Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Composer: Freddie Mercury
Single: October, 1979
Meter: 4/4 shuffle beat
Key: D-major with Dorian inflection
Form:

     Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge - Break |
           | Verse | Solo (Bridge' - Break) |
           | Verse | Verse + tag-extension (Outro)|

This song is probably the very last really big (No1) evergreen of the rockabilly style. This style had its prime back in the fifties, and also had a revival after Elvis Presley's death in 1977 (neo-rockabilly, the movie Grease (1978))
Freddie used to like rockabilly music while he lived in India (1958-). There he would perform many contemporary rock-and-roll hits, and later - mostly by his request - Queen played many RnR oldies, including Presley's "Jailhouse Rock". In 1978 Brian May even wrote an Elvis-like blues: "Dreamer's Ball" which would have a serious chance to hit the charts some twenty years before, but at the time it didn't get much airplay and was not released as single. One year later, though, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" was released as the first single from the upcoming album and reached No1 on the Billboard for the first time in the band's career. Strangely enough, if we take a look at the long list of Queen songs that failed to reach the top. A possible explanation is that those songs were not dance-oriented and were less repetitive, which provoked a slower reaction from the single-buyer audience.
This song must be Freddie's quickest written number: reportedly, it took him 5-10 minutes to write. Listening to the result, one wouldn't think this was the songwriter's first attempt in this music style; yet we can't find any other Freddie song prior to "Crazy Little Thing" being stylistically close to this one. Not bad for a first attempt, is it? BTW, the song "Don't Try Suicide" also has a section (Bridge) with rockabilly-touch. Four years later Freddie penned his last rockabilly song for Queen ("Man On The Prowl").

Mercury played the acoustic guitars both on the record and on stage. It's an easy song to perform, and we're going to see how simple it really is. The song in spite of its "three chord" flavor uses six to seven chords, all major. The melodic Dorian inflection results in a bluesy flavor.
The vocal arrangement sounds so perfect as if Queen have had a major routine writing rockabilly songs. John plays a boogee-woogee bass part - another delicious touch. Freddie's singing mimicks the King's style very well (no wonder many thought he was alive...).

Walkthrough

Intro
Simple but catchy guitar hook sets the key to D-major. No other instruments have entered yet.

| D(sus4) | - | - | - |
| I ...

The lone chord with sus4 vamping is reminiscent of the intro of We Will Rock You (BBC version).

Verse
It is twelve measures long; the phrasing is AAB. The five Verses result in the A phrase appearing ten times in the song - very unusual for Queen, but hardly unusual for the genre. Note the flat 3rd degree (F) in the lead vocal while the D chord contains F# (they don't appear simultaneously, though). Note the double plagal cadence (bVII > IV > I ) is definitely non-Elvis influence as it was not really used in the fifties.

/------------- 2x --------------\\
| D(sus4)| -    | G    | C   G |
| I      | -    | IV   |bVII IV|

| D   | Bb   C  | D   | -   |
| I   | bVI bVII| I   | -   |

The fragmentary syncopated lead vocal often stays in the upbeat-domain:

.4 .1 .2 .3 .4 .1  ("This Thing, called love")
 * *         * *

All the Verses feature handclaps (two in a measure). Second Verse adds antiphonal backing vocals. Third Verse adds solo guitar fills, again mostly antiphonal with the lead vocal. Fourth Verse has no chordal support, just the handclaps. The concept of such sections is not new in pop music (e.g. Middle Of The Road: Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep; Queen: Dragon Attack, Another One Bites The Dust, Dancer, I Want It All). This Verse repeats the lyrics of the previous one and adds the famous "ready Freddie" phrase. Last Verse has both solo guitar fills and backing vocals, and the lyrics of the first Verse are repeated. The last phrase of the Verse (four measures long) is repeated with the free variants of the title phrase backed with tight vocal harmonies. Fade out ends during the tenth iteration of title phrase.

Bridge - Break, Solo
The first Bridge starts with an upbeat and lasts for twelve measures. Measures 9-11 changes to triplets. For first listen this figure sounds like it started on the downbeat and had a 1/6 drop out at the end of its second measure:

1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3
* * *       * * *     *...

But it really goes like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3
  * * *       * * *     *...

The phrasing is 2+4+2+2+2. The lead vocal of the first phrase returns in the second phrase with different chords ( G>B instead of D>G ).

D:
| G   | -   | C    | G   |
| IV  | -   | bVII | IV  |

| Bb  | -   | E  A | F1  |
| bVI | -   |V/V V |bII  |

|(C)  |(G)  | E    | A   || D...
|     |     |V/V   | V   || I

Curiously the tonic is not present in the first Bridge. In the fifth measure along the Bb chord the bass walks down on a complete diatonic downward scale of Bb-major going in parallel fifth (omitting octaves) for three notes with the lead vocal. The lead vocal during measures 1-6 covers only three notes: D, E, F. If we add the A, B, C notes from measures 7-8, we can see (at least suspect) the Dorian-inflected key of D is still alive. Last measure features diatonic downward scale of D-major from A to D without the inflective notes.

The solo Bridge also starts with an upbeat (solo-guitar), but the first phrase goes with different chords:

D:
| Bb  | -   | D  G | D   |
| bVI | -   | I IV | I   |
...

Very similar harmonic situation to this first phrase can be found in the "I Only Want To Be With You (Bay City Rollers, 1976)"

Note the guitar solo uses both Bb (during the Bb chords) and B (elsewhere). Brian, except small variations, would alter the last notes of the guitar solo when playing it live.