45 Years Ago: Queen Celebrate Japan With ‘Teo Torriatte’
Queen experienced their own version of Beatlemania upon arrival in Japan for 1975's Sheer Heart Attack tour, as they were welcomed at the airport by thousands of fans, many holding signs and flowers.
"We’re completely overwhelmed by what’s happened since we came here," Brian May said at a news conference promoting an eight-date run in the country. "It’s never happened to us in any other country, in this kind of style. We were amazed to see the people at the airport. We just felt very honored and a little bit confused, because we couldn’t go out and see them and talk to them."
It’s safe to say they made up for it: Japan became a special place for Queen, both in touring and in song. The band saluted that union in one of their most underrated moments: A Day at the Races closer "Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)," released as a Japan-only single on March 25, 1977.
The romantic ballad showcases Queen’s full vocal and instrumental range, but it’s clearly a powerhouse moment for its composer: Along with May's signature electric guitars, orchestrated into a swarm of harmonies, he adds harmonium, backing vocals and the dramatic main chord progression via various keyboards.
"When I’m gone, no need to wonder if I ever think of you," Freddie Mercury croons over the carefully sculpted arrangement, ruminating on eternal love. "The same moon shines; the same wind blows / For both of us, and time is but a paper moon / Be not gone."
But there’s a twist in the choruses, as Mercury shifts into Japanese for a series of lines. By the tune’s choral-styled finale, harmonies swelling to belt, "let us cling together as the years go by," it feels like a full-on love letter to the nation that always greeted them so warmly.
Listen to Queen's 'Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)'
"I wrote the song 'Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)' about this strong bond we as Queen felt with the Japanese people," May said in 2017, according to Queen All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track. And "Teo Torriatte" continues to provide that link: Queen contributed the song to a 2011 compilation LP, Songs for Japan, issued following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku. The tune was also played during opening ceremonies of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Fittingly, Queen reserved this track for only special live settings, playing it 17 total times with Mercury — and only in Japan — during tours in 1979, 1981 and 1982. Memorable versions followed decades later in lineups featuring later singers Paul Rodgers or Adam Lambert, but with May handling lead vocals.
"This song is especially poignant because we have been, [for] so many years, in love with Japan," May said during a 2020 performance in Osaka. "And we still are."
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