White Queen / Black Queen

By Madeline Bocaro ©

Queen’s second album (Queen II, released in March 1974) screams of duality. The theme is good vs. evil.

The third track on Side One (Side White) is Brian May’s song ‘White Queen’. The song was written at the time of his pre-Queen band, Smile. The alternatively soft and powerful ballad ‘White Queen (As it Began)’ occurs in a seemingly medieval setting. May’s guitar lines are simply regal. Freddie Mercury sweetly sings of the quest to find the innocent, virtuous and virginal White Queen. The song is imbued with a Shakespearian quality, as the final lyric ‘And so it ends, as it began’is from Romeo and Juliet.

The journey to find the White Queen begins and ends in sorrow. The basis of the song lies in an experience in Brian’s youth, when he took a liking to a blind girl. This is evident in the lyrics about her sad, smiling dark eyes and in the line, ‘So sad my eyes/she cannot see’.

Freddie Mercury’s epic of decadent darkness ‘March of the Black Queen’appears on Side Two (Side Black) of the album. The song is likely the prototype for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ which would appear two albums later in 1975 on A Night at the Opera. The evil Black Queen has followers, takes prisoners and degrades them.

After seeing a drag show a few years ago, during which a gigantic and outrageous black drag queen sang ‘March of the Black Queen’ it occurred to me that this song was much more than I had imagined. The line, ‘I’m lord of all darkness, I’m Queen of the night’ suggested that the Black Queen was not female. But then, “She’s vulgar ‘buse and vile/ Fie-fo the Black Queen, tattoos all her pies /She boils and she bakes, and she never dots her “I’s / She’s our leader” caused our young minds to think she was a woman. Now we know that the term ‘she’ is preferred by most drag queens.

Beside the duality of good vs. evil, Freddie’s ‘March of the Black Queen is the complete opposite of Brian’s ‘White Queen’. Not only is the Black Queen not female, but she is also not Caucasian. There is a peculiar use of the ‘N’ word in reference to sugar babies and also the phrase, ‘honey-chile’.

The song deceivingly begins quietly and acoustically before its bombastic operatic progression. It also returns to an angelic baroque passage about our conscious choices of good vs. evil which Freddie delivers in his most beautiful voice. Then the march continues, taking place in a weird den of inequity in a fantastical time and place – a land of lily-pools and blue powder monkeys, cellar dwelling prisoners and naughty boys. There is a chorus of good, reminding the singer that he is in essence an angel, yet he succumbs to the Black Queen and joins the mindless march in the darkness, dancing with the devil.

‘White Queen’

(Brian May)

So sad her eyes
Smiling dark eyes
So sad her eyes
As it began

On such a breathless night as this
Upon my brow the lightest kiss
I walked alone
And all around the air did say
My lady soon will stir this way
In sorrow known
The White Queen walks and the night grows pale
Stars of lovingness in her hair

Needing – unheard
Pleading – one word
So sad my eyes
She cannot see

How did thee fare, what have thee seen
The mother of the willow green
I call her name
And ‘neath her window have I stayed
I loved the footsteps that she made
And when she came
White Queen how my heart did ache
And dry my lips no word would make
So still I wait

My Goddess, hear my darkest fear
I speak too late
It’s for evermore that I wait

Dear friend goodbye
No tears in my eyes
So sad it ends
As it began

‘March of the Black Queen’

(Freddie Mercury)

Do you mean it ?
Do you mean it ?
Do you mean it ?
Why don’t you mean it ?
Why do I follow you and where do you go
Aah aah aah aah aah aah

You’ve never seen nothing like it no never in your life
Like going up to heaven and then coming back alive
Let me tell you all about it
And the world will so allow it
Ooh give me a little time to choose
Water babies singing in a lily-pool delight
Blue powder monkeys praying in the dead of night

Here comes the Black Queen, poking in the pile
Fie-fo the black Queen, marching single file
Take this, take that, bring them down to size
March to the Black Queen

Put them in the cellar with the naughty boys
A little nigger sugar then a rub-a-dub-a baby oil
(aah aah) black on (aah aah), black on every finger nail and toe
We’ve only begun – begun
Make this, make that, keep making all that noise
March to the Black Queen
Now I’ve got a belly-full
You can be my sugar-baby, you can be my honey-chile, yes

La laa la laa la laa la laa la la la la la laa
La laa la laa la laa la laa la laa la laa la laa la laa
A voice from behind me reminds me
(tra la laa tra la laa aaah)
Spread out your wings you are an angel
Remember to deliver with the speed of light
A little bit of love and joy
Everything you do (will bear a will) bears a will and a why and a wherefore
A little bit of love and joy
In each and every soul lies a man, very soon he’ll deceive and discover
But even till the end of his life, he’ll bring a little love

Aah ah aah
La la la la laa
Ah ah ah ah aah
Ah la la la laa
I reign with my left hand, I rule with my right
I’m lord of all darkness, I’m Queen of the night
I’ve got the power – now do the march of the Black Queen
My life is in your hands, I’ll fo and I’ll fie
I’ll be what you make me, I’ll do what you like
I’ll be a bad boy – I’ll be your bad boy – I’ll do the march of the Black Queen

Ah aah ah aah
Ah aah ah aah
Walking true to style
She’s vulgar ‘buse and vile
Fie-fo the Black Queen, tattoos all her pies
She boils and she bakes, and she never dots her “I’s”

She’s our leader
La la la la laa la la laa
La la la la la laa

Forget your singalongs and your lullabies
Surrender to the city of the fireflies
Dance with the devil in beat with the band
To hell with all of you hand-in-hand
But now it’s time to be gone – (la la la laaa) forever – forever
La la la laaa aaah aah aah aaah

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