A Day At The Races
A DAY AT THE RACES
By Greg Brooks and Gary Taylor
Queen’s fifth studio album, was recorded at Sarm East, The Manor and Wessex Studios between July and November 1976. It was the first to be self-produced - the preceding four LPs were co-produced with Roy Thomas Baker (and John Anthony on Queen) – and was engineered by Mike Stone.
The album followed its predecessor A Night At The Opera in taking its name from a film by the Marx Brothers It was released on December 10th 1976 and peaked at No 1 in the UK, Japan and the Netherlands. In America, issued a week later, it reached No 5 on the US Billboard album chart and became Queen's first American album to achieve Gold status – and subsequently Platinum.
Like A Night At The Opera – which many think of as its sister album - A Day At The Races is greatly diverse on all levels, exploring all kinds of musical styles and genres; from the heavy Tie Your Mother Down and White Man, to Freddie’s delicate You Take My Breath Away and John Deacon’s You And I. It has been stated many times over the years, by Brian and Roger mostly, that the band saw this album more a less a continuation of the previous LP. Indeed, so much so, that the two might even have been released simultaneously. A Day At The Races finds Queen during a highly inventive and motivated period. All four members are writing and creating at a furious rate and within four months they produce several of their most acclaimed recordings, best loved singles, and, in the minds of many, one of their finest and most complete albums. The artwork for the album was similar to the A Night At The Opera album but in a contrasting black, with a new depiction of the Queen crest on the cover.
Tie Your Mother Down was written by Brian in Tenerife in 1968 while working on his Astronomy PhD. Though he intended to change the working title and chorus later on, Freddie liked the rawness of it and said as much, and so it remained intact. The meaning of the lyric, like most Queen songs, has been speculated upon many times over intervening decades, but while all four band members refuse to define the precise meanings of their songs and the inspiration behind them, Tie Your Mother Down and so many other Queen classics, remain an enigma. It is the second track on the LP, preceded by an untitled Introduction, a one-minute instrumental featuring a guitar figure that returns much later to the close the album. Featuring one of the most distinctive guitar riffs of all time, a veritable stalwart of any self-respecting Air Guitar compilation, Brian’s uncompromising song quickly secured its place within the Queen live show of the day, never to leave.
As with Love Of My Life on the previous album, You Take My Breath Away is an exquisite example of Freddie’s immaculate control over his voice, based upon the harmonic minor scale, and featuring solely its reflective creator and piano. It could not be more in contrast to Tie Your Mother Down, and yet the two songs stand together seamlessly on the album. It is a truly sublime recording and too often overlooked.
Long Away is a little known song from Brian and features its author singing lead vocals, not for the first time on a Queen album. What is a first here, however, is that Brian plays a 12-string electric guitar rather than his beloved Red Special (the irreplaceable one-off instrument he designed and hand built with his father in 1963, and which he still uses all the time). What emerges is something very different to anything offered previously on a Queen LP. The fans took this track very much to their hearts and still cite it today as among their favourite lesser known recordings.
The Millionaire Waltz, written, it is said, about John Reid (Queen's and Elton John's manager at the time), is another multi-key piano and bass guitar-driven tour de force from Freddie. Brian’s multi-tracked guitar choirs, and exemplary bass playing from John Deacon, as Freddie was quick to point out during interview at the time, make this a truly impressive track. Again, it is among Queen’s lesser known compositions, not even issued as a single B-side, much less an A-side, but nevertheless it is a pure gem that finds the band firing on all creative cylinders.
John Deacon’s You And I features its author on acoustic guitar, while Freddie plays typically percussive piano parts and delivers yet another faultless lead vocal to turn this relatively uncomplicated song into something rather memorable. Of all the material on A Day The Races, it is this track that is perhaps the strangest omission from the live set of the day, as its dramatic changes in tempo and texture surely would have transposed effortlessly into that arena. It is also one of the top songs voted for by fans not to of been issued as an A-side single.
Freddie Mercury’s Somebody to Love, among the best known Queen songs of all, was to become the biggest single of the album. It was also its author’s most favourite of his own compositions at the time. Like Bohemian Rhapsody, this recording features complex layered vocal tracks, though this time based on a gospel choir arrangement; a combination of Freddie, Brian and Roger’s multi-tracked voices to achieve the impression of a 100-voice gospel choir. It is staggering to think that the colossal choirs on this recording could have been produced from just three voices, but that is certainly the case. The various band members have stated many times over the years that it is purely good fortunate and luck that the three voices merge so wonderfully together to provide such a distinctive part of the Queen sound.
White Man, a ‘heavy’ track in every sense of the word, was written by Brian about the suffering of the Native Americans at the hands of European immigrants in the 19th century. Its lyrics are both emotive and disturbing, and, unusually for Brian, not remotely ambiguous. White Man is one of Queen's darkest tracks, and one of a very few in the band’s career to deal so overtly with political issues.
Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy, from Freddie, is a fascinating song on numerous levels. It is a completely atypical recording, and yet at once so very Freddie. As with Bring Back That Leroy Brown from the Sheer Heart Attack album, and then Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon and Seaside Rendezvous on A Night At The Opera, here again Freddie freely indulges his love of 1920s vaudeville-style dittys with something very different and very fresh sounding. Engineer Mike Stone lends his voice to this, and once again it would prove to be a firm favourite with fans. Having been released as part of Queen’s First E.P, in May 1977, and with no proper accompanying video available, Lover Boy was performed and recreated on the BBC’s Top of the Pops, with Roger singing the Mike Stone part. This lovely footage (and other rarities) remained largely unseen until the chart-topping Greatest Video Hits 1 DVD emerged in 2002.
Drowse, the penultimate track on the album, was Roger Taylor's curiously enthralling song in 6/8 time, finds its writer playing rhythm guitar as well as singing all vocals with Brian on a slide guitar. Though Roger was not yet writing as frequently for the band as Brian and Freddie, the songs he did contribute were always unusual and well received by the fans. This was no exception. The lyric is as intriguing as the melody, Roger’s vocal is startling as ever.
Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together), is the fitting finale to A Day At The Races, and was Brian May's tribute to the Japanese fans. As the title suggests, much of the song is actually sung by Freddie in Japanese – a point to which he would later refer in his own song Let Me Entertain You (on the 1978 Jazz album). ‘We'll breakfast at Tiffany's, we'll sing to you in Japanese - We're only here to entertain you.’
Torriatte features a piano, plastic piano, and harmonium, all played by Brian May, and is the only track on the LP in which Freddie does not play piano. As already stated, the album’s closing guitar melody is also its opening melody; Teo Torriatte and Side 2 ends just as Tie Your Mother Down and Side 1 began.
The first UK single from A Day At The Races was Somebody To Love. Issued by EMI on November 12 1976, and coupled with White Man, the disc reached No 2. The same pairing was issued universally, with the American release of a month later peaking at No 13. The video for the single was recorded at Wessex Studios in October 1976 and was directed by Bruce Gowers (the man behind the Bohemian Rhapsody vision the year before). It also incorporates footage from Queen’s now legendary free concert in Hyde Park. Somebody To Love was a hit again in 1993, this time performed by Queen + George Michael from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, on the chart topping Five Live EP.
Brian May’s Tie Your Mother Down came next, on March 4th, paired with John Deacon’s You And I, and the single reached No 31 in the UK. Elektra in the U.S. and Japan instead featured Roger’s Drowse as the B-side - the Japanese version following much later in July. The accompanying video was filmed during rehearsals for the band’s 1977 American Tour, in Miami, in February of that year, and shows Queen in full swing, cavorting about the stage with menacing intent amid much smoke, dazzling lights and explosions – one of which literally blew Roger off his stool.
The next single from the album, the third, was an exclusively Japanese release, in Teo Torriatte backed with Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy. Released in March 1977, and with no accompanying promotional video, the disc stalled at a disappointing No 49. Like all Japanese picture sleeves, this is another lovely example and still commands a high price among collectors.
Queen’s First E.P. was the next single in sequence, and emerged in the UK on May 20th. Featuring a track from the band’s second, third, fourth and fifth albums respectively, Freddie’s Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy appeared alongside Brian’s White Queen (from Queen II), Roger’s Tenement Funster (from Sheer Heart Attack) and Freddie’s scathing Death On Two Legs (from A Night At The Opera). There was no promo video for this release, only an appearance on Top Of The Pops, at BBC TV Centre, Shepherd’s Bush, recorded in June 1977. The single peaked at a credible No 17 at home.
On June 7th 1977, the fifth and final single from the album was released in the shape of Brian May’s Long Away. Issued in the U.S. only and coupled with John Deacon’s You And I, and again with no accompanying video, the single failed to chart.
Did You Know?
1. Queen promoted album with a mini tour of the UK â€“ before some tracks were even recorded
2. Album was promoted with a race meeting at Kempton Park. A race was specially run for the band - A Day At The Races hurdles
3. The album gave EMI. their highest advance orders ever for an album â€“ 5 days before release advance orders total half a million
4. First Queen album to be advertised on TV using clips from their free Hyde Park concert in the Autumn - UK's highest attendance concert
5. First Queen album to enter chart at No.1
Somebody To LoveFirst single from the album A Day at the Races
Tie Your Mother DownSecond single from the album A Day at the Races
1. Tie Your Mother Down
Get your party gown get, your pigtail down And get your heart beatin' baby Got my timin' right, I got my act all tight It's gotta be tonight my little schoolbabe Your mamma says you don't your daddy says you won't And I'm boilin' up inside There's no way I'm gonna lose out this time oh no Tie your mother down, tie your mother down Lock your daddy out of doors, I don't need him nosin' around Tie your mother down, tie your mother down Give me all your love tonight You're such a dirty louse, go get outta my house That's all I ever get from your - family ties In fact I don't think I ever heard A single little civil word from those guys But you know I don't give a light I'm gonna make out all right I've got a sweetheart hand to put a stop to all that snipin' an' grousin' goin' on all night Tie your mother down, tie your mother down Take your little brother swimmin' with a brick - that's all right Tie your mother down yeah yeah - tie your mother down Or you ain't no friend of mine ooh no friend of mine Ooh, your mammy and your daddy gonna plague me till I die They can't understand it, I'm just a peace lovin' guy Ooh, tie your mother down, tie your mother down Get that big big big big big big daddy out of doors Tie your mother down yeah tie your mother down Give me all your love tonight - all your love tonight Give me every inch of your love ooh all your love tonight Yeah, gotta get my timin' right hey ooh, all your love - tie your mother down
2. You Take My Breath Away
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh Ooh ooh ooh take it - take it all away Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh take my breath away ooh You ooh ooh ooh - take my breath away Look into my eyes and you'll see I'm the only one You've captured my love, stolen my heart, changed my life Every time you make a move you destroy my mind And the way you touch - I lose control and shiver deep inside You take my breath away You can reduce me to tears with a single sigh (please don't cry anymore) Every breath that you take, any sound that you make Is a whisper in my ear I could give up all my life For just one kiss I would surely die If you dismiss me from your love - you take my breath away So please don't go Don't leave me here all by myself I get ever so lonely from time to time I will find you Anywhere you go, I'll be right behind you Right until the ends of the earth I'll get no sleep till I find you to tell you That you just take my breath away I will find you, anywhere you go Right until the ends of the earth I'll get no sleep till I find you To tell you when I've found you I love you Take my breath, take my breath Take my breath, take my breath Take my breath, take my breath Take my breath, take my breath Take my breath, take my breath Take my breath, take my breath Take my breath, take my breath Take my breath, take my breath Take my breath away
3. Long Away
You might believe in heaven, I would not care to say For every star in heaven there's a sad soul here today Wake up in the morning with a good face Stare at the moon all day Lonely as a whisper on a star chase Does anyone care anyway For all the prayers in heaven, so much of life's this way Did we leave our way behind us ? Such a long long way behind us ? Who knows when now, who knows where Where the light of day will find us Look for the day Take heart my friend, we love you Though it seems like you're alone A million lights above you smile down upon your home Oh, hurry put your troubles in a suitcase Come let the new child play Lonely as a whisper on a star chase I'm leaving here, I'm long away For all the stars in heaven I would not live, I could not live this way Did we leave our way behind us ? such a long long way behind us ? Leave it for some hopeless lane Such a long long way Such a long long way Such a long long away I'm looking for, looking for that day
4. The Millionaire Waltz
Bring out the charge of the love brigade There is spring in the air once again Drink to the sound of the song parade There is music and love everywhere Give a little love to me (I want it) Take a little love from me, I want to share it with you I feel like a millionaire Once we were mad, we were happy We spent all our days holding hands together Do you remember, my love How we danced and played, in the rain, we laid Wish that we could stay there forever and ever Now I am sad, you are so far away I sit counting the hours day by day Come back to me, how I long for your love Come back to me be happy like we used to be Come back, come back to me Come back, come back to me aah Oh, come back to me, oh my love How I long for your love won't you come back to me, yeah My fine friend take me wiz you unt love me forever My fine friend forever forever Bring out the charge of the love brigade There is spring in the air once again Drink to the sound of the song parade There is music and love everywhere Give a little love to me (I want it) Take a little love from me, I want to share it with you Come back, come back to me make me feel You make me feel like a millionaire
5. You And I
Ooh, music is playing in the darkness And a lantern goes swinging by Shadows flickering, my heart's jittering - just you and I Not tonight, come tomorrow When everything's sunny and bright (sunny and bright) No no no, come tomorrow Cos then we'll be waiting for the moonlight We'll go walking in the moonlight Walking in the moonlight Ooh, laughter ringing in the darkness People drinking for days gone by Time don't mean a thing, when you're by my side Please stay a while Ooh, you know I never could foresee the future years You know I never could see where life was leading me But will we be together for ever What will be my love Can't you see that I just don't know - don't care No no no not tonight, come tomorrow Everything's gonna be sunny and bright Wait and see if tomorrow We'll be as happy as we're feeling tonight We'll go walking (oh we'll be, we'll be happy) in the moonlight Walking in the moonlight Ooh, I can hear the music in the darkness Floating softly to where we lie No more questions now Let's enjoy tonight - just you and I Ooh, just you and I, mmm, just you and I Ooh, can't you see that we've gotta be together - be together Just you and I, just you and I No more questions, just you and I
6. Somebody To Love
Can anybody find me somebody to love Ooh, each morning I get up I die a little Can barely stand on my feet (Take a look at yourself) take a look in the mirror And cry (and cry) - Lord what you're doing to me (yeah yeah) I have spent all my years in believing you But I just can't get no relief, Lord Somebody, somebody, oh somebody, somebody Can anybody find me somebody to love - yeah I work hard (he works hard) every day of my life I work till I ache my bones At the end (at the end of the day) I take home my hard earned pay all on my own I get down (down) on my knees (knees) and I start to pray Till the tears run down from my eyes Lord, somebody somebody, ooh somebody (Please) can anybody find me somebody to love (He works hard) everyday (everyday), I try and I try and I try But everybody wants to put me down, they say I'm going crazy They say I got a lot of water in my brain, ah, got no common sense I got nobody left to believe, yeah yeah yeah yeah Oh Lord, ooh somebody ooh somebody Can anybody find me somebody to love (Can anybody find me someone to love) Got no feel, I got no rhythm I just keep losing my beat (you just keep losing and losing) I'm ok, I'm alright (he's alright he's alright) I ain't gonna face no defeat (yeah yeah) I've just gotta get out of this prison cell One day (someday) I'm gonna be free, Lord Find me somebody to love (repeat 8 times) Find me somebody to love - somebody somebody somebody somebody Somebody find me, somebody find me somebody to love Can anybody find me somebody to love Find me somebody to love, oooh find me somebody to love somebody somebody, find me somebody somebody to love
7. White Man
I'm a simple man, with a simple name From this soil my people came, in this soil remain Oh yeah, oh yeah We made us our shoes, we trod soft on the land But the immigrant built roads on our blood and sand Oh yeah, oh yeah White man, white man Don't you see the light behind your blackened skies White man, white man You took away the sight to blind my simple eyes White man, white man Where you gonna hide from the hell you've made Oh the red man knows war with his hands and his knives On the bible you swore, fought your battle with lies Oh yeah Leave my body in shame, leave my soul in disgrace But by every god's name, say your prayers for your race Oh yeah White man, white man Our country was green and all our rivers wide White man, white man You came with a gun and soon our children died White man, white man Don't you give a light for the blood you've shed Oooh yeah Oh white man, white man (white man) White man, white man Fought your battle with lies, yeah White man, white man but weren't too civilised yeah White man, white man Take a look around Every skin and bone - hey What is left of your dream - Just the words on your stone A man who learned how to teach, then forgot how to learn Oh yeah
8. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy
I can dim the lights and sing you songs full of sad things We can do the tango just for two I can serenade and gently play on your heart strings Be your Valentino just for you Ooh love ooh loverboy What you doin' tonight, hey boy Set my alarm, turn on my charm That's because I'm a good old fashioned lover boy Ooh let me feel your heartbeat (grow faster, faster) Ooh ooh can you feel my love heat Come on and sit on my hot seat of love And tell me how do you feel right after all I'd like for you and I to go romancing Say the word your wish is my command Ooh love ooh loverboy What you doin' tonight, hey boy Write my letter, feel much better And use my fancy patter on the telephone When I'm not with you I think of you always (I miss those long hot summer nights) I miss you When I'm not with you think of me always Love you love you Hey boy where do you get it from Hey boy where did you go I learned my passion in the good old fashioned - School of loverboys Dining at the Ritz we'll meet at nine precisely (one two three four five six seven eight nine o'clock) I will pay the bill, you taste the wine Driving back in style in my saloon will do quite nicely Just take me back to yours that will be fine (come on and get it) Ooh love (There he goes again just like a good old fashioned lover boy) Ooh loverboy What're you doin' tonight, hey boy Everything's all right, just hold on tight That's because I'm a good old fashioned, fashioned, lover boy
It's the sad eyed, goodbye, yesterday moments I remember It's the bleak street, weak kneed partings I recall It's the mistier mist, the hazier days, the brighter sun And the easier lays There's all the more reason for laughing and crying When you're younger and life isn't too hard at all It's the fantastic drowse of the afternoon sundays That bored you to rages of tears The unending pleading to waste all your good times In thoughts of your middle aged years It's a vertical hold, all the things that you're told For the everyday hero it all turns to zero And there's all the more reason for living or dying When you're young and your troubles are all very small Out here on the street, we'd gather and meet And scuff up the sidewalk with endlessly restless feet And half of the time we'd broaden our minds More in the poolhall than we did in the schoolhall With the downtown chewing gum bums Watching the nightlife, the lights and the fun Never wanted to be the boy next door Always thought I'd be something more But it ain't easy for a small town boy - it ain't easy at all Thinkin' it right, doin' it wrong - it's easier from an armchair Waves of alternatives wash at my sleepiness Have my eggs poached for breakfast I guess I think I'll be Clint Eastwood Oh no, Jimi Hendrix, he was good Try William the Conqueror Now who else do I like
10. Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)
When I'm gone - no need to wonder if I ever think of you The same moon shines, the same wind blows For both of us, and time is but a paper moon - be not gone Though I'm gone, it's just as though I hold the flower that touches you A new life grows, the blossom knows There's no one else could warm my heart as much as you Be not gone Let us cling together as the years go by, oh my love, my love In the quiet of the night let our candle always burn Let us never lose the lessons we have learned Teo torriatte konomama iko, aisuruhito yo Shizukana yoi ni, hikario tomoshi Itoshiki oshieo idaki Hear my song, still think of me the way you've come to think of me The nights grow long, but dreams live on Just close your pretty eyes and you can be with me - dream on Teo torriatte konomama iko, aisuruhito yo Shizukana yoi ni, hikario tomoshi Itoshiki oshieo idaki When I'm gone, they'll say we're all fools and we don't understand Oh be strong, don't turn your heart We're all, you're all, for all, for always Let us cling together as the years go by - oh my love, my love In the quiet of the night let our candle always burn Let us never lose the lessons we have learned