"The Show Must Go On" is written as a collection, which is a Queen song because we decided to credit everything to Queen after all. But that's kind of, that, I regard that as my baby because most of that I wrote with Freddie sitting right here and it was a great experience because Freddie at that time wasn't really able to or willing to expose himself in terms of lyrics except at certain particular instances. And he knew about this idea. He knew that it related to the way we felt about him.
When I sang the guide vocal for Freddie -- and most of it I had to sing falsetto because I couldn't sing that high -- and I was going to Freddie, is this OK? And he downs a vodka and goes into the studio and just nails it. And I think it's one of his finest performances ever, the original version of "The Show Must Go On."
It has a little bit of retrospective stuff and it has a little bit of forward looking stuff. There was a point where I looked into it, and got a vision of it, and put down a few things, and felt it meant something special - so I'm pretty fond of that one. Sometimes these tracks have a life of their own, and no matter what you do they have a certain sound to them. 'The Show Must Go On' has a very broad and lush sound to it, which I like, whereas 'I Can't Live With You' turned out very, very close and harsh. And no matter what you do, you can't mix that out of it. It probably benefits the track, but they just have different atmospheres - you do them in different places and in diferent ways.
There's a piece of all of us in it. We made a decision to work on it corporately, and left our egos outside the room. We put drums on a loop, then I put chords to it. I said, “Freddie, listen to this.” The phrase “I can't go on” kept going around in my head. I sat with it and developed it, wrote lines and had a verse after a while. But it was a long way to the final version.
It's my favourite song on the album, now. It's got that kind of sadness, but it's hopeful.
Roger wrote most of These Are the Days of Our Lives. By that time, we were all fully aware of what was going on… things are always about more than one thing, but yeah, Roger was able to put some stuff in there and, similarly, I was able to put some feelings into The Show Must Go On in a similar way, and I think, sometimes, towards the end, Freddie had already kind of moved on. Freddie was writing stuff which you will hear, which is very peaceful and already removed, and I think it was left to us to write the things which we felt about him and we felt about the way he was feeling. I think it would've been too painful for Freddie to get into that, but he was happy to sing the way we felt. That's kind of complicated - we were very much directed towards him and he knew it, but he would sing it with our words.
That track was strange. I did most of the lyrics for Freddie to sing, and you can imagine what that felt like. I did ask him at one point if he was okay about it and he said, “Yeah, totally okay about it. I will give it my all.” And he did. I think some of the best vocals of his life are on that track. He really was very weak by that time, but he could still summon up the strength to sing.
The Show Must Go On came from Roger and John playing the sequence and I started to put things down. At the beginning it was just this chord sequence but I had this strange feeling that it could be somehow important and I got very impassioned and went and beavered away at it. I sat down with Freddie and we decided what the theme should be and wrote the first verse. It's a long story, that song, but I always felt it would be important because we were dealing with things that were hard to talk about at the time, but in the world of music you could do it.
For some reason, John and Freddie and Roger had been playing around with things in the studio and I heard one of the sequences they had come up with, and I could just hear the whole thing descending from the skies... almost in the form, sound-wise, that it ended up. It's something that came as a gift from heaven, I suppose. I did some demos, chopped things up, did some singing demos and some guitar and got it to a point where I could play it to the guys, and they all thought it was something worth pursuing. Then Freddie and I sat down, and I got out my scribblings and said, “What do you think of all this?” It was a very strange and memorable moment really, because what I'd done was come up with something which I thought was the world viewed through his eyes. We didn't talk about it as such. We talked about in terms of the story… it was very poignant at the time, but strange, not precious in any sense. It was just a song and we just loved the idea of it. I was very pleased with the way it came out, especially the way Freddie pushed his voice to ridiculous heights. Some of that stuff I mapped out in falsetto for him, and I remember saying, “I really don't know if this is asking way too much…” and he went, “Oh darling, not a problem. I'll have a couple of vodkas then go ahead and do it.” And he did.
The whole world thought that Freddie was being prophetic in The Show Must Go On although he never wrote the lyrics for this song. The whole album is of course prophetic because Freddie knew it would be his last but it is not the final goodbye from Freddie which is how the world has come to see it. While he knew his music would always be played, he didn't see himself as the “great composer” and therefore the idea of consciously writing his own epitaph would never have occurred. Events force a meaning especially on lyrics and words where none was originally intended. For example, songs like The Show Must Go On, given different circumstances, is actually a very triumphant, “up” song.
We began using synthesisers and there were many excursions from us all into keyboard territory. My main contributions on principal parts were (in no particular order) in: Scandal, Was It All Worth It, Hang On In There, Too Much Love Will Kill You (which was done with Frank Musker up in his house in the Canyon in L.A. when we first sketched the song), No-one But You (again done on my own, originally for use on my solo album), One Vision (my first ramblings on a Kurzweil gave rise to the opening section), I Can't Live With You, The Show Must Go On (that sequence just got thrust into my head playing around with Roger - I will never know where it came from, but it completely took me over for a long time while the song was in development), and of course, Who Wants to Live Forever.
My favourite song… well, off the top of my head, at this moment, I would say The Show Must Go On, ‘cause there was something strange. You never know where songs come from, most of these came in a sort of vision to me, and I worked with Freddie on some of the lyrics, but basically it's one of those things where you can hear what it's gonna be like when you start, and it's probably a couple of months later by the time that you actually hear it on the tape, but I could head how this was gonna be and some kind of muse sent it to me. I don't know what happened, but I feel very proud. The way Fred sings it is outrageous - he's struggling at this point physically, but he goes for it and he gets higher than ever and more magnificent than ever.
I wasn't really here, there at the genesis of this and I remember it was like a dark horse that came up on the outside and suddenly it was, you know, definitely one of the highlights of the record. And it's a great epic, quality to the song I think and massively popular in France.
A lot of people thought Freddie wrote The Show Must Go On, but mainly I wrote it. I did a complete demo for The Show Must Go On, including that very high part, “on with the show,” and I said to Freddie - ‘cause Freddie always used to say, “oh, Brian, you're fucking making me tear my throat to bits again” - so I remember apologising in advance. I said, “I've done this in falsetto, I don't know if it's possible to do it full voice, but obviously that would be great,” and he went, “oh, for God's sake, roll the tape.” A couple of vodkas and he went for that line, which is outstanding for him to reach those notes. He's reaching heights he's never done before, he's finding the energy from somewhere. And the voice on The Show Must Go On is incredible. He rose to every challenge.