The Story Of Freddy Mercury Writing “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” When He Was Naked

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Queen went to Germany in June 1979 to start recording The Game. One of the songs was born in a bathtub.

Queen
photo via Rolling Stone

Freddie Mercury proved to be an amazing songwriter and arranger, with songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are The Champions.”

Often we don’t get a look into a songwriter’s creative process. But with Mercury’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” we do know how it came to him.

After Queen checked into their hotel in Munich, Mercury hopped into the bath to wash of the grime you collect when you travel. That’s when– in that soapy tub of water– a melody came to him.

It had a rockabilly feel to it and tongue-and-cheek lyrics. And it definitely sounded like an Elvis song.

As he sat there in the bathtub, he asked his assistant, Peter Hince, to grab a guitar for him. He wrapped a towel around himself, took the guitar, and started forming the song.

Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury was the mastermind behind one of Queen’s biggest hits “Bohemian Rhapsody”

“‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ took me five or 10 minutes,” Mercury told Melody Maker in 1981. “I did that on the guitar, which I can’t play for nuts, and in one way it was quite a good thing because I was restricted, knowing only a few chords. It’s a good discipline because I simply had to write within a small framework. I couldn’t work through too many chords and because of that restriction I wrote a good song, I think.”

Once he nailed down the structure of the song, he called the studio they were going to use to tell engineer Reinhold Mack to get ready to record. Mercury threw on some clothes and ran over to the studio.

“I was very quick and had everything set up in almost no time,” Mack said.

When Mercury got there, the only band member absent was Brian May. Despite this, Mercury pushed forward. He actually was glad May’s perfectionism was not present.

“Quickly, let’s finish it before Brian gets here, otherwise it takes a little longer,” he said.

And sure enough, the song was pretty much done by the time May arrived.

“Brian isn’t going to like it,” Mercury said.

And he was right. May didn’t like it.

“I wasn’t happy,” May said. “I kicked against it, but I saw that it was the right way to go.”

As it turns out, it was the right way to go. The song came out as a pre-album single– it quickly flew to No. 1 worldwide.

Roger Taylor remembered that whole ordeal.

“We were still making the record, we hadn’t nearly finished the album,” he said. “We were going out in Munich and someone came up and said, ‘It’s gone to Number One in America.’ And we were going, ‘Yeah! More drinks!'”

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Caleb Murphy is a musician who writes about music. His writing appears in Consequence Of Sound, Pittsburgh City Paper, and some other cool places. He blogs about music at calebjmurphy.com.
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