Queen guitarist Brian May wrote this. The song is about an astronaut who travels to a distant place at near the speed of light. Because of the time dilation that takes place at these speeds, he and his crew return home 100 years later. He has aged only a year but sadly finds that his wife has long passed on and that he is about the same age as his grandchildren, with everyone he knew before being dead for many years. May describes it as a "sci-fi folk song."
Brian May studied astrophysics, which gave him the impetus for this song. He considered science for a career, and when he dropped out of his astrophysics degree to start Queen, it caused a huge rift between him and his father, who believed Brian was throwing his life and career away - even though he had helped his son build his signature Red Special guitar as a youngster. It was only when his father saw Queen play in Madison Square Garden in 1978 that the elder May finally acknowledged that his son had made the right choice. A clearly emotional Brain May recalled this story in the Days of Our Lives documentary.
After writing this song, Brian May read the Herman Hesse novel Siddhartha, which tells the story of a man who sets out on a journey to find enlightenment, leaving his community behind. "The last thing in the book was him staring across the river to his town, which was no longer his because none of his friends were alive," May told Melody Maker in 1975. "It all seemed very similar to what I had done in my song and I thought that maybe that that was subconsciously what it was about, going out in search of an artistic career and being afraid of leaving everything behind. It hit me that it was a personal song and not just a story. I don't usually consider an ordinary story enough to put on a record. There had to be another reason and that told me what it was. It was my insecure feeling of wondering if everything gets left behind if you go out in search of what we are going out in search of."
This was released as the B-side to "You're My Best Friend."
Queen's bassist John Deacon played an upright bass on this track.
Ingram Hill covered this for the 2005 Queen tribute album Killer Queen
Rachel - South Point, OH
The high pitched voice heard during the chorus and other parts is Queen drummer Roger Taylor, as can be seen from many of their live performances.
James - Vancouver, Canada
Brian May often performs this song, combining it with "Love Of My Life" to form a touching tribute to Freddie Mercury. He does this at most shows he plays - either with Queen (and guest vocalist) or solo/with Kerry Ellis. In a solo show in 1993 he played it as a medley with his solo acoustic song "Let Your Heart Rule Your Head."
George Michael sang this during the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on April 20, 1992. Brian May recalled to Mojo: "He wanted to do that because he had busked it in tube stations when he was a teenager. So that was sort of completion of his journey, to sing it with us in a stadium full of people."