Queen At 50 Reviews – News Of The World – Part 1

Booklet cover spread for the News Of The World album. The front cover shows a large steel robot holding the corpses of Freddie and Brian in his hand, while John is falling to the ground below them. Roger can be seen falling on the back cover, towards the robot's foot. The album title on the front, and the track listing on the back, are in red text against the green and blue shades in the background.

1977 could have been the year that Queen’s reign came to an end. With punk rock very much in the ascendancy, having gained traction over the previous few years, there was a greater appetite for raw power and simplicity in rock music, rather than elaborate and fancy progressive rock. And Queen’s last album, A Day At The Races, despite being an excellent collection of songs, hadn’t sold quite as well as its behemoth predecessor A Night At The Opera, with some critics and fans feeling that it was more of the same without any notable improvement. So it was going to seem too repetitive if they did the same kind of thing yet again.

The band were perfectly happy to adapt and take on the challenge though, and indeed were already keen to try something different from the multi-layered, complex productions they felt they’d done enough of by this point anyway. So even without the emerging competition from the punk scene, it was already the evolutionary path they were heading down.

As a result, News Of The World marked a shift towards a purer hard rock sound, and took just 2 months to record (compared to 5 for A Day At The Races). The tracks still had some beautifully arranged harmonies and instrumentation thrown in, but not as lavishly and prominently as before. There was also a change in how evenly the writing credits were distributed, with 4 tracks now written by Brian, just 3 by Freddie, and an increase to 2 each for Roger and John. And the band produced the album themselves, with assistance from engineer Mike Stone, now they had the experience and confidence to do so themselves.

It all worked out very well, resulting in another great selection of songs. And so, as you’ll be accustomed to by now if you’ve followed my posts to date, this is my personal review of each of the tracks, including a look at alternate versions, music videos, live performances, covers, etc, along with other bits and pieces that I’m aware of.

In this first post, in addition to more general discussion about the album, I’ll be focusing specifically on the first 2 tracks – We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions – as they’ve had such a colossal cultural impact and there’s a lot to discuss in relation to them. In Part 2 I will then move on to the other great tracks on the album. So I hope you enjoy!

Contents

See also: Ultimate Queen / Queen Vault / Wikipedia / UDiscover

The topics and tracks covered in this post are as follows. Click their names to jump to each section:

  • Album Notes – Including its release, Frank The Robot, 40th Anniversary box set, documentaries & interviews.
  • We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions – Including the development of each track, alternate versions, music videos, live performances and cover versions.

As well as references to the 40th anniversary box set, documentaries and interviews discussed below, the song reviews in this post also include references to BBC sessions from the On Air collection, and tracks from other live albums.

You can see all the videos I mention in this post and more on my Queen & Covers playlists for this album. So do feel free to check them out (along with my other Queen playlists) and see which versions of each song you like best!


Album Notes

Release

The album was released on the same day as the legendary LP Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, which the punk band had been recording in the same studios as Queen some of the time, and so inevitably they had crossed paths on numerous occasions. During one encounter, Sid Vicious taunted Freddie about an NME interview he’d given by asking “Have you succeeded in bringing ballet to the masses yet?”, to which Freddie calmly replied: “Oh, yes, Simon Ferocious. We’re trying our best, dear”. And the Sex Pistols also have Queen to thank for one of their most famous moments. If it weren’t for Queen having to pull out of Bill Grundy‘s Today show in 1976, when Freddie had his first emergency dental appointment in 15 years, the Sex Pistols would never have been invited on to make what became a very memorable appearance that went down in TV history.

In any case, while the Sex Pistols did leap to number 1 in the UK, News Of The World still reached a very healthy and respectable number 4 (staying in the chart for 20 weeks and going Platinum), as well as number 3 in the USA, 2 in Canada, and the top spot in the Dutch and French charts. It sold 7 million copies worldwide, making it their most successful album to date. So Queen clearly didn’t need to worry about punk or what the critics thought!

Frank The Robot

2 page spread from the album booklet for News Of The World, showing the steel robot from the cover reaching down to try and grab the people below, who are screaming and running away from him.The album’s cover art was a stark contrast to the Queen crest used on the previous 2 LPs. Roger had found an image of a robot holding a dead man in the October 1953 issue of American comic Astounding Science Fiction, which the band really liked. So they got in touch with the renowned sci-fi artist responsible for the image, Frank Kelly Freas, and he agreed to produce a customised version especially for them.

In this version, the robot – who the band called Frank after the artist – is holding the dead bodies of Freddie and Brian, while John and Roger fall to the ground. And inside the album Frank can be seen clutching at people who are running away from him screaming.

The sight of Frank does have some potential to scare people, particularly children – evidenced by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who was terrified of the album cover as a youngster, and passed that fear onto Stewie for a storyline in the Killer Queen episode of the show in 2012.

54-inch plastic models of Frank were also made to promote the album in 1977, which are now very collectable. And in 2017, he was one of the counters in Queen Monopoly. That same year the comic X-Men Gold #11 celebrated the album’s 40th anniversary with a cover homage by artist Mike del Mindo, showing a Sentinel holding Old Man Logan and Kitty Pryde while Colossus falls through the air.

But most notably in 2017, Frank was reborn in 3D animated form to celebrate the album’s 40th anniversary during Queen + Adam Lambert’s 2017-18 tour. He punched through the screen at the start of each show and held Brian during his solo spots, among other impressive visual effects, as can be seen on the Live Around The World DVD & Blu-ray.

40th Anniversary Box Set

A deluxe box set was released in 2017 to mark the album’s 40th anniversary, containing:

  • A vinyl copy of the album (a pure analog re-cut of the original LP)
  • A CD of the album (the 2011 remaster)
  • A Raw Sessions CD, with alternate takes, rough mixes, etc from the original recording sessions.
  • A Bonus Tracks CD with alternate mixes, BBC sessions, live versions, etc, all of which were previously released but sometimes hard to find.
  • A DVD of The American Dream, a new 1-hour documentary filmed during their 1977 US tour. More on this below.
  • A 60 page book.
  • Replica memorabilia including 3 posters, a tour laminate & stickers.
  • An Elektra press kit with newspaper, 7 photos and 5 biography pages.

I’ll mention the relevant tracks from the Raw Sessions and Bonus Tracks CDs as I progress through my song reviews.

I didn’t buy the box set personally as it was too expensive, particularly because I have no way of playing the vinyl LP, I don’t need another CD copy of the album, and many of the bonus tracks are already in my collection from the 2011 album remaster on iTunes, the On Air box set and some live albums. So it wasn’t worth the price tag for what was left. And I can hear the remaining tracks online if need be, particularly the Raw Sessions that were of most interest. But die-hard Queen collectors may still appreciate the set.

Documentaries & Interviews

The American Dream documentary – also known as Rock The World, an alternative edit that was shown on BBC Four in 2017 – uses footage recorded by radio DJ Bob Harris in 1977 for a programme he never completed at the time. It shows the band rehearsing, sound-checking and performing their live show at The Summit in Houston on 11 December, along with backstage clips from The Omni in Atlanta on 8 December, footage of the band working on various songs in the studio (We Are The Champions, My Melancholy Blues, Get Down Make Love & It’s Late), interviews with the band from the time of filming, and new audio interviews with Brian and Roger.

The Rock The World version of the documentary has footage of Queen’s 2017 US tour with Adam Lambert at the start and end, additional narration by Bob Harris, some colour versions of footage that was black and white in The American Dream, and other small changes.

All in all it’s a fantastic behind the scenes insight into the development of the album and the band’s North American tour. You can tell they’re really enjoying the experience, which comes across to the audience when they perform, and it’s very cool to see them at work in the studio.

Both versions of the documentary can be found in full on Youtube, but naturally they keep being taken down for copyright violations and then re-uploaded, so I won’t bother linking to them. It’s well worth looking up though.

You can also hear the band members discussing the album in various other recordings:


1 & 2. We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions

As these songs are heavily connected and often performed together, I’m combining my reviews for both of them.

Despite all of their exquisitely elaborate, highly-polished, over-produced, multi-layered, creatively complex and utterly delightful masterpieces to date, these songs above all others show how Queen are just as capable of having a massive impact with minimal production. Everybody will have heard them on several occasions, as they’ve been sung at sporting events and concerts, covered by many artists, used in TV, radio and films, etc, and they regularly feature in polls of the greatest songs of all time.

Scientists have even shown that Champions is the catchiest song ever – although it does have a form of Mandela Effect on many people, who are certain that it finishes with the lyric “of the world”, when it actually doesn’t. Sure, Freddie sings it during the earlier choruses, and he does indeed end with it during concert performances. But the track itself doesn’t end that way.

The single release was originally led by Champions, with Rock You as the B-side. But given the popularity of both songs it quickly became a double A-side. Rather amazingly, however, the single never got to number 1 in the UK chart, despite shifting millions of copies. It stayed in the chart for 12 weeks, 3 of them at number 2, held off the top spot by ABBA’s Name Of The Game for the first fortnight, and then by Mull Of Kintyre from Wings in the third week. In the USA, however, the single did reach number 1 in the Cashbox chart, and number 4 in the Billboard chart. And it stayed at number 1 in the French chart for 10 weeks.

But irrespective of the charts, these rousing anthems have become such an integral part of British and international culture, that it seems impossible to imagine a time when they never existed. They’re joyous, triumphant and unifying, because they’re so easy to join in with and give you a deep sense of belonging when sung as part of a crowd. And that was the whole intention. Even though they were written by different members of the band, they were kept together on the album, and on the single release, and at the end of their live shows. The songs have always been intrinsically linked.

As Brian explains in the American Dream documentary:

“We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions had a very definite genesis. We played this great hall in the Midlands [Bingley Hall, Stafford] and it was packed, it was heaving. Those gigs that you love – it’s all sweaty and hot, the atmosphere’s great, everybody’s in it, everybody’s jumping up and down and making a noise. And what they were doing was singing along. They didn’t stop, they sang every note of every song.

And when we went off stage, they sang You’ll Never Walk Alone to us. And in those days, it was really new, I have to tell you. You just didn’t go to concerts where people sang to rock bands. So we went home that night thinking “What do we do here? What does this mean? What does this mean for our future?”

Obviously the audience is as big a part of the show as we are now, so let’s embrace it. What can an audience do, what could you ask them to do? They’re all crammed in there, they can’t do much, but they can stamp their feet, they can clap their hands and they can sing. And they would be leading the song rather than the singer. So I woke up with We Will Rock You in my head. I sang the song to Freddie and he went “Yeah, it’s gonna work.” He twigged that it was a kind of rallying song.

In my head it was a song of the three ages of man. The first stage is a boy who thinks he can change the world, the second stage is the man who thinks he is changing the world, and the third stage is the old man coming to terms with the fact that there’s only a certain amount he can do. It’s a bit like a serenity prayer, you know – change what you can change, but get used to it that you can’t achieve everything.”

There has also been a look back at both songs as part of the band’s 50th anniversary Youtube series Queen The Greatest:

  • We Will Rock You – Part 1 & Part 2 – Brian gives an exclusive new interview here, talking about the song’s composition and impact, and giving some revealing insights into the guitar solo.
  • We Are The Champions – This video celebrates the song’s enduring popularity and legacy, given the ease with which it unites huge crowds of people, despite claims that the lyrics were arrogant when it was first released.

And the songs have been mentioned in various other interviews of course.  A lot of information is duplicated between them, inevitably, but they’re still worth a listen:

  • Freddie Mercury Interview – Countdown, November 2, 1977 – Freddie discusses the reason for writing Champions and the general meaning of some of the lyrics.
  • Queen Interview – Radio 1, Christmas 1977 – Here Brian explains that “We Will Rock You was just an experiment… it’s designed to simulate is the effect of an audience just stomping and clapping, and the singing and nothing else, so there’s not supposed to be any bass or drums or guitar or anything. The guitar comes in the end and plays along with it. It’s just an experimental thing really, and we’re waiting to see what’s gonna happen on stage. And then Freddie jokes that Champions is “the most egotistical and arrogant song I’ve ever written”, before laughing and blowing a raspberry!
  • Brian & Roger provided commentaries for both tracks on the Absolute Greatest Hits compilation and the Greatest Video Hits I DVD, and have also spoken about Donald Trump using Champions without their permission.
  • On Absolute Radio, Brian also gave very brief insights into Rock You & Champions.
  • Brian has also said elsewhere that he was initially upset by the demo of Champions that the others had prepared without him, and questioned the apparent arrogance of the lyrics at first, but quickly relented when Freddie explained his intentions.

Music Videos

We Will Rock You

The simple video for this song was recorded in just a couple of takes, in Roger’s cold and snowy garden in Surrey in January 1978, after they’d filmed Spread Your Wings. Freddie looks very cool (while no doubt also feeling very cold!) in his star-shaped sunglasses, while Brian uses a copy of his guitar to avoid any weather damage to his original Red Special. Roger and John only have to stomp, clap and mime the chorus in the background.

The official version of this video on Queen’s Youtube channel is taken from the Greatest Video Hits I DVD. But the original promo released on the old Greatest Flix VHS has some different shots and camera angles.

There was also a re-edited version produced in 1998 for the Queen Rocks VHS, and more recently included with the 2011 iTunes reissue of the album, which mixes black and white footage from the promo video with colour visuals of Queen performing in various live shows.

We Are The Champions

The promo video for this song shows the band doing a mimed stage performance, with Freddie in a very low cut black and white bodysuit, and was filmed at the New London Theatre (now called the Gillian Lynne Theatre) in Drury Lane, London on 6 October 1977. It’s the first of many promos to feature lucky members of the official fan club, who were rewarded with a 70-minute impromptu concert by the band and a free copy of the vinyl single. The video has appeared on various official releases, including the Greatest Video Hits I DVD and the old Greatest Flix VHS – although early copies of Greatest Flix had a slightly different mix with alternate angles and a bit of extra guitar.

There was also an alternative edit for Top Of The Pops, starting with a close-up of Freddie in black and white, before switching to colour in the first chorus. It has many different camera shots and a few different guitar elements, plus you can hear the audience clapping and singing along. There’s also a fan-made edit that colourises the intro.

The Days Of Our Lives DVD & Blu-ray has an interesting video of the band recording the song in the studio, which has some of the vocals omitted, and some of the instrumentation differs to the final version. Additional footage of the studio recording is included in the American Dream documentary, which also looks at the making of the promo video and discusses the meaning behind the song.

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie

Queen’s biographical film inevitably featured these songs. There’s a scene where Brian introduces Rock You to the band, and then for the Live Aid sequence there were great performances of We Will Rock You and We Are The ChampionsFor Rock You there’s also a side-by-side comparison with the original Live Aid footage.

Raw Sessions

Fascinating alternate takes of We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions were released in the 40th anniversary box set. It’s really interesting to hear the different vocals and guitar parts by Freddie and Brian respectively, some of which are very subtle changes, while others are very different to the final mix (e.g. Brian’s improvised Hendrix-style solo in Rock You). There’s also a bit of chatter included at the start, indicating in Rock You that it’s Take 1, while in Champions it’s jokingly announced to be Take 37,000 after a false start! Champions is also notably longer than the album version, adding extra choruses and another guitar solo at the end, after which Freddie voices his approval of the performance (as you also hear him do in the American Dream documentary).

Isolated Tracks

The following breakdowns are available in the multitracks, and the instrumentals are included in the 40th anniversary box set.

You can also sing along with the instrumentals using the videos from their Greatest Karaoke Hits for Rock YouChampions.

We Will Rock You

This of course involves nothing more than powerful stomps and claps (using just stomps for the count-in), great vocals and a cool guitar solo. Obviously Brian and Freddie are of most interest here, it’s always nice to hear them on their own. One interesting fact about Brian’s solo, revealed recently in Episode 12 of Queen The Greatest, is that the 3 guitar phrases at the end are each from different takes stitched together, with a scratch in between that they decided to keep in.

We Are The Champions

There appear to be 2 versions of this multitrack in circulation among the fans. While I have the more readily available 8-track version, there’s also a full 24-track master out there with additional vocal and guitar parts not used in the final mix.

  • Guitar – Nicely performed by Brian as you’d expect, spread over 2 tracks to isolate the solo parts in the latter stages, and you can hear various little touches and solos that go relatively unnoticed in the final mix. The 24-track multitrack has unused guitar parts as well. In Rolling Stone Magazine’s 10 Things You Didn’t Know about the album, it’s interesting to note that Brian wasn’t happy with the original guitar solo that he came up with, believing it to be too weak, even though everyone else felt it was fine. He explained in Guitar For The Practicing Musician in 1993 that: “I redid everything, and there’s a little piece towards the end when I was trying to make the guitar sing along with Freddie’s vocals. He was really pushing himself on the vocals at the end, so I tried to push the guitar and express the way I felt. It’s hardly audible on the record. It’s not like a major feature, but you can hear the guitar and the vocal are kind of straining against each other. … It’s a nice moment which is captured.”
  • Bass -A solid track by John as usual. There’s nothing overly fancy about it, but he accompanies Brian’s guitar melody very nicely.
  • Instrumental – Putting together all the non-vocal parts allows you to appreciate the song’s structure much more clearly. You can also hear a fan-made extended instrumental that includes the unused guitar parts noted above.

We Will Rock You – Fast Version

The fast version of Rock You is a very different and enjoyable arrangement, featuring the full band and a faster tempo. The only studio recording known to exist was recorded during Queen’s 6th BBC session, broadcast on 14 November 1977 on John Peel’s Sounds Of The Seventies, on BBC Radio 1. It’s included in the 40th anniversary box set for this album, and as part of the On Air collection, plus it’s on The Best Of King Biscuit Live Volume 4 for some reason.

It’s preceded in the same session by an abbreviated rendition of the slow version, and the tracks are linked by a lady reading a short extract from the novel Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Queen archivist Greg Brooks explained why to Record Collector magazine in June 2011“At that time, only master tapes survived from BBC sessions, while the actual tapes used to compose them were recorded over later. When Queen assembled in the control room for a playback, they discovered remnants of a Radio 4 programme on their tape. The band incorporated a segment of this unusual material into their own work.”

Official Remixes

  • We Will Rock You – Rick Rubin ‘Ruined’ Remix – This was included on the 1991 Hollywood CD of the album in 1991, the No-One But You single, the 4th Queen Singles Collection set, and on other US promo releases. It adds percussion and sound effects over the main song, then loops the final section of Brian’s guitar solo to extend the song by a further few minutes, adding extra instrumentation (including bass and drums by Flea and Chad from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers). Variations of this mix were released on American promo discs, including a Big Beat A Cappella Mix, a Ruined Instrumental & a Zulu Scratch A Capella, among others.
  • We Are The Champions – Rick Rubin ‘Ruined’ Remix – This was released on various US promo discs, but not in the UK. It changes the rhythm of the song and adds little vocals during the verses, and includes some extra percussion and guitar elements throughout. I’m not a fan of Rick’s remixes for Rock You or Champions personally, but there are some people who like them.
  • We Will Rock You – DMC Remix by Paul Dakeyne – Sometimes incorrectly attributed to Fatboy Slim, this dance mix from 1991 incorporates sped up vocals and an extract from Bohemian Rhapsody, and while it’s obviously not a patch on the original, I do find it strangely catchy. It appeared on a US Hollywood Records promo CD of Queen remixes entitled The Unauthorized Club Record, and has appeared on other DJ and club compilations.

Live Performances

We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions quickly became the signature audience participation finale for Queen’s live concerts, and have been regularly performed by Brian and Roger since Freddie’s death. The fast version of Rock You was also performed by Queen near the start of their concerts during the 70s and early 80s, and has sometimes been resurrected in more recent years. All of which means there are many live examples of these songs in the lists below.

Queen

The fast version of Rock You was eventually dropped during the early 80s, so doesn’t appear in the following concerts.

In 1986, Friends Will Be Friends was added to their concert finales, in between Rock and Champions, so I’ve listed it below to preserve the sequence.

Queen + Paul Rodgers

  • UK Music Hall Of Fame, Hackney Empire, London on 11 November 2004:
  • 46664 Concert, Fancourt Country Club & Golfing Estate, George, South Africa on 19 March 2005:
  • Hallam FM Arena, Sheffield on 9 May 2005 – From Return Of The Champions.
  • VH1 Rock Honors, Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, Nevada on 25 May 2006
    • Rock You & Champions – With Taylor Hawkins & Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters joining Roger on drums.

Other performances by Queen & Paul Rodgers were released on Super Live In Japan and official European tour downloads from 2005 & 2008.

Queen + Adam Lambert

  • American Idol, Season 8 finale, Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles on 20 May 2009:
    • Champions – This pivotal TV moment was the very first time that Queen and Adam performed together. Adam was battling it out for victory, by duetting on the song with fellow contestant Kris Allen, while Brian & Roger backed them up as guest stars. Kris won the final, but Brian & Roger had become very interested in Adam, who had undoubtedly given the stronger performance, and had originally auditioned for the show using Bohemian Rhapsody. Queen had to wait a couple more years before they could work with Adam again, but after that things quickly took off, and the rest is history.
  • Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Kiev, Ukraine on 30 June 2012:
  • Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield on 27 February 2015:
  • Rock In Rio, New City Of Rock, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on 18 September 2015:
  • Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona, Spain on 22 May 2016:
  • 3Arena, Dublin, Ireland on 25 November 2017:
    • Rock You – At the start of the show, after Frank The Robot.
  • O2 Arena, London on 2 July 2018:
  • Marlay, Dublin, Ireland on 8 July 2018:
  • Strictly Come Dancing, Series 16 Quarter-Final on 1 December 2018:

Other Queen Performances & Guest Appearances

A selection of other live performances featuring Brian & Roger together, sometimes with guest vocalists or other musicians.

  • Queen’s Day, The Musumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands on 30 April 2002 – This was available on the Heineken Queen’s Day CD-ROM:
  • Pavarotti & Friends For SOS Iraq, Parco Novi Sad, Modena, Italy on 27 May 2003:
    • Rock You – Sung by Brian, this is another rendition that continues in an extended arrangement after the traditional solo.
    • Champions – Sung by Zucchero.
  • 46664 Concert, Green Point Stadium, Cape Town, South Africa on 29 November 2003:
  • The Foo Fighters at Hyde Park, London on 17 June 2006:
    • Rock You – Brian & Roger were guests for this performance.
  • Prince’s Trust Rock Gala, Royal Albert Hall, London on 17 November 2010:
    • Rock You – All-star finale led by Brian and Roger.
  • London 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony, Olympic Stadium, London on 12 August 2012 – Available on the London 2012 Olympic Games DVD & Blu-ray.
    • Rock You – With Jessie J, after some audience interaction with a recording of Freddie and a great extended guitar solo from Brian. Much more recently, in 2021 Jessie J dressed up as Freddie and performed Rock You on Your Face Sounds Familiar on Chinese TV, briefly mentioning her Olympics performance in the interview afterwards.

Brian May Solo

  • Guns N’ Roses at Wembley Stadium, London on 13 June 1992:
    • Rock You – Just a couple of months after Axl’s performance at Freddie’s tribute concert, Brian returned the favour by appearing at one of their concerts to perform both the slow and fast versions of the song.
  • Brixton Academy, London on 15 June 1993:
    • Rock You – A combination of the slow and fast versions by Brian with his band. The video release contains the full track, but the version on the album trims 43 seconds from the end, so it finishes more abruptly.
  • Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Series 1, Episode 2 on 15 June 2002:
    • Rock You – In a brief surprise appearance, Brian joined in with a fan who was playing the guitar solo from the song. She had been chosen after writing to Jim’ll Fix It many years ago.
  • Tangerine Dream at Starmus Festival, Magma Art & Congress Centre, Tenerife, Spain on 24 June 2011:
    • Rock You – A 10-minute performance with Brian May as a guest, released on the Starmus – Sonic Universe album. The song itself only takes up about 2½ minutes, with guitar solos and improvisation before and after.
  • My Chemical Romance at Reading Festival on 26 August 2011:
  • Dappy’s Radio 1 Live Lounge Session, Maida Vale, London on 27 February 2012:
    • Rock You – Sung and rapped with new lyrics by the former N-Dubz star, with Brian as a guest. You can hear the audience reactions plus a brief chat with Brian & Dappy afterwards on the full audio recording as well. It was released on the deluxe edition of Dappy’s album Bad Intentions, and on the compilation BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge 2012.
    • Rockstar – Brian also joins in with this live performance of Dappy’s second single, having already performed on the studio version.

 Brian May & Kerry Ellis

  • Proms In The Park, Hyde Park, London on 11 September 2010:
    • Rock You & Champions – Abbreviated renditions of both songs, backed by an orchestra, including a rare instance of Brian playing the opening to Champions on guitar instead of the usual piano intro.
  • New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth on 16 November 2012:
  • Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on 23 June 2013:
    • Rock You, with The Liverpool Show Choir.
  • Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Ireland on 30 June 2013:
  • La Cigale, Paris, France on July 8, 2013:
    • Rock You – You can also see an alternate angle, with Brian speaking a bit of French as he gets the crowd to do the beat at the start.
  • Stravinski Hall, Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland, on 19 July 2013:
  • Arena di Verona, Italy on 1 June 2015:
    • Rock You – Backed by an orchestra during Brian’s solo.
  • The Pheasantry, Chelsea, London on 19 January 2016:
  • National Palace of Culture, Sofia, Bulgaria on 16 March 2016:

Roger Taylor Solo

Roger sometimes performed his own unique and enjoyable arrangement of Rock You during his solo shows in the 90s, of which there are a couple of examples online.

  • Teatro Verdi, Genova, Italy on 18 October 1995
    • Rock You – Performed during his Happiness? tour.
  • Live At The Cyberbarn, Roger’s Garden, Surrey on 24 September 1998:
  • Live Earth Concert, Wembley Stadium, London on 7 July 2007:
    • Drum Extravaganza – This special percussion piece that opened the concert incorporated the beat from Rock You towards the end. It was performed by the one-off supergroup SOS Allstars, featuring Roger Taylor from Queen, Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters and Chad Smith from Red Hot Chili Peppers.

We Will Rock You Musical

Queen’s smash-hit musical ends with the cast performing Rock You and Champions, followed by an instrumental fast version of Rock You for the curtain call. They then perform Bohemian Rhapsody for the encore, as explored in my Night At The Opera review. The cast have also performed Rock You & Champions on TV shows and at concerts, often with Brian & Roger, as illustrated by the examples below.

  • London Cast:
    • Cast Recording – Rock You, Champions & Rock You (Fast) – From the soundtrack album.
    • KFC Promo Video – Rock You – A recording of the cast performing the song in the theatre. I don’t know what KFC have to do with it, as named by the uploader, but it’s a nice video nonetheless.
    • Parkinson on 18 May 2002 Brian & Roger join the cast to perform Somebody To Love, We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions, while Michael Parkinson interviews show writer Ben Elton, who is brought on with the Hammer To Fall intro.
    • Party At The Palace, Buckingham Palace, London on 3 June 2002 – Available on Party At The Palace. Clips aren’t readily available, but it’s worth noting regardless. Brian & Roger, plus Phil Collins on the drums, joined the musical cast to perform Radio Ga Ga (sung by Roger), We Will Rock You (sung by Brian), We Are The Champions (sung by Will Young) & Bohemian Rhapsody (sung by Tony Vincent & the musical cast).
    • Party In The Park, Hyde Park, London on 7 July 2002 – The cast of the musical (without Queen) perform We Will Rock You, Somebody To Love, We Are The Champions & Bohemian Rhapsody.
    • Children In Need on 15 November 2002 – Brian & Roger joined the cast to perform Another One Bites The Dust, We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions, plus a full encore performance of Champions at the request of the hosts.
    • Al Murray’s Happy Hour, Series 1, Episode 9 on 10 March 2007 – Brian & Roger make a surprise appearance during the cast’s performance of We Will Rock You, at which point the song is extended using a brief refrain from Tear It Up and then several repeats of the Rock You chorus. There’s a brief sketch after the credits too.

Other Collaborations

In addition to the live performances above, Queen have also collaborated with other artists on new releases of these tracks.

We Will Rock You – Five + Queen

Five’s cover of this song, incorporating new rap verses, was released in 2000, and was the 4th single from Five’s Invincible album. Brian and Roger play guitar and drums without contributing vocals. The music video – which rearranges the verses, and makes a few other changes to the rapping and chorus vocals – features Five performing the song on stage, while Brian and Roger are projected onto buildings, and crowds fill the streets.

This was the first time that Rock You had been released in its own right, without Champions attached, and it went straight to number 1 for a week. It was in the top 10 for 4 weeks altogether, and spent a further 4 in the top 40. It was the second number 1 achieved by Five, but more significantly it was Queen’s 6th chart-topper, one of 4 songs to enter the chart at that position.

Brian & Roger joined the boyband on stage to perform the song at:

Five also performed the song without Queen at some of their concerts, as you can see in examples from Manchester and the Big Reunion Tour.

We Will Rock You (Pepsi Commercial) – Britney Spears, Beyoncé Knowles & Pink

This epic Gladiator-style video was filmed in Rome on 26 September 2003 and premiered on 26 January 2004. Each of the ladies takes a verse each, while Enrique Iglesias plays an emperor watching over the arena. Brian and Roger, who produced this new version of the song, also make a fleeting cameo for a couple of seconds.

This version was released on a Pepsi Music 2004 CD entitled Britney Exclusive or Dare For More Music. You can also watch interviews, behind the scenes footage and clips from the premiere online, all featuring glimpses of Brian and Roger, particularly in the interviews.

Pink also performed a short version of We Are The Champions at Rock In Rio 2019, the audio of which is available on the documentary soundtrack album All I Know So Far: Setlist, along with a performance of Bohemian Rhapsody from 2009.

We Will Rock You – Queen + John Farnham

John Farnham’s version, produced by Brian May and Justin Shirley-Smith, was released on True Colours – The Official Album Of The Rugby World Cup 2003, and as a single, and on John’s Greatest Hits album One Voice. It starts with John singing over Queen’s original backing track for a couple of verses and choruses. Then at the end of Brian’s solo, additional guitars come in and the track is extended with a heavier feel.

You can also see John performing the track live at Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony in 2006 (from the DVD of the concert) and in Ballarat in 2017. Meanwhile, Brian May was among the musicians for John’s performance of You’re The Voice at Fire Fight Australia, ANZ Stadium, Sydney on 16 February 2020.

We Will Rock You – VonLichten

This version uses the vocals, stomps and claps from Queen’s original, adds a new guitar part by Brian, and features orchestral and piano music throughout by Helmut VonLichten (including a new intro and outro). It was used in the USA for NFL coverage in 2012 & 2013, including the 2013 Superbowl. It was also released as a download in the US and UK in late 2012, and was used during the Donkey Kong scene in the 2015 film Pixels.

Armageddon – We Will Rock You / I Want It All

This mash-up, including rap verses by Armageddon (former member of hip hop group Terror Squad), was included on the soundtrack to the 2011 film Sucker Punch.

Queen + Robbie Williams – We Are The Champions

This cover of Champions appears on the soundtrack for the 2001 film A Knight’s Tale. Queen helped to produce the track, but they don’t appear in the music video, which was an extra feature on the DVD of the movie. The soundtrack also includes Queen’s original version of We Will Rock You from the start of the film.

Robbie later discussed the cover during an interview on Sirius XM, in which he reveals that Queen asked him to be their frontman, but he declined as the prospect was too scary, and he heaps praise on Adam Lambert for taking on the fole.

Robbie has also performed Rock You and Champions live in concert on various occasions, with examples including:

  • RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne on 11 August 2001 – Champions (preceded by the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey)
  • Knebworth in August 2003 – Rock You
  • Live 8, Hyde Park, London on 2 July 2005 – Rock You (with Let Me Entertain You)
  • Let Me Entertain You Tour 2015 – Rock You (with I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll)

Hank Marvin & Brian May – We Are The Champions

This wonderful instrumental duet, by the legendary guitarists from The Shadows & Queen, was included on Hank’s Into The Light album, and reached number 66 when released as a single.

Covid & You Are The Champions

During the first year of the Covid pandemic in 2020, Brian May used his mobile phone to record and post several micro concertos online, including a close-up of the Rock You solo on 3 April & a bit of Champions for Freddie’s birthday on 6 September.

Most significantly, however, Brian played the guitar part from Champions on 9 April. This then grew when Roger Taylor added drums on 16 April & Adam Lambert added vocals on 20 April, changing one of the choruses to say “You Are The Champions”.

That proved to be so popular that they worked on it further, adding bass by Neil Fairclough (who plays on tour with them) and remastering the audio. It was released on 1 May as an official download called You Are The Champions, with proceeds going to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund for The World Health Organisation.

The accompanying music video features Brian, Adam and Roger performing, but also contains photos and clips from around the world of empty streets, people in face masks and, most importantly, health professionals and key workers to whom the song is dedicated – including Roger’s daughter Rory, who’s a nurse.

Promotional interviews for the single included:

The song spent a week at number 95 in the UK chart when it was first released as a download, which isn’t bad considering the hurried nature of the release and the global circumstances at the time. But the song did get to number 1 in the physical singles & vinyl singles charts later on, when limited edition CD and 7-inch vinyl copies were released on 5 August, with just 3,000 copies of each available. Those editions also contained an instrumental version of the track.

As an interesting comparison, Youtube user The Miracle Instinct created a version of Brian & Roger’s original jam with Freddie’s vocals, and a complete mix with Freddie’s piano and John’s bass. Other people have also played or sung along with the original jam, as noted below during the list of cover versions.

And on a related note, a fundraising advert for NHS Charities Together, during the early weeks of the pandemic in 2020, had people singing We Say Thank You to the tune of Rock You, in honour of health workers. Short social media clips were also used as part of the One Million Claps campaign.

Cover Versions

Apart from the collaborations and live covers already discussed above, there have naturally been many versions of We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions by other artists, as illustrated by the many examples below.

These lists do not include tracks that sample elements of Rock You or elements of Champions, as they’re not direct covers and often aren’t very good, especially the rap tracks. One song that is worthy of note, however, is You And I by Lady Gaga, which not only features the beat from Rock You, but Brian May also performs on it, and it shares its name with another Queen song. See my review of A Day At The Races for details of that.

Remixes & Mashups

PiotreQ Remix Albums:

  • Reworks has a Remix combining the vocals and guitar from the studio version with drums and audience noise from a live version.
  • On The Common Stage has:
    • We Will Rock You (Fast) – A mash-up with Headlong, including introductory elements from One Vision and the album A Day At The Races.
    • Tear It Up – A mash-up with the Franz Ferdinand song Take It Out, using We Will Rock You for the choruses.
  • Non-Album Remixes has:
    • We Will Break Thru You – 2 versions, mashing up Rock You with the 12″ and album versions of Breakthru respectively. The audio from the video version (using the Breakthru 12″ mix plus the railway sound effects) is included with the single download.
    • We Will Rock You [Highlander Remix] – A mashup with Gimme The Prize.
  • The Mash-Ups has We Will Hang Tough, a short mash-up of Rock You with the song Hangin’ Tough by New Kids On The Block. An alternate version called the Freddie Mashup, using his vocals instead of those by New Kids, is a bonus track on the mash-up single Dancer Step By Step.
  • Slightly Mad has We Will Rock The Revolution, a mash-up with the T-Rex hit Children Of The Revolution.
  • A Kind Of Miracle has a Scandal Remix, plus an instrumental version, using elements from Scandal.
  • God Save The Queen has a Biting Remix, using elements from Another One Bites The Dust.
  • Party has a 1984 Remix, using elements of Radio Ga Ga and other songs, along with a 2017 retake (very similar but with updated percussion). There’s also an instrumental with the individual download.
  • Orchestral Magic has orchestral mixes of Rock You & Champions, using the recordings by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • Blurred Vision also has a 6-minute Mighty Orchestral Remix of Rock You.

Other Rock You Mashups:

  • Bill McClintock – We Will Pop, Funk, Rock & Soul You – Includes Let’s Go All The Way (Sly Fox), Shakey Ground (The Temptations), Sad But True (Metallica) & ABC (Jackson 5).
  • Daniel Kendall – Legends Will Rock You – Combines Rock You with Legend by The Score.
  • DJs From Mars – We Will Kill The Breathe Of Bangarang – Includes Killing In The Name (Rage Against The Machine), Breathe (The Prodigy) & Bangarang (Skrillex).
  • Partyben – We Will Jump You – Includes Jump Around (House of Pain) & Back In Black (AC/DC).
  • Shahar Varshal – We Will Rock You: Bossa Nova Mashup – Includes Bossa Nova Baby (Elvis Presley), Dani California (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Whistle (Flo Rida) & Crazy (Cee Lo Green).
  • Smash Mashups – Freestyler Will Rock You – Includes Freestyler (Bomfunk MC’s), Just Like Fire (P!nk) & Animals (Maroon 5).

Other Champions Mashups:

Other Remixes:

Covid Tributes

TV Commercials

  • Budweiser Clydesdale – Rock You, an epic 5-minute commercial from Russia.
  • Evian Water – Rock You by KCPK, featuring a choir of children. It reached number 2 in France and 3 in Belgium, and the animated advert won a few awards. There’s also a live action advert where adults are lip-synced to the singing children.
  • Halo (Xbox) – Rock You, matching sound effects from the game to the beat of the song.
  • Persil – Rock You, performed by children.
  • Pocari Sweat – Rock You, a Japanese advert sung in English.
  • Purcari Winery – Champions, celebrating the people of Purcari village.
  • Sun City – Rock You, using Queen’s track.
  • Super Bowl XLVII Introduction – Rock You, using a remix of Queen’s track.
  • Viagra – Champions, using Queen’s track as people celebrate.

TV Comedy

Film Comedy

Other Parodies & Comedy

Bands & Groups

Album Tracks & Singles:

Live Performances: 

Tribute Bands:

Other Recordings:

  • The Family Sowell – Champions, an acoustic cover.
  • Gareth John & Andy Clayton – Champions, performing all the vocals and music between them.
  • Groundlift Band & Unity 4 Hope – Champions
  • JatayuRock You
  • Kaiser Chiefs – Champions, recorded remotely during lockdown in 2020 to celebrate Leeds United being promoted to the Premier League.
  • La Central Reggaeactiva – Champions in a reggae style.
  • Maati Baani – Champions, involving lots of children.
  • Madison – Champions
  • Newlux – Rock You in a jazz style.
  • School Of Rock – Rock You (Fast) in the studio, and Champions by students around the world.
  • Sonix & Valentina B – Rock You (Fast)
  • StyxRock You & Champions, a studio recording that they performed to at the 2003 Superbowl pre-game show.
  • U2 – A video of President George H W Bush edited to fit Rock You, played to open the shows on their Zoo TV tour.

Male Singers

Album & Single Tracks:

Live Performances:

Other Recordings:

  • Baptiste Defromont – Rock You, also playing guitar, with bass & drums played by Julien Boulogne.
  • Black Pug – Champions, a heavy metal version as a one-man band.
  • Fernando Ufret – Champions, playing acoustic guitar.
  • Handler Rezei – Champions, playing acoustic guitar.
  • Lucas Brar – Champions, in a jazz style on acoustic guitar.
  • Marty Ray Project – Rock You
  • The Opera Guy – Champions
  • Phil Maher – Champions, playing the piano.
  • Sandaru Sathsara – Rock You, in a Sri Lankan style.
  • Sergio Gutierrez – Champions, as a one-man band.
  • Takushi Minagawa – Champions, covering Keiko Lee’s version.

Female Singers

Album & Single Tracks:

Live Performances:

Other Recordings:

Tribute Albums

Artist Albums:

Tribute Compilations:

Jamming With Brian (We Are The Champions)

Brian’s micro concerto of Champions during lockdown was an invitation for people to jam along with him, and below are examples of the many people who happily did so. Several videos include Roger’s drums, and as indicated a few include vocals by Adam or Freddie.

TV Talent Shows

  • All Together Now:
    • Rachael Russell – Champions – Season 1, Heat 5 on 24 February 2018.
  • American Idol:
    • Lazaro Arbos – Champions – From the Top 7 of Season 12 in 2013.
    • Michael Johns – Rock You & Champions – Season 7 Top 10 final on 25 March 2008.
    • Wade Cota – Champions – Season 17 Top 8 Queen Night on 28 April 2019, with guest mentor Adam Lambert.
  • America’s Got Talent:
    • Marcelito Pomoy & other finalists – Champions The final of the second Champions series in 2020, with Boogie Storm, Duo Transcend, Hans & Russian Bar.
  • Czecho Slovakia’s Got Talent:
    • Queenie – ChampionsSeason 1 semi-final in 2010.
  • Georgia’s Got Talent:
    • David Vashakmadze – Champions – 2020 audition.
  • The Sing-Off:
  • The Voice US:
  • The Voice Australia:
    • Frank Lakoudis – Champions – The third live show of Season 3 in 2014.
    • Lee Harding – Rock You – The first knockout stage of Season 8 in 2019.
    • Karise Eden & The Top 16 – Champions / It’s A Man’s World – Season 8 in 2019. Karise won the first season of the show in 2012.
    • Spencer Jones – Champions – The first live show of Season 6 in 2017.
  • The Voice Croatia:
    • All Coaches – Rock You – First battle show of Season 1 in 2015.
    • All Contestants – Champions – Season 3 in 2020.
  • The Voice Ecuador:
    • Antonio Guerrero – Champions – Season 2 blind audition in 2016.
  • The Voice France:
    • Al.Hy, Stephan Rizon, Aude & Louis Delort – Champions – Season 1 finale in 2012.
    • Antoine Delie – Champions – Season 9 finale in 2020.
    • Wesley Semé – Champions – Season 3 semi-final in 2014.
  • The Voice Russia:
    • Irina Chuvakova – Rock You – Season 8 blind audition in 2019.
  • The Voice Ukraine:
  • The Voice Kids France:
    • Michel – Rock You – Season 6 Semi-Final.
  • The Voice Kids Netherlands:
    • Wolf – Champions – Season 8 blind audition in 2019.
  • We Are The Stars (Georgia):
  • The X Factor UK:
  • The X Factor USA:
    • Carlito Olivero, Jeff Gutt and Alex & Sierra – Rock YouSeason 3 Final on 18 December 2013.

Choirs

Album Tracks:

Live Performances:

Lockdown Recordings:

Other Vocal Groups

A Cappella:

  • Alaa Wardi – Champions, singing multiple parts in a unique Oriental/Arabic style arrangement. He’s also shared a sped-up version and a look behind the scenes.
  • BYU Vocal Point – Game Day Medley, includes the Rock You chorus along with the NFL On Fox Theme, Get Ready for This, Chariots Of Fire, Hey Song, Charge & Kemkraft 400.
  • Harmonie Lieblos – Rock You
  • ITE That Acappella Group – Champions
  • Rain Drops – Champions
  • Tonköpfe, Willich – Rock You
  • UMD Treblemakers – Queen Medley starting with Rock You and ending with Champions.
  • Yannie Paul Basical – Rock You, singing multiple parts in his own arrangement.

Chanting Groups:

Flash Mobs & Crowds:

  • City Rocks – Rock You, featuring 90 drummers.
  • Externado University Students – Rock You, singing along with the original track on World English Day 2015.
  • Europa Passage Flash Mob, Hamburg, Germany They Don’t Care About Us / Rock You, a mashup of choruses from the Michael Jackson & Queen hits.
  • Galeria Echo Flash Mob, Kielce, Poland – Rock You.
  • Musicall Academy Flash Mob – Queen Medley starting with Rock You.
  • Ricardo Corona – Champions, in a shopping centre in Cancún, Mexico.
  • Unknown Kristoffer – Rock You, sung by a class of students.
  • Vancouver Flash Mob – Rock You, a dance group encouraging youth voting in a general election.
  • Wallys, Street Performance World Championship, Merrion Square, Dublin, Ireland on 18 June 2011 – Champions & YMCA, by a crowd of 3,872 people who broke the world record for the number of people dressed as Wally from Where’s Wally?, though the record has since been broken.

Orchestras

Album Tracks:

Live Performances:

  • BBC Philharmonic Orchestra – Champions, chosen by Perry Groves on a special music show called What’s The Score on BBC 5 Live Sport.
  • Budapest Jazz Orchestra – Champions
  • Cello-Orchester Baden-Württemberg – Champions
  • Concord Orchestra – Champions
  • Czech National Symphony Orchestra – Champions at Prague Proms 2012.
  • Czech Symphonic Orchestra & Singers – Champions
  • Doctors Symphonic Band – Champions
  • Slinger Middle School 6th Grade Band – Rock You

Other Recordings:

  • Camerata Jovem – Champions, filmed remotely across Rio De Janeiro by all the members of this chamber orchestra during lockdown in 2020.
  • Epic Orchestra – Champions, created by Louie Dewy using software to great effect.
  • Device Orchestra – Rock You, using typewriters, hair removers and other electronic devices.
  • Paweł Zadrożniak – Champions on the Floppotron, a cleverly programmed computer hardware orchestra.

Violin Instrumentals

Cello Instrumentals

String Quartet Instrumentals

Electric Guitar Instrumentals

Acoustic Guitar Instrumentals

Piano Instrumentals

Saxophone Instrumentals

Brass Bands

Other Wind Instrumentals

Electronic Music

Album & Single Tracks:

Tribute Albums:

Choreographed Dances

Other Interpretations

Bardcore (Medieval Style):

Mimed Impersonations:

  • Carlos Díaz BallestaRock You by a Freddie Mercury impersonator, on his balcony during the first Covid lockdown in 2020, miming to the audio from Wembley Stadium in 1986.
  • Lego Rock Band – Rock You & Champions by Lego avatars in the video game.
  • Team USA – Champions, a lip dub video by Olympians and Paralympians.

8-Bit & 16-Bit:

Lullabies:


Conclusion

That concludes my epic roundup of the 2 most epic tracks on the album, clearly illustrating the huge impact they’ve had. Those tracks will be part of everyone’s lives for a very long time to come. So I hope you enjoyed looking through all of that.

Check out my Queen & Covers playlists to explore the official videos, live performances, rarities, and other versions of the songs, which I’ll update in the future as I become aware of new videos. And if there are others I should check out and consider adding to these or any of my Queen playlists, do let me know.

Next time I’ll go through all the other tracks on the album, none of which had as big an impact as the first two songs of course, but there are still plenty of gems there nonetheless. So I’ll see you for that soon!

 

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger & Youtuber with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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