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Path: Queen Songs - Forum - Song Analysis: ProducersBookmark and Share

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Sebastian: Producers18 Dec 2003 15:24
I'm listing the major contributions that producers had in songwriting and arrangement parts in the band. Note that in most cases the producer is actually more important than the band, well, that's obvious because a song can be a masterpiece but without good mixing and production it's nothing, but apart from that it's almost a law that producers have important input in the actual song arrangements. It also depends on the band

Any contributions are welcome.

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John Anthony:

We do know thanks to John (Deacon) that the band didn't get along with him. Perhaps he was the person in charge of the drum mixing, because in the second album they don't sound that small but Roy was still there.

I think the "look out" words of Modern Times could have been his idea, because they're kind of ... like they don't put anything new there. Roger must have been "forced" to accept the producer did what he wanted with the song. For the second album, as John said, they "gave him the elbow"

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Robin Geoffrey Cable:

It'd be an interesting question to Brian to solve if 'Nevermore' and 'Funny' sound so Spector-esque because Robin (a chapter fan of Phil's) produced those tracks instead of Roy, or if Freddie wanted them to sound Spector-esque and that's why he got Robin to produce them.

Well, the main input was of course the piano rings of 'Nevermore'. I get the feeling, based on the structure and style of Funny, that perhaps it's a very early track, at least the general idea (John mentioned how it's a studio track like 'My Fairy King'). Probably Fred was inspired by the Larry Lurrex sessions and at the same time wrote this Beach Boy-like track.

No idea about Robin's personal approach in mixing guitars because 'Nevermore' doesn't have and 'Funny' only has one. I suspect that the "maracas" of 'Funny' are actually an old trick of placing a piece of paper between the neck and the strings of the acoustic, so everytime you play a chord that strange percussion noise appears. And it makes sense: those "maracas" have the exact same rhythm, beat and length of the acoustic.

I have no idea about how much did he do in 'Black Queen'.

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Roy Thomas Baker:

I do think he had a lot of uncredited ideas. Brian commented how he put John's bass to be recorded simoultaneously in three different signals and then mix them. The engineering of gitar and vocal harmonies is more a Mike Stone effort than his.

Now, there's something I just realised. Note that between II and Opera a lot of tracks use orchestral percussion (Loser has marimba, Black Queen has tubular bells, Ogre/Fairy ang Lap Of The Gods have gong, Killer Queen has triangle and windchimes, Bo Rhap has timpani and gong, God Save The Queen has timpani, Seaside Rendezvous has glockenspiel), and in Jazz, produced again by Roy, there's glockenspiel in Don't Stop Me. Well, there's a couple of counterexamples: Good Old... has triangle and woodblocks and the Races overture has gong, but aparently those two albums were kind of written at the same time, and perhaps they already had had the Baker's legacy. My point all in all is that he could have suggested the inclusion of those instruments since we see that the post-Baker Queen era and the solo albums of Roger, Brian and Fred (except Barcelona which is of course another story) don't have many aditional percussion instruments apart from tambourine and drum pads.

Another posibility is that those percussion overdubs in the '73-'75 era were an unavoidable task of the mystique and art compositions Freddie and Brian had an affair with in those years. Because you wouldn't put tubular bells or windchimes in 'Crazy Little Thing', 'Another One Bites' or 'Dragon Attack' would you?

Some technical stuff of Queen could have been just coincidentially part of the Baker era and don't have any direct influence from him, but it can be the other way around too. For example piano duets were a rare feature Freddie only used in those days ('Leroy Brown', 'Seaside Rendezvous', 'Black Queen', 'Nevermore', 'Master Stroke' - not exactly a piano duet but same concept -).

The general mysterious feeling of those songs (She Makes Me, Lap Of The Gods, Bo Rhap, Nevermore, etc) can be either influence of the producer or just the style they were working in at the moment. Note that 'Teo Torriate' has a similar feeling and it's not produced by Roy, but on the other hand Spread Your Wings sounds way less "classical" than Dear Friends even though they're both the same kind of ballads.

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Reinhold Mack:

This is a long part too. He brought lots of new ideas in the band. The drum sound changed drastically from The Game onwards (also a consequence of Roger switching to a smaller kit and smaller sized bass drums and cymbals, and the heavy use of machines and pads in the Hot Space -Works - Magic albums), and Mack added the new-to-the-band idea of repairing the mistakes of the backing track.

We do know he helped Roger a lot in his songs, there's not so much info about concrete specific ideas he added but I'm pretty sure the 'Action' interlude was his contribution. Thanks to the credits we also know Mack programmed the 'Machines' environment, I guess he must have had a lot to do in that track too.

The synth issue is again something I'm all the time learning about. And Mack's input is bigger than I thought. The OBX (the keyboard used for 'Game' and 'Flash') is not so easy to programme - i.e. having a sound in your head and recreating it there -. Note the difference between the pads Mack played in 'Rock It' and the ones Fred did in 'Play The Game'. That leads me to think that the guys were definately not technical enough in '79 and '80. Roger owned the synth, but he must have let Mack use it to get the sounds of 'Coming Soon'. The string intro of 'Sail Away' is so polished, only Mack could have done that, I mean for the sound not for the notes. Same in 'Save Me'. The Flash album was a good project for the band members to improve their synth use.

John's comments in '82 about the use of synths lead me to think the guys only used the pre-set bass or pads but didn't take advantage of more than 10% of their posibilities. I know Roger (and perhaps Brian sometimes) sometimes experimented and try to get new sounds, but I doubt they'd be more professional than the buzz noises of 'Escape From The Swamp' or 'Flash To The Rescue'.

The really clean human instrument emulations must have been done by Mack. For example the sax of 'Action', that's so damn hard to do. The really powerful analog synth parts of the 'Fun In Space' album were the 50% of keyboards David Richards played.

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David Richards:

He was instrumental for the cohesion of the songs in an era in which each one brought ideas separately. John's style of writing in the post Works time was: he played piano, went to his house, brought some demo tapes and showed them to Dave so he could polish the keyboards. Then they gave the tapes to Fred so he could sing and play synths, and then it was presented to the entire band. In that way David was the connection between John and the rest of band.

His playing/arranging input is more or less completely known now, it's perhaps a lot but I doubt it's more than the other producer's input, just that we don't have enough info about them. So, here's the list:

- Piano of Under Pressure (just the lick, or the whole thing, or just the chords but not the lick? no idea)
- Computer Drums of 'Who Wants To Live Forever' (I have vague doubts that it was perhaps Brian)
- Synth-bass in 'Scandal'
- Keyboards in 'My Life Has Been Saved'
- Conga percussion in 'Days Of Our Lives'
- A little bit of editing and programming in the orchestral section of 'Innuendo' (though most of it was Freddie)
- Synth Drums of 'I Can't Live With You'
- Key shift of 'Show Must Go On'
- General arrangement of 'Heaven For Everyone'
- First ideas of the 'Untitled Track #13'

David did add more arrangement ideas here and there but according to him the 'Show' key shift and the rising effect of 'This Could Be Heaven' (as he called it) were the most memorable.
1.PD 18 Dec 2003 21:33
Great article. It would be nice to read some paragraphs about the band being the producer. I have just vague ideas how did they do it: did they handle the faders, cut the tapes, etc...?
Mercury's is also said to have "produced" (arranged) some tracks in the mid-seventies.
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