One of those heavy, headbanger things.
Hammer to Fall is really about life and death, and being aware of death as being part of life. I was inspired, I think, by Waiting for Godot… although there are a lot of other things mixed up with it in there ... The Hammer coming down is only a symbol of the Grim Reaper doing his job!! … the last verse of Hammer to Fall? Well, it's always been a personal kind of part - the spectre of the mushroom cloud was absolutely a real part of my childhood … we were constantly told it was going to happen, and we ought to hide somewhere if the four-minute warning was given (how was it going to be given ???!!) And we should not LOOK at the blast !!! As if there would be a choice … In the musical, the song (at my instigation, inspired by what Ben did with the script at the 11th hour) became re-oriented as a struggle between two lovers. Constraints of sense and time made this last verse difficult to include. So I was happy to leave it out. The last verse is really, as I look at it now, one of my protests against violent solutions, so it should not be too out of place in a Christian perspective, though I am probably not a very good Christian!! And an awful lot of people in the world STILL seem to be doing violence in the name of Christianity, which appalls me. How our Western leaders justify this in their minds baffles me completely. I am praying we soon get a change.
I wrote a single, you might call it one of my heavy indulgences. lt was very rough and raw, but I really liked the sound. The other three hated it so much they were ashamed to play it. So it wound up as the B-side on “Radio Ga Ga” which is good as it gives the fans a song they didn’t receive on the album, more for their money. But you see, it was kept off the album by the majority.
It's a John Deacon song, a lot of people probably don't realise that either, one of our biggest hits. John didn't write many songs but most of them sure counted.
John didn't write that many songs, but my god, the ones he wrote, just incredibly well on the whole. Freddie would seize on it and work so hard on it.
This is a John Deacon special. I don't know if he was trying to tell us something, or whatever, but he made this record in LA, I think Los Angeles, Record Plant. He was never afraid to strip things down and make them, you know, bare and spare, and I think Freddie helped a lot with them; the genesis of this one.
Freddie appreciated the fact that he never had to wait to do something creative. He did not mind my placeholders, like the backward piano in Another One Bites the Dust, the guitar slide down in Princes of the Universe, the intro to One Vision or Fred Mandel's keyboard solo in I Want to Break Free years later.
This was controversial, as no one did solos apart from Brian, but the band were out to dinner, so I did it. I didn't think anything of it, as I'd done the same on Alice Cooper records. It was no big deal, but I think people thought it was a big deal.
I liked the way we actually processed, because we were looking at all songs we had and we thought that the one thing that we didn't have was one of those real limpid ballads, the Love of My Life type of things, and rather than sort of one of us saying “OK, I'm gonna back and do it, go back and think about it and write it,” I just said, “Brian, why don't we just think of something right here?” And that song just evolved in around two days. He just got on acoustic and I just sat next to him, we just worked it out together, and I like it, that's why it's sparse, and the other thing is also we only had like a couple of days to get to the tail end of the project and we had to get the album released, there was a deadline, and that kind of pressure sort of helped, and I came up with the lyrical side and then he came up with chords and something just happened. If we'd actually thought beforehand and said, “OK, you know, Brian and I should sit down and write a song together”, I don't think it would've ever happened, because I mean, then all kinds of egos would've played havoc to start with, and “who does what?” This way we didn't have time to think about it, we just sort of went in there, if it didn't work we were gonna throw it out and it seemed to work and it was sort of quite strong and we sort of asked, “This should work very well as a tail-end of the album.” I did [write the lyrics]. That's the way it is. It does sound like Brian's things, this is more in-depth, I can come up with those too. I wouldn't like to say that I wrote it all - Brian helped, you know, he was there, but I remember that most of the lyrics on that song are mine, yes. But, I mean, Brian did help with the odd line here and there. I mean, if he wrote them I would say, yes.
I don’t much like the ‘It’s A Hard Life’ video. For me that’s too contrived, too dressed up.
We were doing something which we were conscious was very kind of Bohemian Rhapsody-esque, you know what I mean, and Freddie wanted me to do this little tail off back into the vocals, and I did something which kind of blends in, but the thing I would've liked to have done would've got in the way of the vocals.
I was never terribly fond of the [video] we did for It's a Hard Life. Freddie was dressed up as an amorous prawn. It was one of my favourite songs of his and I remember being terribly disappointed that he wanted to wear this costume, but he insisted on it. A good video can make all the difference. I remember loving R.E.M.'s Everybody Hurts, and I never really connected with them before that.
To my mind this is one of the most beautiful songs that Freddie ever wrote, it's straight from the heart, and he really opened up during the creation of it - I sat with him for hours and hours and hours just pouring over every word and trying to get the most out of it. It's a very revealing thing about how relationships are, and he was talking about his relationship, you know, but there's everybody relationship in there, whatever kind of relationship it is, so to me it's one of his loveliest songs, and on the face of it, I think I was mortified that he wanted to make this kind of video, because it's totally distracting obviously. In Freddie's mind, it's … I'm not gonna say a joke, but it's an ironical take… The odd thing is, it's not a joke for Freddie, because Freddie is a man who has everything: he has enormous worldwide success, he has money, he has everybody falling at his feet, but he's desperately unhappy in love, and so it's a joke within a joke, and I think, if you view it in this context, then it all starts to make sense.
I think we look more stupid in this video than any other artist has ever looked in a video. I actually love the record, but I really do hate this video.
An old Queen song of Freddie's which has actually probably never been performed live [sic] and, I have to tell you, it's a tricky one, it's amazing.
When we opened up the old book of Hard Life, I remembered that I must have retuned the guitar for the recording, to get those open string effects… I always liked the clang of open strings, and the fact that you can make them sustain while you're doing other things…
This is a video which we all kind of hated doing, I have to say, at the time, and it's for a song called It's a Hard Life - one of Freddie's most beautiful songs, I think, It's a Hard Life. It's about the pain of love, really, but Freddie chose to make a kind of spoof video… We got bored shitless. Roger and Deacy completely hated this whole thing and, I guess, with the benefit of hindsight, I think it actually was a good decision - we had an unwritten law that whoever wrote the song would decide the theme for the video, so Freddie wrote this song, so he got the choice, and we didn't like it at the time, but I kind of like it now, because I think it gets the message across quite well, in a sense.
I'm afraid to say it's been rather quiet lately as far as the group's concerned. Brian has been producing a young Scottish band called “Heavy Petting [sic]” in London and Munich with “Rheinholt” Mack. I visited the studio a couple of times and it sounds very promising. Freddie and I went to Montreal to meet Tony Richardson, who's making a film called Hotel New Hampshire. It's based on the novel by John Irving who also wrote The World According to Garp. Freddie is writing at the moment and we may do some recording for it later this year. If all goes well we return to Brazil this October and will hopefully play in Buenos Aires and Montevideo also!! We'll be meeting up with each other in the next couple of weeks to decide what to do with the rest of our lives!! Whatever it is I hope it's fulfilling for us all, and entertaining and enjoyable for you.
Freddie's composition Keep Passing The Open Windows was originally created for the film Hotel New Hampshire. Anyone who has read the book will remember that the song's title is a phrase of the dialogue which keeps cropping up. The film project had come about when the British film director Tony Richardson heard that the band was in Los Angeles. He approached Freddie and asked him if he would write some tracks for the film. Keep Passing was intended to be the title track of the, as yet unmade, film. After hearing the finished track, although he liked it, Richardson decided that it would be easier – perhaps cheaper? – to use already composed classical music. Cheaper? We were not amused. “I'm not going to waste this track. It's going on the album!”
That particular track, we sort of got down to talking about the relationship between machines and humans, you can hear the guitar player screaming in the background, getting demolished by a synthesiser, there's a lot in there. I half-wrote it. You can hear the real drums kick in half-way through Machines and demolish the track, and you can hear a synthesised voice and a real voice, and all that stuff, it's a little battle going there. The Machines track is this kind of experimental end of this album, which is probably why I like it, and I think, if anything, that encapsulates a direction which we might explore more because you have these two camps in music at the moment, and I think one of the interesting things which is going on in popular music is the sorting out the human element versus the new machine music. You have people in both areas writing good songs - there's no conflict there - but you have this very clear definition between these two groups, and it doesn't need to be that way. I think you need both, to be honest. There are two kinds of things – the business of painting a picture in the studio with a number of tracks, I think is equally interesting.
The solo album I've been working on has a hell of a lot of electronic drums on it. There's also a track on The Works in which we've illustrated that quite well, I think. It's called Machines. Basically, it starts off where everything's electronic – electronic drums, everything. And what you have is the human rock band sort of crashing in. What you wind up with is a battle between the two.
I enjoyed that. I wrote that one with Brian in fact. It's a subject that's been much sort of tried, but I mean it's a sort of obvious thing. Brian wanted to make it a battle between the human side by using the real drums and guitars, etc., and a totally synthetic side, the machines you know. The drum machines and the synthesizers and the Fairlights. So the thing is meant to be a battle between the two, with the idea of basically going back to humans.
Freddie and I both played on Man on the Prowl, but Fred said to me, “Why don't you take over later and play that rock ‘n' roll stuff. You do that better than me. Besides, they will all think it's me, darling!” I didn't care. I was being paid.
I couldn't remember what happened at the end of Man on the Prowl, it's something I listen to, in the course of a year, like probably no times at all. Interesting to hear it - it's so amazing to hear Freddie singing to beautifully. My god, he's really in the swing, and he's doing his Elvis impersonation in a sense but with a lot more besides, and it's beautifully performed, amazing, and there's some nice little rock ‘n' roll effects on it. Unfortunately the song, I guess, didn't quite make it. Nobody really, to my mind, has ever really noticed it that much, strangely, which shows it all comes down to songs really, whether you can sing them or not, whatever. What happened at the end of the song is: Freddie, by that time, didn't really think he was a good piano player, which is odd, isn't it? Because, actually, he was a very individual and unique piano player, but for that kind of rock ‘n' roll/scat playing, it wasn't his thing, so he got someone in to do it for him, which I think was Mike Moran [sic], pretty sure it was Mike Moran [sic], so Mike Moran [sic] sat down and played this thing. What happens in a situation like this is, you've already recorded the backing track, you've done some singing on it, and it was tape, you know, it's hard to remember tape these days, we all do things on hard disks or whatever, but in those days it was a piece of tape. So, when you've finished your backing track, normally, you would chop it out - in other words, you cut the beginning, you cut the end, you put some leader tape on the end, and that becomes your song. So, when you're doing the overdubs you hope that you've left enough space on the beginning and on the end to cover everything. In this case, the track went on and on and on and on, and eventually it runs out of steam, the backing track stops, but Mike Moran [sic] with his overdubbing is still going on, so he goes “dingy dingy dingy dingy dingy dingy ding”, and the tape runs out so you hear this very sharp cut-off because there ain't no tape, so that's what happened here. Roger actually loved this effect - he loved, like, “Cut the tape”, and I think we used it on a couple of occasions just to stop things as a way of ending a song. We had this thing where we thought fading out tracks - which was very much done in the sixties and seventies - was a bit of a copout. We didn't really like fade-outs and sometimes you can't come to the end of a song and give it a conclusion so cutting the tape is another way of doing it.
I quite like Radio Ga-Ga because it had a mood and a look and we used pieces of "Metropolis which was great.
I am going to reveal something, which many people don't know. If you listen to the record very carefully it doesn't actually say "Radio Ga-Ga"
All you hear is that it's actually "Radio Ca-Ca", which is French for shit.
I liked the title, and I wrote the lyric afterward. It happened in that order, which is a bit strange. The song is a bit mixed up as far as what I wanted to say. It deals with how important radio used to be, historically speaking, before television, and how important it was to me as a kid. It was the first place I heard rock'n'roll. I used to hear a lot of Dorris Day, but a few times each day, I'd also hear a Bill Haley record or an Elvis Presley song. Today it seems that video, the visual side of rock'n'roll, has become more important than the music itself - too much so, really. I mean, music is supposed to be an experience for the ears more than the eyes.
[giving a song to Queen which would have been perfect for a solo record] That sort of thing hasn't really affected me yet because I've only had two solo albums thus far. My output has never been that big with Queen. I've never had more than a couple of songs appear on any one album. I try to keep the more personal songs for myself, I suppose. "Radio Ga Ga" would definately have been on my own album if that's what I was doing at the time.
I wrote it in America actually in Los Angeles and I think.. and I had a young son and er er he just turned around one day and said "Radio Ca Ca" cause he ha is actually half French.
It's quite competitive, now, just within the band, fucking hell, before it's out to the public and is competitive with all the other bands around, it starts off being competitive within the group, because, I mean, there are four good writers, and you know, equally sort of adept at doing things. There are no passengers, especially now Roger's writing very well and so is John, because Brian and I used to be the principal writers, now I think we all write the same, so there's a good fight right at the start, and we just basically come out with our own ideas and present it to each other and just say, “OK, what do you think?” and then the fighting starts if you don't like it. I seem to participate more on, say, John's or Roger's tracks, they let me help them and suggest more things. Brian's got his own sort of writing ideas and they're very sort of strong to start with anyway, so I mean, I don't seem to be able to get into his ideas so much, but in a way that's quite good, I'd rather leave it to him. It doesn't mean I just stay out of it altogether, I let him sort of do a lot of it whereas in John's songs or Roger's songs, I mean, I sort of get in there at a quite early stage, they don't mind me sort of tearing it apart and then piecing it back together again. Sometimes I take the whole song over, like, er, I don't mind saying it, Radio Ga Ga, I just instantly felt that you could build that into a really good strong saleable commodity, and I think Roger was just thinking of it as just another track, so I virtually took it over, and I sent him on a… he went on a skiing holiday for about a week and came back, but it's basically his song, you know, he had the ideas altogether, I just felt that there was some construction elements in it that were wrong to start with and he just said, “OK, you do what you want.” He wanted [to have a hit] very badly and I think he deserves it. It's a big hit in Europe and places.
These days, I find it much easier to write melodically on keyboards because piano is more geared, I think, for songwriting, than any other instrument. The guitar is quite a difficult instrument, actually, when you're trying to compose melodically. You have to have all your chords together, and then you need something on top. With keyboards, you can write the whole song right there. So what I've been doing is using a sequencer or something, and keyboards to write material. I liked the title, and I wrote the lyric afterward. It happened in that order, which is a bit strange. The song is a bit mixed up as far as what I wanted to say. It deals with how important radio used to be, historically speaking, before television, and how important it was to me as a kid. It was the first place I heard rock ‘n' roll. I used to hear a lot of Doris Day, but a few times each day, I'd also hear a Bill Haley record or an Elvis Presley song. Today it seems that video, the visual side of rock ‘n' roll, has become more important than the music itself - too much so, really. I mean, music is supposed to be an experience for the ears more than the eyes.
I have a facility for writing music, but I don't want to know anything particularly technical - like what the chords are called. Even in Radio Ga Ga there are some very difficult chords - I don't know what they're called, but it doesn't matter… I'm a much better guitarist than I am a keyboard player, but now I find melodically it's much easier to write on keyboard. Radio Ga Ga was a completely keyboard written song. I defy anyone to write that on the guitar because you wouldn't find the chords – they wouldn't come naturally to any guitar player I know.
Once this basic structure was sorted out, Freddie would begin the whole process of assembling all the other necessary components to achieve the song. No overall vision of how the song would ultimately sound ever arose before the very basic skeleton had been assembled. So often, the end result would bear little resemblance to the original concept. A prime example of this was Radio Ga Ga which sounded to me when Roger played his initial tape more like the Ave Maria from Verdi's Otello – but that's to come. Incidentally, titles of tracks often changed between conception and fledging. Radio Ga Ga on one of the original cassette boxes is called Radio Ca Ca.
One of our first excursions into real sort of machine type things. We started off, Roger and I together, on this one, strangely enough, with sort of… you know, chucking some ideas around, but we actually split in the end and Roger's half became Radio Ga Ga and my half became Machines, Back to Humans. But it was an interesting time of us sort of blending our skills with the synthesiser world, I suppose.
Ah, the sound of the 80s, Radio Ga Ga. Yeah, this is another really… it was a sort of one of our first uses of sort of almost a techno type approach, hopefully with a bit of… a good melody in there, but it was very much a audience participation song and it has proved pretty popular. The technology at the time… I mean, it was actually fairly basic and now it's very basic actually, but it was effective and using arpeggiator on the fabulous Roland Jupiter 8. And it was actually called Radio Ca Ca, which is French for, French for something that comes out of your bottom. And my boy, my eldest boy, was… at the time was very young and half French and he just referred to radio as being “ca ca” and that was the idea. That was where it came from. And I don't think we ever actually changed it, that we do actually say that on the record and if you listen closely, it's still there!
I like Radio Ga Ga. It was a nice fusion of synthesisers and… what can I call it… epic pop.
I wouldn't really say anything was an accident, but I do remember spending quite a lot of time working on the chords for Radio Ga Ga, which are quite involved. I remember thinking, “That's a good chord sequence.” It took me a while to work it out again when I'd forgotten it. I'd say that's the closest thing to something like that. Radio Ga Ga was really more chordal than I'd been up ‘til then. I just wanted to be rhythmic and melodic.
When we made the record, then it was “all we hear is radio caca”, because Roger wrote it - d'you know what “caca” is? If you have any French friends, “caca” means “shit”, so Roger wrote it because his little boy was saying, “it's caca, it's caca”, because he'd heard some grown-ups talking, so it was called Radio Caca, but our record company said, “you cannot do this! It has to be Radio Ga Ga”, which is the later lyric, so we changed the title but we didn't change the record, so if you go back and listen to Radio Ga Ga, you'll hear “all we hear is radio caca.” Nobody knows this, except you!