Why Brian May Didn’t Want to Use ‘Tie Your Mother Down’
Brian May recalled how he came up with the classic Queen song “Tie Your Mother Down,” and that he’d played the riff to Freddie Mercury, only to tell him the song would never work.
The guitarist was living alone in a hut he’d built on the Spanish island of Tenerife, studying for his PhD in astrophysics, when he was struck by inspiration in his sleep ahead of the song’s release in 1976, as he told Uncle Joe Benson on the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show.
“I woke up one morning and started playing this riff,” May said. “It’s sort of inspired by Rory Gallagher, this business of sort of snapping on and off the strings. The riff just really appealed to me, and in my head i could hear this childlike ‘Tie your mother down’ and that’s as far as I got. But I remember sitting there as the sun went down, plugging away at this riff.”
He added that he "got back with the band and I remember this as clear as day as well – I said to Freddie, ‘Look, I’ve got this really great riff; what do you think?’ ‘That’s really, really cool’. And I said, ‘I don’t have any words; all I have is that ‘tie your mother down,’ which obviously we can’t use.’ He went, ‘Yeah you can!’”
May said he soon realized that his original idea “represents the cry of a teenager who’s being inhibited in the conquest of his girlfriend by her parents.” "It all made perfect sense," he noted. "That’s why it had come into my head. ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ kind of wrote itself.”
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