The Interesting Story About ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ By Queen
UNSPECIFIED - FEBRUARY 01: Photo of Freddie MERCURY and QUEEN; Freddie Mercury performing live on stage (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
On September 18 1976, Queen held a massive free concert at London’s Hyde Park with the help of entrepreneur Richard Branson (creator of Virgin Records). The legendary band wanted to express their gratitude to their British fans for their loyalty and support over the years, especially after the success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “You’re My Best Friend,” and A Night at the Opera.
Years later, May said:
“Hyde Park was one of the most significant gigs in our career.
“We’d kind of made it in a lot of countries by that time, but England was still – you know, we weren’t really sure if we were really acceptable here. So, it was a wonderful feeling to come back and see that crowd and get that response.”
The show happened the same time Queen was recording their fifth album A Day at the Races, which gave the band an opportunity to play some new music for their 150,000 to 200,000 crowd. One of the songs they’ve performed was “Tie Your Mother Down,” a song which Brian May has held on for eight years by that point.
In 2011, May shared:
“‘‘Tie Your Mother Down’ was built around a riff which I’d had kicking around for a long time.
“I know pretty much where I first played it – it was on top of that volcanic ridge in Tenerife when I was doing my PhD studies. I had a little acoustic guitar which I’d bought down in Santa Cruz in Tenerife, where we’d lived. And I remember beating out that riff and enjoying it, enjoying the feeling of bending the string as part of the riff. And I sat there watching the sun go down, kinda singing along to it. But I didn’t really have a song at that point.”
May was having second thoughts about the title of the song. In another interview, he admitted:
“I didn’t know what the song was about.
“I remember having the conversation with Freddie [Mercury]… saying, ‘I’ve got this great riff,’ and Freddie went, ‘Yeah, this is amazing – we should do that!’”
And when May revealed his working title he added:
“Obviously we can’t use that.”
But Mercury disagreed and said:
“Yes we can! Why not? It says a lot.”
May also recalled:
“I later went back to it and thought, ‘Yeah, it does make a lot of sense to me.
“It’s about teenage angst and rebelling against your parents – which I what I suppose most of the original rock songs were about anyway.”
There’s no proof to prove the rumors, but it’s been said that one of Mercury’s nicknames among close friends was “Mother.”
“Tie Your Mother Down” was released as a single on March 4, 1977, in the U.K. and four days later in the U.S. It reached No. 49 on the Billboard chart. May continued to perform it afterward, and it returned when Queen connected with Paul Rodgers and then again with Adam Lambert.
The song has been covered by other artists such as Lemmy, Stereophonics, and Lynch Mob. May also performed it alongside Joe Elliott and Slash at the Mercury tribute concert in 1992, with Guns N’ Roses the same year and with the Foo Fighters on many occasions.
“Sometimes you get a little riff, and you just put some words with it and then you don’t even think about what they mean.
“I remember thinking, ‘This isn’t a good enough title for this song,’ but everyone said, ‘Well, actually, it sounds OK,’ and so we kind of lyrically built it around that. That’s the truth, folks.”