Read all 5 events for 21 January at diary.QueenSongs.info
Composer: Brian May
Key: modally inflected D Major
intro | Chorus - tag | Chorus | connector | | Verse | Chorus' | Solo 1 | | Verse | Chorus" | connector'| | Solo 2 (Verse')| Chorus"'| "oooh" | Outro
Headlong is a relatively straightahead sounding hard rock song, a potential stage number. With five choruses and the repetitios inner phrasing "Headlong" counts as one of the most repetitive Queen song. The clever developments on the choruses preventing them sounding boringly repetitive.
The homekey is modally inflected D Major. Both Major and minor sevenths and thirds make prominent use in the lead melody, the minor thirds are turning the harmony into sounding occassionally in minor (or at least dorian) mode. The rhythm guitar plays powerchords most of the time. They are tuned to drop-D, the first time on a Queen record since "Fat Bottomed Girls".
The rhythm makes frequent use of groups of three type syncopation.
The six bar intro opens the song with 1/16 pulsing drums backing the single D-note on piano that provides pedal bass throughout the intro. For the second phrase enters rhythm guitar with arch-shaped powerchord progression. Additional guitar plays treble pedal point.
| D1 | D1 | | F5/D | - G5 | | D5 | - |
The choruses vary much cycle by cycle. The first chorus has a stripped down arrangement with no chordal backing and harmony vocals. This first chorus is extended with two extra tag phrases with pumping guitar powerchords added. The phrasing is 2+2+3+1 AAA'i, followed by the tags with somewhat blurred 4+4 phrasing. Most of the phrases start with 2/4 upbeat.
The first chorus is directly followed by the second with an already more complete arrangement but with some motifs that are absent in the other choruses. Take for example the bVII chord in m1 (omitted in the harmony-table).
| G D | D5 | | IV I | I | | G D | D5 | | IV I | I | | G D | D5 | | IV I | I | | C5 | G5 | | bVII | IV | | D1 | D1 | | I | I |
The third chorus starts without vocal pickup. Brian May plays individual rhythm guitar motifs in m2 and m4. The third phrase is extended to 3 measure and the last phrase has bIII chord instead of bVII.
m.5 | G D | D5 | G D | | IV I | I | IV I | | F5 | G | D(1) | - | | bIII | IV | I | - |
In the fourth chorus the lead vocal leaves m2 empthy. The third phrase rhythmically changes the IV > I hook and the vocal phrase is extended to four measures instead of three. The melodic content of that extra one measure comes from the 3+3 syncopated "nothing you nothing you..." (6/8) and the "...at all" (2/8) words. The rhythm guitar work in m6-8 roughly combines the two connectors respectively (transcribed below).
The fifth chorus combines the second and the third one with two almost staccatto powerchords in m7-8:
m5 | G D | D5 | | IV I | I | | F5 | G | D(1) | - | | bIII | IV | I | - |
This last chorus is followed by a four bar "oooh" vocal harmony that varies the harmony of m.7-10:
| G | F | D | D5 | | IV | bIII | I | - |
The 16 measure verse starts with a repeated pair of phrases (2*(2+2)) with strong bluesy flavor due to the blue thirds and flat sevents (dorian inflection). The minor thirds turn the tonic power chord into minor. The second half of the phrases are sung in harmony.
/------------ 2x -----------\\ | Dm | - | C | G7/B | D: i | - | bVII | IV |
The next two phrases are dominated by the dominant chord re-establishing the major-mode feel. Brian uses here his signature A > D/A lick.
/----- 2x ----\\ | A | D/A | | V | "V" |
In the last vocal phrase the lead vocal follows the power chord progression.
| A5 | G5 | F#5 | A5 | | V | IV |"iii" | V |
Instead of directly resolving to the tonic and the chorus we have an instrumental connector phrase.
| G5 F5 D5 | (D5) | | IV bIII I | - |
We have three connector sections the last one built into the outro. The first connector is six measures long and starts with two measures of 3+3+... groupings. More precisely transcribed:
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 : 4/4 234234231234234234 : root movement of powerchords (with flat-thirds).
the second connector also starts with 3+3 syncopated riffs. Note the two rhythmical "drop-outs" don't affect the 3/8 cycle time:
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 34 3443 434434434434434434434311
The first solo is only 4 measure long backed by pulsing palm-muted tonic powerchord throughout.
The backing track of the second solo is an instrumental variant of that of the verse. The changes start from m9:
m9: /----- 3x ----\\ | A | G | | V | IV | | G | F#5 | A | | IV |"iii" | V |
The same lead guitar track is effected differently for either stereo channels resulting in doubletracked feel.
m1-2 : pulsing tonic plus a simple motif
m3-4 : a variant of the motif is repeated while the rhythm guitar introduces a riff.
m5-8 : a variant of this riff is played twice
m9 : "headlong" vocal harmonies mimicking the first two chord of the riff. The phrase
m10-13 : a variant of the connector sections is played.
m14- : a final "headlong" vocal is sung this time syncopated and prolonged. This final "headlong" is played backwards four times. Guitar feedback and tremolo-bar dive closes the song.