45 Years Ago: Queen Dreams Big With ‘Spread Your Wings’
"Sammy was low," Freddie Mercury croons in the very first line of Queen's "Spread Your Wings."
Sammy, it turns out, works in a place called the Emerald Bar, cleaning floors and dreaming of a better life while his tightfisted boss tells him: "You've got no real ambition, you won't get very far." Still, Sammy yearns to be elsewhere. At the end of the song, he talks himself into liberation: "Pull yourself together, because you know you should do better – that's because you're a free man."
Released on Feb. 10, 1978, "Spread Your Wings" was one of bassist John Deacon's first notable attempts at narrative songwriting. By then, he'd contributed a handful of songs to Queen's albums, including the Top 10 hit "You're My Best Friend," but he tended to keep to the background while Mercury and guitarist Brian May handled most of the limelight.
Deacon's naturally quiet personality, though, had been part of what made him a sensible choice for Queen. "They'd tried several other bass players before me, but their personalities seemed to clash," he said in one 1996 interview. "I was all right because I wasn't going to upstage Brian or Freddie."
He was also a gifted songwriter, drawing inspiration from his own life for "Spread Your Wings." "The song has to do with a number of personal experiences from recent years," Deacon said in Queen: All the Songs, The Story Behind Every Track. "I'd rather not say in detail, because I don't like to explain songs. People should figure it out for themselves, I think."
Watch Queen's 'Spread Your Wings' Video
Deacon admitted that handling the global stardom that Queen experienced was not always as easy as it might have appeared on the surface. "You deal with a lot of things that are not always pleasant," he explained. "Of course, money is wonderful, but I don't need to be very rich. I just don't want to fall back into a state of poverty, which a number of fairly famous musicians have ended up in. I want to try to keep something for the future."
The music video for the single, which featured Queen bundled up in the snow of Roger Taylor's garden, was filmed the same day as the video for "We Will Rock You" Same outfits and all.
"Spread Your Wings" was selected as the second single from 1977's News of the World, according to Queen: All the Songs, because the band regretted issuing "Tie Your Mother Down" as a single from 1976's A Day at the Races over another Deacon-penned tune, "You and I."
"Spread Your Wings" reached No. 34 on the U.K. singles chart, a testament to Deacon's role in the band. “If I'd just been a bass player all my life with the band, I wouldn't be as satisfied as I am – because I only consider that as part of what I do," he told BBC Radio in 1989. "The songwriting and being involved in the decision-making processes means I've been able to have a part in the band's destiny."
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