The March of the Black Queen
The March of the Black Queen is a progressive rock song by Queen. The music and lyrics were composed by Freddie Mercury in 1973 and the song was recorded in August 1973 and released as track B4 on the album Queen II on 1974-03-08. Mercury also played piano, and sung the majority of the vocals. Brian May composed a lot of very interesting guitar solos and harmonies for this track and added bells to the background. Roger Taylor, in addition to playing percussion, sung a single line in the song, "My life is in your hands! I'll fo and I'll fi." John Deacon played bass.
A few mixes of the song have been made. The Queen II album version has a length of 6:33. A promo single with a length of 5:50 was released in the 70s which had a B-side of Father To Son. Another promo single, also released in the 70s, has a much shorter length at only 5:14. The version on Deep Cuts, Volume 1 (1973–1976) has the song's true ending without the merge into Funny How Love Is, and has a length of 6:38.
At six minutes and 33 seconds, this is the first of Freddie's epic songs, and a sort of proto-Bohemian Rhapsody, though, in my opinion, vastly superior. Interestingly, the song plays simultaneously at two different time signatures, something very uncommon for popular music, and Freddie's vocals span two and a half octaves. On the album, The March of the Black Queen is preceded by Freddie's song Nevermore, which is about the heartache of a breakup, and then seamlessly merges into Funny How Love Is, also by Freddie, which is much happier.
I first heard this song around 1997 when I bought Queen II. I probably enjoyed it the first time I heard it, as I initially fixated on the black side of the album.
At first, the song seems all over the place, but there does appear to be a single narrative to it. To me, the Black Queen is a woman (or multiple women) that Freddie was hopelessly in love with with, but he feels she took advantage of him. But, despite the abuse, he stayed with her, and became ashamed of himself because of it. The first meeting with the woman is described with the lyric, "You've never seen nothing like it / No, never in your life / Like going up to heaven / And then coming back alive." However, shortly after that, "Take this, take that / Bring them down to size / March to the Black Queen," and later "Put them in the cellar / With the naughty boys." To me, this indicates that the woman has collected many suitors and is forcing them to do her cruel dance of abuse. The lyric, "A little nigger sugar / Then a rub-a-dub-a baby oil," (see below for the racial implications), to me means that the Black Queen performs the bare minimum of pleasantries and cheap thrills, because that's all she needs to do. The lyric, "Do you mean it? / Why don't you mean it? / Why do I follow you?" seems out of place as the opener, but I think this is a prelude. The references to the Black Queen being a baker, when coupled with the phrase "fi fo," seems to be relate to the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk who used the bones of Englishmen to bake bread. I assume this means Freddie saw this woman as a proverbial giant or ogre, using men to further her own goals. Then, Freddie reminds himself that he's important and needs to be free of this woman, "A voice from behind me reminds me / Spread out your wings you are an angel / Remember to deliver with the speed of light / A little bit of love and joy." And yet, he returns, eager to please, saying, "I'll be what you make me / I'll do what you like / I'll be your bad boy / I'll do the march of the Black Queen." Later she is described as, "Walking true to style / She's vulgar, 'buse [abuse], and vile!" In the end, Freddie is finally disenfranchised with love altogether, "Forget your sing a-longs and your lullabies / Dance to the devil / In beat with the band / To hell with all of you hand in hand!" and finally give her up, "Now it's time to be gone / Forever? / Forever!"
The song contains the racial slur "nigger sugar." Although bleached sugar is white, raw cane sugar is brown and traditionally was used by people too poor to afford refined white sugar. Poor and brown was synonymous with black people, hence the term, "nigger sugar." In the 1970s, this sort of language was still acceptable because it was viewed as simple tradition, and not meant as an insult toward black people. I don't think Freddie was trying to be racist with this lyrics, but, regardless of his intent, the lyric is indeed racist, and it reminds us of how commonplace racism was as recent as the 1970s. It's a shame this slur exists to taint an otherwise great song.
Due to its length, The March of the Black Queen was not released as a single, though trimmed promotional versions exist. Because of its vocal complexity, the song was never played live in full, although Queen once played the first verse in concert before switching to Bohemian Rhapsody.
Though the songs do not appear to be related at all, having White Queen (As It Began) on the white side and The March of the Black Queen on the black side creates a nice form of symmetry for the album.
Do you mean it? Do you mean it? Do you mean it? Why don't you mean it? Why do I follow you, And where do you go? Ah ah ah ah-ah Ah ahahahah ah ah-ah ah-ah Ah-ah ah ah-ah ah ah-ah ah ah-ah ah ah-ah ah ah-ah You've never seen nothing like it, No, never in your life. Like going up to heaven, And then coming back alive. Let me tell you all about it, And the world will so allow it. Oooh, give a little time to choose. Water babies singing in a lily pool delight. Blue powder monkeys praying in the dead of night. Here comes the Black Queen, Poking in the pile. Fi, fo, the Black Queen, Marching single file. Take this, take that, Bring them down to size. March to the Black Queen. Put them in the cellar, With the naughty boys, A little nigger sugar, Then a rub-a-dub-a-baby oil. Ah! Black on! Ah! Black on! Every finger nail and toe, We've only begun! Begun! Make this, make that, Keep making all that noise. Ooh, march to the Black Queen. Now I've got a belly full. You can be my sugar baby, You can be my honey chile, yes. La, la la, la da, la da, la la la la da da da la la, la la, La la, la la, la la, la la, la la. A voice from behind me reminds me, Spread out your wings you are an angel. Remember to deliver with the speed of light, A little bit of love and joy. Everything you do bears a will, And a why, and a wherefore. A little bit of love and joy. In each and every soul lies a man, Very soon he'll deceive and discover, But even to the end of his life, He'll bring a little love. Ah, ah-ah, la la la la la, ah ah ah ah ah, la la da da, ah ah... I reign with my left hand, I rule with my right. I'm lord of all darkness! I'm queen of the night! I've got the power! Now to do the march of the Black Queen! My life is in your hands! I'll fo and I'll fi. I'll be what you make me, I'll do what you like. I'll be a bad boy, I'll be your bad boy, I'll do the march of the Black Queen. Ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah. Walking true to style, She's vulgar, 'buse, and vile! Fi, fo, the Black Queen Tattoos all her pies. She boils, and she bakes, And she never dots her I's. (?Incomprehensible?) La la la la la la la la, La da da da da la. Forget your sing a-longs and your lullabies! Surrender to the city of the fireflies! Dance to the devil, In beat with the band, To hell with all of you hand in hand! Now it's time to be gone La la la la. Forever? Forever! Ah-da-da, ahahahahaha, ah, ah, ahhhhhh!
- youtube.com/watch?v=gKTIagTEkuM - Album version.
- queensongs.info/song-analysis/songwriting-analyses/no-synth-era/queen-ii/march-of-the-black-queen - Song analysis.
- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_II - Wikipedia page for Queen II.