The undying Queen band has produced some iconic songs which have defied the laws of time. From the ’70s to the ’80s, Queen ruled the international Rock/Pop/Soul arena and their influence is still felt to-date. The recent Queen biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ re-ignited a passion for classic hits and today we have “Another One Bites the Dust,” which has been dubbed the most difficult Queen song to understand. But oftentimes, the simplest meanings could be misinterpreted.
“Another One Bites the Dust” was a game-changer for Queen. Written by bass guitarist John Deacon, the song made into the band’s eighth studio album ‘The Game’ released in 1980. Fun fact about the song is that it was never meant to be released as a single; but the band was convinced by Michael Jackson to do so. And the song took Queen on a whirlwind, becoming their second numbe 1 single in the US charts. The song spent three weeks at #1 on Billboard Hot 100 and fifteen weeks on top 10 in the same chart. It is also considered one of Queen’s best-selling singles with over 7 million copies sold worldwide, only falling behind Queen’s epic ballad “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The “Smoke Marijuana” Message Controversy
Another fun fact that propelled the fame of “Another One Bites the Dust” is the alleged hidden message in the song. The song title in chorus, when played backwards is claimed to be heard as “It’s fun to smoke marijuana” or “Start to smoke marijuana.” However, it has been denied by Queen.
Queen members have talked about their hit single on several ocassions. In a 1996 interview, John Deacon reminisced about the song and how it came to be;
“I listened to a lot of soul music when I was in school, and I’ve always been interested in that sort of music. I’d been wanting to do a track like Another One Bites The Dust for a while, but originally all I had was the line and the bass riff. Gradually I filled it in and the band added ideas. I could hear it as a song for dancing but had no idea it would become as big as it did. The song got picked up off our album and some of the black radio stations in the US started playing it, which we’ve never had before. Michael Jackson actually suggested we release it as a single. He was a fan of ours and used to come to our shows.”
Freddie Mercury also thanked MJ for guidng them in the right direction;
“Credit for the song should go to Michael Jackson in many ways. He was a fan and friend of ours and kept telling me, “Freddie, you need a song the cats can dance to.” John introduced this riff to us during rehearsal that we all immediately thought of disco, which was very popular at the time. We worked it out and once it was ready, played it for Michael. I knew we had a hit as he bobbed his head up and down. “That’s it, that’s the gravy. Release it and it will top the charts,” he said. So we did and it did.”
Listen to “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen
What Inspired John Deacon to Write “Another One Bites the Dust”?
John Deacon is said to have got the inspiration for the song from ‘St. Valentine’s Dat Massacre‘ of 1929. The story winds around two rival gangs-George ‘Bugs’ Moran and Al Capone. The latter orders the hit on Moran’s booze business targetting Moran but the contract killers miss Moran as he was late to work. Moran’s henchmen, a total of 6, were caught by Capone’s killers and shot dead inside the shop and flees away.
Hence, when analysing the song lyrics, it would be ideal to view it in this perspective.
Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Another One Bites the Dust”
The iconic bass riff is a signature part of this song and has been sampled by many artists afterwards.
The song talks about a person-Steve who walks to a shoot out. But there are many reasons that have put him into this situation.
In the first verse of “Another One Bites the Dust,” momentum is built towards the carnage about to unfold. Steve-a typical man-walks down the street, his head down and mind heavy. The streets are empty, he can only hear his footsteps.
“Are you ready?” repetitions built intensity in the song, intriguing the listener. Next comes the bullets ripping off, and the shot sounds match with the bass riff.
In the chorus, “another one bites the dust” is repeated 6 times. This surprisingly coincides with the number of people shot down at the ‘St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.’
‘Biting the dust’ is a phrase used to reference ‘death.’ People are buried in the earth when passed away, and in the wild west, the fallen were buried in the desert land.
May be, this second verse is able to shed some light as to why Steve is walking towards destruction. In these lyrics, we are given the perspective of Steve. As he walks that solemn street, we get to hear his thoughts. He has lost everything he had. He has lost his love, everything he cared about and eventually his property. Steve is kicked out of his own house for some unknown reason. Did he cheat? Did the wife cheat? Was it some other dispute?
Steve is only left to question if she is happy with the choices she made! She probably turned him into a killer, and those footsteps are approaching her.
In the third verse, we get a more in-depth view of life in general. We hear Queen singing about what breaks a man. Getting beaten, getting cheated on, and getting treated badly continuously could turn even the best of people into devils. You cannot expect a man to turn back once he is pushed beyond his turning point.
But Steve is standing at the doorway–probably at his own house–listening to the bullets ripping. ‘Bullets’ could also mean words or verbal abuse in this context. Sometimes, words can hurt far deeper than any bullet wound. But Steve is not falling down today, he is standing on his own feet and facing his fate.
In the outro, the song ends with the phrase “shoot out” which would possibly mean that the war has begun!
Something that began with a massacre, turned out to be a global hit. Most likely, the story behind the song is not apparent when you dance yourself to this song in the club.
What do you think this song means? Leave a comment below.
Complete Lyrics to “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen