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Not Too Hot To Spot

Hi folks. As Queen fans, we all know that all 4 members write songs and some members have distinguishing features about their work. We also may have friends who may not be into Queen as yet and may become interested in hearing the music, along side what ever else they listen to. I have always wanted to tell any newbie (if they really want to know) how to tell a Freddie song, from a Brian song, or from a song by John. With Roger it isn’t as difficult because of how his songs roll. The main word here is “if” because not everyone looks at the liner notes and wants to find out who did what, who wrote what, who produced the album, etc. I have always been interested in that and even in the digital age, I can still find out through Wikipedia and it is usually correct, even though sometimes information may not always be and if a citation is needed, then you know that it could be questionable. I will get more into that, with help from other fans, who will be credited as guest bloggers in this post. So, if you are new to Queen, get ready to listen and learn, as you will soon distinguish style, vocals, etc that each member likes. Altho, there is a bit of overlap at times, but mostly each member has songs which you can tell one from the other.

Now, let’s remind ourselves that all 4 song writers write based on their instrument and in the case of Roger, he writes on guitar and can play well enough, as well as keyboards, bass and of course) drums. After all, he had to come up with drum parts which favour him, in order for his songs to work for him and the others. Right?

Freddie writes songs which typically have piano or any keyboards in them and even if the main focus is guitar, keyboards usually remain. There are exceptions with Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Great King Rat and Ogre Battle, which have no keyboards in them at all. I also believe that Stone Cold Crazy might even be a Freddie creation, as it was first a Wreckage song reworked by Queen. According to Wikipedia, nobody could remember who had come up with the lyrics so, it was credited to Freddie, Brian, John and Roger.

Brian writes for the guitar and because of Freddie, he writes mostly the hard rock numbers. However, he has written ballads for Freddie to sing and some have keyboards on them and some do not. White Queen (As It Began) has no keyboards on the studio version, but when they play it live, Freddie is on piano during the solo section and crescendo, to the last few bars when the song comes down and eventually ends.

Brian also sings his own songs on occasion and they are tunes written with other genres in mind. For example: folk, dixieland jazz and blues, among other styles he explores with songs which Freddie does not sing.

With John, the songs are lighter and more poppy. Sometimes, there is less of a reliant on backing vocals and just one time, he has written a hard rock track, with If You Can’t Beat Them on Jazz, which has a long guitar outro after the final chorus. If you want to count The Hitman from Innuendo, that’s fine, except that this hard rocker is primarily a Freddie creation, with help from Brian and John. Deacy is the member who likes heavy metal the least so, this is rare.

Roger writes with a minimalism, which is almost typical of punk and unlike punk and all of its sub-genres, his lyrics are about having fun and being carefree. That’s when he was writing on guitar and in later years, things had changed when writing on keyboards. The most recent example is These Are the Days of Our Lives, which is really simple in typical Roger fashion. Others will get into some of that below and more.

I will explain how I had learned who wrote what, as I had posted it on a Facebook group and don’t worry, I will credit all guest bloggers as they appear. I will add my own additional comments, as there is that overlap in how each member’s songs may intersect musically and stylistically with each other. I will include each comment in no particular order and so, read on and mentally construct your own idea from here, to the last of the comments.

Abi Kinsella commented: Lyrically (and vaguely in chronological order):

Freddie: We’re all gna get smited by evil fairies, I don’t really understand who Jesus is but he seems cool, I want to marry a nice young man, wait maybe I want to do loads of coke, actually maybe not maybe I just want a cup of tea and a hug.

Brian: death is imminent, arses are important, I sort of want to be fired into space, sometimes I’m American for no reason

Roger: ugh let me go have fun muuuum, whadyou mean I’ve never even BEEN to Cornwall i had a COOL CHILDHOOD sweats nervously, hey, y’all like robots because I sure do, burn the establishment but please leave my Rolls Royce alone

John: 🎶erectile dysfunction🎶 I’m not quite sure how I ended up here but it seems to be going okay, I hate when tall people called Brian won’t shut up but not like a SPECIFIC tall person called Brian ahem

Cathy Gallagher says John’s tend to be poppier, some with a disco beat. Brian tends to write deeper lyrics, and more emotional ones. If it’s about girls/cars, it’s probably Roger! Freddie wrote anything and everything, depending on his mood.

Victoria Gordon commented: Anything about dead animals or existential crises or infidelity or heavier handed social commentary is Brian.

Anything lighter, more pop-inspired, Motown tinged is John.

Anything about cars or women or rebellion is Roger.

Anything fantastical or vaudevillian or seductive or anything with cool word play in the lyrics is Freddie. (Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy counting up to nine in a 4/4 song and somehow it works; “I’ll pull you and I’ll pill you; I’ll Cruella DeVille you” in Let Me Entertain You.)

Sebas Tian commented: I’d say that, with some exceptions, John’s songs tend to be lighter and poppier, and some of them (again, there are exceptions) aren’t particularly reliant on backing vocals, unlike the other three. Speaking of the other three, a nice way of knowing who wrote the song is often (yet again, there are exceptions) via identifying who’s singing all or most of the harmonies: ‘Love of My Life’, ‘Good Company’, ‘Tenement Funster’… If they’re more music anoraks as I am, then perhaps you can mention that certain keys were favoured by certain members, which also reflected the instrument they’d used for composing. Roger, for instance, would often write on guitar, which is why ‘I’m in Love with My Car’ is in E minor, as is ‘Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll’, as is ‘Tenement Funster’, and then ‘Drowse’ is in D Major (middle-eight then goes to E)… but then he started writing on keyboards and suddenly ‘Ga Ga’ is in F Major, ‘Machines’ is (largely) in G minor, ‘Breakthru’ is in F Major, ‘Hijack My Heart’ is in C Dorian (sort of), ‘Ride the Wild Wind’ is in D minor… it’s like he realised there were flats as well!

Matt Booth commented: Guitar heavy, or stuff that sounds like Meatloaf would sell a kidney for, is Brian’s.

See? All of the guest bloggers and myself look at Queen differently and that’s okay, because of how much they genre bounce and bend, with every album and all 4 of them could write a series of songs, focusing on one particular genre, but they don’t. I have always focused on Queen as a hard rock band and that is where they all meet and from there, they all go off in any and all directions.

So, how had I learned who wrote what and how did I react to finding out that for example: John wrote You’re My Best Friend and not Freddie? Well, my mom had read out the song titles and writing credits from either the CD or cassette liner notes and to be honest, I was surprised. The reason is because of The Beatles and that all four of them had written songs by the time of their disbandment and for the most part, each member had sung their own songs throughout their discography. With Queen, it was obviously different because John doesn’t sing, while songs by Roger and Brian were either sung by them, or Freddie, from Queen to The Game. From Hot Space onward, it would be Freddie singing lead on every song. So I needed someone to read out the credits in order for me, to know that Brian had wrote a ballad like Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together) and on the same album, he would also come up with rockers like Tie Your Mother Down and White Man, along with the Beatles-like Long Away. Freddie also has his share of songs on A Day At The Races too, which aren’t all the same and if I didn’t know, I probably would have thought that You and I was also written by Freddie, but it obviously isn’t.

So, now I know and understanding how they all write gives people like myself, an idea of who wrote what on the last 2 studio albums, while Freddie was alive. I never did buy into every song being credited to Queen, because I know that they are all different with each member, having their own type of song for Queen. However, there are the exceptions where Queen are credited and rightly so, as they had all contributed something. Was It All Worth It is a Freddie creation, with all four of them helping out. A part of me now believes that Seven Seas of Rhye should be credited to Freddie and Brian, as Brian had revealed in the Simon Lupton 2011 documentary Queen: Day’s of Our Lives that he had helped out on the song and then, Freddie took credit for the whole thing.

In closing, if newbies really want to know, they can either believe us or form their own idea of how each member’s songs differ from each other. Thanks to: Abi Kinsella, Matt Booth, Sebas Tian, Cathy Gallagher and Victoria Gordon for their comments on FB and I except all of them, while I have my own idea of what to listen for, from Freddie, Brian and John. No, I haven’t forgotten Roger as his songs are not too hard to spot.

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Published by blindgordie

I am a blind at birth human and love to write. I have many interests and they are all in all 3 blogs I have here. Hopefully you enjoy reading them as much as I have had both fun and a hard time putting together each post.

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