    | I   IV|


/----- 2x -------\\
| Am   | Am  Dm  |
| ii   | ii iv/ii|


       > halftime feel
| C  D | G6 > Em/G | Em/G  |
| IV V | I
         e:    i   | i     |

The harmony in measure 9-12 parallels the preceding phrases. The Am > Dm/A vamping will appear in later sections as well even in this fast rock tempo. The a-minor flavor is reinforced by a complete melodic minor scale (raised 6th and 7th) played by the lead guitar in measure 12. Then the IV-V-I cadence steers the harmony back to G major. The closing chord is G6 where the G note in bass fades away thus the chord fades into Em the new tonic.
 The four-in-the-bar piano chords in solo will be recurrent element of later Freddie songs (Death On Two Legs,...).

Part A
Lenght: 14 measures with uneven phrasing: A A' B C D, 3+3+2.5+3+2. The piano line is very simple in terms of chord-articulation.

e:
| Em    | G     | C   G B7 |
| i     | III   | VI III V |


| Em    | G/D   | C   G  G# |
| i     | III   | IV III "V"|


a:                   half
| Am Dm/A | Am Dm/A | Am |
| i  (iv) | -       | -  |


| Bb   | Am (add9) | Em (sus4) |
| bII  | i         | v         |

| F B(half)dim/F | Am  D |
|VI   iidim      | i  IV |
                e: iV VII|

The first phrase starts with upbeat and an uniquely sharp three-against-four type of syncopation reinforced by the oscillating melody:

piano beats:   1   2   3   4   1
lead vocal : *** ** ** ** ** * *...

Measure 2 drops the 3 vs. 4 syncopation, measure 3 stops the oscillation in the lead vocal, and adds a ticker ensemble (acoustic guitar, backing vocals), and quicker harmonic rhythm. The second phrase is a rhythm altered variant of the first one. The bass uses 3+2+3 rhythm figure in measure 5. The closing chord of the phrase is different than that in the first: the guitar plays a B-note, the bass plays a G#. The combination of these two and the position between the G and Am chord suggest a E/G# chord (V), but the piano plays a G# chord which creates momentary dissonance with the guitar (B vs. C).
The third phrase has static backing, and the tune too is quite "horizontal". The lead vocal goes into octave-harmony in measure 8.
The last two phrases have no lyrics, the lead vocal melts into the harmonies. Note the bII chord in measure 10 is a borrowed chord, the enharmonic pair of the bVII function in the relative Major key . The b2 degree appears in the lead vocal too. Measure 11 has the early-Queen trademark oscillating harmony. The lead guitar oscillates along for a short time, then takes the lead for the last phrase. We have a diminished piano chord in measure 13, the lead guitar adds a A on top that turns the chord into half-diminished.

Part B
The chord progression (and the bassline) of the two phrases is a close variant of that of the first two phrases of previous Part A while the lead vocal and the whole vocal arrangement is completly different in both shape and style. The framework is added an extra measure with whole note, that sharply separates Part B and Part C in contrast with the transition between both 2nd and 3rd phrases of Part A.

| Em   | G    | C  G B7 |
| i    | III  |VI III V |

| Em   | G7   | C   Am  G | D     |
| i    | III  |VI   iv III| VII   |

The vocal arangement features more groups of voices in harmony (tight harmonies in the right channel) plus the lead vocal. These are overlapping eachother most of the time. The lead vocal is raising a whole octave and has elastic rhythm during the fisrt phrase.
Both phrase starts with the title tag, except this the lead melody is different. Measure 6-7 adds three-part guitar harmonies (probably each part is multiple-recorded).

Part C
This section's first phrase is a closer variant of the third phrase of Part A, especially the first two measures where the lead melody is mainly the same.

 a:
| Am Dm/A | Am Dm/A | Am Dm/A | Am Dm/A |
| i...

| Am Dm/A Am Dm/A | Am Dm/A Am Dm/A | D9/7 D7 D9/7 D7 | Bb 9/6 Bb 9/6 | B 9/6 Gm7 C |
| i...            | -               | IV              | bII           | bII    * III
                                                                          "V"-of-III

Measure 1-2 adds sustained two part soprano vocal harmony. In the middle of the prhase the lead goes into harmony for three syllables (fifths). The second phrase without lead vocal doubles the harmonic rhythm. Three part sustained harmonies lead the phrase. Measure 4 adds a single track guitar to the vocal harmonies.
The section closes with a two measure bass-figure driven phrase in D Major. Note the melodic modal flat third in the (more or less) unisono last measure.

D
| D  G/D | D1    |
| I   IV |"i"    |


Part D
This section is characterized by oscillating 1-4 chord changes (or just appogiaturas?) familiar from the Intro, and tonal ambiguity as the vamped chords are affect the pitch set: eg. in the second phrase the pitch set is G Major while in the last one it is a-minor. Something like this we are going to see in "Funny How Love Is". Omitting the vamping the harmonic rhythm is slow. The phrasing is 4+6+8, but take into count that the last two phrases are played in double time feel. Note that the double time feel is executed in two steps as in the middle phrase just the drums are in double time. The piano changes to double time for only the last phrase.

 | D G/D D G/D | D G/D D G/D | Em Am/E Em Am/E | Em Am/E Em Am/E |
D: I           | -           | ii              | -               |


| G   | C/G  | G   | C/G  | G   | C/G  |
| IV  |IV-of-IV ...
G: I

| Am   | - Dm/A | Am   | - Dm/A | Am   | - Dm/A | Am   | - Dm/A |
a: i

The first phrase goes with antiphonal lead melody. In the second phrase Freddie is double tracked, first in non-parallel harmony then in unisono.
The last phrase is instrumental (except an "whoo") and the harmony figure is the same as in the second phrase of the Intro II.

Part E I-II
At its middle the song reaches to dramatic change: tempo changes (half time feel), drums are resting, only piano is played (plus the bass let ring throughout from the opening downbeat). The key is the relative Major key of that of the preceding section. The piano figure is a simply articulated as the combination of pedal bass (C, in top position for one measure) and changing chords. Similar approach we'll see in the intro of "...Black Queen" but also Teo Torriate can be mentioned (or, say, the intro figure of Dream On - Aerosmith).

The section starts with an instrumental mini-intro (I) that combines two pedal points with parallel thirds. The harmony of the mini-intro and the next two phrases consist of these two figures:
 

A-figure:           B-figure:
        | G . . . |         | G G F F |
        | G E D C |         | G E C D |
        | E C B A |         | E C A B |
        | C . . . |         | C______ |
Chords: | C       |         | C       |
      C:| I...    |       C:| I-      |


Mini-intro (E-I): AAAB
1st phrase of E-II: BBBA
2nd phrase of E-II: BB

The lead melody follows another pattern:

1st phrase: A A B -
2nd phrase: B -  
3rd phrase: B' - B" -
4th phrase: C...

The fourth phrase is added an antiphonal vocal part. For first it adds an echo, then a whispered "yeah" then a third-harmony "aaah" reinforced with an extra "whooo" in the middle and added a major 7th guitar note.

Harmony from the third phrase phrase:

                     Db|       - |      Db E  |
 | A A Bb Bb| A A Bb A | -       | A Bb A  Db |
 | F F G  G | F F G  G | -       | F G  G  G  |
 | D . .  . | D . .  . | -       | D .  .  .  |
d: i...

  | F Bb/F | -     | -     | F(maj7) |
F:  I...

Does the change of the pedal bass mean a modulation here? Think of the intro of "The March Of The Black Queen" where the padal bass belongs to the dominant chord.
 In these last two phrases (and also Part D) the pitch set (d harmonic minor, F major in respect) reinforces the key-change, but one has the vague feeling we have only the chord changes (Dm = ii, F = IV) that affect the pitch set, like we saw in the intro (a melodic minor scale upon the ii chord).
Except some vocal harmonies from here the song is instrumental.

Link
This long section The phrases can are articulated by the thickening arrangement and the changing harmonic texture.
First phrase starts with similar guitarharmonies to those opening the song.
Measure 3 adds cimbals, piano is mixed gradually louder.
Measure 7 adds hi-hats and bass. The rhythm gets quantized in contrast with the somewhat ad-lib like preceding phrase.
Measure 9 adds oscillating harmonies (again) but shortly afterwards it fades out.
Measure 11: the harmonic rhythm stops. Piano keeps vamping the Am - Dm/A figure and the drumline gets thicker, the guitar harmonies sustain a dissonant Bb chord against the Am played by the piano (and bass).
Measure 13: The guitar harmony switches to a single pedal point (3rd of Am), Roger changes to toms, Freddie changes another vamping figure with the same chords.
Measure 15: one of the rare piano solos in the songbook of Queen. It's recorded as an overdub. Too bad it can't be heard properly (compared to the legendary keyboard solos of that era). The solo is built of arpeggios, and it's melodic phrasing is AA'BB' (1+1+2+2).
Measure 21-25: The piano solo is over, a pentatonic guitar solo starts with a rising shape. This solo is followed by another lead guitar figure that already belongs to the Outro.

a:

m1
| Bb    | Am    | Bb    | Am    | Bb    | Am    |
|bII    | i     | bII   | i     | bII   | i     |


m7
| Bb    | Am    | Bb    | Am - Dm/A |
| bII...

m11
| Am - Dm/A | -     |
| i  - iv...

m13
| Am    Dm/A| Am    Dm/A |
| i...

m15
| Am   | -   | -   | Em   | Am   | Em   |
| i    | -   | -   | v    | i    | v    |

m21
| Am - Dm/A | -    | Em - Am | -     |
| i  - iv   | -    | v...

The guitarharmonies in the first phrase are almost perfectly cyclic, canon-like, in contrast with the intro figure. Note the six note scale in a phrygian mode (where the 7th degree is used as a passing note) that the individual parts are using. Also note that A phrygian is enharmonic with the preceding F Major key.
This kind oscillating canon harmony with six notes will appear in later works of Brian May.

Outro
The harmonic rhythm slows down, the drums switch to a spare mode. The second measure closes with a fermata. The chord changes show it was written on piano as Freddie could not have came up with such chords on guitar.

C:
| F  Bhalfdim/F | F#dim Ahalfdim/F# |
| V  ...

| C  Am | D1...
| I  vi | "ii"

The song closes on ii as if they had cutted off the closing V > I cadence.