Barcelona (Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé song)

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"Barcelona"
Single by Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé
from the album Barcelona
B-side "Exercises in Free Love" (3:58)
Released 26 October 1987
Format 7", 12" vinyl records, 3", 5" CD singles
Recorded 1987
Genre Rock opera
Length
  • 4:28 (Single Version)
  • 5:39 (Album Version, 1988)
Label Polydor
Writer(s) Freddie Mercury/Mike Moran
Producer(s) Freddie Mercury, Mike Moran and David Richards
Freddie Mercury singles chronology
"The Great Pretender"
(1987)
"Barcelona"
(1987)
"The Golden Boy"
(1988)

"Barcelona" is a single released by Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury and operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé. A part of their collaborative album Barcelona, it also appeared on Queen's Greatest Hits III.

The song reflects Mercury's love of opera with his high notes and Caballé's operatic vocals, backed by a full orchestra. Originally released in 1987, it was one of the biggest hits of Mercury's solo career, reaching number eight in the UK Singles Chart. After Mercury's death in 1991, it was featured at the 1992 Summer Olympics, after which the track climbed even higher, peaking at number 2 in the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

In 2004, BBC Radio 2 listed Barcelona at #41 in its Sold On Song Top 100.[1]

History[edit]

Mercury had been a long-time fan of opera, especially favouring Montserrat Caballé.[2] In 1986, he mentioned on Spanish television that he would be glad to see her in person. They had a friendly initial meeting in Barcelona in February 1987. Later, when the city had been chosen for the 1992 Summer Olympics, Caballé, a native of the city, was asked to help with producing a song for the games. She summoned Mercury for the task.[1] Mercury became enthusiastic about the project and instead of recording a single, she proposed to make an album, which Mercury agreed on.[3] The song "Barcelona" had to be its opening song, to be completed by 1988, and to be submitted as a candidate for the 1992 Olympic theme (the selection was scheduled for 1988, 4 years before the Games).[4] The recording was complicated by the tight schedule of Caballé. Thus to spare her time, Mercury recorded the song, also singing her part in falsetto. He would then send a tape to Caballé to prepare her for the joint studio sessions.[5]

The song[edit]

The song was co-written by Mercury with Mike Moran, who also appeared in the song's video and played a piano accompaniment for the studio recording.[2] The song starts with an orchestral introduction, which fades and is followed by Mercury and Caballé singing alternately their solo lines, sometimes merging into a duet. When singing the chorus "Barcelona" and a few other parts for the studio version, Mercury dubs over his voice in his usual multi-tracking style. Mercury leads the song whereas Caballé provides a powerful "background" soprano. Since Caballé covers the soprano part, Mercury sings in his natural baritone voice rather than forced tenor, which was common in his other recordings.[5]

The song has been described as a rare textbook example of a combination of pop and opera singing which accentuated their differences.[6] Whereas Mercury articulates his every word, Caballé focuses on the tone; her lines are much harder to comprehend, and further, she uses both English and Spanish languages. Consequently, she keeps her part melodic throughout all the song at the expense of the text, whereas Mercury has to resort from singing to nearly shouting at the crescendo part in order to deliver his words.[7] Mercury was reportedly amazed by the legendary ability of Caballé to control her voice; for example, in the fadeout, he had to step away from the microphone to decrease his voice intensity, whereas she didn't move at all.[8]

Versions[edit]

In 2000, The Solo Collection the Rarities 2 disc contained an early version with different lyrics, running 4:21, and a later version running 4:41 as well as on the Singles disc, an extended version lasting 7:07.

Personnel[edit]

Charts and live performance[edit]

Country Peak
position
Period Total
weeks
Peak
position
Period Total
weeks
Australia[9] 42 16–23 Aug 1992 2
France[9] 6 29 Aug – 5 Sep 1992 9
Germany[10] 47 25–31 Jan 1988 5
Ireland[11] 8 3 8 3
The Netherlands[9] 37 28 Nov – 5 Dec 1987 9 2 29 Aug – 12 Sep 1992 16
New Zealand[9] 2 9–16 Aug 1992 7
Sweden[9] 15 20 Jan – 3 Feb 1988 3 12 19 Aug – 2 Sep 1992 4
Switzerland[9] 8 30 Aug – 6 Sep 1992 13
UK[12][13] 8 14–21 Nov 1987 9 2 15–29 Aug 1992[14] 8
Festival "La Nit", Barcelona, 8 October 1988, Freddie Mercury's final concert.

The song was performed live for the first time in May 1987, at the Ibiza festival, held at the Ku nightclub (now Privilege Ibiza, the "world's largest nightclub").[15] Its next important performance occurred on 8 October 1988, at the open air La Nit festival in Barcelona, which was staged on the occasion of the arrival of the Olympic Flag from Seoul. Together, Mercury and Caballé sang three tracks from the forthcoming album Barcelona, namely "Barcelona", "How Can I Go On" and "The Golden Boy".[16][17] This was the last live performance of Mercury who was already beginning to suffer from AIDS.[18] Mercury died in 1991, and the recording of the song was played over a travelogue of the city at the start of the international broadcast of the 1992 Olympics opening ceremony.[19][20] Prior to the start of the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich held at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Caballé performed "Barcelona" live, accompanied with a recording by Mercury who also appeared on the stadium's electronic screen.[21]

Distribution[edit]

The single was distributed on 7-inch and 12-inch vinyl records and 3" and 5" CDs, all with Polydor labels. The 5" CD and 7" record, but not the 12" record, were reissued in 1992; the 3" CD was issued only in Japan in 1992. The B-side of nearly all records contained "Exercises In Free Love" from The Freddie Mercury Album. The 1992 version of the 7" Spanish record had another version of "Barcelona" on the B-side, and the rare 1987 12" Hong Kong record was one-sided and had a unique sleeve. Most 5" CDs contained two or three versions of "Barcelona" and "Exercises In Free Love". Most 7" record and 5" CD covers featured Mercury and Caballé singing on a stage with an orchestra on the background, though the Portuguese version pictured them in a static studio photo. The 1992 reissue 7" records contained another version of the singing artists, with no orchestra.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BBC – Radio 2 – Sold on Song – Top 100
  2. ^ a b Queen Songs – The Book: Freddie Mercury. Queensongs.info. Retrieved on 2011-03-01.
  3. ^ Freestone, p. 105
  4. ^ Freestone, p. 107
  5. ^ a b Freestone, p. 108
  6. ^ John Shepherd (27 February 2003). Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world: VolumeII: Performance and production. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 455. ISBN 978-0-8264-6322-7. Retrieved 1 March 2011. 
  7. ^ John Potter (2 November 2006). Vocal Authority: Singing Style and Ideology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 188–189. ISBN 978-0-521-02743-4. Retrieved 1 March 2011. 
  8. ^ Freestone, p. 109
  9. ^ a b c d e f Charts Australia/France/Netherlands/New Zealand/Sweden/Switzerland. Retrieved 28 February 2011
  10. ^ Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche. musicline.de. Retrieved on 2011-02-20.
  11. ^ The Irish Charts
  12. ^ Queen International Singles Chart Positions. Pcpki.com. Retrieved on 2011-02-20.
  13. ^ Neil Warwick; Jon Kutner; Tony Brown (1 August 2004). The complete book of the British charts: singles & albums. Omnibus Press. p. 680. ISBN 978-1-84449-058-5. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  14. ^ Freddie Mercury And Montserrat Caballe – Barcelona {1992}. Chart Stats (1992-09-26). Retrieved on 2011-03-01.
  15. ^ Freestone, p. 126
  16. ^ Freestone, p. 127
  17. ^ Freddie Mercury Biography. hotshotdigital.com. Retrieved on 2011-03-01.
  18. ^ Freddie Mercury: biography. Freddie.ru. Retrieved on 2011-03-01.
  19. ^ "Barcelona 92: inicio de la ceremonia". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-03-23. 
  20. ^ "La ceremonia de inauguración". El Mundo Deportivo(newspaper library). 1992-07-20. Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  21. ^ Queen's Greatest Hits 3, BBC, 22 March 2005
  22. ^ BARCELONA as an a-side. Pcpki.com. Retrieved on 2011-03-01.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]