“Son And Daughter”
With ties to the band’s origins and breakout success, “Son And Daughter” isn’t so much a deep cut as it is a case study of Queen’s evolution. Not only was the song performed at the band’s first ever show under the Queen name back on July 18, 1970, but it also became a staple of their live performance, featuring an extended guitar solo that was left off the studio version of the song.
Don’t worry – you’ve heard that solo in another form, re-worked as part of the acclaimed 1973 song “Brighton Rock” that has excited guitarheads for half a century. The song also shows off the band’s early blues rock sound, with a muddy guitar part supported by a bracing rhythm section and Mercury’s golden voice, which was theatrical even then at the band’s inception. –Doug Nunnally
Queen II (1974)
Despite being one of the band’s shortest songs, “Nevermore” from Queen II packs a lot into a brusque 75 seconds. Segueing from the closing three-part vocal harmony of “The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke”, it’s a sublime, stripped-back ballad that some consider to be a thematic precursor to A Night at the Opera highlight “Love of My Life”.
From Freddie Mercury’s swooping vocal harmonies to its piano “ring” effect (a forward-moving technique created by someone plucking the piano strings while Mercury played), the song details the pitfalls of heartache and abandonment (“Even the valleys below where the rays of the sun were so warm and tender/Now haven’t anything to grow”) with unmatched candor and economy. –Brian Coney
Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
The first song penned by bassist John Deacon, who would go on to write the iconic hits “Another One Bites the Dust” and “You’re My Best Friend”, “Misfire” is a tropical-tinged guitar romp with the band offering up some infectious joy over top some … suggestive lyrics (“Don’t you misfire/ Fill me up with the desire/ To carry on”).
Released on a record celebrated for its hard rock riffs and glam rock histrionics, “Misfire” is a jangly and gleaming outlier, along with the subsequent ragtime track “Bring Back That Leroy Brown”, that flaunts the range and dexterity the band had, two qualities that would end up defining Queen as the years and decades rolled on. –Doug Nunnally
“The Prophet’s Song”
A Night At The Opera (1975)
A Night at the Opera is, of course, defined by its sophisticated arrangements and genre-bending acrobatics. And while “Bohemian Rhapsody” will forevermore lay claim to the album’s centerpiece, Brian May’s feature-length forecast of cataclysmic climate change, “The Prophet’s Song”, puts up a valiant challenge.
Veering between mystical prog rock, heavy metal, and classical — and featuring the most ambitious vocal canon in all of rock music – it’s Queen’s longest song (with vocals) at just over eight minutes. And what a journey it serves up. Marrying in-studio wizardry, multitracked harmonies and labyrinthine guitar orchestration, it’s a triumph that — perhaps more than any other Queen song committed to tape — demands to be listened to on a good pair of headphones. –Brian Coney
A Day At The Races (1976)
Perhaps the most pointed song Queen ever penned, “White Man” is a vitriolic takedown of European imperialism and the natives who were caught in their brutal crosshairs. “Leave my body in shame/ Leave my soul in disgrace/ But by every God’s name/ Say your prayers for your race” speaks to the song’s core, with a line that cuts perhaps deeper in 2018 than it did back in 1976.
Aside from baring the indignity of history, the song houses a compelling dichotomy with the intro and outro featuring a sorrowful Mercury singing alongside a simple May electric part and a middle section that unloads a torrid onslaught of guitars and drums that serve as a spark to Mercury’s explosive vocals, which detonate as contemptuously as possible. –Doug Nunnally