Forums > Queen - General Discussion > How exactly is '39 about time travel?

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NJQueenFan user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 01 Sep 05, 19:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I've known the lyrics for years, read 'em a few times, and all I can gather is that it's about a group of people exploring and finding a new place to call home, hence the line "In the land our grandchildren knew"


"So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye? So you think you can love me and leave me to die?"



-Bohemian Rhapsody
Adam Baboolal user not visiting Queenzone.com
Adam Baboolal
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Posted: 01 Sep 05, 19:49 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The explorers have been away a year, but in time relativity, back home it has actually been 100 years. This has something to do with space travel, but I can't remember the full story. I'm sure someone will either post a link to Brian's response or explain better.

Peace,
Adam.

EDIT: Here we are: http://www.brianmay.com/brian/letters/lettersoct03.html

scroll down to "**Wed 22 Oct 03**
MORE ABOUT '39"

Unfortunately, it appears that Brian's soapbox article is nowhere to be seen, they seem to have eliminated anything before 2004 articles. Shame. But the letter says some things about what it may have included.

mercuryqueen user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 01 Sep 05, 22:42 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Ok, as a history expert i will try and answer this one. The year 39' was the beggining of World War II.

"In the year of 39 assembled here the volunteers" The british army volunteers gathering to fight for Britain.

"In the days when the lands were few" Hitlers Germany had taken over most of Europe by the time Britain got involved, and most of Europe was one land.

The part about the ships going out and the sweetest site ever seen is the British army getting rid of the Nazi's.

I dont feel like doing a full analysis of the song right now as I am practicing my vocals but yea, if i had to make a guess, the song is about World War II.


"Fuck today. Its tomorrow" - Freddie Mercury
Adam Baboolal user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 01 Sep 05, 23:17 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

A quote from Brian...

Brian May described the song as follows: "It’s a science fiction story. It’s the story about someone who goes away and leaves his family and because of the time dilation effect, when you go away, the people on earth have aged a lot more than he has when he comes home. He’s aged a year and they’ve aged 100 years so, instead of coming back to his wife, he comes back to his daughter and he can see his wife in his daughter, a strange story. I think, also, I had in mind a story of Herman Hesse which I think is called ‘The River’. A man leaves his hometown and has lots of travels and then comes back and observes his hometown from the other side of the river. He sees it in a different light having been away and experienced all those different things. He sees it in a very illuminating way, cause I felt a little bit like that about my home at the time as well having been away and seen this vastly different world of rock music. Totally different from the way I was brought up and I had those feelings about home."

So, not really WWII.

Peace,
Adam.

Maz user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 01 Sep 05, 23:22 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/'39

Yeah, to back up what Adam said. Brian's been pretty clear about the sci-fi aspect of the song.


DJ's the man we love the most
mercuryqueen user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 01 Sep 05, 23:26 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Well, if taken literally, you look at the lyrics from a historical point of view, with no outside influence, then it could seem like World War II.


"Fuck today. Its tomorrow" - Freddie Mercury
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Posted: 01 Sep 05, 23:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

No, you're right. That's perfectly understandable. But, to take a rather extreme example, there are those critics that say WATC is a gay rights song.

All Adam and I are pointing out is what Brian has said about the song, which is (we all presume)as accurate as we can get.


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teleman user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 00:25 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Looks like you all have it covered.
One of my favourite Queen songs and a staple back in my youthful busking days.

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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 00:26 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It's okay. When I first heard it I kept thinking of Pilgrims on the Mayflower...actually, I still do. I can't help it.


When life hands you lemons, add vodka.
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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 00:35 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Adam Baboolal wrote:

The explorers have been away a year, but in time relativity, back home it has actually been 100 years. This has something to do with space travel, but I can't remember the full story.


A bit of googling can do wonders... :P
(from http://astro.physics.sc.edu/selfpacedunits/Unit56.html )

"One of the interesting predictions of the special theory of relativity is the twin effect. Consider two twins who were born on Earth. One of the twins gets in a spaceship which quickly accelerates to a large velocity (say 0.9 the speed of light for this example) relative to the Earth. This twin travels for a period of proper time, say 10 years, quickly turns around and returns to Earth where he deccelerates and stops. To the traveling twin only 20 years have passed, while the twin who stayed on Earth experiences a much larger passage of time.
The prediction of relativity is that 46 years will have passed to the twin who stayed at rest on the Earth."

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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 01:01 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Well, it has to do with the Time Dilation phenomenon as explained by Einstein's Theories of Relativity.

Let's say that you board a spaceship and accelerate to a very high speed in relation to a resting frame. If you do so, an observer in the resting frame will notice that your time will run slower than his/her own time. This time dilation is not an artifact that will only affect the moving clocks (or any other time-measuring devices) - in fact, it will affect ALL physical processes, including biological, so it will effectively delay aging ('For so many years have gone though I'm older but a year').

The most common way to calculate the time as measured in the moving clock from the one measured in the resting frame and vice-versa is to apply the so called Lorentz Transformations:
http://www.bartleby.com/173/11.html
These are a simple set of ecuations (believe me - there are complex generalizations of those, such as the Poincaré Transformations) in which you input the measured time interval and also the relative speed.

If we believe that the volunteers returned one hundred years later ('In the year of '39 assembled here the volunteers' and 'In the year of '39 came a ship in from the blue', but 'In the land that our grandchildren knew' and 'Your mother's eyes from your eyes cry to me') then we can only calculate the equivalent speed of the volunteers' spaceship (unfortunately, the song does not give us any information about its acceleration), which is roughly 99,995% of the speed of light!!!

So, we can conclude that the spaceship's captain is either Captain Kirk or Mr. Fahrenheit.

Lord Blackadder user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 05:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Isn't it about AIDS?


"I bet you lost your virginity to a mechanical bull"
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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 05:31 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Lord Blackadder wrote:

Isn't it about AIDS?


Oh no not again, how many more times have you got to be told - that was Bohemian Rhapsody ;-)


Cleveland May 24 to June 4th 2007 - I came, I saw, I fucked off home again.
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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 05:41 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Lord Blackadder wrote:

Isn't it about AIDS?


No... It's a prophecy about 9/11, and the whole war against terrorism.

' stands for 1, as in year 2001, 3 is what week it's going to start, and 9 is for September. (We can't expect Brian to be perfect with the timing...)


"In the year of '39 assembled here the Volunteers
In the days when lands were few
Here the ship sailed out into the blue and sunny morn
The sweetest sight ever seen."

There is only one superpower in the World, and it's citizens are proud and eager to go into war.


"And the night followed day
And the story tellers say
That the score brave souls inside
For many a lonely day sailed across the milky seas
Ne'er looked back, never feared, never cried."

More of that same, and a mention of the war going on and on and on...


"Don't you hear my call though you're many years away
Don't you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew."

The soldiers are left alone with no support.
It even mentions that they are fighting in desert!


"In the year of '39 came a ship in from the blue
The volunteers came home that day
And they bring good news of a world so newly born
Though their hearts so heavily weigh"

The soldiers return from the Middle East after a hundred years, and they aren't too thrilled with what they've accomplished


"For the earth is old and grey, little darlin' we'll away
But my love this cannot be
For so many years have gone though I'm older but a year
Your mother's eyes from your eyes cry to me."

This isn't actually talking about the same soldiers being in Iraq for a hundred years, but rather it's a metaphorical way to say that every year some of the country's youth has been sent there... Despite their mothers' protests.


"All the letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand
For my life
Still ahead
Pity Me."

They're wounded! They need to be healed, and they're asking for our pity!

Hitman user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 08:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

In leipzig concert Brian explained what '39 is about:
"i think possibly the first general relativity song..ahem...ahaha...cos it's about a man who goes away..." ecc ecc "...and he comes back after what seems like 1 year to him, but to his friends and family he has been away for one hundred years....so this song is called '39. SO IF YOU KNOW PLEASE SING ALONG OKAY?" ....guitar starts. ;)




Anything too stupid to be said... is sung.
luis663 user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 12:17 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The song is for sure about the theory of relativity. Also, '39 is the song number 39 that Queen recorded.


Luis
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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 15:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

'39 is a pretty sad song to me...
I wouldn't have enough guts to be a volonteer...


2+2=5
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Posted: 02 Sep 05, 15:59 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

For those of you who are interested in similar stories, Robert A. Heinlein, a famous science fiction writer, wrote a story very much like this, called "A Time for the Stars" if I recall the title right, I believe around '59. In it, this space travel corporation is looking for twins to volunteer for an experiment to see if any can mindspeak, the whole point being that as they travel further away, radio lag makes it nearly impossible to commmunicate with earth. The brother on the rocket ages "relatively" slower than his brother back on earth because he is traveling faster than light, etc. He marries his grand neice. Very well written.
For an alternate story, there is an Anime show called "Gunbuster" in which the same thing happens to a young girl in a Mechsuit, who comes back to earth long after everyone she knew is dead.
I bet my family something like 10 years ago that the song was about time traveling effects of time dilation, (before I read anything Bri said).
When my Girlfriend and I were at Wembley, right before he went into '39, Bri said something like, "Here's my little song about Einsteinian Time Dilation" or something, very similar to his commment in Antwerp or wherever he said the other one. One of my top 10 fav. songs.