Read all 4 events for 23 August at diary.QueenSongs.info
Composer: Brian May
Album: Sheer Heart Attack
Single: 17 january, 1975
Key: D Major, E Major, B mixolydian
Intro A A' | BB' | Riff |
| Verse I-II-III - B'| Riff |
| Verse I-II-III - B'| Solo (CCCCCCCC-D) |
| Verse II | Intro A"| Verse III'| Riff'|
| Outro-solo I (CCCCCCCC) - II |
This is a hard rock song, something very expectable from a hard rock band. Interesting features abound: the complex form, the canon, some nice syncopations, heavy use of variants. All in all this is a very creative song which on the other manages to stay sounding catchy and "natural" in terms of hard rock.
The form is complex, weakly cyclic. The B section sounds like a pre-chorus, but it is followed by a guitar riff instead of a chorus. The Verse section has three subsection two of which are recycled individually.
The harmony of the song is built around three tonal centers sequenced as D > E > B > E > D > E > B respectively.
The song starts with 1/8 pulsing guitar power chords exposing the opening tonic. No drums yet.
| D5 | - | - | - |
| I | - | - | - |
The "A" phrase starts with upbeat that ends on the 1/8 preceding the opening downbeat of the related harmonic phrase.
1 2 3 4 1
This syncopation is supported by the punctuation of the rhythm guitar and drum line. For the next phrase the lead vocal completes the guitar power chords to D major chord:
| D | - |
The second vocal phrase extends the first. Note that the "around-round-round..." words all fall off-beat despite they first sound deceptively on-beat. The harmony combines the D major chord created by the echoed lead vocal and the guitar (power) chords with the descending bass line (no bass guitar yet).
| D | D | D | - |
| C5 | G/B* | Gm/Bb| - | (the G/B* chords is omitting the fifth)
|"bVII"| "IV" | "iv" | - |
The last vocal phrase slightly alters that of the title ("A") phrase.
| D | - |
| I | - |
After the first guitar solo the intro motif returns again. The "A" motif is altered ending with scalar instead of triadic steps. The closing Gm/Bb is resolved this time downwards to A5.
The delay-canon is an early (pre-News era) trademark of the Queen-canon (read the "My Fairy King" article). A kind of antiphonal canon is established on the live version between the Mercury and the audience.
This section abruptly breaks the relative silence of the Intro. This pre-chorus-like sounding section prepeares the modulation to E major. The phrasing is AA-A'A' harmonically. The melodic phrasing is interesting: the shouted upbeat ends just before the opening downbeat. Lyrical-wise it remains unresolved for the next 4 measures. The tension is supported by the sus4 dissonances and the step up modulation. Additional varispeed guitar screams are echoed, similarly to the intro vocals. The vocals are powerfully harmonized. The top line is pedal until the last notes. For the sake of variation in the second circle the last vocal phrase is not harmonized.
/----- 2x -----\\
| A | -sus4 |
D: V | - |
E: IV | - |
/----- 2x -----\\
| B | -sus4 |
E: V | - |
Another subtle source of tension is the pre-downbeat accents (similar as in the intro):
3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1
gtr * * * * * * * * * (riff downbeat)
voc *** *** * *** * * **
Try out whether you can hum it and tap toe along the quarter beats.
The 6 measure section can be subdivided into two parts (4+2). Tad strange that a single riff works as a separate section. The catchy riff works almost like a chorus due to its preceding "B" section. The tune makes heavy use of hard to transcribe off-beat rhythms:
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1
* **** * * **** ** * ** ****** * ** ** * * **...
There is no chordal support behind the riff, but there are some built-in chords instead.
| E | B5 A5 E1 | D5 A5 B5 | F#1... |
| I | V IV I |bVII IV V | ... |
| E | - D5 A |
| I | - bVII IV|
The second riff-section ends with a harmonized "yeah". The guitar riff is triple-tracked, and additional guitars appear for the last phrase.
The last played (third) riff extends the "original" by one measure inserted between m.3 and 4. (chords: A5 E5)
The first verse starts one minute into the song. Two of the three (or four?) subsections appear separated from the others in the third cycle. The first section sounds bluesy: basic chords with 5-6-5 figures (first phrase), b3-3-5 figure (second phrase), blue notes in the lead vocal, square phrasing (4+4, AA').
| B | - | E | D A |
| V | - | I | bVII IV|
| B | - | E | B E |
| V | - | I | V I |
The second subsection is not sharply contrasted from the fisrt, even though the harmonic logic is sharply different. It's driven by an 8 graded ascending chromatic line highlighted in the lead vocal. The first four chords can be threated as the "choromatic bVII cadence" (see in "Doing All Right") inverted, the rest of the phrase continues the just established voice leading pattern, cannot be functionalized anymore. Considering the song was inspired by the tour with "Mott The Hopple" a possible influence could have been their hit song "All The Young Dudes" (written by David Bowie).
| C# D | D# E | F F# | G G# | : lead vocal
| A D | B E | C# F# | D# G# | : harmony
| V bVII | V I ...chromatic
In the first cycle this phrase is harmonized, the second cycle drops the vocal harmonies, the third is harmonized again and adds organ (no synth) chords. The third subsection together with the subsequent B' section (the second, lifted half of the BB' section) works as post-Verse and pre-chorus at the same time. The first phrase semi-spoken (see also "Tie Your Mother Down").
| E | - F# |
| I | - II |
| G | - |
|bIII | - |
In the second cycle the from m.8. (first subsection) on till the end of the section the chords are transposed down by a whole step. This twist is executed hardly noticable. Also in the second cycle this susbsection closes with II > V progression instead of ii > bIII.
The "chromatic" subsection is transposed down also in the third cycle and with the nice F# > D change it is segued into the re-intro section.
The preceding section ended with A which retrospectively sounds like bVII of the B which dominates the solo section (should we call it a Bridge?). The phrasing of the backing track is 8 x 2 + 2 AAAAAAAAB. The first two phrase has lead vocal the first of which is harmonized. The last two measures sustain the tonic chord closing with crescendo drums and downwards pentatonic guitar figure (see also in "Killer Queen", "Stone Cold Crazy").
/----- 8x ------\\
| B | E A |
| I | IV bVII|
| B | - |
| I | - |
The arrangement is joined by rocking piano. The guitar solo features lots of double stops in the vein of Chuck Berry ("Go Johnny, Go"), especially in the last fadeing out phrases of the Outro.
The phrasing of the Outro is AAAAAAAA'B'.... The outro drops (?) the piano, the rhythm guitars close the song with the bluesy 5-6-5-6 chords.