Read all 6 events for 15 December at diary.QueenSongs.info
Composer: Brian May
Album: A Night At The Opera (1975), 10th track
Meter: 4/4, weak shuffle beat
Key: F# Major
Intro | Verse (AAB) | Chorus (CCB) | | Verse | Chorus | Intro'| Bridge | | Verse | Solo 1 (Verse) | B' | ending of Bridge (slow) | | Verse'| Solo 2 ( Verse x 2) | Intro" | Trill |
The bands originality and craftmanship shined through even in this oldies-influenced (by the seventies standard) song with story-telling lyrics (see also "... Sidewalk"). The vocal harmonies are influenced by the swing-era, the orchestration of the Outro is arranged in the vein of dixiland jazz bands. None of the guitar heroes of Brian May's generation is expected to have been able to equal what he did in this song: doing an authentic jazz band arrangement, not to mention to record it with multitracked guitars. This was partly becasue no many of those guitar heroes wanted to write an old-fashioned arrangement like this, partly becasue they lacked the neccesary preparation in contrast with Brian May who sat down and listened to some big band arrangements closely. The result may sound a bit "generic" as so many dixiland arrangements. In terms of sophistication some passages go well beyond the routin-work of a swing-era arranger, and remain one of Brian's finest moments. Even the generic (authentic if you like it better) passages sound original due to the instrumentation: all by guitars. Brian used unique tone-settings to achive clarinet-like and slide trombone like sound (with the lots of slided notes), and he played his instrument very finely, and recorded some passages note by note (!). The chromatic content of the big-band orchestarions is high.
The main instrument of the backing track is a ukelele - not to confuse with the ukelele banjo, that he has been playing since middle fifties, but did not used in the studio until "...Leroy Brown" (1974).
The key is F# Major that is relatively rare in the Queen songbook (too many black keys on piano, too many non-open chords on guitar).
The form is more subtle than those of the influencial oldies, on the otherhand it is relatively repetitive. We have seven (!) verses three of which is instrumental, the first of which partly imitates the Verse tune. We have only two choruses, but these have mainly the same chord progression as the Verses, and their B phrase has mainly the same lead melody as well. Whe have two bridges, the second of which is a slow down version of the second half of the first Bridge.
"Generic" detail is the square phrasing throughout the song (broken by just a few extra measures dropped in), and also the melody is quite simple with occasionally swinging syncopations. Except these syncopations, there is just a few places with more or less "convincing" shuffle beat (eg. the Solo 2).
It's a hook that appears in three times in the song: as an intro, after the second Verse-Chorus couplet, and as an outro.
F#: | B | D7+8 | C#7(6>5)| F# | | IV | bVI | V | I |
The second chord is a combination of an Adim7 chord build-up and a D bass note. Note D is not a part of the Adim7 chord. The song starts with a non-tonic chord but the chord progression closes with a strong V>I cadence. This chord progression is a harmonic rhythm altered variant of the B pharse of both the Verse and Chorus sections.
The intro is four measure long. The first two chords are arranged as a Mantovani-influenced four-part guitar harmony build-up. The rest of the Intro is big band style arrangement for four guitars three of which are moving parallel (the middle one hardly can be heard, but check out the other repeats) one plays a kind of counter bassline in slide-trombone style.
The second incarnation of this hook changes the downbeat stop in the last measure to a triadic rising melody.
The Outro is identical with the Intro until the beat "1" of the fourth measure. It continues in similar style for an extra measure. While the intro stops with a drum-slash on the 2nd beat in measure 4, the outro stops with a single high pitched guitar note on the 2nd beat in measure 5.
It's twelve measures long with square 4+4+4 AAB phrasing. Rhythmically the A phrases get varied in symphaty with the lyrics, melodically they are extremly tight-ranged between two neighbour notes. Rhythmically B phrases are identical (or very similar when varied) to the A phrases.
F#: /------------ 2x -----------\\ | C#7 | - | F# | - | | V | - | I | - | bass : F# E | B C | C#... chords: F# | B D7 | C#7 | F# | | I | IV bVI| V | I |
The first Verse-Chorus couplet is accompanied with only ukelele except one single beat on the low tom (measure 8, beat 4).
The second Verse adds harmony vocals below the lead one, bass, drums, and lovely clarinet-like lead guitar fills. Dig those little vibratos ("...number FOUR").
The third Verse lacks the guitar fills, adds tight "mmm" vocal harmonies with chromatic inner voices. Note the chromatic bass licks that foreshadow some guitar licks in the Outro.
The last Verse: adds again the guitar fills, varies the lead melody in the second phrase. In contrast with the second verse this time only the B phrase harmonizes the lead vocal, above the lead part. This phrase is added an extra measure at its middle that echoes the last word of measure 11.
I terms of chord progression and phrasing it's mainly the same as the Verse. The lead vocal is three-part harmonized in the B phrase, in contrast with the first Verse where only the B phrase is single-parted. The most exotic passage of the harmonies is in measure 10 with double cross-relation and a melodic flat 3rd (A), that is surrounded by major thirds (Ais).
"Call your own" (F#) D# D (D#) B C (A#) F# A
Buried in the chord progression (not really carried by single harmony parts) of measure 9-10 we can find a contrary motion counter part cliche, that is familiar from "When The Saint's Go Marching In" (see also in "Dreamers Ball"), but the use of the bVI chord makes it more closer to "I Saw Her Standing There".
treble: F# E D# D "bass": F# A# B C F#: I I7 IV bVI
Between the Verse and Chorus the arrangement changes: doubletracked vocals in the C phrase, three part harmonies in the B phrase.
Between the second Verse and Chours the drum pattern changes, wah-pedal guitar harmonies added with chromatic motif in measure 5-6. Paralleling with the vocal harmonies Brian added mellow-toned volume-controlled guitar harmonies with changing panning.
It's square 16 measures long with 4+4+4+4 ABCD phrasing. Rhythmically the second phrase parallels the first. The tonic does not get too much air-time, as it is usual in bridges. We have a root progression in fourths (fifths) in the first two phrases, a line cliche in the third phrase, a borrowed minor subdominant chord and a deceptive cadence in the fourth phrase, the latter causing a modulation-like effect at the transition to the next section (Verse). Tad unusual is that the line cliche starts on the seventh instead of the root.
F#: | D#7 | - | G#m | - | | V/ii | - | ii | - | | C#7 | - | F# | D#7 | | V | - | I | V/ii | | G#m7 | 6 | 5+ |(5) | | ii | - | - | - | | Bm/D | Bsus2 Bm | A# | - | | iv | - | V/vi | - |
Note the 1/16 (mathematically 1/12) bass figures frequently used in this section. The guitar orchestration of the Bridge is stunning.
First phrase: simple parallel three-part harmony, hocket-like arranged.
Second phrase: this harmony block sounds the most complex of all. The measures 4-5 add another group of guitars creating tight harmony. The measures 6-7 have a lovely ascending harmony hocket, where the guide-line is not easy to identify. The parallel harmonies use many chromatic notes.
The guitar harmonies provide chordal backing during the last two phrases.
There is a psychadelic slowed down reprise of the second half of the Bridge. The sustaining guitars in harmony creat chordal backing with an unique sound. No drums and bass played here. The section ends with two chromatic scale fragments on guitar mimicking the sound of a flute remarkably close. This tone-mimicking becomes one of Brian May's favourite trick, but not exclusivel just his: in "Seaside Rendezvous" they imitated trumphet and woodwind with mouth. This way they saved the credit of performance and scoring the orchestrations exclusively for themself, instead of hired musicians and a professional guest arranger. The other way they would maybe think this arrangement was beyond the band's abilities, similarly to the waste majority of other classic rock bands.
Solo 1, "B":
It's mainly the Verse arranged for some ukeleles. The bass and drums let the ukeleles go "solo" for measures 9-10 where the chords are tad altered : F# > C#m/Ab > B/F# > D7/F#.
The section is followed by the Verse's "B" phrase. It is again sophisticatedly orchestrated, and concludes into a dreamily flanged passage with a harmonized trill. That three-parted trill-fill returns in "solo" between "Good Company" and "Bohemian Rhapsody", according to the CD it belongs to the latter song.
It's mainly a dixiland arrangement scored for three guitars (and the rhythm section: ukelele, bass and drums). The three lead instruments alternate between playing in harmony (top two, bottom two, all tree of them), and playing individual counter melodies. Characteristic motifs: quick four-note chromatic runs, "slide-trombone" slides, triadic motifs, and of course lots of non-typical motifs beside these.