“The Prophet's Song” - Queen



"The Prophet's Song" was composed by Brian May. On the show In the Studio with Redbeard, which spotlighted A Night at the Opera, May explained that he wrote the song after a dream he'd had while he was recovering from falling seriously ill while recording Queen's 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack and is the source of some of the lyrics. He spent several days putting it together, and it includes a vocal canon sung first by Freddie Mercury, then by Mercury, Roger Taylor and May. The vocal, and later instrumental canon was produced by early tape delay devices. It is a heavy and dark number with a strong progressive rock influence. At over eight minutes in length, is also Queen's longest song (Not counting the untitled instrumental track on Made in Heaven).

As detailed by Brian May in a documentary about this album, the speed-up effect that happens in the middle of the guitar solo was achieved by starting a reel-to-reel player with the tape on it, as the original tape player was stopped.

The dream he had was about The Great Flood, and lyrics have references from the Bible and the Noah's Ark account.

In an interview held in 1975, May elaborated on writing the song:

"I had a dream about what seemed like revenge on people, and I couldn't really work out in the dream what it was that people had done wrong. It was something like a flood. Things had gone much too far and as a kind of reparation, the whole thing had to start again. In the dream, people were walking on the streets trying to touch each others hands, desperate to try to make some sign that they were caring about other people. I felt that the trouble must be – and this is one of my obsessions, anyway – that people don't make enough contact with each other. A feeling that runs through a lot of the songs I write is, that if there is a direction to mankind, it ought to be a coming together, and at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be happening very well. I worry about it a lot. I worry about not doing anything about it. Things seem to be getting worse.

"But I wasn't trying to preach in the song at all. I was just trying to put across the questions which are in my mind, rather than the answers, which I don't believe I have. The only answer I can see is to be aware of things like that and to sort of try to put yourself to rights. There is an overseer in the song, though, whose cry to the multitudes is to 'listen to the warning of the seer'. In the song is this guy who also appeared in the dream. I don't really know whether he was a prophet or an impostor, but anyway, he's standing up there and saying, 'Look, you've got to mend your ways.' I still don't know whether he's the man who thinks he's sent from God or whether he isn't. The song asks questions rather than gives answers." "

Interview with Freddie Mercury, 5/21/1976 The Record Mirror:

"That's a Brian May track really. It's one of the nicest songs on the album. It really took a long while to record that one. A lot of work has gone into that track, and he practically went insane trying to get it together. We do that completely different on stage... It's one of the things that we wanted to do, y'know; the same as I wanted to do the operatic side of things in Bohemian Rhapsody. Brian wanted to try a completely different angle on that track. It's something that he had in mind for a long while and I think it's been very successful." Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.