In The Lap Of The Gods... Revisited

Composer: Freddie Mercury
Album: Sheer Heart Attack, 12th track
Key: D Major
Meter: 3/4, shuffle beat
Form:

      Verse | Chorus |
      Verse'| Chorus | Chorus | Chorus |
            | Chorus | Chorus | Chorus |

Many think that this song could have been a succesfull single because it's catchy (and repetitive) enough. Sheer Heart Attack was the album where Mercury explored his talent for popular songwriting, coincidenting his experiments with shuffle beat ("Killer Queen" and this song).
The form starts cyclic (ballad form) and ends with long repetititions (six times in a row) of the singalong chorus. Major influences for the latter must be "Hey Jude" (Beatles) and "All The Young Dudes" (Mott The Hopple), and also "Father To Son" from the previous album. Queen never again wrote a repetititive song like this. For the live versions they shortened the ending to only 3-4 choruses.
The only twist in the simple form is the ambiguity of where do the title phrase belong. Some choices:
1) to the end of the Verse: it sounds so at the Verse-chorus transitions.
2) to the beginning of the chorus:
pro: the closing sequence of choruses suggests that this phrase belongs to the chorus. The absence of this phrase at the end of both first and last choruses suggests that it does not belong to the END of the chorus.
The guitar motif at its end is parallelled in the "wo-wo-wo-la-la-la" phrase.
3) to the end of the chorus: the "wo-wo-wo" phrase starting on the downbeat has a very strong "beginning of the chorus" feel.

In my interpretation the title phrase belongs to both Verse and the end of the Chorus.

The Verses are arranged for piano as main instrument while the choruses are dominated by guitars and more intense drumwork. This formula was used also in Brian May's power ballads on the Game album. The Wembley version is arranged for guitar throughout with a brief intro. Earlier live versions feature piano intro.
The D-Major tonality is clear thoughout with the ii chord getting much emphasys by getting preceded by secondary dominants and the way how the chorus opens with Em. My quest for musical crossreferences with the other "In The Lap Of The Gods" from the same album was without result.


Walkthrough

 

Verse
The Verse is 23 measures long with square harmonic phrasing except the last three measure title phrase. The song starts with vocal pick up. Beside some surrogate dominants we have only one dominant chord in m.23 where the doubletracked rhythm guitars enter introducing the chorus. The bass line often walks away from the root of the actual chord for example a chromatic bass progression in the fourth phrase. The first two phrase prolonges the tonic chord with sus4 added in the even numbered measures.

D:

| D   |sus4 | -   | sus4|
| I   | -   | -   | -   |

| D   |sus4 | -   | sus4|
| I   | -   | -   | -   |

| Em  | -   |/D#  | *   |   * : D#aug > C/D# > D#aug
| ii  | -   |V/ii | -   |

| Em  |/D1  |/C# *| -   |   * : Em/C# is mainly C#-halfdim chord nice to hear in the Wembley version.
| ii  |     |"V"  | -   |

| D   |/C#  |/C   | B   |
| I   |     |     |V/ii |

| Em  |   D | A   | -   |
| ii  |   I | V   | -   |

| D   |/C /D| B1  |
| I   |     | V/ii|

The melodic phrasing is AABB'.. after the fourth phrase the melodic phrases are covering more harmonic phrases. The "B" phrase is parallelling the A while the B' phrase alters the B phrase similarly to the opening phrases of "Killer Queen" (XZXY subphrasing).
There is a very nice interplay to observe between lyrics (BUT sentences) and music.

"It's soo easy" - high
"But I can't do it" - low

"So risky" - high
"But I goitta chance it" - low

"So funny" - high
"But there's nothing to laugh about" - low


Both the bassline and the lead melody is spikey. For the live version Freddie often omitted the octave jumps up as he could not hit those high notes.
The second Verse adds a stunning additional three part harmony vocal block with straight beat (ie. not shuffle beat), which creating similar effect as triplets in a non-shuffle beat environement. This block was omitted in the live versions.

Chorus
Similarly to the Verse the chorus also has square phrasing except the last three-measure phrase. The harmony is very much counterpoint driven between lead vocal and bass. We have many incomplete chords in the chart.

| G    | F# G F# | E   | A   | : lead vocal
| E    | D  E    | C#  | A   | : bass
| "ii" | I       |     | V   | : chords

      ...C#...                   : guitar
| F#   | E   F# | G    | F#  G | : lead vocal
| D    | A   D  | E    | D#  E | : bass
| I    | V   I  |"ii"  |       |  

| B ...
| G   | - D | A   | -   |
| IV  | - I | V   | -   |

| D   |/C /D| B1  |
| I   |     | V/ii|

As pointed out the first and the last Chorus omits the last phrase. The transition back to the verse is aided by a D guitar chord let ring throughout - see also in "Spread Your Wings". The final sequence of six choruses change in microscopic details. For example from the second cycle on the lead vocal is joined by unisono/octave vocals. The next chorus adds stereo panning for the voices. The last chorus omits the last phrase and remains unresolved on the dominant chord (see also "We Are The Champions"). Instead of resolution there is an explosion-like noise achived by tape saturation. This fading out noise closes the whole album.