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Composer: Freddie Mercury
Album: News Of The World (1977)
Meter: 2/4, shuffle beat (except intro)
| Intro I - II | A | A'-ext. | | B | Solo | | B | Solo (fade out)
Second half of Solo = instrumental last two phrases of the "A'-extension" section.
| Intro II | A | A'-ext. | | B | Solo | | B | Intro I |
This song was influenced rather by piano accompanied jazz standards than by blues songs. Blues influence is the "my baby left me" lyrics. The shuffle beat with 2/4 meter (the only Queen song in 2/4) could be influenced by both genre. While on the surface it sounds like a jazz standard type of song (foreshadowing the "Jazz" album?), the form is unusually novel for the genre which is dominated by AABA form. The chord progression makes spare use of the typical jazz dissonances (such as M9, m11, m9, m13, Mb13) but heavy use of diminished 7th chords, chromatic inner lines and bass lines. In this point of view "You Take My Breath Away" is a close forerunner. Stylistically the closest forerunner of Mercury's melancholy blues was the slow middle break of "... Leroy Brown" three years before.
The arrangement is economic (piano, brush played drums, bass) demonstrating the minimalistic trends of the post-Races period. The BBC version also features "jazz" guitar fills (another nice example of May's versatility - check out that clarinet-mimicking fill in the solo).
The chromatic piano fills between the chords are also jazz influences. The use of the dominant and the non-inverted tonic chord is restricted to the beginning/end of the sections. Note the major-to-minor chord changes in descending chromatic context: I > i, IV > iv, V > v. The second one is familiar in contrast with the other two (here in second inversion). The homekey is Eb Major, one of those piano-friendly keys.
The form cannot really be interpreted as a sequence of textbook sections (ie: Verse, Chorus, Bridge). Some features:
- The title phrase closes the B section.
- The A-B transition is so smooth that it doesn't sound like a real section transition (note: no tonic is used there).
- long non-repetitive sections.
- Except three (2+1) Mercury-esque "import" phrases there is no "crosstalk" between the two halves of the song.
- the BBC version starts with Intro II and closes with the Intro I' figure.
The intro consists of two subsections, first of which is instrumental. The intro is performed ad-libitum with free-phrasing, it's hard to point out where the measures start.
It consists of two phrases:
| Eb5,7, Eb | | I | | ... Eb | | I |
We have here mostly pentatonic figures with trills and heavy use of sustain pedal.
Following a two-beat "harmonic upbeat" the lead vocal enters after the downbeat. The music is still ad-libitum, but the measures can be outlined:
... Eb Bb || Cm | - | Gm | - | ... I V || vi | - | iii | - | | D/F# | Fm6no5 | Gdim7 | Ghalfdim | | V/iii| ii | iiidim | - | | Fm | - | Abm | - | | ii | - | iv | - | | Eb/G | Ebm/Gb |Bb7sus4/F| Bb1 | | I | i | "ii" | V |
Some harmony-related points of interest:
A jazzy dim7 > halfdim chord change in m.7-8.
Chromatic descending bassline in m.13-15
Double pedal notes on top (E-flat, Ab-flat) in m.13-15.
Chromatic borrowed chords: i, iv.
Measure 14 features an octave jump up and back (shades of the "Leroy Brown" bridge). Octave jumps also appear in the piano accompaniment.
Fermata ending in m.16. on the dominant chord resolved for the downbeat of the next section.
"A" - "So come and..."
Shuffle beat mode on, drums and bass and (guitar in the BBC version) enter.
| Eb | - | G | 7 | | I | - | V/vi| - | | Ab(6)| Abm | Eb6/G| Gbdim7 | | IV | iv | I | biiidim| 1st ending: | Fm7 | - |Ddim7 | - | | ii | |"V" | - | 2nd ending + extension: | Fm7 | - |Gbdim7 | - | | ii | |biiidim| - | | Eb/G | Edim7 | Fm | -7 | | I | biidim| ii | - |
Both I > III > IV and IV > iv are jazz-favoured cliches.
Chromatic lines: m.9-13, m.13-15, m.15-16.
I/3 > biiidim > ii7 progression also used in "You Take My Breath Away".
No dominant chord used here except a surrogate dominant Ddim7 in m.11. That Ddim7 chord is added a blue Gb in the lead vocal.
"B" - "I'm causing..."
the first phrase is a close variant of the third phrase of Intro II. (where we have Fm instead of Ab - its relative minor chord). Last phrase is the title phrase with step wise ascending bassline (2,b3,4,5).
| Ab | - | Abm | - | | IV | - | iv | - | /--- 2x ----\\ | Gm7 | Cm | | iii | vi | | Fm7 | - | Gbdim7 | - | | ii | - | iiidim | | | Fm7 Gbdim | Abm7 Bb7| Eb | - | | ii iiidim| iv V | I | - |
Mercury rarely used the piano as solo lead instrument. In spite the built in melodic line this section is not a perfect example for a piano solo as in the BBC version it serves as mere backing for the guitar solo.
| Eb | Bb/D | Bbm/Db | C | | I | V | v | V/ii | | Ab | Abm | Eb/G |Gbdim7| | IV | iv | I |iiidim| | Fm7 | - | Gbdim7 | - | | ii | - | iiidim | - | | Eb/G | Edim7| Fm | -7 | | I |biidim| ii | - |
Among the chromatic lines we have cromatic bass progression in m.1-4, m.7-13.
Last phrase is identical with the last phrase of the A'-ext section providing a smooth transition to section B.