As many of you know, I used to update a thread on this topic every six months or so; after a couple of years, it's time for another one. Contributions, corrections, complements, controversies and any other 'c', are completely welcome.
First of all, some general comments:
- What's written on the credits doesn't necessarily reflect what actually happened (e.g. Pink Floyd's Speak to Me
). Certain pre-made agreements (usually made for contractual, financial, legal and/or ethical reasons) may result in people being unfairly excluded or included in the credits. For instance, Come Together
includes McCartney (who wasn't involved) but excludes Harrison (who wrote some lyrics for it).
- Just because a person's not a professional guitarist (e.g. Mercury), it doesn't mean they can't compose elaborate guitar parts (e.g. Bijou
). Same with other instruments (e.g. May writing for drums, Taylor writing for keyboards and so on). Likewise, many great vocal lines have been penned entirely by people who aren't singers: Dust in the Wind, You're my Best Friend, Vaults of Heaven
... in other words, you don't need to be able to play or sing what you're written, or do you think Mozart could sing all the bass, tenor, alto and soprano arias of his operas?
- It's hard to establish exactly what counts as (co-)writing a song and what doesn't: for instance, when Paul McCartney composed (i.e. wrote chords and melody to) Yesterday
, it was George Martin who scored the parts for violins, viola and cello; but the song is still Paul's. Another famous case is GnR's Knocking on Heaven's Door
: they wrote new parts for guitar, bass, drums, piano and even added some changes to the vocals and the chord progression (as far as I remember, the original goes alternates I > V > ii with I > V > IV, GnR only the latter), but the song is still Bob Dylan's: they're *merely* arrangers.
- On the other hand, sometimes an idea can be put by somebody and the actual song raises from that. Defining an absolute authorship is very hard in those cases as well: for instance, if I tell you 'it'd be nice to write a song about what a person thinks during binge eating', and you write the song, it's still yours (even if I put the idea). But what happens if someone develops the track from a chord progression or something? Should the other person be co-credited? If so, what happens with the tracks based on clichés, like I Want to Break Free
(based on 12-bar-blues used for thousands of tracks before, during and after 1983)? What happens with Keep Passing the Open Windows, A Kind of Magic
or Radio Ga Ga
? There's no right or wrong in those situations.
- People's perceptions about the evidence vary: some trust deeply on what witnesses say (as in a police case), some others trust on physical (direct or indirect) clues. If Sherlock Holmes or Endeavour Morse existed, it'd be great to hire them for this thread, wouldn't it? Anyway, the point is: while some say that we can only trust the recollections of those who were there (and deem any other evidence as pure speculation), others believe that memory's bound to fail, while the other details (e.g. manuscripts, cross-references with other works, etc) are more difficult to be compromised. A true 'detective' work should be able to establish if certain song is, for instance, John Deacon's, in a similar way that criminal trials use experts to authenticate handwriting from a suspect, etc.
After all this (initially-meant-to-be-brief-but-you-know-the-story) introduction, the tracks themselves (I'm only included those credited to the band, not those who're credited to two people, like Thank God It's Christmas, Is this the World we Created
or Mother Love
): STONE COLD CRAZY
Performed live from 1970 onwards (before Deacon joined)
Credited to the four of them on the 1974 release
Rumour has it that Mercury'd already written it for Wreckage
The music points to Freddie: G minor key, one-bar extension on the second cycle (as in Death on Two Legs
: 'shark'). The solos, nice as they are, aren't difficult to compose, since they're mostly sequential. One of the closing scales even appears (almost note by note identically) on Great King Rat
, further pointing at Mercury. Having a section over a static chord is also chiefly (but not entirely) Freddie-esque: Somebody to Love, All God's People...
Performed live from 1970 onwards (before Deacon joined)
Never released officially, thus no official credit
Brian confirmed to one of QZ posters (I'm not mentioning who) that he wrote the music and Fred wrote the lyrics. Barry Mitchell confirmed so.
Musically, it's harmony and structure are so simple that anybody could've written them. It's based on twelve-bar blues, first on A minor then on F Major. Considering Freddie, Brian and Roger were all Zeppelin fans, any of them could theoretically compose one or many songs with those details. So, in this case, the best evidence we can count on is indeed the recollection from Dr May. SOUL BROTHER
Released on 1981, no official writing credt (as far as I know)
May credited it to Freddie on his soapbox (anybody remembers the date?)
Musically it's quite a simple track too. It's got a chord stream (bVI > bVII > I) which is reminiscent of what Mercury used to do at the time (e.g. Crazy Little Thing
and, reversed, Play the Game
). ONE VISION
Released in 1985, credited to all four of them
Deacon admitted (GVHII) not being as involved as his bandmates
While the 'making of' video shows Freddie, Roger and Brian working together on it, it's evident that May's input on lyrics was only 'overseeing' the process, while the words were basically written by Taylor and edited by Mercury. Musically, Roger's shown explaining the riff to May, and the latter's playing the synth intro. Indeed, the music all points to May:
- The intro&middle-eight sequence is practically an updated Doing All Right
- The whole crescendo (adding one instrument at a time) intro is also May-esque: Keep Yourself Alive
- I>i modulation is chiefly (though not entirely) his trademark in the band: Teo, '39...
- Chorus progression is reminiscent of Hammer to Fall
- Middle-eight is based on the intro progression, which is more May-esque (Leaving Home, '39, All Dead...
) than Mercury-esque (e.g. Keep Passing the Open Windows
- Freddie's input on conducting Brian and Roger on their instruments could be regarded as arrangements more than actual co-writing. PARTY
Released in 1989, credited to Queen
Taylor (Queen for an Hour, 1989) admitted not being present when they wrote it
David Richards credited Freddie for starting the 'we have a good time' theme
Mercury credited lyrics to all of them
Leaving lyrics aside, the song is very Freddie-esque:
- Intro on static chord (reminiscent of Let's Turn It On
and Body Language
, to name just two)
- Chord progressions are similar to those in the 'Hot Space' era (e.g. Staying Power, Body Language
- G > A > B > C progression (in A Major) has an S-S-H motion, which is the same (though inverted in direction) as the Andalusian cadence Freddie used in some songs (e.g. It's a Hard Life
, pre-solo, only on bass).
- A > C modulation is abrupt. In that area in particular, May used to pivot rather than phrase-switch (e.g. Back to the Light
), so we can (with very little error margin) exclude him.
- The 'funky' guitar bit near the end is also similar to what Fred'd written for the 'Mr Bad Guy' album.
To be continued, edited, corrected, etc.
John hated Hot Space. Fred's favourite singer was not Paul Rodgers. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Wales is not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.