Forums > Queen - Serious Discussion > Do you consider The Show Must Go On to be Brian's song?

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QueenZeppelin user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 29 Apr 08, 16:44 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

In some places, I see The Show Must Go On credited as being mainly Brian's work. In others, I see it being treated as one of the few true "group compositions" the band did.

Well, lets look at the facts (as best I know them--correct me if I'm wrong).

Deacon and Taylor came up with the chord sequence (which I take to be the famous opening synthline that underpins the song throughout...am I wrong?).

Freddie and Brian jointly decided the theme and wrote the first verse together.

Brian wrote the rest of the words and the melody.

So, in your opinion, is this a Brian May composition (with input from the others) or is this a Queen composition?


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Posted: 29 Apr 08, 17:47 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

QueenZeppelin wrote:

In some places, I see The Show Must Go On credited as being mainly Brian's work. In others, I see it being treated as one of the few true "group compositions" the band did.

Well, lets look at the facts (as best I know them--correct me if I'm wrong).

Deacon and Taylor came up with the chord sequence (which I take to be the famous opening synthline that underpins the song throughout...am I wrong?).

Freddie and Brian jointly decided the theme and wrote the first verse together.

Brian wrote the rest of the words and the melody.

So, in your opinion, is this a Brian May composition (with input from the others) or is this a Queen composition?


Hi! I'm afraid what I'm about to write is going to sound very idiotic, but it's my impression and I like to share it with people to learn with them.

I see many questions like these, and they're interesting. I'm in no way qualified to comment on the specifics of the whole composition process, but Im sure other users can.

What I'd like to add, judging from the little I know about Queen, mainly listening to the recordings, both studio and live, and trying to make sense of the question using my own experience and background, is that almost every Queen song is also a Freddie Mercury composition, though it doesn't work the other way around that usually: there are many Freddie's tunes that one can attribute only to him without sounding simplistic.

Singing has a special quality to it, it's different from playing other instruments, as hard as it may be playing the piano or the guitar. The score, and the melody on it, doesn't mean anything, absolutely anything until a singer comes and sing it. It's also like that, to some extent, with regards to instruments: a Bach's score for, say, a partita, doesn't mean much if there's not a good interpreter to make it happen as music, but it does mean something, even if it's not much.

When it comes to singing, the shades and nuances that it implies are so overwhelming that the notes on the score really don't mean anything until a singer comes about and say, well, this should be sung like that: la-la-dee-dee-deee...

It sounds silly, because I'm silly. But I ask you to abstract from my silliness.

Brian always said that he was astonished to see what "Save Me" had become in Freddie's voice. It was another song alltogether, and he does seem to be sincerely in awe while watching Mercury sing it in Montreal. The question pops up, and it's an usual question: "Well, IS THIS MY SONG? I CAN'T BELIEVE IT WAS SO GOOD (OR BAD)!".

Freddie Mercury alway had his input on the way the song should be sung; the way the song is sung, however, affects the way the song is played, and that's why the whole question of authorship is pretty delicate.

Even if Brian had conceived TSMGO all by himself, including melody and lyrics, Freddie's singing has such an uniqueness to it that the final result was, in my humble opinion, not what Brian had in mind, it was something different. I think he started to write FOR Freddie, and then, regardless of authorship, Freddie's ipso facto part of the composition, for better or for worse!!!!!

So Freddie is always there, in the forefront, in the background, he's there, he's spin or his touch makes the song sound different than it sounds, for example, in PR's voice. I'M NOT COMPARING BOTH, PLEASE: it's just that one can see how the very same song can be delivered in very different ways according to the singer's take on it.

I DON'T want to contribute to the Freddie is God movement because, as good as he was, he also had clear shortcomings as a singer, and in no way, I think, he should be considered the standard against all singers, past and present, should be measured. There are a lot of singers out there, even nowadays, that have many qualities that Freddie didn't have, and the opposite is also true.

There's no God in m


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Posted: 29 Apr 08, 17:54 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Let´s give this one to Freddie for his marvelous vocals.


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Posted: 29 Apr 08, 18:35 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I just want to say, I think this post was absolutely beautiful, and incredibly well-thought out and well-stated. You shouldn't be so apologetic! I wish everyone added as much to this board as you did.

I particularly liked this:

Yara wrote:


What I'd like to add, judging from the little I know about Queen, mainly listening to the recordings, both studio and live, and trying to make sense of the question using my own experience and background, is that almost every Queen song is also a Freddie Mercury composition, though it doesn't work the other way around that usually: there are many Freddie's tunes that one can attribute only to him without sounding simplistic.


I often think the same thing. It dawned on me while thinking about the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, and how there seemed to be less songs actually written by Freddie than one would expect. And it finally occurred to me one day, that really, Freddie made every one of those songs--written by him or not--very distinctly his. Take I Want to Break Free...a John Deacon compsotion...NO ONE can deliver that song the way Freddie does. He adds so much pathos, irony, camp, indignation, and emotion into that song, all very distinctively him.

So I find myself very much agreeing with you on that count!

Any other thoughts, my friends, on whether this should be a "Brian" composition or a "Queen" composition?


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Posted: 29 Apr 08, 19:36 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I agree, QueenZeppelin. This is one of the most beautiful posts I've read on QZ. Bravo.


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Posted: 29 Apr 08, 19:38 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

@QueenZeppelin
i don't think the chord sequence is by john nor roger. it's clearly written by a guitarist's point of view. try to figure out the chords on your 6-string and you'll see!



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Posted: 29 Apr 08, 19:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It's mainly a Brian composition, but Brian did say, when he wrote songs (even ones such as Fat Bottomed Girls), he wrote it, with Freddie in mind, sort of like looking through Freddie's eyes.


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Posted: 29 Apr 08, 21:46 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It's an outstanding song even with Paul Rodgers singing it. I'm still inclined to think it is first a Brian song but would never have become what it is without Queen and Freddie's voice took it places unimagined.

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Posted: 29 Apr 08, 23:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

princetom wrote:

@QueenZeppelin
i don't think the chord sequence is by john nor roger. it's clearly written by a guitarist's point of view. try to figure out the chords on your 6-string and you'll see!

Prince Tom,

Hmm, it always struck me as more Brian than Roger or John. But http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Show_Must_Go_On_(Queen_song) and http://sebastian.queenconcerts.com/f-c-songwriting.htm credit the chord sequence to Roger and John. Any other sources/information out there on whether it was Brian's chord sequence or Roger/John's?


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Posted: 29 Apr 08, 23:50 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It was Roger's/John's. Confirmed by Brian.

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Posted: 30 Apr 08, 02:41 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

princetom wrote:

@QueenZeppelin
i don't think the chord sequence is by john nor roger. it's clearly written by a guitarist's point of view. try to figure out the chords on your 6-string and you'll see!


Both Roger and John are very capabale guitarists. Any one of them could have come up with that sequence with guitar (or with keyboards, it really isn't that tricky.)

BTW, I've never seen TSMGO being credited to Brian alone in any official album. (But then again, I haven't bought all these Stone Cold Greatest Hits X compilations.) Where does this information come from?

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Posted: 30 Apr 08, 03:44 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Brian took the ball and ran with it. Couldn't be simpler.


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Posted: 30 Apr 08, 04:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

If Brian really did write this like people say, it shows only too well unfortunately how much his songwriting has gone downhill of late.

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Posted: 30 Apr 08, 05:28 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

olly1988 wrote:

If Brian really did write this like people say, it shows only too well unfortunately how much his songwriting has gone downhill of late.


I didn't realise he'd released enough songs 'of late' for us to get a real indicator...


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Posted: 30 Apr 08, 06:56 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Hi there
thx for the links...
seems to me John/Roger think more like guitarists than i assumed... :-D

"oh, how wrong can you be..."

thanks for bringing me some unknown fact and revealing my mistake.
sorry for misleading here :-(


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Posted: 30 Apr 08, 07:38 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

> In others, I see it being treated as one of the few true "group compositions" the band did.

It's actually 'the only one', rather than 'one of the few'.

> Deacon and Taylor came up with the chord sequence (which I take to be the famous opening synthline that underpins the song throughout...am I wrong?).

Indeed.

> Brian wrote the rest of the words and the melody.

And the middle-eight sequence, which is a rather clever one. David Richards reportedly suggested some keys too.

> The score, and the melody on it, doesn't mean anything, absolutely anything until a singer comes and sing it.

For that matter, we could also say that a guitar score or melody doesn't mean anything, absolutely anything, until a guitarist comes and plays it. Same with other instruments, or production, mixing, engineering, publicity...

> i don't think the chord sequence is by john nor roger.

Well... Brian, who was there, credited it to them. So there you go.

> it's clearly written by a guitarist's point of view.

1. Both John and Roger could play (and compose on) guitar.

2. It was composed in synths, which both John and Roger could play as well.

> BTW, I've never seen TSMGO being credited to Brian alone in any official album.

Which is a very good point indeed: recent releases (e.g. GVHII and an issue of the musical in Spain) credit both 'I Want It All' and 'Headlong' just to Dr May. OTOH, 'Scandal' and 'Show Must Go On' keep the 'Queen' credit. I suppose it's not coincidence.

Anyway, the whole discussion is ambiguous: there's no absolute right or wrong here. It'd be ridiculous to think that May alone is the author, since the sequence (which represents the basis for intro, verses, choruses and solos) was composed by somebody else; but it'd also be unfair to credit it to Roger and John only since melody and lyrics were both chiefly Brian's.

BUT... think about 'I Want to Break Free', 'Moonlight Serenade', 'Why Don't We Do It in the Road', 'Rock and Roll', 'Day Tripper', etc... all using the same chord sequence for all or most of the song content. Should we consider all of them to be actually composed by whoever first did the 12-bar thing (let's leave it annonymous)? After all, even if the progression is the same, the melody is different, so we can credit those pieces to John Deacon, Glenn Miller / Mitchell Parish, Sir Paul McCartney, Bonham/Jones/Page/Plant, John Lennon, etc...

OTOH, 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' has loads of versions where they create different solos, bass-lines, keyboard parts... but the song is still Bob Dylan's since the chord sequence used for all of that is his.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 30 Apr 08, 09:48 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I don't think we're talking about official credit along the lines of song royalties for The Show Must Go On.

It is interesting from a musical-forensic point of view.

One thing that's interesting to me is that the song does hold up with almost anyone singing it. From American Idol to Shirley Bassey to Moulin Rouge to Paul Rodgers. It's becoming a standard. You can't even say that of "Bohemian Rhapsody"--who's covered that song and not totally embarrassed themselves?


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Posted: 30 Apr 08, 10:28 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

A quote from Brian from 1994

"'The Show Must Go On' came from Roger and John playing the sequence and I started to put things down. At the beginning it was just this chord sequence but I had this strange feeling that it could be somehow important and I got very impassioned and went and beavered away at it. I sat down with Freddie and we decided what the theme should be and wrote the first verse. It's a long story, that song, but I always felt it would be important because we were dealing with things that were hard to talk about at the time, but in the world of music you could do it."

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Posted: 30 Apr 08, 11:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

"I often think the same thing. It dawned on me while thinking about the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, and how there seemed to be less songs actually written by Freddie than one would expect. And it finally occurred to me one day, that really, Freddie made every one of those songs--written by him or not--very distinctly his. Take I Want to Break Free...a John Deacon compsotion...NO ONE can deliver that song the way Freddie does. He adds so much pathos, irony, camp, indignation, and emotion into that song, all very distinctively him."

That's outstanding QueenZeppelin. One of the thing that the newbie or casual fan (and that doesn't make them any less of a fan than hardcore collectors or people into Queen from day 1) tend to miss now that Freddie's gone is the fact that he made every song his. Rod Stewart has done tons of covers that people think are his originals, which is a great honour as it shows that you've put your stamp on something. The argument for Paul Rodgers being good for Queen is that he has a better overall voice or a better live voice than Freddie did, which may certainly be true. But vocal power aside, Paul Rodgers is not a patch on Freddie Mercury when it comes to making a song your own. A recent reviewer of the C-lebrity track loved Paul Rodgers voice, calling it one of the greatest in rock. I whole heartedly agree. They also said in a positive manner that he belts it out in the style of a blues pub singer where Freddie was a dripping in champagne type of singer. Everybody talks about Frediie's voice, which was amazing. But his singing and phrasing and interpretation of how to deliver a line is unmatched by any rocker ever, IMHO.

BTW, Treasure Moment did not have a gun to my head while I typed the last part ;)

OH yeah, SMGO? Queen song.


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Posted: 30 Apr 08, 11:50 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

i think we have to distance ourselves a little from sentiment - the meaning of the song and also from what the singer actually added.

NONE of these attributes make a difference to who composed it. Let's look at a litle reality here and try to apply it to other bands.

there are many who and zeppelin tunes credited their guitarist....that despite (on occasion) significant input from vocalist and other band members. the songs are still creidted to the main composer....

take the beatles - nearly ALL of their songs are credited Lennon/McCartney - but any beatles fan will tell you which beatles songs were written by which of the two writers - not that many were joint compositions....

fact is, that apart from a bit of contribution from Roger and John, and some lyrics in the first verse - TSMGO is a Brian May tune - despite what the credit says and despite what his or our sentiment would rather we believe.


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