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Flogging A Dead Pantomine Horse - NME July '80
"... but it's at least one of their own design."
Release Date: 30/6/80
Highest Chart Position: 1
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (5/10/79), 2
Save Me (25/1/80), 11
Play The Game (30/5/80), 14
Another One Bites The Dust (22/8/80), 7
Play The Game
Writer: Freddie Mercury
The first Queen song to feature a synthesiser - the outer space effect at the start, before Freddie starts singing, which is interpreted well in the video - this is a good song to start the album with. It sounds quite commercial, actually, and I am surprised it was only the third single. It has chart-friendliness stamped across it, and while it wasn't particularly huge around the world, it reached respectable heights in most places. It isn't too bad, really - quite clichéd, "everybody play the game of love", but very well done. It's quite typical Queen, too. Freddie's vocals are in fine form again, John is ever-present on bass, with a strong part; the song is not bass-oriented by any means, but there are times when Deacon is heard above all else (in the middle of the chorus). Brian also does a superb take-off of the melody on his Red Special. A well-constructed song. Good job.
Writer: Brian May
Rather a catchy bass line, the prominent feature of the song - a bass line that will stick in your head. Having said that, though, it doesn't change at all, and so after repeating a few times, that bass line gets boring. I think this is Brian's answer to Get Down Make Love - if I had to pick one word to describe this song, it would be "kinky". The subject matter is very eyebrow-raising. It's not very much like Queen, but it is not atypical of the experimental era they are in here. It seems to be comparable to songs like Son & Daughter, Sweet Lady and She Makes Me. In short, disappointing.
Another One Bites
Writer: John Deacon
The ultimate catchy bass riff, this song has been described as having; credit to John Deacon - he certainly knows what he's doing with his bass, whether he's playing it or composing for it. Another bopper for sure. Their second and last US no.1. What the song is actually about is open to debate. It could be about anything from a statement against firearms to a relationship bust-up. It's a very disco-oriented track, the prelude to "Hot Space" - Queen have definitely departed from the norm, here. Not to say it isn't good. It's one that you either love or hate - or like me, sometimes both at the same time! I feel it's pretty standard stuff, personally speaking. Holds its own, but nothing special, I feel.
Need Your Loving
Writer: John Deacon
After the last song, John takes a step back in time - this is really early 60's material, you would be forgiven for thinking. I think it equates directly to both songs he did on the last album - the rock tones of If You Can't Beat Them with the feeling of In Only Seven Days. Lyrically, it's a standard lonely hearts song, but it does have a distinct identity, as opposed to a lot of the 50's and early 60's rock'n'rollers, which were all out of a mould. This, however, is very good - and was released in several countries as a single (although not here). A good one to let your hair down to. I like it. Probably worked a treat live.
Crazy Little Thing
Writer Freddie Mercury
Another trip in the time machine, this time to the 50's, no question. The bass line makes sure of that - it's that classic 50's walking bass, expertly handled by John. Here's a song that you could easily imagine Elvis Presley doing. Quite a simple idea - about how love can get very very messy at times - but it works a treat. Their first US no.1, it is clearly modern day rock'n'roll, and another sure thing for live shows. A song that everyone will enjoy, especially grandparents. Excellent work indeed.
Writer: Roger Taylor (vocal)
This one starts off harmlessly enough, a simple thing on the guitar, reminiscent of Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe", then Freddie starts the song off, singing about a love of rock'n'roll. Then suddenly Roger is unleashed, pounding furiously at his drums, and screaming about I'm not sure what. Sufficing to say, he doesn't sound too pretty. This is another of those near-metal ventures of theirs, like Let Me Entertain You on the last album. This is comparable to Fun It - it's nothing like it musically, but it's got the same sort of feeling in the words. Tolerable, but nothing special.
Don't Try Suicide
Writer: Freddie Mercury
A bass line similar to "Walking On The Moon", by The Police, also with an echoing guitar chord, this song addresses the issue of suicide directly, and advises against it - "don't try suicide, nobody cares". The idea being that it's not very important in the long run of things. A title that I had suspicions about before I heard it, I must admit - nothing against it, it just sounded a little . . . dangerous to write a song to do with suicide. But then again, Freddie's always been a risk taker. And this one is all right. It's not a classic, but it's OK. It works.
Sail Away Sweet
Sister (to the sister I never had)
Writer: Brian May (vocal)
The piano intro sets the scene for the rest of the song perfectly - a very serious ballad, definitely more leaning towards the piano than the guitar. Not to say that the guitar parts are unnecessary - the first guitar part fits in perfectly. The solo in the middle, though, does sound too rockish for my taste on this song. However, that little qualm aside, it is beautiful. Brian does have that habit of picking the right songs to sing himself, and I can't imagine him singing Dragon Attack. This one is lovely, to do with the departure of a loved one. Easily the most beautiful song on the album. This one will bring a tear to your eye.
Writer: Roger Taylor (part vocal)
Another song that leaps into action, this time with Freddie and Roger sharing the vocal. This song doesn't seem to be about anything in particular - the lyrics are a bit disjointed. It's another one that's difficult to follow. Instrumentally, it's not too dire, but it's none too great either. I don't know why they had this on the album as opposed to A Human Body (the B-side of Play The Game), which is much better. This is better suited to being a B-side - that way it wouldn't bring the album rating down, because it isn't very good at all.
Writer: Brian May
Here's another one that Brian could easily have sung himself. When I heard this the first few times (on Greatest Hits), I could have sworn it was Brian singing at first. Not that Freddie doesn't do it justice - of course he does, this song is surpassed in beauty only by Sail Away Sweet Sister, which it is quite similar to - very emotional, both deeply feeling a sense of loss for a loved one - in this case what originally seemed like paradise, but suddenly the dream is shattered and a break-up is inevitable. The big question is, what kept this song out of the top ten? It certainly deserved to break into it, but it was just left outside. An absolute scandal for such a terrific song. One of their finest.
In General: A little bit of a hotchpotch of an album here, it must be said - compared with albums like A Night At The Opera, where the songs all seem to fit into order perfectly, with this one it makes little difference what the order is. There are some that are well positioned, notably Save Me, but on the whole it wouldn't matter if you just played them in random order. Also there are two tracks with just two out of ten - which doesn't make for good listening. Having said that, it does have a few real treasures. It's not the sort of album I would recommend to introduce you to Queen, but it's well worth a listen. The musicianship here is among the finest they have had.
The Best Song Musically: Why don't I just name the whole album? Almost everything here has incredibly solid musicianship. To pick one . . . I'll have to say Crazy Little Thing Called Love. The Best Song Lyrically: Plenty of competition again here. It's once again tough. But I think that lyrically, the title would have to go to Save Me. The first time since A Night At The Opera that it hasn't gone to a Roger song, of note.
The Best Song Vocally: There's actually a bit of competition in this one - and there hasn't been that since A Night At The Opera! Play The Game, Save Me and Sail Away Sweet Sister all have excellent vocals, and if pushed to choose, I would go with Sail Away Sweet Sister. Brian has outdone himself as a singer here - and it takes a lot to take the vocal prize against Freddie.
The Best Song All-Round: It's a tough one between Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Save Me. I think I would have to go for the latter, for its depth - and the fact that even at its "heaviest" in the chorus, it never loses its beauty. Sail Away Sweet Sister comes a close third.
The Worst Song: Another tough one. I would have to say Coming Soon, for its sheer meaninglessness. Dragon Attack, however, is also worth mentioning. Two songs both getting 2/10 on the same album?!
Average rating for the whole album: 6.7
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