Lily of the Valley
B-side of 1975 single, Keep Yourself Alive.
Lily of the Valley is a rock ballad by Queen. The song was recorded between July and September in 1974 at AIR, Rockfield, Trident, and Wessex Sound studios and was first released as track A5 on Sheer Heart Attack on 1974-11-01. The album version of the song has an overlay from the previous track, Flick of the Wrist, but a standalone version was released as the B-side of Now I'm Here and on the 1975 version of the Keep Yourself Alive single, coupled with God Save the Queen.
The song was written and composed by Freddie Mercury. On the album recording, Freddie sings vocals, backing vocals, and plays piano, Brian May plays electric guitar, Roger Taylor plays drums, and John Deacon plays bass guitar. The song was produced by Queen and Roy Thomas Baker.
Listeners often describe this song as Freddie, who was in his late 20s at the time, saying good-bye to his younger self and the experimental progressive rock style of the band's first three albums. Indeed, the lyrics also mention the fall of the king in Mercury's fantasy world of Rhye and Mercury's future songs have a significant change in genre. However, I've never really got the impression that Freddie was so intentional with his lyrics, he seemed to often use words that just sounded good, even if it meant altering the meaning of the song. Also, Brian May later explained that the song was about Freddie questioning whether he should stay with his girlfriend at the time (who I presume is the serpent of the Nile).
I first heard this song in the mid-1990s after buying Sheer Heart Attack. I'm pretty sure I liked the song on my first listen; it's short, sweet, has a smooth sound with good overlaid vocals, and has a nice crescendo near the end which diminishes into silence. The lyrics are pretty cryptic, and I never tried to make sense of them, but they're clearly about myth and legend with an element of sorrow, which I find comforting. I first heard the song when I was really into Dungeons & Dragons, DragonLance, and fantasy RPGs video games, so I especially liked it then. Although I still love the song, the lyrics seem a little childish to me as an adult.
I am forever searching high and low, But why does ev'rybody tell me no? Neptune of the seas, an answer for me please. The lily of the valley doesn't know. I lie in wait with open eyes. I carry on through stormy skies. I follow ev'ry course, my kingdom for a horse. But each time I grow old. Serpent of the Nile, relieve me for a while. And cast me from your spell, let me go. Messenger from Seven Seas has flown, To tell the king of Rhye he's lost his throne. Wars will never cease, Is there time enough for peace? But the lily of the valley doesn't know.