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Ever wondered what happens when you let a science nerd write a folk song?

A few weeks ago, I saw a documentary on the making of Nirvana’s Nevermind. Mick wrote a review of the doco which is worth a look. It inspired me though to look into this Classic Albums series, and I’ve downloaded a few episodes of the show recently. Last night, I watched one of those I’d downloaded – all about Queen’s Night At The Opera.

Although there’s half a dozen songs on this album I like, ’39 has always been a favourite. I always assumed it was about a bunch of sailors heading off to discover new lands, and then coming home. I’d never really analysed the lyrics though, so I was surprised when I heard last night what it’s really about.

For those who don’t know, Brian May – Queen’s guitarist – has a PhD in astrophysics. So when he wrote this song, he made it about some space travellers who went out looking for new worlds. Because they travelled close to lightspeed, the travellers experience only one year, but for those left behind on earth a century passes. They return at the end of the song, and the subject of the song encounters not the girl he left behind, but her granddaughter.

It’s a lovely little tune, and if you don’t know it, I found a great video on YouTube that tells the story. It’s a lego-animation music video. Ya gotta love lego Animation! Check it out.

In the year of thirty-nine’
Assembled here the volunteers
In the days when lands were few
Here the ship sailed out into the blue and sunny morn’
The sweetest sight ever seen
And the night followed day
And the storytellers say
That the score brave souls inside
For many a lonely day
Sailed across the milky seas
Ne’er looked back never feared never cried

Don’t you here my call?
Thought you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you?
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I’ll take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew

In the year of thirty-nine’
Came a ship in from the blue
Volunteers came home that day
And they bring good news
Of a world so newly born
Though their hearts so heavily weigh
For the earth is old and grey
Little darlin’ we’ll away
But my love this cannot be
Oh so many years have gone
Though I’m older but a year
Your mother’s eyes from your eyes cry to me

Don’t you hear my call?
Though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you?
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I’ll take you hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew

Don’t you hear my call?
Though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you?
All your letters in the sand
Cannot heal me like your hand
For my life still ahead pity me

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