Brian May Says Freddie Mercury Wrote One Of Queen’s Heavy Riffs, Not Him

In a recent exclusive interview with Total Guitar, Queen guitarist Brian May revealed a surprising fact about the band’s songwriting process.

When asked about the end section of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ May disclosed that it was primarily Freddie Mercury’s idea. Despite his reputation as a piano virtuoso, Mercury had a knack for crafting heavy riffs, including the one in ‘Ogre Battle.’ Contrary to popular belief, the late frontman wasn’t just about the lighter side of music, as the musician explained:

“But it’s funny – Freddie was a good riffmeister, really! That riff for ‘Ogre Battle’ [from 1974’s ‘Queen II’], a lot of people think that’s mine, but that came out of Freddie’s head. So he had very good ‘heavy’ sensibilities. He was a devotee of Jimi Hendrix. People think he was just concerned with the lighter stuff but it’s not true. He did enjoy the heavy stuff, too.”

Mercury’s Unconventional Guitar Technique

Previously, in a 2019 chat with Guitar World, May gave more details about Mercury’s skills as a guitarist, noting:

“He was very good on the guitar, very unorthodox — all downstrokes. He wrote the riff for ‘Ogre Battle.’ I used to play it with up-and-downstrokes, but he was all downstrokes. Imagine how fast his right hand was moving! He had frenetic energy on the guitar, which came across very well in that song.”

Recognition From Peers

Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe mirrored May’s observations, describing ‘Ogre Battle’ as a pivotal moment in his musical journey. Sixx expressed admiration for Mercury’s guitar skills, acknowledging the song’s complexity and the challenge of replicating its riff. The bassist stated:

“My friends and I had already discovered the first Queen album and marveled at all those amazing melodies and chord progressions that were unlike anything we’d ever heard. But when we dropped the needle on ‘Ogre Battle,’ it was the most mind-blowing moment for me because of how it mixed the coolest, hardest rock riffs and the most extreme, beautiful melodies. Brian May once told me that Freddie Mercury wrote that guitar riff, which I didn’t know. It’s hard as sh*t to play! But when you really study Queen’s music, you get such an incredible education in the art of songwriting.”

‘Ogre Battle’ by Queen is one of their heaviest songs, featuring a thrash sound from the guitar riff and drumming. Mercury’s ogre-like screams add to the intensity, while Roger Taylor’s high harmonies in the chorus enhance the hook. The song depicts a battle between ogres.

You can listen to the song below.