Welcome to the second part of my review of Queen’s 1977 album, News Of The World. In the first part I looked at how the album was created, the character of Frank The Robot that graces the cover, the 40th anniversary box set, and some related documentaries and interviews. I then focused exclusively on just the first 2 tracks – We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions – as they naturally deserve a great deal of attention given their popularity and cultural impact.
For this second part, therefore, I’m going to look at the other tracks on the album. Even though they aren’t as widely played, and thus not as well known, as Rock You or Champions, there are some underrated gems here without a doubt. So I hope you enjoy!
This post covers the following songs on the album. Click their names to jump to the reviews:
- Sheer Heart Attack
- All Dead, All Dead
- Spread Your Wings
- Fight From The Inside
- Get Down, Make Love
- Sleeping On The Sidewalk
- Who Needs You?
- It’s Late
- My Melancholy Blues
- Feelings, Feelings (Sessions Outtake)
The reviews include mentions of tracks in the 40th anniversary box set, the On Air collection of BBC sessions, and performances from other live albums. There are also references to the American Dream / Rock The World documentary and Queen’s Radio 1 interview in Christmas 1977.
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!
Written by Roger Taylor
This is the first of 2 tracks on the album written by Roger, but it’s sung by Freddie. It was originally written for the Sheer Heart Attack album, but wasn’t finished in time. It’s a great heavy punk-style song with unrelenting energy, about a 17-year-old girl who has a “real cardiac” effect on men, and the opening line is a tribute to the Beatles song I Saw Her Standing There, which starts “Well she was just 17”. The song was released as the B-side to Spread Your Wings in Europe, and It’s Late in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.
It’s also one of those rare tracks where John Deacon doesn’t appear. Freddie sings lead vocals (replacing Roger who had sung on his demos), while Brian plays a bit of lead guitar. But then Roger plays rhythm guitar and bass guitar, and adds backing vocals during the chorus, as well as his usual drumming.
The American Dream documentary includes a chapter about the song, with a bit of footage of the band performing it live at Houston. Brian and Roger discuss the fact that Roger had been trying to get the track on to an album for a while, and it finally found a suitable home given the raw nature of the band’s performances on this LP. The prominence of punk bands like The Sex Pistols, whose style Roger had been interested in, made it a timely inclusion as well. And in relation to that, they talk about how they crossed paths with The Sex Pistols while recording in the same studios (which I mentioned in the previous post).
Raw Sessions Version
The 40th anniversary box set includes the Original Rough Mix of the song, which is great to hear as it omits the lead vocals, enabling you to focus on the frantic instrumentation. It also has extended intro and outro sections, so there’s a bit of extra guitar at the beginning, and it doesn’t stop so abruptly at the end.
The Queen Rocks VHS tape included a montage video showing Queen performing live, mixed with some random Japanese clips, set to a slightly trimmed edit of the song. It’s the only official video for the song, and has never been released anywhere else.
Queen’s Youtube channel, however, also has a video by Luke Leslie to go with the track, which was chosen by Brian & Roger as the winner of the Talenthouse Sheer Heart Attack Competition in 2011. It’s really well edited and performed by Luke and his friends, including a number of clever references to other Queen music videos.
Just like the studio recording, this song was fast and intense on stage, which gave Roger a good workout on the drums in particular, especially towards the end of a show. Examples of their performances include:
- The Summit, Houston, Texas on 11 December 1977 – Included on the Rare Live VHS, mixing the Texas performance with clips from other concerts (including some mentioned below).
- Palais des Sports, Lyon, France on 17 February 1979 – Released on Live Killers.
- Pavilion de Paris, France on 28 February 1979 – Included in the 2011 reissue and 40th anniversary box set of the album. The sleeve notes on the 2011 release tell us that this was from the second of three nights at the venue, which were all recorded and filmed but have largely remained tucked away in the archives. So this is an exciting rarity. The notes also say that Freddie embraces the chaotic nature of the song by pushing over a stage monitor and throwing his microphone across the stage at the end!
- Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan on 25 April 1979 – Freddie’s voice is clearly knackered here after a long tour, but he still gives it his best as always.
- Concerts For Kampuchea, Hammersmith Odeon, London on 26 December 1979 – Included as a bonus video on the 2011 iTunes edition of the album. Freddie goes delightfully crazy towards the end of this, toppling over the speakers and standing on them! Makes you wonder what the technicians must have thought!
- José Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina on 1 March 1981
- Estádio do Morumbi, São Paulo, Brazil on 20/21 March 1981
- Poliedro de Caracas, Venezuela on 27 September 1981
- Montreal Forum, Canada, on 24/25 November 1981 – Released on Queen Rock Montreal. You can also hear Freddie and Roger’s vocals with much greater prominence in a Semi-Acappella mix extracted from the surround sound channels, which is fun to listen to. The DVD & Blu-ray also includes a commentary by Brian & Roger, where they don’t say much of particular interest, but they enjoy watching it, and Roger remarks on how tough it was to play, as well as sharing a story about being evacuated from their hotel later that night after a false alarm about a fire.
- Milton Keynes Bowl on 5 June 1982 – Released on Queen On Fire – Live At The Bowl.
Bands who have released studio versions include:
- Ellefson – On No Cover.
- Hallow’s Eve – On Monument.
- Helloween – A bonus track on the special edition of Rabbit Don’t Come Easy.
- Hotbox – A double-speed version on Blowin’ Our Cover, as if it wasn’t fast enough!
- Human Haggis – On Mental Implants.
- Pitbull Daycare – On the compilation Destroy All DJs.
- R.a.f.gier – As a single.
- SiR – On Rock On! Love, Agnes.
- Skid Row – On United World Rebellion Chapter Two: Rise of the Damnation Army.
- Social Unrest – On New Lows.
The Foo Fighters apparently covered the song during a concert in London in 1997, with Roger Taylor joining them. There’s no video that I can find, but I can imagine them doing a pretty good job at it.
On tribute albums there are covers by:
- Frankenstein 3000 – On Horse Feathers & Animal Crackers.
- James LaBrie & Marty Friedman – On We Will Rock You: A Tribute To Queen, plus a Chemical Whore Remix on Tie Your Mix Down.
- Valensia – On Queen Tribute.
And David A Lucas has played an instrumental version on piano, which naturally gives it a very different feel!
Written by Brian May
As well as writing this lovely ballad, and playing guitar as usual, Brian also sings the lead vocals and plays piano. He explained his inspiration on In The Studio With Redbeard: “It was a song I had around for a while. It was kind of about the passing of friends, and I think the thing that started it off was losing my cat. My cat died when I was a kid, and I kind of never got over it. I think it was one of those things which surfaces now and again in different ways. I think I wrote the song for the album thinking that I was writing it about something completely different, but I think part of it was sort of getting it out of my system.”
The song has never been performed in concert.
The Raw Sessions disc in the 40th anniversary box set includes the Original Rough Mix, providing a rare opportunity to hear Freddie singing the lead vocals instead, and there are no backing vocals. There are also some changes to the lyrics, particularly a few lines at the start, which were still printed in the sleeve notes for the album, despite being omitted from the finished track (“Memories, memories, how long can you stay, to haunt my days”). So while instrumentally it sounds similar to the album version, there are significant differences that make it a very interesting listen.
There’s also an unreleased instrumental take that was played at a Queen convention, hence the lower quality audio and the repeated “Property of Queen Productions” throughout the fan recording. It features Brian on piano, Roger on drums and John on bass, and is similar to the final track but has a few different elements here and there.
A beautiful animated video was created to mark the 40th anniversary of the album, featuring a cat wandering around inside Frank The Robot from the album cover, reflecting Brian’s inspiration for the song. The lyrics are revealed in a variety of ways as the feline explores.
Two versions were created, both with the same visual content. One uses the album version of the track (as shown above), while the other is a hybrid version that mixes the album track with the aforementioned Rough Mix from the Raw Sessions disc, turning it into a duet between Brian and Freddie.
- Covers with a full band include those by Black Gold (on some editions of their Rush album), Christian Beach (a waltz-time version on the Horse Feathers & Animal Crackers Queen tribute compilation), Dylan Taganas (one-man band), Lucie & The Diamonds, Ray Mullins & Truth Surge (one-man band, plus his backing track).
- On piano there are renditions with vocals by Darrel Gill, Diego Perez, Luke Mervin, Valtteri Nieminen & Wyatt Brownell, and instrumentals by Gren06pp, Jess Yester, Molotov Cocktail Piano, Otmar Binder & Valtteri Nieminen.
- On guitar there’s a cover with vocals by Katy Halluer, and instrumentals by Dylan Ryche & Shtramy.
- On saxophone there’s an instrumental by Lourival.
Written by John Deacon
This beautiful song, about the sadness and dreams of Sammy in his dead-end job, is the first of 2 tracks by John on the album. He plays acoustic guitar as well as bass on the track. It was the second single to be released from the album, backed by Sheer Heart Attack, and was the first ever Queen single not to feature backing vocals. Rather surprisingly however, considering its rightful popularity among the fans, it only peaked at number 34 during its 4 week run in the UK Top 40. It deserved more, but then the Rock You/Champions single was rather a hard act to follow!
The American Dream documentary doesn’t offer any interesting insights into the song, other than a fleeting glimpse of Freddie doing a soundcheck, which segues into the album version that accompanies backstage footage and general chatter with the band.
The music video for this song is a standard mimed performance, filmed on the same day as We Will Rock You, in Roger’s freezing and snow-filled Surrey garden in January 1978. In the video Freddie sings while wearing star-shaped sunglasses, and some gloves borrowed from their roadie (Peter ‘Ratty’ Hince) to keep his hands warm. Meanwhile John mimes playing the piano at the start, even though it’s actually Freddie playing on the track, and Brian is playing a copy of his Red Special guitar to keep the original safe from the cold.
The video is on the Greatest Video Hits I DVD, and previously appeared on the Greatest Flix & Greatest Karaoke Hits VHS tapes. In Brian & Roger’s commentary on the DVD they reflect on how cold it was that day, how short they were for money until they signed a new contract with John Reid, and how the copy of Brian’s guitar used in the video was later lost.
There are also a few pieces of behind the scenes footage out there as well, taken from a selection of documentaries. Here we see that Freddie is swigging from a bottle of brandy in an attempt to keep warm, but the director wants him to put it away for the filming!
The 40th anniversary box set includes an Alternative Take on the Raw Sessions disc. It’s similar in structure to the album version, but adds a lovely piano intro, and ends with a longer outro section that comes to an abrupt stop rather than fading out. Freddie’s vocals are also very different to the album version – still retaining the lyrics and melody of course, but it’s a completely fresh take with no attempt to precisely mirror the performance that we’re most familiar with. The box set also includes the Instrumental Version (previously available on Greatest Karaoke Hits), which is a nice opportunity to appreciate its composition more closely.
There is also a Test Pressing Mix, which was on a promo disc with Rock You & Champions, of which only 50 copies were made. It’s largely identical to the final version, apart from slight differences in the guitar parts and a few extra ad-libbed vocals at the end.
- BBC Session 6 on 28 October 1977 – This enjoyably extended and heavier version of the song, which turns into a frantic jam towards the end, was recorded at Maida Vale Studio in London, for broadcast on John Peel’s Sounds Of The 70s on BBC Radio 1 on 14 November. It’s available on the 2011 reissue of News Of The World, the On Air sessions album and in the 40th anniversary box set.
- European Tour 1979 – This is the only live concert performance to have been officially released, and thus the only official recording that has a proper ending without fading out or suddenly stopping. It’s a great rendition, and it’s lovely to hear the audience singing along. It was originally included on Live Killers, and more recently was part of the 40th anniversary box set. It was also released as the B-side to Crazy Little Thing Called Love in the USA, reaching the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The original studio version was never released as a single in the States.
- Pavilion de Paris, France on 1 March 1979 – Another fun example of a performance from the European tour.
The song was sadly dropped from the band’s setlist after the 1979 tour. However, it was resurrected during the early gigs of the 2017 tour by Queen + Adam Lambert, as can be seen in great performances from:
- Gila River Arena, Glendale on 23 June 2017
- T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas on 24 June 2017
- Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles on 27 June 2017
- SAP Center, San Jose on 29 June 2017
- KeyArena, Seattle on 1 July 2017
- Rogers Arena, Vancouver on 2 July 2017
- Rogers Place, Edmonton on 4 July 2017
- Blind Guardian, a power metal band from Germany, included a version on their 1992 album Somewhere Far Beyond and their 1996 compilation The Forgotten Tales.
- On tribute albums there are covers by Shawn Mars (on Horse Feathers & Animal Crackers) & Tommy Shaw (on Stone Cold Queen).
- There are live performances by Jeff Scott Soto (from his DVD Live At The Queen Convention 2003), Pianoбой (from Kiev in Ukraine on 17 May 2020 as part of a Live Aids Online Marathon), and unnamed bands at Lucky Strike Live & School of Rock Boston 2018.
- There are also live versions by tribute bands Queen Extravaganza (with lead singer Alirio Netto), Queen Nation (with Gregory Finsley from Queen For A Day) & 0vueen (from Korea).
- There are also full band covers posted by Afro Blondes, Damian Colaprette, Kiko Imamura, Master Stroke, Salvo D’Addeo Hammond & Sammy, and a duet on guitar by Lily Rose & Sarah.
- There are solo covers sung by Handler Rezei (a one-man band acoustic performance), Jiji (on acoustic guitar), Leila Stinne (with piano & guitar), Marc Martel (on piano during a lockdown show plus a version on acoustic guitar during a livestream), Momchil Georgiev (on the piano at Amsterdam Central railway station), Patricéleste (a one-man band version), and vocals to Queen’s backing track by Julia Ivanova, Kevin Magido & Seth Jackson.
- There are instrumental piano renditions by Alexander Lioubimenko, Gren06pp, Jazzy Fabbry, Otmar Binder & Siberian Tiger (the latter reproducing the actual piano part from Queen’s track).
Written by Roger Taylor
Other than Brian on electric guitar, the rest of this track is entirely performed by Roger, who sings all the vocals as well as playing rhythm guitar, bass guitar and percussion. Freddie and John are both absent, John having lent Roger his bass for this track. It’s also arguably the band’s first foray into a disco/funk type of sound, given the catchy beat and the greater focus on the drum and bass elements.
Regardless of how you classify it though, it’s a pretty good song about having to fight to be noticed, instead of going with the flow and being complacent, if you really want to stand out from the crowd. Roger’s voice suits it perfectly, he sounds great here. And the guitar riff is also good, with guitarist Slash from Guns N’ Roses apparently citing it as one of his favourite riffs of all time, according to Phil Sutcliffe’s Illustrated History book about the band.
The song has never been performed live by the band.
The 40th anniversary box set includes a Demo Vocal Version on the Raw Sessions disc. The musical arrangement is similar to the final track, but Roger is only putting down a rough vocal here, and many of the lyrics are different, including an entirely new verse. So that makes it very interesting. The box set also includes the Instrumental Version, which was used in the Queen video game The eYe.
There are barely any covers for this under-rated track. The only notable ones I can find are tribute album tracks by FourYearBeard (on Horse Feathers & Animal Crackers) & Jack Blades (on Stone Cold Queen), a live performance by tribute band Bohemian Dust, and a cover posted online by Patricéleste.
Written by Freddie Mercury
The title says it all here. From the lyrics and Freddie’s moans to the overall instrumentation, this is Queen getting down and dirty, building from one of their most minimal yet most recognisable bass riffs into an unashamedly sexy rock song, and it’s great.
The bridge part appears to take inspiration from a section in Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, focusing more on sounds and unusual effects rather than being musical. And, despite how the effects sound here, we’re still very much in the era where Queen’s album notes proudly state “No synthesisers” (and that wouldn’t change until The Game). Instead, the effects in this song were produced by Brian using his Red Special and an Electroharmonix Frequency Analyzer pedal, which he also used in live performances, along with an Eventide Harmonizer on the studio recording. And all the effects and moans were played with even more during their concerts.
The 40th anniversary box set contains:
- Early Take – On the Raw Sessions disc. This is fascinatingly different to the final version, with much more prominent piano as part of the core riff, many lyric changes and a long instrumental jam. “There were some good bits”, remarks Roger at the end, after Freddie observes that “the piano fell down”!
- Instrumental Version – On the Bonus Tracks disc. This was also used in the Queen video game The eYe.
There is also a Freddy Bastone Remix from The Unauthorized Club Record, a Hollywood Records promo compilation. It incorporates the drums from More Of That Jazz and samples The Prophet’s Song, We Will Rock You and The Show Must Go On. It’s not particularly good, but it certainly gives the song a different feel.
The multitrack set for this song consists of 22 separate files, although in many cases these are separated left and right stereo channels, which almost halves the number of actual tracks. And as always it’s fun to dig through them to hear the various elements on their own, as you’ll often find there are little bits you’d missed or forgotten about.
Freddie’s wonderfully passionate vocals and moans are of course the main highlight, which you can hear in multi-layered form if you combine the relevant tracks together, or you can listen to a single layer at a time, to get a really good sense of how it all fits together. The guitar elements are also well worth a listen, especially as they include the various sound effects, and you can hear an alternative guitar mix that a fan has put together. Meanwhile the bass and drums provide a solid backup too.
This song was a popular inclusion in Queen’s live shows for a good few years, and they enjoyed playing around with the sound effects and lighting during it. Examples of their performances include:
- Extracts from 1977 Tour Rehearsal & Houston Performance – These clips were part of the American Dream documentary included in the 40th anniversary box set.
- The Summit, Houston, Texas on 11 December 1977
- European Tour 1979 – This track from the Live Killers album is made up of performances from various locations, including Frankfurt, Barcelona and Paris, among others.
- Concerts For Kampuchea, Hammersmith Odeon, London on 26 December 1979 – During the extended bridge section, there’s an amusing moment where you hear an audience member attempting a little bit of the “La la” part of The Prophet’s Song, after Freddie apparently passes the microphone to them very briefly to see what happens!
- José Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina on 1 March 1981
- Poliedro de Caracas, Venezuela on 25/26/27 September 1981
- Montreal Forum, Canada, on 24/25 November 1981 – From Queen Rock Montreal, and included in the 40th anniversary box set. In Brian & Roger’s commentary on the DVD & Blu-ray they talk about the extensive use of atmospheric lighting, Brian’s specially made harmonizer that he uses for the psychedelic sound effects, Roger’s use of electronic drums on the song, and the importance of eye contact for cueing one another.
Queen + Adam Lambert also performed part of the song during their 2017-18 tour, followed by some sound effects and improvisation before they go into I Want It All, as can be seen in examples from:
- SSE Arena, Belfast on 26 November 2017
- Echo Arena, Liverpool on 28 November 2017
- First Direct Arena, Leeds on 6 December 2017
- Manchester Arena on 9 December 2017
- O2 Arena, London on 13 December 2017
- Wembley Arena, London on 15 December 2017
- Arena Birmingham on 16 December 2017
- Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne on 3 March 2018
The most notable cover of the song is by industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, which is very different to Queen’s version, as they’ve completely reworked it in their unique rock style:
- Their studio version was released as the B-side to Sin in 1990, and later as a bonus track on the 2010 remaster of their Pretty Hate Machine album. It features a few sped up samples of Queen well, which bounce left and right rapidly if you have headphones on.
- There are live performances from Lisner Auditorium, Washington, USA on 2 March 1990 & Big Day Out Festival, Sydney Showground, Australia on 26 January 2000.
- And there are interpretive dances to this version by RockIt Dance (live at Skin Two Midlands in a medley with Queen’s original) & VK Goes Wild.
Other bands that have covered the song include:
- The Black – Posted on the Youtube channel of this band from Los Angeles.
- Pampas Eléctricas – A heavy electro version on Efecto Pampa.
- Queen Of Japan – An electro-synth version on Nightlife In Tokyo.
And there are versions on tribute albums by:
- The Convocation Of – On Dynamite With A Laserbeam.
- Glenn Hughes & Jake E. Lee – On We Will Rock You: A Tribute To Queen, plus an upbeat Die Krupps Remix on Tie Your Mix Down.
- Stink, Stank, Stunk – On Horse Feathers & Animal Crackers.
Plus there are live versions by:
- Nuno Bettencourt – Trio led by the lead guitarist from Extreme, at the Mad About Music show, London on 21 June 1998.
- Royce Peterson & The Kustard Kings – At the Loser’s Lounge on 19 February 2011.
- Second Born Band – At Melodi Memory TVRI on 16 February 2020.
There are also remixes of Queen’s original version by:
Written by Brian May
This enjoyably catchy and very underrated blues number, about a trumpeter who lives on the streets and then becomes a star for a while after being discovered by a record producer, is sung wonderfully by Brian in an American accent. If you listen very closely you might also be able to pick out a few fluffed bass notes from John, and a little chuckle from Brian at the end.
This song also has the special honour of being the only song in Queen’s entire catalogue where the full backing track was recorded in a single take, which was effectively a loose and spontaneous jam session, as they felt they couldn’t improve upon it. Consequently the 40th anniversary box set includes a rare live performance on the Raw Sessions disc (noted below), as there aren’t any significant studio outtakes.
Brian spoke about the song on BBC Radio 1 in 1983:
“That was the quickest song I ever wrote in my life. I just wrote it down. It’s funny because it’s one of the ones I’m quite pleased with as well. It’s not trying too hard, it’s not highly subtle, but I think it leaves me with quite a good feeling. It was sort of a one-take thing as well. Although I messed around with the take a lot and chopped it about and rearranged it, it was basically the first take which we used. So it has that kind of sloppy feel that I think works with the song, which we never would have dreamed with the previous albums. We always used to work on the backing tracks until they were a million percent perfect, and if they weren’t, we would splice together two which were. We’d go to great lengths, but for this album we wanted to get that spontaneity back in.”
You can also hear a clip from an American radio interview where Brian explains why they recorded the song several times but ultimately used the first take on the album.
Queen only played the song 3 times on stage, with Freddie on lead vocals, during the early shows of their News Of The World tour in the USA:
- Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland, Maine on 11 November 1977
- Boston Garden, Massachusetts on 12 November 1977
- Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan on 19 November 1977
One of those performances, believed to be from the Boston show, was released on the Raw Sessions disc of the album’s 40th anniversary box set. And it sounds great, with Freddie and Brian both on fine form, so it’s a real shame that they dropped it from the setlist so quickly.
However, Brian has performed the song live on a few occasions since then, with different backing bands, and there are examples available from:
- Martinihal, Groningen, The Netherlands on 24 September 1998 – “Well, I don’t know, it was an experiment!” He says with a chuckle at the end. “I want you guys bootlegging this crap!” He adds, and the internet has duly obliged.
- Club 1650 in Hollywood on 18 October 2002 – Performed with Roger during a special party to celebrate Queen’s new star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
- Scala Club, Kings Cross, London on 11 May 2010 – With Roger Taylor plus Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders.
On albums there are versions by:
- Nobody’s Business – On their short album 5, plus you can see a live performance.
- Worro Pilkinson – On the Horse Feathers & Animal Crackers tribute compilation album.
Tribute acts who have covered the song include:
- Lucie & The Diamonds – A cover that was shared on Brian’s blog.
- Rock You! – An acoustic version.
- The Show Must Go On – Live at a Freddie Mercury tribute gig, with a special band that includes renowned composer Bear McCreary on piano and his brother Brendan on lead vocals.
- Simply Queen – Live on stage.
Renditions with vocals by other artists include:
- The Alp(en)traum Orchestra – Live in concert.
- Mezzanottemmezza – Giving the song a different rhythm.
- Pedagogue Squinting – A guy performing the vocal and guitar parts.
- Surrender Friday – Live in concert.
- Território Livre – Recorded in November 2020.
Written by John Deacon
Once again John demonstrates that his talents extend well beyond just the bass guitar, by writing this lovely song and playing a duet with Brian on Spanish acoustic guitars. Brian also plays maracas, while Freddie sings and plays cowbell, and Roger provides basic percussion as a foundation.
The whole thing has a catchy Latin-style feel to it, as Freddie sings about being let down by a once-trusted lover. His vocals are contained entirely in the right channel, with the lead guitar on the left. So if you only listen to the left channel you can hear the song as an instrumental, with just a faint echo of Freddie’s voice in the background.
An early Acoustic Take is included on the Raw Sessions disc of the 40th anniversary box set. There’s a fun bit of studio chatter between Freddie and John at the start, with Freddie singing a little bit of the opening riff, before engineer Mike Stone announces that it’s Take 2. Roger isn’t involved, so Freddie is only accompanied by John on acoustic guitar and Brian playing maracas. The lyrics are also incomplete, with Freddie ad-libbing or singing different words to the final version at various points, and overall the song is shorter. At the end John asks “How was that?”, to which Freddie responds “Oh, it’s lovely!”, quite rightly. Even in this work-in-progress form it’s really nice.
Sadly, Queen never performed the song in concert, so that acoustic take is the only raw, live rendition we have.
There are very few covers of this song, but on Youtube there are versions sung by Aculiro (live in concert), Jonie Maris (with Ilmo The Dude on piano), José Fernandes (doing all the vocals and instruments himself), Mind The Band (outdoor acoustic performance), Save The Queen (tribute band) & Ween Japan (live in concert).
There are also instrumentals on acoustic guitar by Alex Mercy, Carlos Bonell with the Lara Symphony Orchestra (on his Guitar Rhapsodies album) & Harald Koll. And there’s a piano instrumental by Molotov Cocktail Piano.
Written by Brian May
At 6 minutes 25 seconds, this song about a troubled love affair is the longest track on the album, and one of only a few that is longer than their big hit Bohemian Rhapsody. Brian achieved this by dividing the song’s heartfelt lyrics into 3 ‘acts’ rather than verses, like a theatrical play. It’s passionately and powerfully sung by Freddie as you’d expect, and the rest of the band are on fire too, including a cool heavy rock jam in the middle of the song that helps to keep it fresh and exciting. It’s definitely one of the band’s most underrated tracks that deserves a wider audience, and there are many online who understandably cite it as their favourite Queen song. I don’t personally go quite that far, but it’s still excellent.
Brian explained in a 1989 In The Studio radio interview that: “It’s another one of those story-of-your life songs. I think it’s about all sorts of experiences that I had, and experiences that I thought other people had, but I guess it was very personal. And it’s written in three parts. It’s like the first part of the story is at home, the guy is with his woman. The second part is in a room somewhere, the guy is with some other woman, that he loves, and can’t help loving. And the last part is he’s back with his woman.”
Brian employs a two-handed guitar technique called tapping on this track, where fingers on both hands are used to hammer the strings on the fretboard to create a counterpoint to the melody. He was inspired to incorporate it after seeing guitarist Rocky Athas at the Mother Blues club in Dallas, Texas the previous year. He didn’t go on to use it widely, however, telling On The Record in 1982 that “It was a sort of a double hammer. I was fretting with my left hand, hammering with another finger of the left hand, and then hammering with the right hand as well. It was a problem to do onstage; I found it was a bit too stiff. It’s okay if you’re sitting down with the guitar. If I persevered with it, it would probably become second nature, but it wasn’t an alleyway which led very far, to my way of thinking. It’s a bit gimmicky.”
Tapping has been around for centuries in some form or another, having long been used on violins, guitars and other stringed instruments, and in the 1960s it was used by some rock and blues guitarists. However, it wasn’t until the year after Queen’s News Of The World that it really grabbed the attention of the masses and saw a major surge in popularity, when it was used on Van Halen’s debut album, including the awesome instrumental Eruption played by lead guitarist and songwriter Eddie Van Halen.
A music video for the track was included on the Queen Rocks VHS compilation, and was never released anywhere else until it appeared on Queen’s official Youtube channel. Although weirdly they haven’t put the song name in the title of the video on Youtube, instead just naming it as “Taken from the Queen Rocks compilation of 1997”! But anyway, Queen didn’t perform the track for the video – it’s basically just a montage of clips from their live shows interspersed with artistic imagery of beautiful scantily-clad women. And a big section is cut out from the middle of the song, including the rocking instrumental jam, taking it from 6:25 down to 3:47.
The song also appears in:
- The 2006 documentary film Kurt Cobain: About A Son, and a snippet can be heard during the trailer.
- The 2009 black comedy film Observe and Report starring Seth Rogen, where it’s played over the closing credits, while The Hero is used during a fight scene. However, neither song is included on the soundtrack album.
The 40th anniversary box set contains a few additional versions of this song
- US Radio/Single Edit – This version chops out a couple of long sections, including the fast instrumental jam, to reduce the song from 6:25 to 3:50, but it’s a different edit to the Queen Rocks video version above. It was released as a single in America, reaching #74 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #66 on the Cash Box Top 100. It was also issued in Canada, New Zealand and Japan, but failed to make an impact, and wasn’t released anywhere else. America’s Billboard Magazine included it in its Top Single Picks on 29 April 1978, saying: “Queen follows its top five We Are The Champions with a tune that shifts gear from subdued balladry to thunderous rock ‘n’ roll. Freddie Mercury’s vocals are at the forefront with rich, multi-layered harmonies backing him. Stinging guitar work and drums pace the rhythms.”
- Raw Sessions Alternative Version – Engineer Mike Stone introduces this recording as Take 2 and Freddie has a bit of a false start, before they get into the song properly. It’s similar to the final version, but with a few differences in the lyrics, and you can hear Freddie playing the piano a little bit more clearly in the faster hard rock section. So it’s fun to listen to, it’s as powerful a performance as the final take they used. When it finishes there’s approval from Mike, and Brian agrees, remarking that the song sounds good when it’s a bit angry.
- BBC Session 6 on 28 October 1977 – Also released as part of the On Air compilation of BBC sessions, this is a brilliantly performed and unusually different version, recorded at Maida Vale Studio for broadcast on BBC Radio 1 during John Peel’s Sounds Of The 70s on 14 November. To start with it has a similar structure and feel to the album version, but it suddenly goes off on a tangent in the middle with elements from Get Down, Make Love, as Freddie plays around with echoing vocals and harmonies for a couple of minutes, backed by other effects. Then there’s a fast rocking conclusion for the last 30 seconds. As weird as that alternative central section is compared to the album version, what Freddie is able to do with his voice is as mesmerising as always, so it’s well worth a listen.
Some fleeting vocal & guitar snippets from the album version have also been discovered on the 24-track multitrack for We Are The Champions, which some people seem to have a copy of (I don’t, so I can’t verify it).
Although never included on any official albums, and Freddie apparently felt that it was hard to sing live because it didn’t suit his vocal range, Queen did perform the song during their News Of The World & Jazz tours, and excellent examples can be heard on bootleg recordings from:
- Cobo Arena, Detroit, USA on 18 November 1977
- Falkoner Center, Copenhagen, Denmark on 13 April 1978
- Wiener Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria on 2 May 1978
- Montreal Forum, Canada on 1 December 1978
- Chicago Stadium on 7 December 1978
Then in 2017, to mark the 40th anniversary of the News Of The World album, the song was performed very well by Queen + Adam Lambert during the first 10 shows of their North American tour, including:
- T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas on 24 June
- Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles on 26 June & 27 June
- SAP Center, San Jose on 29 June
- KeyArena, Seattle on 1 July
- Rogers Arena, Vancouver, Canada on 2 July
- Rogers Place, Edmonton, Canada on 4 July
- CenturyLink Center, Omaha on 8 July
They dropped it after the 8 July gig and haven’t played it since, which is a great shame.
A couple of very different versions have been released officially:
- Scott Ian & John Bush – The 2 members of Anthrax performed this heavy rock version on the tribute album We Will Rock You – A Salute To Queen.
- Freddy Bastone – A radically different dance version released as an EP in 1992. Suffice to say it completely ruins the song, but is worth listing here by virtue of being such an oddity.
Bands that have had a good go at doing the song live include:
- Almost Queen & Queen Nation – Tribute bands.
- Australian School Of Music – Performed at a graduation recital.
- Lucky Strike Live – A group performing at Soundcheck Live in 2017.
- School Of Rock Chatham – Young students performing as part of a team challenge.
- Southern AllStars – From a concert in 2014.
And online you can also find:
- Group performances by Cello vs Guitar with Christian Bruni & LiUK (recorded virtually during lockdown in 2020), Lucie & The Diamonds and Lucy Gowen, Emma Marie & Kalonica Nicx.
- Solo versions on acoustic guitar by Dave Witherow & Tyler Warren (live on Instagram during lockdown in 2020), and a relaxed instrumental by Meester David Gitaar.
- Instrumental piano versions by Molotov Cocktail Piano & Yumeddie.
Written by Freddie Mercury
This is a gorgeous, laid-back, jazz-style ballad, with sublime vocals, piano playing and lyrics by Freddie, and thus a wonderful way to wind things down and conclude the album. There are no backing vocals or guitars, and only very minimal bass and percussion, so Freddie’s performance is sharply in focus, as it deserves to be. There is some footage of Freddie recording the song in the studio and performing it live on stage in Houston in the Rock The World documentary.
Raw Sessions Version
The Original Rough Mix of the song was included on the Raw Sessions disc of the 40th anniversary box set, and features an alternate vocal take from Freddie. It’s very similar to the final version, with just a couple of minor lyrical differences and a slightly longer piano outro.
- BBC Session 6 on 28 October 1977 – This was recorded at Maida Vale Studio in London, and broadcast on John Peel’s Sounds Of the 70s on BBC Radio 1 on 14 November. It was included in the 2011 reissue and the 40th anniversary box set of the album, and as part of the On Air compilation of BBC material. As well as a fresh vocal performance by Freddie, it also includes some light guitar work by Brian, which complements it really nicely. So it’s a lovely alternate version.
- The Summit, Houston, Texas on 11 December 1977 – This fabulous performance was first released as a B-side to the single of The Miracle, then much later as a bonus track in the 40th anniversary box set of News Of The World. The video has also been released, first in streaming form with the Absolute Greatest compilation, and then as a download with the 2011 iTunes reissue of News Of The World. An extract was also included in the Rock The World documentary.
- There are also lower quality bootlegs of other fantastic performances by Freddie out there, such as Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan on 18 November 1977, Long Beach Arena, California on 20 December 1977, Ice Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden on 12 April 1978 & Pavillon de Paris, France on 23 April 1978.
PiotreQ’s Instrumental Remix allows you to focus on Freddie’s exceptional piano work.
A few singers have released covers of the song:
- Elaine Paige – On her Queen covers album, backed by The New Philharmonic Orchestra, and with an instrumental saxophone section. You can also watch a live performance.
- Oregano – A version accompanied by acoustic guitar on The Humming Birds, albeit not in the best sound quality.
- Suzy – From her EP My Rainbow.
Other covers posted online include:
- Group versions by Celine Bonnet & Friends, Lucie & The Diamonds & The Protagonists.
- Live versions by Bigot, The Budapest Jazz Orchestra & Kati Wolf, Classicstone Rock School Students, Cornell & SOBO House Of Music, Ellen Evers, Fabrizia Ferrara, GRCO, Kama Show & Ozana Barabancea.
- An a cappella cover by XOX, plus live a cappella Barbershop performances by quartet The Mellow Diners & choir Zero8.
- Versions sung with piano by Ana Petrović, Ander Etxeba (an 11-year-old’s public performance), aQustic, DMC Music Project, Emiliano Loconsolo, Jehaan S, Joe Fraone, Laura Lawless, Manuel Karamori, MNB & Meli Mizrahi, Nika Samandas, Nina Noir & Steven James, Patrick Taylor, Pepo Mercury & Victoria Palermo.
- Renditions sung with guitar by Darryl Marini, Duo Estelle (a live operatic recording) & HairunNisa Sinaga.
- There is also a recording of someone doing a very good impression of Louis Armstrong singing the song. The jazz legend died 6 years before Queen’s track was released of course, but it seems to have fooled some people nonetheless. Their confusion may be due to the fact that he did actually record a completely different instrumental with his Hot Seven group entitled Melancholy Blues, which was included on the Golden Records sent into space on both of the Voyager spacecraft in 1977, coincidentally the same year that the News Of The World album came out.
There are also various instrumentals out there:
- Piano renditions by David Saints-Gome, Franck Di-giovanni, Gren06pp, Jazzy Fabbry, Melina, Molotov Cocktail Piano, Otmar Binder, PFrancisco, Siberian Tiger, Stefania Totaro & Tyco Parri.
- A relaxed guitar version by Café Lounge Jazz on First Class Lounge – Premium Jazz Guitar Lounge, and solo acoustic versions by Cagdas Ozek, Hermit969, James Rundle, Mighty Electrik & Music Max EU.
- A violin cover by Ice Cooling K.
You can also learn a dance routine from Gina Gagliano, who used the BBC Sessions version for one of her virtual classes during lockdown in 2020.
Written by Brian May
See also: Ultimate Queen
This previously unreleased track finally surfaced on the 40th anniversary box set and the 2011 double disc reissue of the album. As stated in the sleeve notes for the latter, Brian and Roger have confirmed that its roots can be traced back to the early 70s, yet Tim Staffell didn’t know the song when he was in Smile (the predecessor group to Queen), and Freddie remarks in the session outtakes that John Deacon isn’t familiar with it either. So by deduction it’s most likely to have been written shortly before John became part of the band in July 1971, and it’s believed the song was just called Feelings in its early form at that time.
There were several attempts to record it during the News Of The World sessions, and the demo that’s been officially released is Take 10, recorded at Basing Street Studios, London, in July 1977. It was never included on the News Of The World album as they felt they had enough material already. It does have a somewhat similar rhythm to Sleeping On The Sidewalk, which may be one factor if they wanted each track to feel distinctive.
So it’s been a real hidden gem all these years, as it’s a delightfully catchy rocker with strong contributions from all the band members.
There is also a bootlegged copy of Take 9 in circulation, that was played at the Queen Fan Club Convention in 2000 or 2001. It’s very similar to the subsequent take above, but has slightly different lyrics.
As it’s a rarity there aren’t any cover versions out there. But there is a fun video of a 4-year-old Queen fan drumming along to it!
And that’s it! Even though Rock You and Champions undoubtedly, and deservedly, get by far the most love and attention, the rest of the album contains a fantastic variety of songs, as Queen are so adept at doing. So I hope you enjoyed exploring them with me.
As ever, you can check out my Queen & Covers playlists for this album, to explore the official videos, live performances, rarities, and other versions of the songs. I’ll update them 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 I’ll move on to review their Jazz album, so keep an eye out for that.