Written by Brian May and Tim Staffell
Recording information by Philipp (PraxisNothaft@t-online.de)
Recorded in 1972 at Trident Studios, SoHo, London, UK
Released in July 1973 on the album "Queen"
A very interesting and complex song, which starts as a wonderful ballad and morphs into a furious heavy metal piece. It's very well produced and contains some superb acoustic guitar work. It was originally a Smile-song (the precursor to Queen) and that's why Smile's bass-player and lead singer Tim Staffell gets a co-writing credit. The Queen-version is much heavier and completely re-arranged.
It was probably recorded to have enough songs for the first album.
Roger's drums have the Trident-Sound again. The drums were covered with tape and close-miked to make them dead. All the reverb was added later on.
Roger's kit consisted of bass-drum, snare, hi-hat, three toms and two ride cymbals.
The snare (which also does the rim-ticks) is slightly left, the bass-drum is very slightly right. The hi-hat is right. The toms are (from high to low) left, middle, right.
John has a very nice sound on this one. Lots of bass-frequencies and attack.
He used a (sunburst) Fender Precision Bass which went directly into the desk (plus some EQ). Centre position.
The piano was played by Brian. The main-signal (from the mic) went into one track and was panned left, the delay-repeat went into a separate track and was panned right. There's lots of reverb. The delay-track is most notable in the intro, first verse and the last few notes. For most of the rest of the song it's either turned off or almost inaudible. The piano also played in the heavy part on the left side some bass-octaves. It's almost inaudible, unless you use the karaoke-trick (and even then you have to listen closely).
The piano in question was the famous 'Hey Jude' Bechstein, Serial No 44064, Bracing No 11870, made in Berlin in 1897.
Everything's done by Brian,again.
There's an acoustic guitar which plays lots of stuff. It starts at 0:39 and plays then (slightly right) throughout the song.It gets panned more sharply right around the heavy parts. It was recorded with several mics that were put together.
Around the verses there's a bluesy lead guitar, which is panned right.
There's also a clean and bright guitar which plays some notes together with the piano in the left channel. At 1:08 till 1:17 and at 3:06, for example.
In the heavy parts there are three additional guitars:
The extremely distorted rhythm guitar in the middle, the lead-guitar with a similar sound (also in the middle) and the almost un-distorted rhythm guitar on the left side (where you also find the piano). The right side is reserved for acoustic guitar and hi-hat.
The acoustic guitars were all played with the Red Special which went through a treble booster into the VoxAc30. The amp was picked up with one or more mics.
The different sounds were results of pick-up combination (the Red Special has a very wide range of different sounds), amp settings (Brian maybe also used a distortion-pedal for the extreme parts) and EQ.
For some parts the amp was put into a sound-absorbing box. Brian did not like this, but it was one of the Trident-methods. The excuse was "it can all be done in the mix". But it can't and the result is that some guitars on this track just don't sound very good.
Freddie's lead vocals (middle) are reverbed and have a small delay (on a separate track. Sometimes slightly right). The delay is sometimes inaudible and sometimes quite loud (like shortly before the first heavy part).
The backing vocals are done by all three founding members and consist of three separate parts. On the choruses, it's Freddie - Roger - Brian from the top, but they change to Roger - Brian - Freddie for the end of the interlude. Live, they'd usually be Roger - Brian - Freddie, and the BBC version is mostly (though not exclusively) Roger - Freddie - Brian. Early days experimentation, all in all...
By The Way:
This song is quite special to Tim Staffell, not because it has ever bowled him over as being a particulary brilliant song (as he honestly says), but because it got him out of a hole more than once. He was sometimes in financial trouble and the royalties (because of the inclusion on Queen's first album) helped a lot.