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PD: Hangman08 Oct 2008 05:49

Title: Hangman
Composer: Brian May & Freddie Mercury (lyrics)
Meter: 4/4
Key: a-minor, F-Major
Form: Intro | Verse | Chorus |
            | Verse | Chorus | Solo  |
            | Verse | Outro I-II |

Hangman is known as an early live track that was never recorded in the studio.  The present transccription is based on a 1973 recording (Birmingham). A main point of interest is the 12 bar blues cliche that appears in both minor and major mode. The song is not particularly catchy, not even the chorus.
The 1975 Japan live recording of the song does not show major changes.

The intro starts with a brief drum riff, then the guitar exposes the main riff of the verse four times.

/----- 4x -------\
| A5    | D5 C5  |

The verses are built on the 24-bar version of the 12 bar blues cliche where the tonic bars are repeating the main riff. Phrase by phrase sketch of the harmony:

| i                 |

| iv       i        |

| v   iv   i        |

The guitar chords are all power chords. The sevenths and the thirds that appear in the lead vocal are all minor thus the choice of minor key. The only melodic point of the bass line is the beginng of the second phrase.
The vocal line is generic blues, with lots of talking blues fragments. The second verse varies the lead melody of the initial phrases much.

The chorus prolonges the tonic chord until last phrase. The phrasing is AAAB where the B phrase is shortened by one bar with a triplet driven descending blues scale on guitar (and bass). The lead vocals are pentatonic and three part harmonized during the "A" phrases where Freddie sings the low part. Drums are resticted to low toms.

/---------- 3x ---------\
| Am  | -   | -   | -   |
| i   | -   | -   | -   |

| Am  |     | A*  |
| i...

The second chorus is acapella with a marimba motif off "Loser In The End" appearing.

Following the second chorus and two repetition of the main riff there is a semichromatic ascending scale driving the harmony to F-Major. This is a relatively seldomly used (in popular music) neighbour key modulation (a to F see also "Für Elise"). The return of to a-minor is executed abruptly.
 The backing of the solo is built on the 12 (24) bar blues cliche which is carried by the bassline. In contrast with the verses the tonality is predominantly Major which is reinforced by Major thirds built in the solo. The last phrase is shortened by two bars so we have a 22-bar blues scheme:

| I                 |

| IV       I        |

| V   IV   I   |

The outro starts as an acappella (just drums) verse that is shortened down. Then comes a double-time feel subsection prolonging the tonic even the D/A lick dropped in as a sign of mixed major/minor tonality. Then the chord changes first to B where Mercury sings a short phrase from "Black Queen" and also improvisative phrase. Finally the song arrives to E* where the so called Jimi Hendrix fermata chord (E7b9) is fading into feedback.

PD. 2008 sept.

Post was edited on 10 Oct 2008 05:55
1.Sebastian 08 Oct 2008 13:40

Actually, we do know its origins: Brian wrote the music and Freddie wrote the lyrics (confirmed by both Dr Wig and Barry Mitchell).

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