Who Needs You

Composer: John Deacon
Album: News Of The World (1977), 9th track
Meter: 4/4
Key: A Major, E Major,

 | Intro | Verse | Solo 1 | Bridge I - II |
 | Solo 2 (Verse')| Bridge |
         | Verse | Outro |

"Who Needs You" is one of those surprising songs that Queen pulled out without seemingly any stylistic presage. Paradoxically this was not surprising to do by them. Most of hard rock and progressive rock bands who took themself so serious, would never write a "light" song like this. Note that this song musically is not THAT lightweight, not routinly written and arranged. The sections are long and the lead melody material is enough for two other routin-wise written "caribic" songs. We have nice chords, nice harmonies, tricky rhythms, some tricky lead guitar licks. Freddie's lead vocal features many ornaments and momentary changes to falsetto.
This very atypical Queen song is one of the most typical Deacon song in terms of his songwriting trademarks:
- the latin-influenced 3+3+2 beat as in "In Only Seven Days" (1978).
- fingerpicking guitars as in "In Only Seven Days" and "Spread Your Wings" (1977).
- the IV > vi > V/V(sus4) > IV > V progression in the key of E major as in "I Want To Break Free" (1984).
- long sections with some double phrases as in "Spread Your Wings".
- Songform with vocal sections not repeated more than twice.
- G#halfdim chord as in "Spread Your Wings" albeit in different key.
- Short solo section with individual chord progression as in Spread Your Wings.
- the melodic motif at the very end of the song/outro is mainly identical with the title-motif of "You And I" (1976).
It's a remarkably long list of cross-references including some interesting points.

The main instrument of the accompaniment is acoustic guitar, more accurately 2-3 of them played with lots of fret noises. One of these plays "spanish" (in modal aspect it's not flamenco-esque) lead fills with many long scalar runs, four string arpeggios occassionally in irregular rhythms. The fingerpicking style guitar was a relatively short-lived (1977-78) trademark of Deacon's songwriting, but we know he would play fingerpicking guitar (eg. "Classical Gas") back in the sixties. Similarly to "... Seven Days" the guitars here played some staccatto chords creating that latin beat. The rhythm section consists of maracas and cowbell, hi-hats (mostly closed). The arrangement is enriched with both vocal and guitar three part harmonies that never overlap eachother. The latter creates a mellow pedal-steel-guitar-like tone which suits the song perfectly. The non-inclusion of bass guitar shows nicely Deacon's "less is more" aesthetics that in part also characterizes the whole album compared to "...Races". The asymmetric panning of the lead vocal and the lead guitar throughout the song is an unprecedented feature in the Queen catalogue (shades of mid-to-late sixties recordings).


It's a two measure guitar hook closed with a "caribic" drum figure. This guitar fill is recycled at the end of every Verses. At the end of the solo and the final Verse it is arranged for antiphonal guitars and reduced to one measure (the second measure of the original hook consist of only one note). The final hook is also harmonised. The percussion instruments rest during all three

It's long 18 measure section with 4+4+2+2+2+4 AABBCD where the "C" phrase has close chord progression to "B".

/----------- 2x ------------\\
| A    | D  A | D  A | B7 E |
| I    | IV V | IV A |V/V V |

/------- 2x --------\\
| D G#haldim | A    |
| IV  "V"    | I    |

| D G#halfdim | A F#m  |
| IV  "V"     | I vi   |

| Bm7 E7| C#m7 F#7| Bm7 E7 | A    |   (both E7 and F#7 chords omit 5th degree)
| ii  V | iii V/ii| ii  V  | I    |

The lead melody of the "A" phrases make heavy use of both pre-downbeat and off-beat accents reinforced by the guitar accompaniment:

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
* **** * ***** * ***** * * *

The rest of the section uses subtle 3+3+2 beat. Freddie on cowbell repeats the same simple two measure pattern, and shakes 1/8 beats with the maracas.
The harmony consists of simple chords, including many sevenths usually combined with chord changes in fifths. Note the five-pieced chain of fifths that closes the section.
The second Verse is instrumental, and omits both 4th and 5th phrases. The guitar solo is played very nicely with some tricky arpeggios. Its tune is just vaguely reminiscent of the lead vocal's.
The last Verse alters the lead tune slightly here and there, including some speech-like sung sub-phrases. Also some lead guitar fills are added, and guitar harmonies in the last phrase.

Solo 1:
It's four measure long connector, and played only once in the song. The second Verse-Bridge couplet is not intervened with a connector.

| A    | E    | A    | E    |
| I    | V    | I    | V    |
                    E: I    |

The rhythm track is identical to the Verse's. Freddie adds some spanish words and "silly" phonemes to underscore the spanish and "silly" feel of the song.

It's square 16 measures long with 4+4+4+4 AA'BC. Inter-section contrast is created by the key change (A > E), and the added harmonies. Contrast between the subsections (ie. Bridge I and II) is created by the double speed maracas shaking and that the guitar harmonies change to vocal harmonies for the second subsection. Lead guitar fills also added in the second subsection, the last of which is the upbeat of the main guitar solo.

/---------------- 2x ---------------\\
| B/D# A/C# | E    | F#m G#m | E    |
|  V   IV   | I    | ii  iii | I    |

| C#m  | A    | C#m7 | F# (4>3) |
| vi   | IV   | vi   | V/V      |

| A    | B    | E    | E7   |
| IV   | V    | I    |V/IV  |
                   A:| V    |

Look, there we have the "Breakfree" progression (from its Bridge section) in measures 10-14.
The guitar harmonies are mostly parallel with consonant vertical chords. The vocal harmonies have more dissonances and chromatic steps.
Back to the guitar harmonies: note how the right channel track changes its position from bottom to top top then again bottom.
The second Bridge demonstrates nicely the band's approach to vary the sections both in tune and in arrangement. This time they change the lead tune, both guitar and vocal harmonies with altered guide-voices compared to the first Bridge (compare the two Bridges harmony block by harmony block!). Note the echo-like vocal harmonies in measure 13-14. Another change in the arrangement are the lovely guitar harmonics played throughout the first two phrases.

It is four measure long, instrumental and ends with a fermata on the tonic. The first half of the intro makes this section related with the Solo 1 connector section, the second half is built around the "You And I" motif in the bass. It is mirrored in the top voice which arrives in an added sixth (on acoustic guitar - hard to hear).

     top voice: D E    F#    F#
| A    | E    | D C#m7 Bm7 | Aadd6 |
| I    | V    | IV (iii ii)| I     |

It is scored for two acoustic rhythm guitars, lead guitar, three part guitar harmonies. The persussion closes with high-frequency maracas shaking.