Read all 4 events for 23 August at diary.QueenSongs.info
Composer: Brian May
Album: A Day At The Races (1976), 1st track
Single: 4 March, 1977
Meter: 4/4, shuffle beat
Key: bluesy A major
Intro (AAA) | Verse (AABA') | Chorus |A| | Verse | Chorus |A| Solo 1 (AABAA) | | Verse' (B'A") | Chorus |A| Solo 2 (AAAD) |
Queen have reminded their crowd time to time that they are basicly a hard rock band. Mr. May often took this job by writing simple guitar songs like this one (see also Fat Bottomed Girls, Put Out The Fire, Tear It Up,...).
The songform is simple: ballad-modell added two instrumental solo sections one of which closes the songs. The songform is not repetitive on the level of sections, but it is on the level of phrases: the four measure main riff is repeated 19 times (including variants), the one measure title tune twelve times over the song, that contributes much to the catchines of the song.
Brian described the main riff of the song to be Rory Gallagher-esque. The tune and the guitar riffs are heavily inflected with bluesy flat thirds and flat sevenths. Melodic major thirds are also used. The lead vocal is often talking-bluesy (see also "See What A Fool...", "Modern Times...", much later "Stealin'").
Brian composed a May-estic overture for the album (rather than for this song) that shares the 1st track with this song. I'm going to discuss it separated from this song, after it. As for this song: the analysis will be short as the song is simple.
It's mainly the main riff played three times. Drums, bass, and Freddie's non-lyrical vocals enter in the second cycle. The rhythm section picks up the regular beat for the third cycle.
The form of the riff is AAAAAAB, with speeded up harmonic rhythm in the B figure. The riff uses melodic flat 3rd. The bass strictly follows the guitar most of the time in the song.
It's square 16 measures long with AABA' (4+4+4+4) phrasing, melodically AA'BC where the C phrase is instrumental. The lead tune is in mixed mode the variants of the verse make use of both major and minor third and sevenths, and many parts of the tune are speech-like, melodically underdeveloped. The lead tune in the third phrase uses major 3rd degree (C#). The fourth phrase is instrumental.
/--------------- 2x --------------\\ | A5 (m3) | - | - | G D C G/B | | I | - | - |bVII ... | | E5 (5>6)| - | - | - G | | V | - | - | - bVII| | A5 (m3) | - | - | A5 B1 C1 C#1 | | I | - | - | - |
In the second Verse changes the tune of the second phrase and uses more of those speech-like singings. The third phrase is alsa majorly tune-altered (also some triplets used) and also closes talking-like. In the fourth phrase the lead vocal degrades to speech. The last half-Verse is reduced to two phrases keeping the third one with altered lead tune and chord progression, and the instrumental fourth phrase again drastically altered in a rhythmically challenging way and also slide guitar is added. "Rhythmically challenging" means here pre-downbeat accent and half-measure long triplet.
| E5 (5>6) | - D/A | E5 (5>6) | - G (add9) | | V | - IV | V | bVII | slide guitar chords: | A | - | C | rhythm guitar : | A5 | - | A5 | A5 B1 C1 C#1| | I | - | I + bIII | I... |
Second Verse changes the bassline during the third phrase
It's eight measure in length with square 4+4 phrasing. The melodic subphrasing is ABAC where the "A" subphrase shows a duplicated sub-subphrasing (ie. the title line is sung twice). The last syllable falls on the downbeat of the following instrumental connector section.
| D (5>6>5, 4>3) | - | A5 G D | A5 | | IV | - | I | - | | D (5>6>5, 4>3) | - | G D | C G/B | | IV | - |bVII IV|bIII bVII|
The title line is unison multitracked (mostly Brian) in the first and second Chorus, harmony-multitracked in the last Chorus. The C subphrase is also sung in harmony.
John alters the bass-line for the title phrases in the last chorus, similarly like we saw in the verses.
This is the main riff. The first connector rests the drums and the bass. This temporarly stripped down accompaniment results in extra portion power when the resting instruments join in again. Similar effect is used in those acapella sections of Crazy Little Thing and Dancer.
The last connector has a disorienting drumbeat.
It's a blues-rock style guitar solo. The phrasing of the backing track is AABAA, can be treated as a variant of the Verse. Brian swithches to bottle-neck slide after the third phrase, and he plays more lead fills during the following Verse' and Chorus section.
Note the 2+2+2 (hemiola) figures in the second phrase, and the Brian-esque guitar noises before the solo starts.
The bassline is walking during phrase "B", similarly as in the second verse, but this time also some descending figures are played.
Solo 2, Outro
The outro-solo is similar in style to the beginning of the Solo 1, the phrasing this time AAAD. The hemiola figures appear here again. The song closes with plagal cadence (ie. IV > I) with fermata chords. Roger closes the song with slow down drum rolls on toms followed by rolls on cymbal, John plays some pentatonic figures on bass. Classic rock ending.
composer: Brian May
key: d minor, G mixolydian,
| Part A | Part B |
"Part A" is a multitrack rendition of the originally non-multitrack main guitar riff of White Man. The track opens with a chinese gong. The last time we heard it it was the ending of Bohemian Rhapsody. (Shades of the "...Seaside" tune used both at the end of Queen II and at the beginning of the "Sheer Heart Attack" album).
While the White Man riff is originally in 4/4 (with 3+5 accents) here in this intro some notes are sustained longer. The accents outline roughly a 3+6 + 3+5 + 3+5 + 3+4+2 + 6+2 pattern of quavers. Gong hits mark some of the downbeats. The harmony makes use of parallel fifths and octaves, not exclusively though.
| D5 | - C5 | D5 | - D4| | i | - VII| i | - | | C5 | - B5| C5 G5 | F5 D5 | D5 | - F5 D5 | G5 | VII | - VI|VII iv | III i | i | - III i | iv G: V | I
"Part B" is the musical equivalent of the Escher painting of perpetual staircases (Brian also used this association). The multitrack harmony (arranged for reversed guitars) consists of pedal bass (on G) and ever ascending triadic harmony. It recurs into itself without long-term ascending. I don't know about any precedents for this clever idea applied in music. Brian May applied very similar but non-pepetual harmonies in My Fairy King. The harmony makes use of the entire mixolydian scale, creating periodic vertical harmonies: I > ii > iiidim > IV > v > vi > bVII > I . The 1 2 1 - 2 3 2 - ... motif carried away in "Part B" is a curious mirror image of the subtle 8 7 8 - 7 6 7 motif in "Part A".
The meter is somewhere halfway between 3/4 and 4/4 and the individual parts are not perfectly synchronised. The harmonies are faded in and also faded out briefly.
"Part B" is reprised at the end of the album faded in and out at the end of Teo Torriate.