Forums > Queen - Serious Discussion > Songs credited to the band - the 2010 essay

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Posted: 24 Jan 10, 16:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Rock bands are usually thought to be pretty collaborative in terms of songwriting: the common way to visualise them is having the singer coming up with the lyrics and melody, the guitarist with the guitar parts, the drummer with drum parts, etc. It may have been the case with many of them, but not all: in The Beatles it didn't happen, in Kansas it didn't happen, in Iron Maiden it didn't happen, in Eagles it didn't happen and, yes, you guessed right, in Queen it didn't happen.

On the contrary, it was very common that one single band member wrote and composed everything in a song, including the lyrics (even if he didn't sing them at the end), the guitar parts (even if he didn't and/or couldn't play them), the drum parts (even if he didn't and/or couldn't play them), etc. The whole 'lyricist = credited person' rule was just a stretched myth originated by the 'As It Began' book, which has very few mistakes, but this is one of them. After all, A Hard Life is credited to Mercury and not May/Mercury, Is This the World We Created is credited to May/Mercury and not the latter, etc.

In the very early days, songs were more collaborative and all three founding members discussed the details including form (e.g. how many choruses should there be), rhymes, drumming patterns, etc. In those cases, the person who'd initially come up with the skeleton would be the 'owner' of the song and also responsible for all or most of the lyrics. That also played a key role in the diversity of the band and provided a good diplomatic excuse for members not to discuss their band-mates lyrics, which is something loads of musicians are annoyed with.

According to the points above, we can be pretty sure (not positive) that, more often than not, the person mentioned between brackets next to the song in the liner notes had been responsible for all or most parts for all or most instruments and had penned all or most of the words himself. There are exceptions of course, like the bass-line in Magic or the Bo Rhap guitar solo, but those are that, exceptions.

From 1970 to 1986, there were some occasional tracks credited to more than one band member: double-credits usually indicated one had written words and the other had written music (e.g. Is This the World We Created) or that the track had
been spliced together from fragments written by different people (e.g. Thank God It's Christmas), or that they'd both been for the whole process, coming up with ideas and correcting them, providing feedback to each other (John S. Stuart had a very nice analogy for that, comparing the process to a tennis match).

There were also some songs credited to all four of them, a practice that became the norm for 'The Miracle' album (recorded between January 1988 and January 1989), which as Mercury's PA and best friend Peter Freestone mentions in his book, 'stopped some arguments and made the accountants' lives easier but in the studio things were just as fractious.'

Queen continued with that rule for 'Innuendo' (recorded between March 1989 and November 1990) and for some songs in 'Made in Heaven', but not all of them. Fans and experts often wondered about that situation and were eager to know who was responsible for each song, in a similar way to how the press and the public researched, analysed and sometimes guessed about which Lennon/McCartney tunes had been Lennon and which had been McCartney.

When interviewed for the BBC in May 1989, the band members were promoting 'The Miracle' and had recently started the 'Innuendo' sessions. Brian commented that it'd been a very good decision to credit them all for everything as it stopped fights over which the single should be and stuff like that, but already in that interview some actual authorships were cleared by the band: Invisible Man and Breakthru' (except for the intro) were Roger's and My Baby Does Me had been chiefly Freddie's with John having a strong input as well; The Miracle was, lyrically, a four-way split but it wasn't confirmed who'd come up with the music. Same for the rest of the album.

From then on, the occasional interview would shed some light on it, and more and more actual creators would be informally credited that way. But not all of them. Some day in late 90's, shortly after 'Made in Heaven' was released, some people in a discussion group compiled an unofficial who-wrote-what list for those songs, and for some upcoming years it'd be regarded 'common knowledge' by the fandom.

The good news is that they'd done their homework and heard and read a lot of sources for some songs such as Scandal
or I Can't Live With You. The bad news is that, due to the lack of enough information, loads of guesses and stretches had to be made: for instance, when realising Roger had been the chief lyricist for Innuendo, they assumed he'd also composed the music (nothing further from the truth) and the legend began to be spread; same for several other songs; in the case of Don't Try So Hard, they used the apparently logical argument that John Deacon 'must have had' written something, and by ruling out the other eleven songs in the album, it seemed to be crystal clear.

In November 2001, a friend of a friend of mine interviewed David Richards for a book called 'Queen File', published the next year only in Japanese (a language I can't speak BTW). Our mutual friend was kind enough to send me the original transcript (or a back-to-English translation) and I realised several of the 'credits' that had reigned for nearly seven years were spot-on, others weren't.

Some day in 2002 I compiled a new unofficial list of 'who wrote what' and published it via QMS and QueenZone. At the time I was still a 'newbie' so the usual reaction from most people was 'this is shit'. I was quite defensive to harsh criticism myself (still am, when I consider it's unfair) which didn't help: the arguments seemed illogical, the idea of 'reverting' the status quo was preposterous and the fact David Richard's quotes were only printed in a Japanese book (which, most may have thought, I could've easily made up) didn't do a lot for my credibility.

My 2002 list was far from being a definitive one as well, and while it corrected several mistakes and myths, it had let some through. Thanks to loads of corrections, endless heated on-line debates and a bit of luck, the 'list' has become better and better each year, although it's quite obvious that at the end of the day there are things we'll never know about.

John hated Hot Space. Frederick's favourite singer was not Paul Rodgers. Rog didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Wales is not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 vox.
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Posted: 24 Jan 10, 16:41 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Basically, the following sources have been used:

- Quotes from band members: The plus side is that they were there, unlike all or most of us. But be careful: people (and Queen members are people) may misremember, forget or simply lie. As in detective investigations, witnesses aren't always the most reliable source. Also remember that there are many variables involved: printed quotes could be fabricated or taken out of context; those available on audio or video are way more reliable; there's also the time factor: a quote from 1991 about who wrote The Hitman is less likely to be wrong than one in the 2000's.

- Quotes from people close to the band: That includes friends, producers, engineers, lovers, spouses, etc. On paper, those could be more objective sources as they haven't good the need to stretch things, but remember that it's very difficult to tell truth from lies or misremembered details. After all, you could have an old employee coming and saying 'I wrote this line and wasn't credited' and that could easily be true, but it also could easily be false.

- Musical Analysis: That's where the 'detective work' begins. On paper, evidence doesn't lie: if the song's got a I > II > V > bVI progression then it's got a I > II > V > bVI progression, evenif the person who wrote it claims otherwise. The bad thing is that
evidence is being analysed by humans (journalists, musicologists, or simply fans with enough interest and time), who can (and do) make mistakes. Just like there are experts to authenticate photographs, signatures or manuscripts for trials, it's possible, given enough skills and knowledge, to identify with very little (yet existing) error-margin whether certain chord progression, melodic pattern or song structure is part of Taylor's, Mercury's, May's or Deacon's trademark style.

There's also, of course, the question of what is writing a song. Take the following examples:

- Bob Dylan's Knocking on Heaven's Door: It's got many different versions by different people, where new bass-lines, piano parts, organ solos, guitar solos, vocal harmonies, drum parts, etc. have been created. Yet, the song is still Dylan's: the reason being, all those guitar solos, etc. are based on and dictated by the chord progression Bob wrote (or variations of it). According to that criterion, if a person in the band wrote the chord progression and another one took it and came up with the bass, piano, drum, guitar and synth parts to be played over that chord progression, the former 'wrote' the song (at least musically-speaking), the latter 'arranged' it.

- Paul McCartney's Yesterday: Violin, viola and cello parts were created by George Martin but all based on the chord progression Paul had come up with. Again, GM is the arranger, but not a co-writer.

- Some times, there were 'ghost' writers whose input was left uncredited. That's the case of George Harrison writing some lyrics for Eleanor Rigby and Come Together but both songs only mention John and Paul (though Paul had nothing to do with CT). The bad thing about these kind of deals is that, again, anybody can come up after all these years and claim to have written this and that (remember Mal Evans?).

John hated Hot Space. Frederick's favourite singer was not Paul Rodgers. Rog didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Wales is not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 vox.
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Posted: 24 Jan 10, 16:44 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

So, without further ado (and that was some ado), the list:

STONE COLD CRAZY (lyrics and music undisclosed, could be anyone except Deacon).
UNDER PRESSURE (lyrics by all five with Bowie dominating, music chiefly Mercury's).
ONE VISION (music by May, lyrics originally Taylor then changed by Mercury).

PARTY (chiefly Mercury with input from May and Deacon).
KHASHOGGI'S SHIP (lyrics by all four, music probably chiefly Mercury).
THE MIRACLE (music by Freddie, lyrics by all four).
I WANT IT ALL (May in both music and lyrics).
INVISIVLE MAN (Taylor for both music and lyrics, with some unspecified input by the others).
BREAKTHRU' (Intro by Mercury, the song itself by Taylor).
RAIN MUST FALL (lyrics by Mercury, music by Deacon).
SCANDAL (lyrics by May, music probably chiefly his as well).
MY BABY DOES ME (chiefly Mercury with strong input from Deacon).
WAS IT ALL WORTH IT (lyrics by all four, music by Mercury).

STEALIN' (Mercury).

INNUENDO (lyrics by Mercury and Taylor; music chiefly Mercury).
I'M GOING SLIGHTLY MAD (Mercury, possibly with lyrical input from his friends)
HEADLONG (music by May, lyrics apparently re-written by all four).
DON'T TRY SO HARD (Mercury).
ALL GOD'S PEOPLE (Mercury and Mike Moran).
DELILAH (Mercury).
THE HITMAN (music by Mercury, lyrics undisclosed).
BIJOU (guitar and synth bits by Mercury, melody by May, lyrics undisclosed).
THE SHOW MUST GO ON (music by Taylor & Deacon, melody by May, lyrics by May/Mercury).

A WINTER'S TALE (Mercury).
YOU DON'T FOOL ME (Mercury with either Deacon or Taylor or both).

LET ME LIVE (music by Mercury, lyrics by Mercury, May & Taylor).

John hated Hot Space. Frederick's favourite singer was not Paul Rodgers. Rog didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Wales is not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 vox.
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Posted: 24 Jan 10, 17:04 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote


Here's what's been said about it:

- It was the first song the band played on stage. Sources include books (As It Began, The Early Days) and a printed quote from Freddie. Of course, it's not too hard to make it circumstantial evidence: the quote could've been fabricated and both books could've been erroneously taking it to heart.

- It was first a slow version, according to 'word of mouth'. However, Barry Mitchell said it was the same version (i.e. tempo, key, arrangement) as on 'Sheer Heart Attack', and IMO that's a way more believable source than 'rumour has it'. However, there's no way to know for sure unless an audio recording surfaces and even then it could be argued that Grose versions were slower than it was sped-up for Mitchell.

- However, if it was already played before Deacon joined, then we can rule him out.

- Musical analysis (by my friend PD: brings some interesting points: the main key in the verse is G minor, which is usually more associated with Freddie; still, it doesn't mean the universe would implode if Brian or Roger wrote a song in that key occasionally.

- 'As It Began' (IIRC) also claims it was a Wreckage song, which would suggest that at least at first it was Freddie's. Really? Not really: it wasn't forbidden for Roger or Brian to co-write a track for another band; moreover, which was JG's and JJ's source? It could be something very serious and strong such as an unreleased tape, or something as circumstantial and prone to mistakes as a former band member saying 'I think...'.

Conclusion: Chances are that John was definitely absent, which would mean that Roger, Fred and Brian wrote both the lyrics and the music. Further details can only be guessed for the moment.



- 'Word of mouth' including Wikipedia, forums and Q&A claim it was based on a song by Roger called Feel Like. I wonder: where on earth does it say Feel Like is Roger's? It could easily be his, but it could just as easily be Freddie's, John's, Brian's... it could even be from someone outside the band!

- According to what John told a French magazine in 1984 (unless of course it's a mistranscription or something), it's chiefly Freddie's although they all contributed. He also told a Japanese digest in '82 that it was mainly Freddie and David, with the latter writing the bass-line.

- Both Brian and Roger would credit the bass-line to John. However, what's more believable? A comment made almost twenty years later (or more) by two people who weren't directly involved with the song or a comment made the year after the song was recorded by the person who played the bass line (he would know if he wrote it or if someone else taught it to him).

- Apparently, David wrote in his website that both the progression and the bass-line were there before he came in. Now, Mr Bowie's memory isn't precisely the most reliable (even Brian's is eidetic compared to his), so there's not so much we can take from that. He also claimed that each wrote the bits they sang.

- As many of the ideas came from a 24-hour jam session in Montreux, the song was credited to all five people involved. But it doesn't necessarily mean it was a 20-20-20-20-20 split. Peter Freestone said in his book that the 'why' glissando in the climax was actually his idea.



- Brian said some years ago in his website that Freddie wrote it about him, and it was very quickly done. So, unless he's misremembering, there you have it.



- There's a video of how they made PART (NOT ALL) of it. As seen in the single inner-sleeve, the song was recorded at Munich and London. Only part of the Munich sessions were filmed (or at least released in a couple of documentaries), which leaves us with a fragmentary view of how things were.

- In the video, Brian's seen coming up with the opening section (which would then be recycled for the middle-eight), Roger explains to him the guitar riff and when Fred comes in to sing they've already got a melody, which could be Roger's or Freddie's since Brian has to ask them for to sing it for a bit later on. Lyrics are being written by Roger with Freddie pitching in ideas and Brian sitting there with an 'I have it, I have it... no, I don't' moment but otherwise just watching.

- John admitted not being involved with its songwriting.

- Now, were the sessions started off in Munich or London? If they began in Munich, one could think that London was used for synth overdubs (those not shown in the video, such as the cello bit, the arpeggios, the ending, etc) and it could, theoretically, involve Spike Edney as well.

John hated Hot Space. Frederick's favourite singer was not Paul Rodgers. Rog didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Wales is not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 vox.