2021 Song Draft- Round 5 Pick 6- Run-Sew-Read selects- ’39; by Queen.
This song is on Queen’s 1975 album ‘A Night at the Opera’, and was the B-side of ‘You’re My Best Friend’, released as a single in June 1976. I love the Queen hits, and am fascinated with Freddie Mercury. But this song by Brian May is hands down my favorite Queen song. In the studio version, Brian is the lead singer on the song. I’ve heard live recordings of Freddie performing the lead vocals at concerts, and Brian is my choice for lead on the song. I say it’s Brian’s song. The song: https://youtu.be/kE8kGMfXaFU
Brian is a founding member of Queen and its lead guitarist. He’s also an astrophysicist who started working on his PhD in 1970; got waylayed by his band’s success, and ultimately completed his PhD in 2007. From 2008-2013, he was Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University. He’s active in astrophysics research and animal rights. He’s been awarded a CBE by Her Majesty The Queen, for his contributions to music and charities, and been portrayed by an actor in an Oscar-winning movie about his band (Bohemian Rhapsody, 2018). I wonder how many of those achievements the 10-year-old Brian May put down when his teacher told the class to write about what they want to be when they grow up.
I hadn’t heard ‘39′ in years, probably not since the album was popular. And then maybe 12 years ago, I started listening to Radio Caroline ( http://radiocaroline.co.uk ), the pirate radio ship that streams from the UK. They occasionally play it, and it’s been in my playlist ever since.
A discussion was had with an earlier draft pick, about plagiarism. Here’s my recent find in that vein. In East Germany (GDR) before the Berlin Wall came down, their government produced and sanctioned music for the youth that sounded like the music coming from the western countries, but instead contained lyrics of appropriate messages for the mandated East German way of life, i.e. , socialism. One such song was this one, ‘Alt Wie Ein Baum’, by the Puhdys, that came out in 1976. Queen released ‘39′ in 1975. Hmmm. You can decide what you think of the similarities. I instantly heard ‘39′. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkU2E_nSeNg My information about the East Germany music scene came from this most interesting blog post. https://www.messynessychic.com/2021/07/06/the-soundtrack-to-a-lost-country-rock-music-in-the-gdr/
This song pick came from a category I created of ‘acoustic’ songs. Among other contenders I considered for this pick before ultimately deciding on ‘39′, were Mr. Rock and Roll by Amy MacDonald, Rambling Man- Laura Marling.
I’m completely new to this song. I also had not been aware Brian May ever sang lead on any Queen song. I will add I’m a more casual listener when it comes to Queen and as such, I’m mostly familiar with their hits.
I’m a more casual Queen listener also. It was almost a fluke that reacquainted me with this one from way back.
Even though you’ve listened to Queen or any other artist for years, I find it’s not uncommon that suddenly you come across a song you had not quite noticed before. It’s nice when that happens!
I agree it’s nice! And so true about any artist. No matter how much I may listen to their music, there’s always a lost or forgotten song.
Curious Christian if you checked out the link in Diana’s blog about the East German music scene during the time of the GDR and had any thoughts about it
pretty much what Christian says… brand new to me, and a surprise Brian was singing. He had a decent voice, but it wasn’t much needed when you had Freddie around. I really liked their “I’m In Love with My Car” from same era, which was also a b-side. Saw a doc on drummers this week, where they interviewed Roger Taylor… interesting guy, and as you might expect, he’s aged gracefully. Seems like a tenured English professor now more than a rock star.
I remember this one and liked it back in the day. Glad to be reacquainted with it. I did listen to that German song, which sounds to me like a blatant ripoff! Dirty and sneaky to steal others’ music and then spin the lyrics in a nationalism that oppresses the population. Wonderful choice, Diana, and interesting info about the song-stealing.
p.s. Never even thought about the fact that this Queen song was not being sung by Freddie!
Thanks, and I’m glad to know the similarities are not solely my imagination. 😀 I agree it’s an insidious thing for a government to do. Grrr.
You’re welcome. I love the outfits they are wearing also lol
Haha, me too! I look at them and wonder if the gov’t designed those too, to be ‘what the kids like’. :p
I was not familiar with this song, but it’s nice, and I like Brian May’s smooth, comforting vocals. And yes, the Puhdys appear to have lifted the melody of “39” with scarcely any meaningful changes.
I like your choice of words in comparing the Puhdys song.
A different slice for Queen. First time listen. Enjoyed the piece and the tune.
I just learned that tomorrow (Sept 5) is Freddie Mercury’s birthday. This is a a nice coincidence that I didn’t plan when I made this pick. Happy Birthday, Freddie.
I’ve never heard this but, I like the song and story behind it:
It doesn’t sound like a Queen song to me and, I agree…the other song is way too close.
That was a lovely article. Thanks for the link.
Lots of these connections happening in the draft
Like others I was not familiar with this song. Sounds a bit different from the more well known ones and it was neat to hear Brian May on lead vocals
I like how you put it – he got waylayed by Queens success 😀. I heard an interview with him on Fresh Air many years ago – seems like a really fascinating interesting humble guy. It still blows my mind that he was the guitarist in one of the biggest bands in the world a d also a bonafide astrophysicist !
Fascinating, interesting, and humble is my impression too. He’s the type of person I’d love to go to dinner with and just see where the conversation goes. It’s bound to be endlessly fascinating.
Couldn’t agree more
Also found the blog post about GDR music scene fascinating. The only music I could really take was the punk stuff
Great write up Diana!
I covered this song on my blog a few years back. I always assumed it was about world war 2, which started in 1939, but it’s about time travel.
Just went back and listened again after reading this and found the link above that explained it a bit more – like the song even more now