This is starting to get hard now. Although we are still some way off the top 100 — or even the halfway point — there are no ‘fillers’ here: this collection is made up of twenty good, solid Queen songs. Some of them are what I would categorise as nearly-but-not-quite: there’s definitely something there, but the overall song doesn’t quite make it to the stratosphere. As you would expect, most of the non-album tracks are now accounted for … though by no means all.
140. Calling All Girls (Taylor), Hot Space, 1982
A ‘hybrid’ guitar sound (sort of semi-acoustic), built on an uptempo beat, drives this song along — it sounded even better performed live (it featured in the set list for the ’82 US and Japanese tours). Calling is, however, let down somewhat by bland lyrics and puerile humour (assuming that it’s the sound of a record needle we hear at roughly 1:43 ‘scratching’ the vinyl). Best moment: the guitar in the chorus, for example at 0:55.
139. Delilah (Queen), Innuendo, 1991
A lightweight slice of Freddie-inspired whimsy with a playful synth-led tempo. Nice guitar from Brian, especially mimicking the miaow of a cat. Sometimes, something seemingly incidental and buried away in the mix just captures the ear — here it’s the piano at 0:25. Not one of Roger’s favourites, he is on record as saying.
138. You Don’t Fool Me (Queen), Made in Heaven, 1995
More than a decade after the release of Hot Space, this is one of Queen’s better efforts to capture a ‘disco’ sound (not least because of the absence of programmed instrumental backing). It is nevertheless immeasurably enhanced by terrific guitar from Brian, bringing to mind the Eddie Van Halen solo on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. Best moment: the scorching guitar at 2:43.
137. Son and Daughter (May), Queen, 1973
A real spit-and-sawdust, blues-infused effort from Brian, this was a different beast on stage (and will feature a lot higher in my rankings of Queen live songs), a showcase for his guitar solo before Brighton Rock came along. The lyrics are frankly a puzzle. Listen carefully and there’s some great bass from John. ‘Live’ versions of the song featured on two BBC sessions, one of which includes a great of-its-time spoken line from Roger: ‘steel yourself — this is valid’.
136. Scandal (Queen), The Miracle, 1989
One of the better efforts from the Miracle sessions (and one where the synth treatments enhance the song for once), Brian’s screaming guitar captures the pain in the lyrics. Best moment: “It’s only a life to be twisted and broken …” at 2:12.
135. Sweet Lady (May), A Night at the Opera, 1975
Another of Brian’s rockier efforts, this has a great opening riff (sounding even better when played live), solo and frantic outro. The lyrics were mocked by ‘Roger’ in the Bohemian Rhapsody movie during a band ‘tiff’. Best moment: the guitars at 1:57
134. Khashoggi’s Ship (Queen), The Miracle, 1989
After a false start with Party, Khashoggi’s Ship — real drums, raw guitar, no unnecessary synth treatments — brings The Miracle to life, marred only by the interlude at roughly 1:30. Like some of the b-sides from the Miracle sessions, it sounds like it might have been recorded in a single take (which is not a criticism).
133. Jealousy (Mercury), Jazz, 1978
One of Freddie’s piano-based reflections on the pain of love, it also features great bass from John. Oddly enough, Brian’s brief acoustic contributions seem a little out of place. Best moment: John’s high bass notes at 1:38.
132. The Night Comes Down (May), Queen, 1973
Remarkably, it is the original demo from the legendary De Lane Lea session that made it onto the first album, as the band supposedly felt they were unable to improve on the feel of the song in subsequent takes. Now remastered, of course, it sounds great — such a mature sound, with typically dark and introspective Brian lyrics. Best moment: the end of the song, building to an unbearably tense climax.
131. Soul Brother (Queen), b-side, 1981
Although this sounds like a tongue-in-cheek, one-take throwaway, it is actually surprisingly effective and an unexpected bonus when Under Pressure was released. It’s the sound of the band enjoying themselves and each other’s playing.
There is a widely quoted comment attributed to Brian from 2003 in which he says that Freddie surprised him one day in the studio, saying that he (Freddie) had written a song about him (Brian). In the same quoted remarks, Brian also seems to link Soul Brother to the Game sessions (meaning 1979 and/or 1980) and this has become widely accepted (it is stated as a fact in the official lyrics book, for example). In fact, the lyrical allusions to Flash Gordon and Under Pressure very strongly suggest that Brian is mistaken on this point and that Soul Brother is from the Hot Space sessions, probably recorded at roughly the same time as Under Pressure in the second half of 1981.
Best moment: “When you’re under pressure …” at 1:20.
130. Cool Cat (Deacon/Mercury), Hot Space, 1982
With a suitably relaxed and laid-back sunny-days vibe, this is by far the best of the John & Freddie funky collaborations. John’s bass is fabulous and Freddie’s vocals are great too. The version with Bowie’s incidental vocals has rightly not seen the official light of day.
129. The Miracle (Queen), The Miracle, 1989
A classic nearly-but-not-quite song. On the one hand, satisfyingly complex arrangements (and a song that Brian often raves about), and a departure from the standard song structure. On the other hand, embarrassingly utopian, peace-on-earth lyrics (“That time will come / One day you’ll see / When we can all be friends”). Best moment: the closing minute or so, starting when John’s bass kicks in at 3:49 (and despite those final lyrics!).
128. A Winter’s Tale (Queen), Made in Heaven, 1995
It’s easy to see why there is a ‘cosy fireside’ remix (referencing a line in the song). For all its charm, A Winter’s Tale‘s real emotional power undoubtedly comes from the knowledge that Freddie wrote the lyrics in the face of approaching death. The lines are a bit clunky in places; under normal circumstances, they would surely have been edited and polished somewhat. Nevertheless, this is a far more satisfying seasonal song that their ‘official’ Christmas single, Thank God It’s Christmas. Best moment: “It’s all so beautiful / Like a landscape painting in the sky” at 2:49.
127. All God’s People (Queen/Moran), Innuendo, 1991
Apparently, this song was originally intended for the Barcelona album, hence the writing credit for Mike Moran. It’s very obviously two interesting song ideas spliced together (a technique they had used before — with Breakthru, for example). Best moment: when ‘Part 2’ kicks in at roughly 1:49.
126. Fight from the Inside (Taylor), News of the World, 1977
As shown by the demo version released in 2017, this is almost exclusively Roger, including lots of his trademark riffs and vocal sounds. The instrumental version, also released as part of the News of the World box set, is great. Best moment: the guitars bouncing around the mix, for example during the introduction.
125. Headlong (Queen), Innuendo, 1991
Obviously, a favourite guitar riff of Brian’s (he references it on stage to this day). One of those songs where the lyrics perfectly capture the mood of the music (and vice versa). Best moment: a toss-up between the sound of Brian’s guitar at roughly 2:45 and “Oop diddy diddy / Oop diddy do”.
124. Sheer Heart Attack (Taylor), News of the World, 1977
Apparently written at the time of the Sheer Heart Attack sessions in ’74, it would be interesting to hear a demo recorded at that time, as this ’77 version comes close to a full-on punk sound (an obvious response from Roger to the then-current music scene). The rhythm guitar on the demo version released in 2017 sounds more natural than on the final version.
123. Mad the Swine (Mercury), b-side, released 1991
An unexpected delight on its eventual release some thirty years or so late, Mad the Swine comes from the earliest sessions but failed to make it onto the first album. Another example of Freddie’s penchant for Bible-inspired lyrics from that period. That apart, it’s hard to envisage where it might have been positioned on the Queen album — certainly Roger’s percussion is more audible in the mix than on other songs of the time — or what it might have replaced. Best moment: the wonderful break at roughly 1:38 (“And then one day you’ll realise …”).
122. If You Can’t Beat Them (Deacon), Jazz, 1978
One of John’s hidden gems, this is a great guitar-led song, which really came to life on stage, though it was unjustly omitted from Live Killers. Best moment: the multi-tracked solo and the long outro.
121. Tenement Funster (Taylor), Sheer Heart Attack, 1974
All the usual Roger trademarks are here, lyrically (girls, growing up, cars and rock-‘n’-roll) and musically — it certainly sounds like Roger on rhythm guitar, though the soaring guitar solo is surely from Brian. Best moment: the aforementioned solo, following on from “I’ll make the speed of light out of this place”.