What did Brian play at Herts Uni ?


On 9 January 2004 – Brian May gave a very entertaining talk at Hertfordshire University and answered questions – with a little playing – and singing – at Hertfordshire University Campus on 9 January 2004. He explaine the story of Lonnie Donegan’s song ‘Rock Island Line’ which he demonstratesda little to the delight of a wrapped audience.


After speaking and answering questions for over an hour…


“I’ll turn the hiss on.. This is what I’ve lived with all my life… can you still hear me?… I have to turn…. A very expensive roadie...”[referring to Pete Malandrone]. . [audience laughs].

To demonstrate hiss, Brian played a few chords that could have been opening to Slow Hammer or an improv that could lead into We Will Rock You just a slow chord progression.

Demonstrated one amp – a few chords

Added a second amp for moving delay – to add a breadth, sweetness to the sound – demo-ed a few chords.

Turned it up to get distortion… gradually… and demo-ed distortion.

Talked about bending a string to the side to alter the pitch – demo-ed String Bending.

Demo-ed Faint Classical Vibrato

Demo-ed Sustain

Got the audience to Stamp Stamp Clap and when the rhythm established, played We Will Rock You (no singing) – very improvised, and back into usual finishing chords of WWRY.

Brighton Rock – not all of but quite a long section.

More improvisation

‘Amazing Grace’


More questions…. then later…

Brian talked about Lonnie Donegan then a burst of a song ‘Puttin’ On The Style’, which the audience joined in on the chorus…

Sweet Sixteen goes to church just to see the boys
Laughs and screams and giggles at every little noise
Turns her face a little, then turns her head a while
But we know she’s only
Puttin’ on the style”

(Chorus) “She’s puttin’ on the agony,
Puttin on the style
That’s what all the young folks
Are doin’ all the while
And as I look around me
I sometimes have to smile
Seeing all the young folks
Puttin’ on the style”

and then ‘Rock Island Line’… told a bit of the story then sang and played..

Brian May Explains Rock Island Line – Herts University 9 Jan 2004

(Spoken in American accent)And as the driver goes through the station
And he thinks he’s safely on the other side
Gets up a little bit of steam
And a little bit of speed
And he goes… I’ll tell you where I’m going boy”

(Sung Chorus) “Now the rock island line is a mighty good road
Rock island line is the road to ride
The rock island line is a mighty good road
If you want to ride you gotta ride it like you find it
Get your ticket at the station of the rock island line”