"Innuendo" is a 1991 song by the English rock band Queen. It is the opening track on the album of the same name, and was released as the first single from the album. At six and a half minutes, it is one of Queen's longest songs, and their longest ever released as a single, exceeding "Bohemian Rhapsody" by 35 seconds. The single went straight to No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart in January 1991.[1] Featured was a flamenco guitar section performed by Yes guitarist Steve Howe and Brian May,[2][3] an operatic interlude that harks back to the Queen of old, sections of heavy metal, and lyrics inspired in part by lead singer Freddie Mercury's illness. Accompanied by a music video featuring animated representations of the band on a cinema screen akin to Nineteen Eighty-Four, eerie plasticine figure stop-motion and harrowing imagery, it has been described as one of the band's darkest and most moving works.[4] Allmusic described the song as a "superb epic", which deals with "mankind's inability to live harmoniously."[5]


 [hide*1 Songwriting


"Innuendo" was pieced together "like a jigsaw puzzle". The recurring theme (with the Boléro-esque beat) started off as a jam session between May, Deacon and Taylor. Mercury then added the melody and some of the lyrics, which were then completed by Taylor.

The middle section was primarily Mercury's work, according to an interview with May in October 1994's Guitar Magazine. It features a flamenco guitar solo, followed by a classically influenced bridge, and then the solo again but performed with electric guitars. This section is especially complex, featuring a pattern of three bars in 5/4 time (reasonably uncommon in popular music) followed by four bars in the more often used 3/4 time. The end of the flamenco-guitar style is based on the 5/4 bar, but is in 6/4 time.

The "You can be anything you want to be" section features sophisticated orchestration, created by Mercury and producer David Richards using the popular Korg M1 keyboard/synth/workstation. Mercury had arranged and co-arranged orchestras in his solo career, and closed the previous Queen album with the track "Was It All Worth It", which included a Gershwin-esque interlude also coming from an M1 synth. The bridge section in "Innuendo" is in 3/4, showing once again Mercury's affection for trinary metres: "Bicycle Race" is another one with main sections in 4/4 and middle-eight in 3/4, and some of his best-known pieces (namely "We Are the Champions" and "Somebody to Love") were in 12/8, as would be his last ever composition, "A Winter's Tale".

Steve Howe's involvement[edit]Edit

Howe and Mercury had been friends for several years, since they ran into each other quite often at the Townhouse Studios in London. Yes had recorded Going for the One at Mountain Studios in 1976 - 1977 shortly before Queen bought the Swiss studio, and Asia's debut album was produced by Queen's engineer, Mike Stone.

On a break from a recording session in Geneva, Howe drove to Montreux and stopped to have lunch. There he ran into Martin Gloves who had worked for Yes before and by this time was Queen's equipment supervisor. Gloves told him that Queen were in the studio at the moment.

As soon as Steve Howe went into the studios, Mercury asked him to play some guitar (according to producer David Richards, who had worked with Yes in the past as well). Another version is that Brian May was the one who asked him to play the flamenco bit.[3]

According to Steve Howe: «Inside, there’s Freddie, Brian and Roger all sitting together. They go: ‘Let’s play you the album’. Of course, I’m hearing it for the first time […] And they saved "Innuendo" itself until last. They played it and I was fucking blown away». The members of Queen asked if Howe wanted to play on the title track. Howe politely suggested they’d lost their minds. It took the combined weight of Mercury, May and Taylor to persuade him. Steve Howe continues: «They all chimed in: ‘We want some crazy Spanish guitar flying around over the top. Improvise!’ I started noodling around on the guitar, and it was pretty tough. After a couple of hours, I thought: ‘I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here’. I had to learn a bit of the structure, work out the chordal roots were, where you had to fall if you did a mad run in the distance; you have to know where you’re going. But it got towards evening, and we’d doodled and I’d noodled, and it turned out to be really good fun. We have this beautiful dinner, we go back to the studio and have a listen. And they go: ‘That’s great. That’s what we wanted’». [6]

Promotional video[edit]Edit

A very elaborate music video was created to accompany the single, combining stop motion animation with live action and digital mask replacement and featuring plasticine figures reminiscent of the album artwork in a detailed miniature cinema set. The band members only appear as illustrations and images, mainly taken from earlier Queen music videos (such as "The Miracle", "Scandal", "Breakthru", "The Invisible Man", "I Want It All", and clips from "Live at Wembley Stadium 1986"), on a cinema screen in the same manner as in the film Nineteen Eighty-Four, with Mercury drawn in the style of Leonardo da Vinci, May in the style of Victorian etchings, Taylor in the style of Jackson Pollock, and Deacon in the style of Pablo Picasso.[7] It also featured a montage of historical images and photographs. The video won production company DoRo (who also produced the videos to all other singles from the Innuendo album) a Monitor Award for Best Achievement in Music Video.

An early draft of the video for "Innuendo" was banned from American television due to the inclusion of footage from the Gulf War.[citation needed] An alternate video (without the footage) was released and received moderate airplay in the United States.


Other versions[edit]Edit

The song and parts of the Led Zeppelin songs "Kashmir" and "Thank You" were performed by that band's lead singer Robert Plant with the three surviving members of Queen (May, Taylor and Deacon) at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992 at Wembley Stadium. "Kashmir" had been one of the inspirations for "Innuendo". However, the song was left off the DVD release at Plant's request, as he forgot part of the lyrics and his vocal was, in his admission, not in the best shape. As in "Kashmir", the title of the song appears in the lyrics only once.

The 12" Explosive Version of "Innuendo" features a noise similar to an atomic bomb after Mercury sings the line "until the end of time".

Cover versions[edit]Edit

In popular culture[edit]Edit

Sales and certifications[edit]Edit

Region Certification Sales/shipments
United Kingdom (BPI)[8] Silver 200,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Chart performance[edit]Edit

Chart (1991) Peak


Australian Singles Chart[9] 28
Austrian Singles Chart[10] 12
Dutch Singles Chart[11] 4
German Singles Chart[12] 5
Irish Singles Chart[13] 4
Italian Singles Chart[14] 4
New Zealand Singles Chart[15] 10
Swiss Singles Chart[16] 3
UK Singles Chart[17] 1
US Mainstream Rock Chart[18] 17
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