Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen

Crazy Little Thing Called Love appears on Queen’s 1980 album, The Game.   

 

Throughout, the song is essentially divided into 4-bar phrases. It has five verses each ending with the words ‘crazy little thing called love’, the inclusion of the song’s title at the end of the verses negates the need for a separate chorus.

 

0:00 – 0:06 – Intro

0:06 – 0:24 – Verse 1

0:24 – 0:42 – Verse 2

0:42 – 1:02 – Bridge

1:02 – 1:19 – Verse 3

1:19 – 1:38 – Guitar solo/Bridge

1:38 – 1:56 – Verse 4 – unaccompanied

1:56 – 2:13 – Verse 5

2:13 – 2:42 – Outro

 

Because Crazy Little Thing Called Love is in the style of a 1950s Rock n’ Roll/Rockabilly tune its harmonic and melodic content draws from the Blues. Also, like much Blues-based music, the song contains certain ‘ambiguities’ and ‘harmonic-juxtapositions’ when viewed in terms of conventional harmonic concepts and thought; for example, although the song doesn’t modulate its chords are not drawn from any single key.

 

Because many of Crazy Little Thing Called Love’s chords don’t belong to a single key, various sections ‘shift’ between modal and diatonic progressions, and progressions using chords derived from the minor pentatonic scale. While this may seem like a recipe for disaster, all of these seemingly disparate elements are unified by the G and D composite blues scales and an overall pull towards ‘D’.

 

The opening progression, consisting of the chords: D – Dsus4 – G5 – G6 – C – G/B (0:00 – 0:19), is in D Mixolydian. Note: the rhythm is swung throughout.

Intro Riff

Although these chords are all found in the D Mixolydian mode (hence the G major key signature in the examples), the B flat major chord, found in the final bars of the verse progression (initially at 0:19) is not.

0-19 riff

The B flat major chord is, however, found in the G minor pentatonic and the G blues scales which are both part of the G composite blues scale.

'G' scales

In this way, the song’s writer Freddie Mercury, is already creating a distinction between the overall ‘D’ modality of the opening section and ‘non-diatonic’ chords such as the B flat major chord. The verse section does, however, still end on a D major chord which continues the overall pull towards ‘D’.

Viewed from a slightly different angle, all of the chords used in the intro and verse sections can be derived from either the G or D composite blues scales.

G, D comp+ chords

The chord progression of the bridge section (0:42 – 1:02): G – C – G – B flat – E – A – F, again initially juxtaposes chords derived from both the G and D composite blues scales, which explains the inclusion of the E, A and F major chords (as can be seen, F major is common to both scales)

E, A, F chords

Beginning at 0:59, the E and A major chords are again used, this time they can be heard as a II – V progression in D, which leads to a D major chord at the beginning of the third verse (1:02)

E-A-D

In this instance, the supertonic E chord is major whereas diatonically in a major key, the supertonic is minor.

Em diatonic

Changing chords through mixture is a common occurrence in many styles of music: the supertonic in a major key is often changed to a major chord, in minor keys also, the supertonic is often changed through mixture.

Interestingly, beginning at 0:56, the two bars of descending chromatic notes are derived from the G and D blues scales.

0-56

After the bridge and third verse comes the guitar solo, beginning at 1:19. Again, the note choices are derived from either the G or D blues, or composite blues scales. For most of the solo either one of these scales could be used, however, over the D major chord (1:25) Queen’s guitarist, Brian May uses the D composite blues scale, which includes F sharp

D comp 1-25

while over the B flat major chords (initially at 1:20) May uses the G blues or composite blues scales which includes B flat.

1-20

Over the solo’s E – A chord progression (beginning at 1:30) May favours the D composite blues scale, possibly because of the diatonic implications of these chords; towards ‘D’ (discussed previously). The D composite blues scale is probably also the likely choice for the F chord which follows (1:31), although as noted previously, F major can be drawn from both harmonised composite blues scales.

1-30

Throughout his solo, May’s note choices always closely follow the underlying harmonies. It is this adherence to the notes of the underlying chords which influences his note choices and the scale from which these notes are drawn.

 

After the solo comes verses 4 and 5; verse 4 is sung without instrumental accompaniment.

Over the G – B flat – C – D outro progression (beginning at 2:13) May plays various guitar fills. Throughout the song fills have been used to accent, and accompany the lyrics. As expected, the notes of these fills are typically drawn from either the G or D composite blues scales, however, immediately before the guitar solo (1:14) May’s fill combines both

1-14

 

 

Techniques and concepts used in Crazy Little Thing Called Love

 

  • Harmonic ambiguities derived from the Blues
  • Modal progression
  • Diatonic progression
  • Chords derived from the minor pentatonic scale
  • Composite blues scales
  • Mixture

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