Song of the Day: Innuendo by Queen

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“Innuendo” is a 1991 song by the British rock band Queen. It is the opening track on the album of the same name, and was released as the first single from the album. The single went straight to number one in the UK in January 1991.

Lyrics:

One – two – three – four
While the sun hangs in the sky and the desert has sand
While the waves crash in the sea and meet the land
While there’s a wind and the stars and the rainbow
Till the mountains crumble into the plain
Oh yes, we’ll keep on trying, tread that fine line
Oh, we’ll keep on trying, yeah, just passing our time
Ooh ooh
While we live according to race, colour or creed
While we rule by blind madness and pure greed
Our lives dictated by tradition, superstition, false religion
Through the eons and on and on
Oh yes, we’ll keep on trying, yeah
We’ll tread that fine line
Oh oh we’ll keep on trying
Till the end of time, till the end of time
Through the sorrow all through our splendour
Don’t take offence at my innuendo

You can be anything you want to be
Just turn yourself into anything you think that you could ever be
Be free with your tempo, be free, be free
Surrender your ego, be free, be free to yourself

If there’s a god or any kind of justice under the sky
If there’s a point, if there’s a reason to live or die
Ha, if there’s an answer to the questions we feel bound to ask
Show yourself destroy our fears release your mask
Oh yes, we’ll keep on trying
Hey, tread that fine line (yeah) yeah
We’ll keep on smiling, yeah (yeah) (yeah) (yeah)
And whatever will be will be
We’ll just keep on trying, we’ll just keep on trying
Till the end of time, till the end of time, till the end of time

……

At six and a half minutes, it is one of Queen’s epic songs and their longest ever released as a single, exceeding “Bohemian Rhapsody” by 35 seconds. The song has been described as “reminiscent” of “Bohemian Rhapsody” because it was “harking back to their progressive rock roots”. It features a flamenco guitar section performed by Yes guitarist Steve Howe and Brian May, an operatic interlude and sections of hard rock that recall early Queen, in addition to lyrics inspired in part by lead singer Freddie Mercury’s illness; although media stories about his health were being strenuously denied, he was by now seriously ill with AIDS, which would claim his life in November 1991, 10 months after the single was released.

Accompanied by a music video featuring animated representations of the band on a cinema screen akin to Nineteen Eighty-Four, eerie plasticine figure stop-motion and harrowing imagery, it has been described as one of the band’s darkest and most moving works. AllMusic described the song as a “superb epic”, which deals with “mankind’s inability to live harmoniously”.

Steve Howe has said he was “so proud” to have played on the record and he became the only guitarist other than Brian May to have played on a Queen song. Howe and Mercury had been friends for several years, since they ran into each other quite often at the Townhouse Studios in London. Yes had recorded Going for the One at Mountain Studios in 1976–77 shortly before Queen bought the Swiss studio, and Asia’s debut album was produced by Queen’s engineer, Mike Stone.

On a break from a recording session in Geneva, Howe drove to Montreux and stopped to have lunch. There he ran into Martin Gloves who had worked for Yes before and by this time was Queen’s equipment supervisor. Gloves told him that Queen were in the studio at the moment.

As soon as Steve Howe went into the studios, Mercury asked him to play some guitar (according to producer David Richards, who had worked with Yes in the past as well). Another version is that Brian May was the one who asked him to play the flamenco bit. When the members of Queen asked if Howe wanted to play on the title track, Howe politely suggested they’d lost their minds. It took the combined weight of Mercury, May and Taylor to persuade him.

According to Steve Howe: Inside, there’s Freddie, Brian and Roger all sitting together. They go: ‘Let’s play you the album’. Of course, I’m hearing it for the first time […] And they saved “Innuendo” itself until last. They played it and I was fucking blown away. They all chimed in: ‘We want some crazy Spanish guitar flying around over the top. Improvise!’ I started noodling around on the guitar, and it was pretty tough. After a couple of hours, I thought: ‘I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here’. I had to learn a bit of the structure, work out the chordal roots were, where you had to fall if you did a mad run in the distance; you have to know where you’re going. But it got towards evening, and we’d doodled and I’d noodled, and it turned out to be really good fun. We have this beautiful dinner, we go back to the studio and have a listen. And they go: ‘That’s great. That’s what we wanted’.

Other versions
The song and parts of the Led Zeppelin songs “Kashmir” and “Thank You” were performed by that band’s lead singer Robert Plant with the three surviving members of Queen (May, Taylor and Deacon) at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992 at Wembley Stadium. “Kashmir” had been one of the inspirations for “Innuendo”. However, the song was left off the DVD release at Plant’s request, as he forgot part of the lyrics and his vocal was, in his admission, not in the best shape. As in “Kashmir”, the title of the song appears in the lyrics only once.

The 12″ Explosive Version of “Innuendo” features a noise similar to an atomic bomb after Mercury sings the line “until the end of time”.

Queen

Origin London, England, United Kingdom
Genres Rock
Years active 1970–present
Labels Capitol, Parlophone, EMI, Hollywood,Island, Elektra
Associated acts Smile, The Cross, Queen + Paul Rodgers, David Bowie, Adam Lambert
Website queenonline.com
Members Brian May
Roger Taylor
Past members Freddie Mercury
John Deacon
See also: Early members
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