Friday, March 12, 2010
Queen Song of the Week: Chorus? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Chorus, Part I
This week I'm highlighting three songs. It has struck me as I write this feature every week that there is tons of really fascinating information out there about the recording of Bohemian Rhapsody, but since the whole point of this weekly feature is to draw your attention to more obscure Queen songs, it isn't really appropriate to discuss BoRhap.
Ah, but being the clever little thing that I am, I've figured out a way to not only give BoRhap the attention that it clearly deserves, but also to point you in the direction of two other amazingly epic Queen songs: The March of the Black Queen and The Millionaire Waltz.
The March of the Black Queen, written by Freddie Mercury, was released in 1974 on the Queen II album.
Bohemian Rhapsody, written by Freddie Mercury, was released in 1975 on the A Night at the Opera album. It has been released as a single several times where it spent 9 weeks in the #1 spot on the U.K. charts in 1975 and another 5 weeks in the #1 spot in 1991. In the U.S., the song peaked at #9 in 1976 and at #2 in 1992 (thanks in part to Wayne's World).
The Millionaire Waltz, written by Freddie Mercury, was released in 1976 on theA Day at the Races album. I've mentioned this song before (see here) as it was written in 6/8 time.
At some point over the course of music's existence, someone decided that every song should have a chorus. Somebody forgot to tell that to Freddie Mercury because these songs are just three examples of Queen songs without any real chorus. Each song is at least five minutes long, but without a chorus or even a consistent musical style as Freddie Mercury hops around from opera to waltz to rock and back again. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, each of these songs is recognized by die hard Queen fans as some of their greatest works.
The songs (discussed in chronological order):
The March of the Black Queen - I'll admit that sometimes it takes me a few listens before the awesomeness of a Queen song smacks me right in the face. It happened with '39, Tenement Funster, and then again with The March of the Black Queen. This is one of those songs that if you ever are alone with a die hard Queen fan, they will insist that you listen to. At first, I didn't get it - I downloaded the song, listened to it, and thought, "Yeah, that's okay, I guess." Then it sat forgotten on my iTunes playlist.
A few weeks later, I decided to try again. I moved The March of the Black Queen to my running playlist. Now this is a risky move, people, because once a song is on my running playlist, if it comes on while I'm on a run, I'm stuck with it. I tuck my iPhone in my jacket pocket during runs so it isn't accessible for me to skip songs that I don't want to listen to. As if iTunes knew what I was playing at, it randomly selected the song to play in the first five runs that it was on my playlist.
That's pretty much all it took for me to be a convert. When I'm running, I like to focus on something. When I'm not running with music, it can be my breathing, the scenery, or my thoughts. When I'm running with music, I focus on the music. So for five straight runs, I focused on The March of the Black Queen and man, it's a great song.
Portions of the song are actually written in two different time signatures (12/8 and 8/8) simultaneous so it was essentially impossible to play live (although the band did incorporate bits of it into medleys onstage). This song is divided into six separate sections: it starts with a piano intro straight into some great harmonies and high notes before the first verse begins. This whole section is on a bit of an upward spiral, getting faster and higher as the song continues. Following the first two verses is the culmination of the upward spiral with a guitar solo and some more lovely harmonies. Freddie then brings the listener right back down the spiral with the next section which is soft and melodic. Then the more traditional rock portion of the song begins (can listeners identify the two lines of the song where RT sings lead?) which has a great beat and, of course, more harmonies. Finally, the last section is a fast-paced and fun outro. The song ends rather abruptly because on the album it flows directly into the next song, Funny How Love Is.
For anyone interested in a ridiculously thorough actual musicial analysis of the song, check out this amazing webpage.
Many consider The March of the Black Queen to be a bit of a precursor to BoRhap (since it was released the previous year, experiments with various musical styles and utilizes the same vocal layering technique). Despite the potential similarities, The March of the Black Queen is a really stunning song and I'm glad I gave it a few extra listens. I hope you all do as well!
I'll be posting about the other two songs on Saturday and Sunday so check back!