I’m not sure what I think about Queen. I’ve been known to declare loudly that their music consigns them to being one of the most boring bands of all time. But then, I’ll hear one of their old hits, or I’ll see them in concert on TV, and I’m forced to concede how wonderfully talented each of the band members is (or was).
special killer memories
Killer Queen, Queen’s 1974 breakthrough hit, has special memories for me – it comes from the band’s third album (and one of the very few albums) I ever owned on cassette.
So, 1974. I’m at high school. My mate has a cassette recorder he’s trying to flog off. It’s all mine for $20. His gran gave it to him but he isn’t into music and doesn’t want it. To add insult to injury, she also gave him a copy of an album named, Sheer Heart Attack, and he hates it! I can have that for free.
$20 – a lot of money in but you have to remember, owning a cassette player right now is like owning the latest iPod in 2011. This is high-tech stuff.
Before cassettes taping was done on reel-to-reel machines. They were great because you could do things like tape a song or a voice clip, thread the tape backwards, and listen to it in reverse. Now, why would you want to do that, apart from eavesdropping on hidden Satanic messages? Well, I’m not sure, but when were teenagers it seemed like a fun thing to do!
Back then, music came on vinyl (and, for a very short while 8-track) and so, with the arrival of cassettes there were all sorts of claims about the new music revolution. For the first time, music was portable.
For the record, cassettes had been around since the early 60s but were pretty poor quality. It wasn’t until the mid to late 70s that the standard of replay became an acceptable (by some) alternative to vinyl.
I remember those days well. I recall reading articles that declared that vinyl would one day become obsolete. However, the articles claimed, cassettes wouldn’t be their replacement – magical things called compact discs would take over. I recall how the thought, for some reason, horrified me.
back to 1974
So, I get my new cassette player home with it’s one tape. And I listen to it over and over… especially the track Killer Queen which I think is a masterpiece and still rate as one of Queen’s best songs.
queen on killer queen
Freddie Mercury said:
People are used to hard rock, energy music from Queen, yet with this single you almost expect Noel Coward to sing it. It’s one of those bowler hat, black suspender belt numbers – not that Coward would wear that. (…) It’s about a high class call girl. I’m trying to say that classy people can be whores as well. That’s what the song is about, though I’d prefer people to put their interpretation upon it – to read into it what they like.
Brian May said:
‘Killer Queen’ was the turning point. It was the song that best summed up our kind of music, and a big hit, and we desperately needed it as a mark of something successful happening for us… I was always very happy with this song. The whole record was made in a very craftsman-like manner. I still enjoy listening to it because there’s a lot to listen to, but it never gets cluttered. There’s always space for all the little ideas to come through. And of course I like the solo, with that three-part section, where each part has its own voice. What can I say? It’s vintage Queen. The first time I heard Freddie playing that song, I was lying in my room in Rockfield [a residential recording studio in Wales], feeling very sick. After Queen’s first American tour I had hepatitis, and then I had very bad stomach problems and I had to be operated on. So I remember just lying there, hearing Freddie play this really great song and feeling sad, because I thought, ‘I can’t even get out of bed to participate in this. Maybe the group will have to go on without me.’ No one could figure out what was wrong with me. But then I did go into the hospital and I got fixed up, thank God. And when I came out again, we were able to finish off ‘Killer Queen.’ They left some space for me and I did the solo. I had strong feelings about one of the harmony bits in the chorus, so we had another go at that too.
Brian May also said of Killer Queen in Q magazine March 2008:
This is a perfect pop record and one of Freddie’s greatest songs. It’s beautifully constructed and it’s also got one of the solos I’m most proud of.
killer queen fax
- All members of Queen were, or are, talented musicians and songwriters who penned great songs. Killer Queen was written by Freddie Mercury.
- Killer Queen is about a high-class call girl.
- Killer Queen is the second track on the 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack.
- Despite Sheer Heart Attack being their third album, Killer Queen was the band’s breakthrough hit. It rose to #2 in the UK and #12 in the USA.
- The single was a double A-side with Flick of the Wrist – the song failed to reach the charts.
- In 1986 Killer Queen was included as the B-side to Who Wants to Live Forever.
- In concert Killer Queen was usually part of a medley, in the early years at the end of Bohemian Rhapsody and, in the middle years, at the end of Somebody to Love.
- In Ben Elton‘s musical We Will Rock You, Killer Queen is an evil matriarch who controls the music industry.
- Killer Queen Lyrics.
0n a personal note
Sheer Heart Attack includes two songs of interest to me. Brighton Rock is the name of a book by one of my favourite all time authors, Graham Greene. Whether the song has anything to do with the book depends on whose opinion you choose to listen to.
Bring Back That Leroy Brown was written by Freddie Mercury. The title alludes to the hit single, Bad Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce, one of my all time favourite artists about whom I will write sometime very soon.