Letters: ‘Dead On Time’ Insights

Mustapha / Dead on Time sleee, Bolivia
On 21 Apr 2024, at 13:44, Matt  wrote:

Dear Brian

I hope this letter finds you well amid your ongoing explorations into the mysteries of the universe and the thrill of your next live performance.

As I take a moment to reflect on your brilliant work on Queen Jazz, particularly the track “Dead On Time”. Your guitar work on this piece has fascinated me ever since I first started learning this song as a teenager in the early ’80s.

Having diligently studied your playing style through many resources available, including your original Star Licks VHS, I am in awe of the sheer precision and speed in your solos, and above all amazingly clean picking. However, the opening and verse riff of “Dead On Time” remains as impossible as a zen koan to me. Despite slowing down the track and practicing at 70% speed, the final 30% eludes me, seeming almost impossible to develop the speed and clean picking that I hear in the recording.

Could you shed some light on how you approached recording this particular riff? Was it captured in one miraculous take, or is it a composite of several sessions? The technique and speed required suggest something beyond ordinary capability. Knowing whether there were multiple takes involved would greatly ease my mind and perhaps help me finally master this timeless riff.

Thank you for your time and for the indelible impact you’ve had on music and on aspiring guitarists like myself. Any insights you might provide would be immensely appreciated.

Be well and thank you!


Melbourne, Australia
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On  22 Apr 2024, at 23:41, BRIAN MAY  replied:


Hello Matt.  

Well, thanks for the compliment.   Much appreciated and I’m glad you enjoy this generally neglected track !! 
As for recording it, I think there might have been some drop-ins … (and not just on the guitar !!!)  
But really it wasn’t too hard … 
Truth is —  I’m not capable of the speedy guitar fireworks that every kid on the Internet and IG now seems to be capable of. 
There is always an easy solution to what I do !!  In this case, just lots of snapping on and sliding, so I didn’t have to use the pick so fast !!  
I wish I could show you in the room … well maybe some day … who knows !  
If you want to direct me to a particular phrase maybe I can help by E-mail !! 
Cheers and take care