“The March of the Black Queen” by Queen
The reason there’s no consensus as to what “The March of the Black Queen” is about is because, at the very least, it is multi-subjected. Indeed, on the surface certain verses do not appear to have any relation to one another. Also, Queen itself never went about revealing what’s actually going on here. So what that means is that in the name of attempting to derive a definitive meaning out of this song, we’re going to have to engage in some seriously-creative speculation.
The Black Queen
First off of course would be to identify who “the Black Queen” actually is. Said character is mentioned in the chorus. But as far as the verses go, she only appears in the fourth and fifth.
Said character, on top of being “vulgar” and “vile”, is depicted as someone who is manipulative and indeed has loyal followers, i.e. those who “march” to her beat. And the final verse concludes with the proclaiming “she’s our leader”. So with that forthright statement in mind and taking the above into consideration, common sense would dictate that she’s some kind of powerful politician. Perhaps she might even be the Queen of England herself.
A Song about the Political/Military History of Britain?
Meanwhile, it has been ascertained that Mercury is referencing old British naval practices, at least in part, earlier in the song. So with that in mind, it is possible that the first and second verses are about warfare. And when you combine that with the character of the Black Queen, then this song can theoretically be said to be speaking to England’s political/military history. If such is actually the case, then it can further be put forth that Britain is being portrayed as akin to an oppressive, warmongering power.
But even though there may be lyrical evidence to support such an argument, adopting this understanding of “The March of the Black Queen” presents its issues also. For instance, Mercury, who wrote this song alone, was staunchly apolitical in his music. Also, he is said to have been quite supportive of the British crown. In other words, he wasn’t the type of musician to drop such a song as described in the previous paragraph. But perhaps that disposition would explain why these lyrics are so confusing and why it took so long for Mercury to finish writing this song. That is to say that maybe Freddie is criticizing the monarchy alright but doing so in a painfully-shrouded way.
But even if we were to believe that, such an acceptance would not seem to explain the meaning of the third verse. Here, it’s as if the vocalist decides to take the song in an existential direction, encouraging the listener to be free or what have you. And logically speaking, this passage does not to have anything to do with politics, complacency or warfare.
At the end of the day, the safe bet may be to go along with the flow and accept that this song, despite how it may feel at certain junctures, is more of an exercise in poetry than it is a critique. Indeed, the most philosophical part of the song would be the aforementioned third verse, i.e. the only passage which contains an overt message.
Yes, listeners can use their imaginations and conclude that the lyrics in whole deal with complex issues like colonialism and racism, both of which of course the UK has been heavily involved in. But at the end of the day, most songs by classic bands like Queen tend to be open to interpretation anyway. So if a listener is able to derive a storyline related to imperialism out of this piece, it is possible, though perhaps not likely, that Mercury was in fact alluding to such.
Facts about “The March of the Black Queen”
Clocking in at over 6 minutes and 30 seconds, “The March of the Black Queen” holds the distinction of being the second longest song Queen ever put out.
It was written by Freddie Mercury (1945-1991), who had begun penning it prior to the formation of the band. So that would mean that even though the track was released on 8 March 1974, its origins would date back to the late 1960s. According to Freddie himself, it took him “ages” to finish composing this song.
This song is one of the tracks to be found on Queen’s 1974 album “Queen II”. And as with virtually every other album the band has put out, this project was backed by EMI Records.
Due to the complexity of this song, on top of experiencing technical difficulties while recording it, Queen has actually never rendered it live in full. This is despite the song being a fan favorite.
The end of this track segues into the song that follows it on “Queen II”, that being “Funny How Love Is”.
Reportedly the original earlier version of this song features Freddie utilizing the N-word. The said version can be found can be found on the 2011 reissue of “Queen II”.
It has been put forth by some Queen scholars that this song is a “precursor” to 1975’s “Bohemian Rhapsody“, the legendary group’s signature hit.
Queen produced this track with Roy Thomas Baker, who regularly collaborated with the band during their heyday.