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Sebastian: Debut album11 Feb 2006 18:17

Ok, here's an idea (which probably will end up being unfinished again): to compile here interesting data about the band's first album material, including cross-references, early songwriting trademarks, perhaps a little bit of trivia, and apple-to-orange measurement with other acts'.

In a nutshell, the 'Queen' album was, as they wrote in the sleevenotes, sort of a clue about what they were during the last three years (i.e. 1970, 1971 and 1972). Both critics, the band and fandom tend to refer to the record with some common denominations:

- Heavier material than later on
- Poor drumming mixing
- Underrated album
- Hendrix-esque guitar playing

Several details ought to be mentioned:


Barry Mitchell's recent visit to queenzone and some other interviews here and there have confirmed approximate (year) dates for each song:

Prior to forming the band: White Queen (www.brianmay.com, Stone Cold Crazy, Doin' All Right, See What A Fool I've Been

Pre-Deacon period: Keep Yourself Alive, Hangman, Great King Rat, Liar, Modern Times Rock N' Roll, Son And Daughter, Jesus

Post-Deacon period - performed live in 1971-1972: Night Comes Down, Ogre Battle

Released first on the album: Seven Seas

My Fairy King is a special case: while Barry Mitchell claims Fred'd got a germinal idea already by the time of his departure, John Deacon said (www.deaky.com that it was built-up in the studio. My personal theory is that once they got to the studio Mercury decided to give his "fairy king" idea another go, therefore elaborating the structure etc in the studio. Since John didn't know the song, he probably thought it was brand new.

Mad The Swine is yet unconfirmed to have been played live, at least it's generally accepted to be part of Deaky's period.


Both Freddie and Brian had composed several tracks for their previous bands, still I find it surprising that they could be as productive and original in such a short time. Barry Mitchell's accounts describe that Liar, for instance, was quite the same at the time he was in the band. Besides that we've got the 1971 demos, where it's proven that aside from minor lyrical changes the arrangement remained the same for the album release.

Even if they already had notably different tastes in music, their difference wasn't as big as it'd be later. At least Brian, Roger and Freddie all shared passion for Jimmy Hendrix, they were all Lennon fans and they loved Led Zeppelin.

It's clear that both Brian and Freddie meant to be very different from the rest since the pre-Queen time. It was reflected in their songwriting: for instance, Polar Bear includes a pivot i>IV modulation, an unusual kind.



| Intro  | Verse  |
         | Verse' | Chorus |
| Intro' | Verse  |
         | Verse' | Chorus | Solo |
                  | Chorus |
                  | Chorus |      | Break |
                  | Chorus |
                  | Chorus |
                  | Chorus |
                  | Chorus |

It's possible that at the time Brian penned this one, 1970, he (although he wouldn't admit it if we asked him) thought of it as a potential debut single for the band. If so, the tracks demonstrates, both lyrically and musically, a tendency to mark the difference, since it's very dissimilar to the trendy hits from the year.

The song's very much a way to introduce us the band, having got one short bass lick before the second verse, a crescendo intro, guitar and drum solos and one part sung by Roger. For the album take Brian recorded Freddie's answer ("...two steps...").

Beatles's influence is perhaps present in the form, especially the verse-verse' detail (e.g. I Am The Walrus), although at the moment I haven't got enough grasp to ensure that.


| Intro (AA) | Verse (AAB)  |
| Intro' (A) | Verse (AAB)  | Bridge |
                            | Bridge | Solo |
| Intro' (A) | Verse (AAB)  |
| Intro' (A) |              | Bridge | Solo |
             | Verse' (A'B')|               | Outro |

Bluesy roots are denoted in the harmonic minimalism and the relative importance given to improvisation (bridges are long sections repeating the same riff with different arrangements). The piano version came in the studio.


| Intro | Pre Verse | Verse | Chorus |
        | Pre Verse'| Verse | Chorus |
                    | Verse | Chorus |
                    | Verse | Chorus | Bridge |
                                     | Bridge'|
        | Pre Verse'| Verse |                 | Break | Solo |
                    | Verse | Chorus |                       | Outro |

Similarly to the previous track, here we've got two or three sections repeated several times but with notably different arrangements, creating a pseudo-acyclic effect. For instance several verses don't have melody but a guitar solo instead. The break quotes a riff from a Wreckage track, Stone Cold Crazy. Fred constructed verses over variants of flamenco cadence, similarly to (I think) Vagabond Outcast. First bridge in particular foreshadows Ogre Battle's.

The form and the modulation (i>IV) make me think he was influenced by Smile for composing this one.


| Intro | Pre-Verse | Verse | Lift  | Chorus |
                            | Lift' |        | Bridge |
        | Pre-Verse'|                                 | Break |
|Intro' |                   | Lift" |                         | Outro |

Again we've got three sections cleverly varied in several parts of the song. That'd become part of Fred's meticulous and complext approach: to reprise certain phrases without being repetitive or monotone (think of "easy come easy go" during Bo Rhap's intro and interlude).

Several modulations although most of them are neighbour. There aren't many strange chords, functionally, even the diminished ones are more often than not diatonic or they're closely related to the tonic (Gdim in the key of Fm, F#dim in the key of C).


| Pre Intro | Intro | Verse | Chorus |
                    | Verse | Chorus'|
            | Intro'|                | Acyclic Chain Of Sections |

Interesting detail that after the intro reprise (in a shortened form) the song becomes profoundly acyclic and none of the sections are repeated afterwards. Flamenco cadence is referenced in the bass of "father please forgive me" bit and later on during the last sung part, demonstrating another clever phrasing trick.

The outro seems to have a modal switch to D Dorian.


| Intro | Pre Verse | Verse | Chorus |
        | Pre Verse'| Verse | Chorus'|
| Intro'|

While the song is moderately long, its melodic and lyrical material is (imo) rather poor. In some aspects it seems to be a very ancient forerunner to 'Bijou' in the matter of having long instrumental sections and in the middle the vocal part. Both that structural focus, and Brian's clever combination of acoustic and electric guitars were two unusually original and "vanguardist" details of his musicianship. Note that not even Pink Floyd were like that at the time (they'd have some of that later on with, for example, The Wall).

The Night Comes Down reminds me of Polar Bear in many ways. Together with Doin' All Right, it's so far the only track in the album without modulation, unless we consider the intro and outro to be in Em.


| Intro | Verse |
| Intro'| Verse | Chorus |
| Intro'|                | Solo |
        | Verse | Chorus'|

Variants of the form can be noticed in BBC and live versions. During the verse Rog uses the progression I-IV-V-bVII, the same he'd use in Days Of Our Lives' chorus later on (omitting passing chords). In fact he did some other not identical but similar bits: AKOM (4-1-5-b7) and Loser In The End (1-4-b7-5). Brian's and Tim's Doin' All Right uses the same four functions albeit in a different order (1-5-b7-4).


| Intro | Verse | Bridge |
| Intro | Verse | Bridge |
| Intro'|

According to Mr Mitchell, the long solo came after he left the band. Not much to say: predictable track for a Zeppelin era, harmonically simple. Flat bass line.


| Verse' |
| Verse  | Chorus |
| Verse  | Chorus |
| Verse" | Chorus |
| Verse"'|        | Break |
| Verse" | Chorus |

Simple song with interesting rhythm and some very nice Brian licks at the end of the instrumental break.


| Intro |
| Intro'|

Nothing special. Apparently Fred had half-written the entire song by then, but it wasn't finished so they decided to record an instrumental short teaser, in order to start off the second album with the full version. But that one ended up being very different to what was planned, but that's another story.


- Songs from that era and/or from influential acts (Who, Yardbirds, Beatles) with one-phrased choruses as the one in Keep Yourself Alive.

- Collection of links on interviews from that era or speaking about it.


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