BRIAN MAY: Why do I find many of the lyrics in Queen songs that were written by Brian May very disturbing? “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Now I’m Here” are two examples.

ROBIN M writes ...

This is going to get me in a lot of trouble with Queen fans.

I find them a little disturbing myself. I'm not into PC culture because it has gone too far and is now more harmful than helpful to society IMO—even for those it is supposed to protect— so I'm not speaking from that standpoint.

The songs were written during a different time, of course. The main problem is that his songs seem so out of character with his persona and even his upbringing. It's as if they were written by someone else entirely or as if the persona that we see in interviews is not the full story. He has a line in a song "It's not what I say, but how I say it" and his interviews keep reminding me of those words. With the way he speaks and presents himself I figure he could say "Kiss my arse, I hate all of you" in his usual tone of voice and with his usual earnestness and people would still swoon and hear what they wanted to hear. Lol.

If it weren't for that saintly persona I don't think he'd be able to get away with singing some of his songs in today's climate. "Fat-Bottomed Girls" with the nanny in the nursery makes me cringe and I don't see why the lyrics can't be changed for concerts at least. Since he's the one who wrote them he could certainly rewrite them and I'm sort of surprised that he hasn't. I honestly expected a firestorm over them back when the movie came out. Tie Your Mother Down? Seriously? I think we just get into a habit of not hearing what we're hearing sometimes. OTOH listening to and prizing songs for their lyrics rather than the music would cut out about half of my music library and is unthinkable.

I've never been crazy about the official wild parties that the band put on for the press back in their day. They also seemed out of character for the most part. Most bands kept their wild parties private. For Queen it seemed like a show more than anything else. I've even wondered if the over-the-top display of what most would consider debauchery wasn't used in order to assure everyone that they weren't just a bunch of nerds. Because honestly, they all sort of were nerds. Freddie with his love of opera and ballet. Roger with his Micky Mouse voice and pretty boy looks. John with his family values--probably the worse offense to the rock and roll world. So maybe Brian felt the need to go that far--too far IMO--in order to assure validity within the world of down and dirty rock when he might have been seen as somehow inauthentic as a "nerdy" astrophysicist?

But that still doesn't explain his singing about Peaches in New Orleans. That's the part I have the most problem with. Not just the cheating but celebrating it in a song. Over and over and over through the years. Why? What must that have been like for Chrissy? The cognitive dissonance is disturbing.

LARA G writes ...

Well, firstly, it’s understandable that you find ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ disturbing. However, your actual question was why you find them disturbing. ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ is disturbing for obvious reasons. In my opinion, it might have been written in an attempt to establish a more ‘rock’ image for himself so he wouldn’t be known as the tame astrophysicist of the band, but he also went on to write ‘Fat-Bottomed Girls’ later so take that with a grain of salt.

However, I don’t really see what’s very disturbing about ‘Now I’m Here’. The only lines I could find that might be construed as disturbing were “Down in the dungeon, just Peaches and me” and “Don't move, don't speak, don't feel no pain, with the rain running down my face.

I won’t get into the backstory of who Peaches is, but the backstory of the song is that Brian May wrote it from his hospital bed when he was sick with severe hepatitis. Around that time, he had several health problems, such as a duodenal ulcer, and he was worried that his bandmates would replace him.

With this in mind, it’s possible that ‘dungeon’ refers to the fact that he must have been feeling trapped in the situation; I’ve also heard that the Dungeon was a bar where he spent time with Peaches, but I don’t have a source for that. “Don't move, don't speak, don't feel no pain, with the rain running down my face” also seems to refer to his sickness.

So, the sense of entrapment in the lyrics might be why you find them disturbing.

I think it’s worth noting that I wouldn’t consider many of Brian May’s lyrics to be disturbing. For example, ‘Dreamer’s Ball’ (Which is a tribute to Elvis Presley), ‘We Will Rock You’, and ‘Sleeping on the Sidewalk’. None of these songs have disturbing lyrics.

Brian May has a tendency to write songs that heavily relate to his personal life, like ‘White Queen’, which is about him idealizing a fellow student: According to May, “I remember being totally in love with this girl from biology, and I never ever talked to her.” There is also ‘All Dead, All Dead’, which was written about the death of his beloved cat Pixie, and ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’, a song about his love for another woman (Anita Dobson, his current wife) while he was still married to his (now) ex-wife.

The themes prevalent in these songs could also make the listener uncomfortable, as his lyrics are often solemn and even mysterious, like the aforementioned ‘White Queen’ and ‘The Prophet’s Song’.

It’s also worth noting that Brian May was not the only member of Queen who wrote disconcerting songs. Freddie Mercury’s own contributions are obvious ( ‘The March of the Black Queen’, ‘Great King Rat’, ‘Flick of the Wrist’… etc.), and Roger Taylor also had some questionable songs, such as ‘Machines’ (or 'Back To Humans') and possibly ‘Innuendo’ (which was credited to Queen but was mostly written by Taylor).

TL;DR: while Brian May might have had a few songs that might have been disturbing (and he certainly wouldn’t be the only member of Queen to have them), he also had a lot of songs that were not, and the reason why his songs were often emotional is because his writing was heavily influenced by his personal life.

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