Queen II

See What A Fool I've Been by Queen: Great B-Sides

Many significant UK rock acts from the 1960s and early 1970s were deeply rooted in the blues. Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac were among many young bands steeped in blues tradition.

Queen took some cues from the hard rock of Led Zeppelin, especially in their early work. There are many other influences present in their work, however – glam-rock and British music hall in their early years, while later on they dabbled in funk and disco.

It’s thus surprising to see Queen attempt a straightforward blues piece. Queen guitarist Brian May wrote ‘See What A Fool I’ve Been’ in 1968. He caught ‘That’s How I Feel’, a blues song by Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, on TV and wrote ‘See What A Fool I’ve Been’ around what he could remember of the song. May only learned the name of ‘That’s How I Feel’ in 2004, when a fan contacted him.

‘See What A Fool I’ve Been’ dated back to Roger Taylor and Brian May’s pre-Queen band Smile, and it was an early live staple. It was recorded during the sessions for Queen II. While it’s bluesy musically, Freddie Mercury’s vocal is something else entirely, piling on androgynous allure in what’s presumably a Robert Plant imitation.

‘See What A Fool I’ve Been’ wouldn’t have fit comfortably onto Queen II – although it would have been an upgrade over Taylor’s ‘The Loser in the End’ at the end of side one. It’s also possible that May’s lack of recollection over the song’s original writers, and potential royalty issues, may have pushed it out to a b-side.

‘See What A Fool I’ve Been’ remains a fascinating piece, showing a usually hidden facet of a gifted band.

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  1. Never heard Queen play blues…really good. Love the sound and echo on Freddie’s voice…damn I never heard him do this kind of vocal gymnastics. I’ll have to remember this.
    Great find.

      • No I don’t think it would have worked. They were just always over the top so much.
        I never think of Queen in the same light as The Who or Zeppelin…or many of their peers.
        They were so campy…but that was part of their appeal also.
        Other bands could go over the top but not the same way.

  2. It’s nice to hear them being a blues/rock band, before they went showbiz. One of my favourites of theirs is Son and Daughter from the first album. which also includes Liar. That’s in spite f the fact that on Son and Daughter Freddie is criticizing a woman for behaving like a man – if one can believe that pop songs really be taken literally, which is very doubtful.
    As a side note, I wonder which came first: May’s idea for this song or Sonja Kristina’s lyric for Situations, on Curved Air’s 1970 first album, Airconditioning. The prelude to the chorus on that goes “See what a fool I’ve been. I haven’t lived my dreams”. It’s a simple little line, but lyrics are like spores on the wind, and when you catch one it can linger in your head for years before you use it.

    • I think Queen II is their best record – I generally think Mercury peaked early, then got distracted by partying.
      I don’t know Curved Air at all, but the Stewart Copeland connection has had me curious for a while.

      • Copeland is actually a footnote to their story. He didn’t join till their heyday was over. Had a long relationship with Sonja, though. Check out their first two albums; inconsistent but there’s some great stuff in there. Personally I didn’t understand all the “Vivaldi’ stuff on the first one, but a few of the members were classically trained and I suppose they were trying to break new ground or something.

  3. Correction: Sonia Kristina didn’t write Situations. It was violinist Darryl Way and bass player Rob Martin. Lovely, poignant song, anyway, and she delivers it perfectly

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