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Path: Queen Songs - Forum - Song Analysis: Perpetual Debates, Plagiarism...Bookmark and Share

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Sebastian: Perpetual Debates, Plagiarism...17 Mar 2008 03:17

Something else I've been meaning to do for a long time is compiling the list of open threads. Actually, I think through the years I've done that once or twice... All right, let's check them album by album:

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Queen (I):

- Apparently, song structures and arrangements were more a teamwork than later on. Evidences: comments by Roy Thomas Baker (Magic Years), Barry Mitchell (Queen published biographies, and I think he said something about it on QZ too); plus, it'd be logical that they spent much more time rehearsing, and it'd be reasonable that they'd have much more contact with each other on a social level (also, didn't Fred and Rog live together?). So... the 'lyricist=credited writer' alleged rule was probably right in this case, and songs could've been much more collaborative, a process that's nicely mirrored in the very last years of the band. So, questions that come from that situation are the obvious 'who did what?', and 'how much was John involved?', etc.

- Keep Yourself Alive: I've always thought Brian was deeply inspired by Pinball Wizard for the melody. There's another ongoing thread regarding the harmony of the verse's second part: Denes' current article cites it as a I > bVI modulation, while I've come up with the parallel theory (I > i), which IMO makes more sense in that particular situation, even if the tonic doesn't appear. But of course, the fact C# (or Db) appears 'out of the blue' at the beginning of the phrase may lead one's ears to think of it as the new tonic... there's no right or wrong here.

- Doin' All Right: The usual 'who did what?' that plagues scores of two-credit popular songs (like L&M's She Loves You, IWTHYH and so on). I expect Brian to be in charge of the recurring motif, while Tim probably wrote the lyrics and melody... but for the moment it's up to speculation. Still, I think an in-depth analysis, comparing some of its details with more works by both composers would at least suggest us a clearer picture. Time will tell...

- Great King Rat: I have (or had, at least) a broadcast from David Lee Roth's radio programme where he said that Eddie was profoundly based on this track for some of his trademarks. There are many things to comment on in here... well, there and everywhere too ;)

- My Fairy King: John S. Stuart pointed out, many years ago, that some lines are directly borrowed from The Pied Piper of Hamelin. This song could've inspired 10cc's A Night in Paris (which by its side inspired Bo Rhap, perhaps).

- Liar: Connexions with Lover, and Brian's input, are for the moment based on second-hand quotes (which can easily be misinterpreted). I'm afraid we can only speculate about how much it was reminiscent (or an updated version) of Lover, unless of course a pre-Queen tape exists with it (and it leaks to the public). There's an uncredited organ there - who played it? It's almost impossible to know.

- The Night Comes Down: Most details about it are 'common knowledge', but in my thorough journalistic survey I haven't been able to find sources (which of course doesn't mean they don't exist). This track is very seldom spoken about, sadly.

- Modern Times Rock and Roll: According to Barry, it was played live in 1970 (i.e., before 'Led Zeppelin IV' was issued), which would leave its cross-references with Rock and Roll as mere coincidence. Otoh we don't know how different was the '70 live version, and the '73 released one. So, there's still a chance they re-arranged it to be more Zeppelin-esque, once they heard 'IV'.

- Son and Daughter: Another one rarely mentioned in interviews. According to 'As It Began', it's the first Queen song John learnt to play.

- Jesus: I've looked everywhere for sources confirming or denying the Liverpool story. No luck so far.

- Seven Seas...: Well, Roger told us the story (Xmas Eve, 1977, BBC). I don't think there are 'unsolved matters' about this one.

---------------

'Queen II':

-The collaborative aspect remains unclear here. Some fans are fond of pointing out that Freddie ‘must have’ had some strong input in White Queen, and Brian in Ogre Battle, but it’s actually very hard to verify that. Recently, Bri’s soapbox comment suggested that both White and Black pieces precede the band’s actual name. Another case of May’s inaccurate remembrance, or a hint that much of ‘II’ had been planned long before ‘I’ and saved?

- Procession: Assuming that guide track was probably a piano (as in God Save the Queen), access to it would probably give us insight on Brian's initial planned chord-progressions and the ones built-in at the end by the guitar choir. That'd be a priceless project... we've got to throw a coin inTrevi to see if these master-tapes leak!

- Father to Son: Several possible ways to interpret the harmony, especially in terms of 'what's the key?'. This is perhaps Queen's first vocal 'pyramid' ('father to father to father to son'). Is it one of the songs John played acoustic on?

- White Queen: Myself, I think the whole track is in one unified key. Now, which is it? Am makes sense considering the riff and everything, but also do D Dorian (Victorian flavour) or E Phrygian (ending resolution). I love this one!

- Ogre Battle: Ambiguous harmony (in terms of the key).

- Master-Stroke: Ditto. Also, I'm sure a keyboard expert would certainly tell an electric harpsichord from an acoustic grand one, and solve that matter once and for all.

- Nevermore: Contemporary piano-'ring' point has been cleared on QZ some years ago. I'm sure there's guitar on it; hopefully, if my Multi-track utopia ever comes true, we'll be able to confirm or deny it.

- Black Queen: So much to discuss here... keys, modulations, metres, arrangements. For this particular song, leaked demos suggest: a) that they did record this one in different sections and then put together as a jigsaw puzzle, and b) there are many overdubs in piano and bass.

- Funny How Love Is: There are four instruments in the backing track, thus ruling out the possibility of John playing acoustic guitar. There's a strange percussive noise that I've always thought comes from guitar as well. I hope some early mags or press-conferences can give us more 'gossip' about the Cable/Queen collaboration.

- Seven Seas of Rhye: Harmony open to different interpretations. No idea about influences and so on.

- See What a Fool I've Been: An apple-to-orange between B&S' original and Brian's largely-modified arrangement is yet missing from QIC.

----------

'Sheer Heart Attack'

- Brighton Rock: Recently-surfaced multi-tracks give us some priceless details. Interestingly, both Deacy's bass-playing and Roger's drumming sound very Zeppelin-esque separately, but the mixed song doesn't. Sadly, vocals are all bounced...

- Killer Queen: Probably (?) the earliest (published) use by Mercury of a minor-seventh chord in the third inversion (there would be almost one case per album from then on). Whoever made multi-tracks leak mislabelled the jangle piano as 'harpsichord'. Chimes-debate finally came to an end recently.

- Tenement Funster: I'd love to hear a demo of this one, to see how much it progressed. Love the progressions, they're not 'wow, how genius!' type, but they're definitely not predictable.

- Flick of the Wrist: As with many pseudo-virtuoso piano openings, I expect this one to be heavily inspired by some classical piece. But which one? Talk about needles and haystacks ;) An in-depth analysis of vocal harmonies would be ace!

- Lily of the Valley: Sadly, this one is hardly ever mentioned too, and I think it's my favourite Mercury song (besides a couple in the 'Barcelona' album). I expect some passing chords to be generated by harmonies, and maybe even some nice inversions.

- Now I'm Here: Another one with uncredited organ. A meticulous analysis of its harmony, compared with Mott's songs, could give us some insight in what exactly inspired Dr May for this one.

- Lap of the Gods: Ambiguous functional harmony. A classical analysis would probably be more effective than a pop/rock one.

- Stone Cold Crazy: So much has been said about it, yet virtually everything remains unclear. The song's too simple to find member's fingerprints, and still John's input is undisclosed.

- Dear Friends: I recently asked Brian about this one. I hope I'm lucky ;)

- Misfire: Nice harmony. I wonder how a (real) demo would be...

- Leroy Brown: I'm actually re-thinking my 'barbershop' theory... I'm far from being an expert in those arrangements, but now that I know a little bit more about them, BBTLB sound much less 'barbershop' to my ears. Lately, I'm very interested about listing the exact intervals used for vocal and guitar harmonies in each song, to understand better how they correlate. An apple-to-orange with Pointer Sisters would be nice too. Fred's low C seems to have been slowed from an Eb, which would still be his lowest recorded note.

- She Makes Me: I find it very similar to something else, but I don't remember what...

- Lap Revisited: It'd be nice if the story of these two ever surfaced...

---------------

'A Night at the Opera':

- Two Legs: Ambiguous functional harmony. Apparently, intro was recorded separately. Harmonies are arranged slightly differently.

- Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon: The megaphone effect was already cleared up. Fortunately, so much has been said about this album that many debates have been closed already.

- Car: Another nice list would be 'Queen songs where lead vocal is double-tracked'... so far we've got Brighton Rock, Sweet Lady (which is triple'd), Bo Rhap's heavy bit, and probably several more. There's an open debate on who sings the backing vocals.

- Best Friend: Harmonies form some very nice (and very jazz) passing chords. John was a genius! My pedantic point about Bri mistaking the piano brand-name was obviously unfair: 'Fender-Rhodes' is just a generic term for e-pianos, just like 'Hoover' is used for vacuum cleaner, 'Tannoy' for PA systems, 'DX-7' for FM synthesisers, etc.

- '39: Recorded with different tuning or speeded up? Functional harmony is ambiguous in some bits. I stick with a parallel interpretation (G all the time, with a touch of Gm in the bridge).

- Sweet Lady: So much to comment here...

- Seaside Rendezvous: There are some passing chords, but not as jazzy as the ones in Leroy Brown. Somebody suggested that there may be acoustic guitar here ... I rejected the thought at first, but then again, how many had noticed KQ had jangle and upright piano, before multi-tracks leaked?

- Prophet's Song: There are still debates on the metre in some bits as far as I remember. I suppose that, from a purely theoretical perspective, there could be a definitive answer... who knows?

- Love of My Life: Some things yet to be analysed, like passing chords, influences... I think Dr May already talked about the acoustic arrangement. Harmonies are mostly parallel, I think.

- Good Company: It'd be brill to compare it to some specific songs off the Temperance Seven's catalogue, in order to establish a more proper genealogy tree for the arrangement. Love the pyramids!

- God Save the Queen: Did Brian know that Hendrix had played it in England, just like he'd done Star-Spangled Banner in the States? I think he could've been, considering (rumour has it) Freddie and Roger saw him fourteen times in a row, and I understand Jimi played GStQ at those gigs right before his SPLHCB cover.

---------

'Bohemian Rhapsody'

I think there must be a separate chapter for this one ;)

- Vertical vs Horizontal Extension: It's always been unclear whether they recorded backing track in one take and then Freddie started adding 'Galileo's' over the 5:55 framework, or if they left a blank space for the interlude and made it bigger and bigger. I suppose the 'more Galileo's' is, indeed, about adding more vocal overdubs and things (like the 'never never' part), rather than making the section from scratch and prolonging it.

- Extended Version?: Well... the same old story.

- First-Phrase: We've got two ongoing debates here: what's the metre?, and which are the chords? I personally 'defy' the common knowledge and interpret them as Bb6 > C(/Bb) > Cm (with appoggiaturas) > Bb(/F). Reasons: 'fantasy-caught' have a strong parallel flavour, and within this context I think a I > II > ii > I functional harmony makes more sense. The theme from Blackadder has the same progression, by the way.

- Only Women Bleed: The first-phrase ('is this ... reality') is IMO Fred's very own My Sweet Lord in terms of cryptomnesia - both melody and harmony are very very very similar to Alice Cooper's song (composed by Dick Wagner). Keep in mind that this song was a big hit in the States at the time Queen went there for their SHA tour-leg, and Mr Cooper is known to be friend and influence for Mercury. Otoh, if the rumoured Real Life pre-Queen piece was actually in the picture, that'd rule out the plagiarism theory... but we'd only know if we had access to it.

- A Night in Paris: I still haven't analysed this one enough to see how much Bo Rhap was directly influenced by it, but from the surface it doesn't look too similar. In any case, I understand Graham's 'BoRhapphobia'...

- Voice-Count

- Functional Analysis in some bits (mostly the seven 'no' one)

- Video

- Brian's Voice is virtually unheard in the multi-tracks. Still, he 'must' be there considering credits, tradition, history, etc. I do think, though, that the 'three of (them) singing every part' rumour is at least partially false.

- Chord-Count

- Recycling: There's still much more to discover IMO.

----------

'A Day at the Races':

- Recycling: How much of it had actually been conceived during 'Opera' days is still open to debate. For now, mere speculation in most cases.

- Tie Your Mother Down: Who-sings-what and arrangement is quite different in each chorus. Live, of course, it's way simpler.

- You Take My Breath Away: I personally fail to detect Jap influence here. Again, I'm not a Gagaku connoisseur, so I can't say too much, yet.

- Long Away: Nice pyramids! I've always loved this one, but '39 is still my favourite Queen song, so it's quite a step-back for this album, compared to the predecessor, to go from 'plu-perfect' to just 'perfect' in the skiffle department. An ongoing thread is whether Fred is in backing vocals or not. I personally don't think so - maybe in Someday One Day he is, but not here.

- Waltz: Multi-tracks would surely help a lot here! Well, there are some ambiguous bits in terms of functions, chord-labelling and even metre. And of course the plagiarism buzz...

- You And I: Nice cross-references with Best Friend, but this one's much more rock. Very underrated piece. There may be some passing chords generated by harmonies and piano.

- Somebody to Love: Very clever structure. I'd love to know about its direct influences (i.e. songs, rather than performers or composers).

- White Man: I like this one, but it's a similar case to Long Away - having 'this' after Prophet's Song is rather disappointing. For '76 they were better players, better performers, had better technology (33.33% more tracks)... but they couldn't actually out-do 'Opera' in terms of songwriting. In this song especially, the job of an actual producer is deeply missed.

- GOFLB: There may be some brief inversions.

- Drowse: Influences are unclear, at least to me.

- Teo: Ditto.

-------

'News of the World':

- Rock You: The 'groan' discussion was already solved, and there's still the 'who-sings-BVs' one.

- Champions: Functional harmony's unclear in the current analysis. Apparently, this one was ready at the time of 'Opera', which makes sense considering the triple time timeline (Revisited - Champions - StL/Waltz). OTOH, one can only speculate (unless we ever have access to demos or stuff) how this one evolved.

- SHA: Similar story. Who-plays-what remains unsolved for guitars.

- All Dead: 'Memories' has been solved, but some musicological aspects remain open (i.e. metre). This is one of the very few songs by Dr May where I think the vocal arrangement is Mercury's. Again, an in-depth analysis of BV's for each song and period would give us a clearer idea.

- Spread Your Wings: Piano point is still going on in some circles. Stupid video...

- FftI: Who-played-what in terms of guitars. As Denes' commented, Rog had a very particular way to score harmonies, but why? The other day I tried to suss out the secret of S&G's distinctive vocals, and apparently they mostly use thirds - so there's something else 'beyond the call of duty'.

- GDML: Multi-tracks have shown some nice details about its construction. Hearing the isolated guitar, I'm starting to doubt the 'harmoniser' story, and beginnig to think they could've actually used electronic keyboards. After all, the 'no synths' remark wasn't used here (or in 'Jazz' for that matter).

- Sidewalk: Backing-track point was cleared some years ago thanks to Niek. It'd be nice to know which Clapton songs influenced this one.

- Who Needs You: The same old who-played-what debate...

- It's Late: Bri's inspiration for the tapping-bit was a Texan guitarist, who learnt it from Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers (a 1973 ZZ Top song). The other day I did a rough tapping timeline, I've got to post it here.

- Blues: Influences... jazz vs blues ... there's still too much to research about.

-----------------------------------

'Jazz':

- Mustapha: Language, lyrics, scale-labelling... this one's but an enigma!

- Fat Bots: Metric anomalies that can be interpreted in different ways.

- Jealousy: Slightly jazzy harmony in some bits, and again, metric anomalies.

- Bicycle Race: Functional harmony's still unclear. Metric anomalies again, that can be read in different ways.

- Beat 'Em: Influences, anomalies... who-plays-what regarding guitars

- Entertain You: Metre, cross-references, etc.

- Dead on Time: Both harmony and rhythm have ambiguous bits.

- Seven Days: Ditto.

- Dreamer's Ball: Influences, arrangement, and again, some bits with several possible interpretations in harmony and rhythm.

- Fun It: There's a drum-synth there, besides e-drums and a-drums. Nice combo! Who-does-what remains unclear.

- LHAE: Harmony and rhythm are both ambiguous.

- DSMN: Harmony has some parts that can be read differently.

- MotJ: Same as the album...

-------------------------------

'The Game':

- Play the Game: Harmony's ambiguous in several parts.

- Dragon Attack: Hard-to-compile track-sheet

- Another One Bites the Dust: Synths vs e-drums + harmoniser + backwards piano (or both)

- Need Your Loving Tonight, Crazy Little Thing: Weak tonality during middle-eight

- Coming  Soon, Rock It: Unified keys (G - B) vs intro/'rest' (G and D, B and F#)

- Don't Try Suicide: Ambiguous harmony here and there.

- Sail Away Sweet Sister: Who-sings-what in the middle-eight harmonies.

- Save Me: Synths vs flanged guitar (or both). Even DTS tracks aren't clear enough.

---------------

'Flash Gordon':

Maybe some who-plays-what and who-arranged-what.

---------------

'Hot Space':

The entire album has the odd e-drums vs a-drums vs drum machines. The only songs I'm, personally, positive that they've got only acoustic drums are Under Pressure and Las Palabras de Amor. There's also a comment by Deacy (1982 mag) saying that all four played guitar in (their) record, so there's always been the question of where exactly; unless of course, John meant that they'd all played guitar in recordings but not necessarily in 'Hot Space'.

- Staying Power, Body Language: Ambiguous tonality.

- Dancer: Who-sings-what in harmonies (R-R or R-B).

- Back Chat: Guitar's out of tune in the solo, isn't it?

- Action: Ambiguous tonality. Bass vs synth too.

- Put Out the Fire: Who-sings-what in some particular bits.

- Life Is Real: Plagiarism theories.

- Calling All Girls: Ambiguous harmony.

- Las Palabras de Amor: Who-sings-what in harmonies.

- Cool Cat: Hard-to-compile percussion chart. Ambiguos tonality.

- Under Pressure: Who-wrote-what is an endless story.

------------

'The Works':

Similar synth-bass vs e-bass, e-drums vs machines vs synth-drums vs a-drums in most songs. Also, in this album, there are several cases of 'Red Special vs something else' for the lead guitar. And of course who-played-what, especially considering there are no credits for the band members.

- Ga Ga: What exactly was Fred's contribution.

- Tear It Up: Synth-free?

- Hard Life: Who-sings-what in harmonies.

- Prowl: Guitar (brand + player)

- Machines: Who-wrote-what

- Break Free: Guitar-vs-synth was finally cleared by Dr May some years ago.

- Windows: Some parts can be interpreted as modal switch to mixolydian.

- Hammer to Fall: What on earth does 'candy-floss' mean?

- World: Who-wrote-what is cleared by Mercury on the Munich '84 interview.

-----------------

'A Kind of Magic':

Sequencers vs synths vs samplers vs MIDI vs machines vs e-drums, etc. Which songs have John on rhythm guitar as opposed to (or together with) Brian.

- One Vision: Who-wrote what. Some bits can be read as a parallel modulation.

- Magic: Who-sings-what in harmonies.

- One Year of Love: MIDI vs live keyboard, fretless vs fretted bass.

- Pain Is So Close to Pleasure: Weak tonality here and there. Who-wrote-what.

- Friends Will Be Friends: Who-wrote-what.

- Who Wants to Live Forever: Roger vs orchestra percussionist.

- Gimme the Prize: Does the riff belong to this or Princes? Who copied it?

- Don't Lose Your Head: More 'gossip' about Joan's participation is needed.

- Princes of the Universe: Ambiguous harmony.

-------------

'The Miracle':

Who-wrote-what, who-played-what, synths vs machines vs humans vs MIDI vs sequencers vs samplers vs all of the above, etc.

- Party: John vs Brian on rhythm guitars near the end.

- Khashoggi's Ship: Mr Khashoggi was arrested in Switaerland in 1988, but collected data seems to contradict each other about 'when exactly'. It'd be highly doubtable that Queen just happened to write a song about the Nabila, and a couple of months later the whole thing would happen. But then again, both opening tracks come, reportedly, from the earlier sessions, so who knows...

- The Miracle: Ambiguous tonality in several parts.

- I Want It All: I strongly believe drums are mostly programmed in the fast part. I'd love to find a way to prove it, though.

- Invisible Man: Ambiguous harmony.

- A New Life Is Born: Ambiguous harmony and tonality.

- Breakthru: There's a mistake by Brian in one of the scales. Or was it meant to be that way?

- Rain Must Fall: Percussion vs programmed percussion.

- Scandal: Where's David Richards' sampled bass?

- My Baby Does Me: Connexion with Falling Out...

- Was It All Worth It?: Who-sings-what in some BVs. Use of sweep picking is debatable too.

------------------------------

'Innuendo':

Usual who-wrote-what, who-played-what, who-sang-what, machines vs back to humans.

- Innuendo: Plagiarism (Am I Evil?).

- Slightly Mad: Ambiguous tonality.

- Headlong: Bass vs synths, drums vs synths.

- I Can't Live With You: Ditto.

- Don't Try So Hard: Drums are completely acoustic here. There may be some slight cross-relations with Brian's songs WWTLF and WQ, which make me doubt is authorship.

- Ride the Wild Wind: Drums are probably acoustic (note the snare thing).

- All God's People: Drums are mostly programmed. There's the debate on whether there's a low E-F singing with the timpani.

- Days of Our Lives: Drums vs computers.

- Delilah: Piano vs synth-piano vs digital piano, etc.

- The Hitman: Besides the neverending authorship question, there are some drums which are obviously programmed. At the end, Roger and Brian seem to miss the beat.

- Bijou: Ambiguous tonality.

- Show Must Go On: Authorship... sort of.

-----------------------

'Made in Heaven':

- Beautiful Day: Origin's been cleared by Mr Brooks.

- Made in Heaven: Ambiguous functional harmony here and there.

- Let Me Live: Origins, authorship, etc.

- Mother Love: Who-wrote-what

- My Life Has Been Saved: Differences between the two released versions.

-----------------------------

That's it for the moment... to be continued, updated, discussed, etc.

I'm happy to see we've still got many many many things to work on, in loads of different departments.



Post was edited on 17 Mar 2008 18:33
1.Agogobell 12 Jun 2012 17:09
I have a SHA theory: Brian played guide during the backing track, but Rog later overdubbed his guits.
2.Agogobell 20 Oct 2012 15:56

"- Functional Analysis in some bits (mostly the seven 'no' one)"
The 7 no's:

   F# E  F#(Gb) Ab     Bb   Db        Eb
    ..C# D      F      Gb   Ab        Bb
   B  A  A      B(Cb)  Db...
   B  A  D      Db     Gb   Bb        Eb
D: vi V  I
     Gb: bvi    V      I
                   Eb: biii V(Hendrix)I
                           (v7?)

Ya like it?

 

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