“Another One Bites the Dust” is a story that puts you in the shoes of a fictional man, “Steve,” as he angrily deals with his lover leaving him and engages in a violent shooting. Fans have interpreted the song to be a metaphor for the AIDS crisis or for marriage, but this is not what the evidence suggests.
Although the story the song tells is about a shooting, its hidden meaning is more about the frustration of dealing with a lost relationship than actual violence.
John Deacon, who also created and played the track’s legendary bassline, wrote this song around 1980 after being inspired by the disco track “Good Times.” The song is a departure from Queen’s typical sound in that era, but Deacon developed the idea anyway. The result was Queen’s best-selling song ever.
In this article, we’ll closely analyze these intense lyrics to uncover the dramatic story they are telling. We’ll also shed some light on why this song can get under anyone’s skin and some background information about the track’s origins.
The song starts by introducing us to “Steve,” who “walks warily down the street.” His goal is not peaceful, and he has his “machine guns ready to go.” At this point in the track, a narrator is speaking to the listener to explain the situation.
The narrator then checks if the audience is ready for the fireworks. Comically, he asks if we’re “hanging on the edge” of our seats, ready for the shootout to take place “to the sound of the beat.” It’s a delightfully dramatic way to set the stage for the rest of the story.
After the setup, the chorus hits us hard and switches to Steve’s point of view. At first, it simply repeats “another one bites the dust” and “another one gone” again and again. This is a phrase that can refer to real death or simply to ending something. Based on the context, it’s probably referring to the victims Steve is piling up during his rampage.
Some interpretations connect this mass death to the victims of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Since Freddie Mercury was openly gay (a group disproportionately affected), this interpretation is surprisingly common. However, the first cases of AIDS were not reported until 1981, and Freddie Mercury was not the song’s writer.
At the end of the chorus, Steve promises to “get you too.” However, it’s unclear who he’s swearing this to. The identity of this person will be revealed in verse two, which is still from Steve’s point of view.
Steve begins railing at someone who has left him in a relationship. He asks how he’s supposed to “get along without” them now that they’re “gone.” He accuses this person of cruelty, claiming that they took him “for everything that I [Steve] had” and kicked him to the curb.
With murderous anger that would make Jack Torrance from The Shining proud, he asks his ex if she’s “happy now.” Sarcastically, he asks how long she can “stand the heat” he’s about to bring her. After he promises revenge, the chorus starts again and leads into a long instrumental break.
Once we return from the instrumental break and a few more repetitions of the song’s title, a final verse begins. Steve goes into more detail about the perceived mistreatment he’s experienced. He lists several “ways that you can hurt a man,” which include to “beat him,” “cheat him,” and “treat him bad.” Most importantly, he mentions leaving a man “when he’s down.”
Basically, he’s pointing the finger at his ex for doing all of these things. Nonetheless, Steve isn’t defeated. Instead, he’s “ready” for his violent encounter with his ex and is “standing on my [Steve’s] own two feet.” The listener is left to wonder whether or not Steve will succeed.
After this, the chorus repeats one more time, and the song ends. In summary, being romantically abandoned has driven our angry protagonist, Steve, to chaotic violence. His goal is to eliminate his ex, although it looks like he’s killing a massive amount of other people.
While few of us can say that we’ve shot up a crowd, we all understand the frustration of being jilted. Even though we might not admit it, we are also morbidly attracted to the destructiveness the song taps into. The song is successful because it creates a feeling of release for our own chaotic energy.
John Deacon, one songwriter and the legendary bassist for Queen, came up with this song largely on his own. Bandmate Brian May described Deacon as “totally in his own world” when he developed the idea, although Freddie Mercury and the rest of Queen added their own iconic contributions.
The inspiration for the song’s bassline actually came from disco, of all places. Chic’s popular track, “Good Times,” gave John Deacon the initial spark for the part. Not only was John Deacon aware of this, but Chic was as well.
In addition to that single bassline, John Deacon drew from his own expertise in soul music. As a hard rock band, Queen would not normally have released such a bare-bones, groove-oriented track. However, Deacon stayed true to his vision and produced a big hit for his group.
When I say a big hit, I mean Queen’s biggest hit. “Another One Bites the Dust” has sold over 7 million copies and has had incredible staying power. It went double-platinum in the UK and 5X platinum in the United States. It seems like this instant classic will be enjoyed for many years to come.