“Good Company” - Queen

Comments

Versions

"Good Company" was written and sung by Brian May. All vocals are by May, who also plays a ukelele, not to be confused with the George Formby Ukelele-Banjo (also known as banjolele) that he'd used one year previously in 'Bring Back That Leroy Brown'.

The recording is remarkable for featuring an elaborate recreation of a Dixieland-style jazz band, produced by May using his Red Special guitar, along with various forms of effects processing.
May touched briefly on the "horns" in the song, in a 1982 interview with "On The Record".

""Yeah, that's four different kind of guitars. I was very keen in those days on recreating that sort of atmosphere. I mainly got the sound with small amplifiers. I used John Deacon's little amplifier and a volume pedal. For the trombone and trumpet sounds. I would record every note individually: Do it and then drop in. Incredibly painstaking! It took ages and ages. I listened to a lot of traditional jazz music when I was young, so I tried to get the phrasing as it would be if it were played by that instrument."

The song is a narrative tale, told by a man who in young age was advised by his father to "take care of those you call your own, and keep good company." In his younger years, the singer follows his father's advice, keeping his friends and marrying a girl named Sally. However, after their marriage, he begins to lose interest in his friends, who gradually disappear. As he grows older, he becomes increasingly skilled at and dedicated to his occupation, working long nights and neglecting his family.

Eventually, the singer's efforts are rewarded, he begins his own Limited company (which is also a pun, since throughout the rest of the song "company" is used in the sense of companions). Even more dedicated to his business, he hardly notices as his wife leaves him.

The song finishes with the speaker as an elderly man, puffing his pipe and pondering the lessons of his life, which he has no one left to share with.

This is the only song from the album that was never performed live.

In a 1983 interview with BBC Radio One, Brian May discussed at length the conception and execution of the "jazz band" at the end of the song.

"Yes, it's all guitar all those instruments. That was a little fetish of mine. I used to listen to Traditional Jazz quite a lot, in particular, the twenties revival stuff which wasn’t actually Traditional Jazz but more arranged stuff like The Temperance Seven who were recreating something which was popular in the twenties, sort of dance tunes really. I was very impressed by the way those arrangements were done, you know, the nice smooth sound and those lovely changes between chords. Because they were much more rich in chords than most modern songs are. So many chord changes in a short time, lots of intermingling parts. So I wanted to do one of those things and the song just happened to come out while I was plunking away a the ukulele and the song itself was no trouble to write at all. But actually doing the arrangements for the wind section, as it was supposed to be.

There’s a guitar trumpet and a guitar clarinet and a guitar trombone and a sort of extra thing, I don’t really know what it was supposed to be (chuckles) on the top. I spent a lot of time doing those and to get the effect of the instruments I was doing one note at a time, with a pedal and building them up. So you can imagine how long it took. We experimented with the mikes and various little tiny amplifiers to get just the right sound. So I actually made a study of the kind of thing that those instruments could play so it would sound like those and get the authentic flavour. It was a bit of fun but, it was a serious serious bit of work in that a lot of time went into it." Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.