queenUSA wrote: This may have been hashed out long ago, but I need to catch up in light of the remasters.
The released 1973 BBC session has wildly different lyrics than the final album version.
I'm getting the impression there was an issue with the song - I saw a comment
on Wiki that Brian addressed something in particular concerning this song in his online blog,
but the year referenced (2004) is no longer available on his site. Can anyone help?
What went on with this song?
Different versions, why?
Especially in the BBC version:
The Greyhound bus line is a national bus line here in America - but Queen would not have
toured America yet. This version also mentions the train to Georgia.
By the way, I think the BBC version is way funnier - if you imagine the scene of an early Queen missing
their bus to the next gig. In those low budget days, that's the kind of mishap a band faced oft times.
Brian heard the song "That's How I Feel" by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee on a show while in Smile. He remembered only a bit of it and wrote "See What A Fool I've Been" around what he remembered. He also didn't remember the name of the artists. When Queen recorded it, though it's never been stated, it's likely that this up-and-coming band wouldn't want to put a song on one their albums which wasn't entirely original, expecting that if the lawyers called, they could lose a chunk of the royalties. A better idea would be to use it on a single, so if the legal issues came up, only the single's profits would be affected (and at the time, it would affect Trident's pocketbooks more than Queen's).
The first verse of the song in all versions I've heard (B-Side...Live...BBC...) all start and end with the verse which came from the ST&BM song. The two middle verses differ between the B-Side and other known versions, which leads me to think the B-Side version is more the anomaly. I have the feeling, going back to the royalty issues, that there may have been a method to Freddie's madness in doing the song in a burlesque fashion, which was not only to take the piss out of everyone, himself included, but to mask the content. The lyrics are less likely to be noticed sung that way than if sung straight.
As to the "Train to Georgia," it's likely this could be a combination of 1973 song "Midnight Train To Georgia" and old blues lyrics. It's not hard to sing about a place you've never been to when you're working from a musical tradition that includes iconic place names and themes (trains, buses, the southern US, etc.). The same goes for the "Greyhound Bus" line, which may not be as infamous as the Orient Express, but is a classic North American transit system (I've ridden on Greyhound buses many times in Canada and the US). Blues is as much about imagery as it is about the feeling. You don't hear blues singers going on about travelling First Class and eating caviar.
I think Queen was invoking similar ideas to how Led Zeppelin borrowed heavily from classic rhythm and blues lyrics as the foundation for their early career. The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones and Small Faces all did as well as they laid bare their influences on their early records (and The Beatles were still displaying them late, such as on songs like "One After 909").
Anyway, Brian eventually found out from a handsome Canadian fan, in February of 2004, the identity of the song which inspired "See What A Fool I've Been." What the fan did was look through a website of ST&BM lyrics and hummed the tune of SWAFIB to each one. Imagine his surprise when not only did one song fit, it contain lyrics almost identical to the the Smile/Queen song. He emailed Jackie Smith at the Fan Club, who forwarded it to Greg Brooks and the fan then sought out and found a CD containing the song, called "Blues Brothers." He sent a copy of the CD to Greg to give to Brian and Brian identified the song as the long lost blues track, thereafter the 30+ year old mystery was solved and it is now standard to identify "That's How I Feel" as the inspiration for "See What A Fool I've Been" on websites and in books.