Read all 6 events for 21 April at diary.QueenSongs.info
Composer: Freddie Mercury
Meter: 4/4 (12/8) (shift of accents during Connector 2)
Keys: Eb-major, F-major, d-minor, c-minor
Intro | Verse - Bridge | Chorus | Connector 1 |
| Verse - Bridge'| Chorus (first half) |
| Solo 1 ((Bridge")') - Connector 2 |
| Solo 2 (Verse')| Bridge"| Chorus | Connector 1 | Outro |
In the making of the second album Freddie and the band as a whole learned much about songwriting and arrangement. After the full of experiments "Queen II", they made a less complex and more "catchy" album, the "Sheer Heart Attack". Killer Queen was not the first masterpiece by Freddie, of course. This time he directed his talent to produce this camp kind of musichall song. This was their first not guitar-driven single although there is a lot of guitar work in the production. The form is a real showcase of the Queenesque use of section and subsection variants. In this respect Killer Queen is one of the most clever pop-songs ever.
Section by section walkthrough
It's very simple: six fingerclicks (one and a half measure). The last one is overlapped by the upbeat of the first Verse. Note that fingersnaps can be heard throughout almost the whole song!
It's eight measures long plus a half measure that sustains the section-closing chord and provides space for the upbeat of the Bridge. The fisrt Verse starts with "right hand" piano; then third beat of the fourth measure adds bass and drums; two beats later enters the single-noted guitar which plays a similar descending figure to that of the bass.
Second Verse features more overdubs than the first: triangle, a guitar fill in the fourth measure, and slowly oscillating three-part backing vocals (see also the intro of The March Of The Black Queen) from the fifth measure.
| Cm | Bb7 | Cm |Bb7 Eb |
| vi | V | vi | V I |
|Eb Gm/D | E7/Db Ab| Abm Eb/Bb| Ebsus4/Bb Bb| +7 |
| I iii6/5| V-of-IV IV| iv I6/5 | IV-of-V V | - |
The first four measures have an AA' form. The second four measures start with a line-cliche progression driven by chromatically descending inner motion. You may have difficulties if you try to sing the phrase "Met a man from China, went down to..." without the chordal backing, say, in the bathroom. The tune is syncopated:
3 .4 .1 .2 .3 .4 .1... ("She keeps...")
** ** ** * *
It's like a three-measure extension of the Verse. The last measure can be divided into two half-measures: the first one belongs to the Bridge, and the second one - to the Chorus. This measure contains the pivot modulation from Eb-major to F-major.
| G Cm | Bb Eb | D Gm F |
Eb:|V-of-vi vi | V I |V-of-iii iii...|
F: |V-of-ii ii I |
This section and parts of it appear later in the song:
1. The second Bridge has a modified lead melody in the second measure, and the third measure features almost "talking" lead vocal.
2. The first measures of Solo 2 are a variation of the first measures of the Bridge, more closely to the third Bridge.
3. The fisrt five measures of the third Bridge are an extended variant of the first Bridge.
The Chorus is eight measures long but not in a predictable symmetric way:
the phrasing is 5+3; moreover, an above-mentioned half-measure also
belongs there, and the Connector is not isolated from it, either.
The key is rather d-minor than F-major, since the tonic of the latter
doesn't appear till Connector 1.
| Bb Dm | Gm Dm | Gm A-Dm | G7 C | C-Bb |
d:| VI i | iv i | iv V-i |V-of-VII VII VI |
F:| IV vi | ii vi | ii vi |V-of-V V | IV |
| A Dm | G C | C-Bb || F...
d:| V i |V-of-VII VII VI || III
F:|V-of-vi vi | V-of-V V | IV || I
The lead melody is backed up by three-part harmonies plus some background and antiphonal harmonies. The other two Choruses have very similar arrangements.
It is four measures long with a 2x2 AA' phrasing. The piano part is interesting because without the guitar harmonies it sounds very incomplete (if you can, listen to it using the karaoke trick). It makes one think that this part was composed interactively with Brian.
The piano plays many not-full chords in the first two measures and left hand piano bass and bass guitar enter on the fourth beat of the second measure.
We know that Brian was still in hospital while the others recorded their parts. Apparently Freddie already knew what kind of guitar harmonies the song needed and played a piano track that supported rather than drove them. The piano part, however, has got an interestingly syncopated rhythm that makes it look more complicated than it really is: a cyclic harmonic texture.
| F Bb Eb/F | F Bb Eb/F | F Bb Eb/(C+G) | F Bb Eb/(G+C) |
| I IV flat-VII...
Solo 1 and Connector 2
The second half of the second Chorus is changed for a guitar solo that first seems to be a variant of the substituted measures. Actually the first two and second two measures are variants of the first two measures of the still-to-come last Bridge.
In the third measure there is a key-shift to c-minor. The second half of the section is rather a connector than a real solo. In the fourth measure the accents shift "left" by one beat. The accents keep shifting until the end of the section. This can be explained as varied meters:
3/4 > 4/4> 4/4 > 5/4
Even using this approach the tune remains disorienting. The temporary shift of meter does not disturb the listeners' enjoying the song as they don't suspect that such tricks take place "in the backround". See also The Prophet's Song, Save Me, or Now I'm Here for other examples of accent shifts.
| A Dm | A Dm | G Cm | G Cm |
d: V i | V i |
c: | V i | V i |
bass: | F.................................
gtr harmonies: | Eb | Eb | Eb > G-dim > G#-dim > *F |
*F = Fm > F
The framework we've got here is the same as in the Verse, also including the half measure; only that it's extended with two more measures:
.. | Eb/Bb | Bb7 |
| I | V |
The lead guitar's melody is also a variant of the lead vocal of the Verse. The technique as the main theme is recycled shifted up and down in this song is more closely associated with symphonic style than rock. The arrangement of the three-track guitar solo is clever. Check out the three-parted descending hord build-ups in the fifth and sixth measures. Brian told in an interview this bit was influented by A.P. Mantovani (1905-). Brian May on stage would create many varinants of this solo. It's worth to browse through the extensive collection of live recordings to compare them.
The third Bridge is seven and a half measures long, and the first five of these are the extended variant of the first Bridge. The form of these five measures is: AA'BB'C.
| G Cm | G Cm | Bb Eb | Bb Eb | D Gm F |
|V-of-vi vi | - | V I | V I |V-of-iii iii...|
F: V-of-ii ii I |
| Bb F | Bbm F | - |
| IV I | iv I | - |
It is preceded by the second Connector 1, which closes with a similar virtual drop-out of one beat as on the border of Solo 1 and Connector 2. The outro itself builds up from series of double stops (ta-daaa) on Eb chord completed with a repeated descending guitar figure starting on the first beats. This figure is hocket-like arranged for two guitars (or just simple mix-table trick?). Note that the fingersnaps (as well as some unidentified noise) can still be heard.