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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

SONGS I LIKE - '39 (Queen)

Your mother's eyes
From your eyes
Cry to me

There is a series of short documentary pieces called "Classic Albums" in which the producers interview bands about a specific, monumental album made by a band and how it came about. Each song is examined and taken apart, showing what different pieces of the music sound like and how they were crafted. Every one I've seen is an amazing glimpse into the creative process of truly visionary musicians like Pink Floyd and Queen.

I've already written about two other songs from the Night at the Opera album (and might end up doing them all by the time I'm through): The Prophet Song and Bohemian Rhapsody. Some albums just are such great works that start to finish they are amazingly consistent and excellent. Rumors by Fleetwood Mac, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, and many others are of this sort.

I learned the story behind this song from the Classic Rock disc on Night At The Opera (which, yes, was named after the Marx Brothers movie, as was its successor Day At The Races). Brian May, the incredibly talented guitarist of Queen wrote "39" as a sort of folk song. Like many folk songs it follows a historical event and the tragedies and glories that took place, but unlike others, it is about a future historical event, a science fiction folk song if you will.

"39" follows the exploits of a group of settlers who fly in a space ship to a distant star and explore there. Then, they fly back to report on their work and probably set up colonizers. However, following Einstein's theory of relativity, May envisions the time it takes to get to the star and back as a year... but for those not on the near light speed ship, time passes much differently.

The settlers come back 100 years later, and face a world which is completely changed. Tracking down an elderly daughter, the settler singing the song notes that almost everything he knew is dead, but in his daughter's eyes he still sees his beloved wife. In all its a fascinating piece with well crafted music that captures my attention.

May said that he always was sad that "39" didn't get picked up as a single because it is one of his favorite pieces and if you listen you probably will understand why.

In the year of thirty-nine
Assembled here the volunteers
In the days when lands were few
Here the ship sailed out into the blue and sunny morn
The sweetest sight ever seen
And the night followed day
And the story tellers say
That the score brave souls inside
For many a lonely day
Sailed across the milky seas
Ne'er looked back never feared never cried

Don't you hear my call
Though you're many years away
Don't you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I'll take your hand
In the land that our grand-children knew

In the year of thirty-nine
Came a ship in from the blue
The volunteers came home that day
And they bring good news
Of a world so newly born
Though their hearts so heavily weigh
For the earth is old and grey
little darlin' well away
But my love this cannot be
Oh so many years have gone
Though I'm older but a year
Your mother's eyes from your eyes cry to me

Don't you hear my call
Though you're many years away
Don't you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I'll take your hand
In the land that our grand-children knew

Don't you hear my call
Though you're many years away
Don't you hear me calling you
All your letters in the sand
Cannot heal me like your hand
For my life's still ahead, pity me.



This is part of the Songs I Like series.

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