Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#676 in the Series) is Queen, News Of The World
It’s hard to believe that it’s over twenty years since the passing of quite possibly the best front man ever to grace a stage. Freddie Mercury, the African-born Briton with the enviable vocal range, ability to write hit after hit, and over-the-top stage theatrics, died in 1991, leaving a gaping hole in the music world. Queen (or at least half of them) has limped on, most notably with Paul Rodgers, but it’s painfully obvious that Mercury is irreplaceable.
Unfortunately I never got to see him live; I was only ten when he died, but I first got to know the band’s music when three primary school mates and I dressed up as Queen and mimed to a couple of their songs in the school talent show (I was Brian May!) Since then I’ve always considered Queen to be part of my musical fabric.
News of the World, released in 1977, has all the best Queen elements; shared song-writing duties, shared lead vocals, massive anthems, outstanding guitar work by May, out-and-out rocking, Freddie’s theatrics, and a mixture of styles; all combining to make one great album.
What can be said about the first two songs on the album, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions?” It’d be a real push to find a more impressive and well-known opening salvo than these two tracks on any other album. May wrote “We Will Rock You” with live performances and audience participation in mind, while the Mercury-penned “We Are The Champions” is possibly the most widely-used sporting anthem. Is there a stadium in the Western world whose speakers haven’t blasted this song at some ridiculous volume?
But still, in my opinion, they aren’t even close to being the best songs on the album. That spot has to go to “Spread Your Wings,” one of my favourite Queen songs. Written by John Deacon, it tells the story of a bar worker who Mercury urges to “leave his dead life behind, spread your wings and fly away.” Part of the appeal of most Queen albums is that each one contains songs just as good or better than the ones released as the major singles. Try “Brighton Rock” from Sheer Heart Attack, or “Machines” from The Works, to name but two. The range of styles the band could play well was also a major plus.
Song six, “Fight From The Inside” is another fantastic, yet lesser-known Queen song. Written and almost entirely recorded by Roger Taylor; it is a funky, catchy track, with excellent guitar work by the drummer and only a small amount of additional input from May. Queen were never a band to rely solely on one songwriter, with all members fighting to have their compositions included on releases, and each member (except Deacon) releasing good quality solo material.
Mercury indulges his sexual overtness in “Get Down Make Love,” before May sings his own composition “Sleeping On The Sidewalk,” recorded in one take, and the only song on the album not to feature Freddie. I’ve always thought May has a great voice, and could easily be lead singer in any other band, but when you’re competing with Freddie there’s only going to be one winner.
“Who Needs You” is a cute, latin-flavoured track that sounds a little like some of Kevin Ayers’ more bonkers moments, and “It’s Late” is a bluesy rocker that reached number 78 in the billboard charts as a single, yet flew a little under the radar in terms of the Queen catalogue, as it wasn’t played live very extensively. And still, it is a fantastic track.
Closer “My Melancholy Blues” does what the name suggests, with added jazzy touches, finishing off an album of impressive scope. When you think of classic Queen albums, it’s too easy to go straight for A Night At The Opera or A Day At The Races, but News Of The World has all the classic Queen elements and more. If I crank the volume up loud enough, I just might be tempted to break out into some serious air guitar à la 1991, and wouldn’t that be a sight to behold?
– Paul McBride, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
- “We Will Rock You” (Brian May) 2:01
- “We Are the Champions” (Mercury) 2:59
- “Sheer Heart Attack” (Roger Taylor) 3:26
- “All Dead, All Dead” (May) 3:10
- “Spread Your Wings” (John Deacon) 4:34
- “Fight from the Inside” (Taylor) 3:03
- “Get Down, Make Love” (Mercury) 3:51
- “Sleeping on the Sidewalk” (May) 3:06
- “Who Needs You” (Deacon) 3:05
- “It’s Late” (May) 6:26
- “My Melancholy Blues” (Mercury/Pixley) 3:29
- Freddie Mercury: lead and backing vocals, piano, percussion, cowbell on “Who Needs You”
- Brian May: electric and acoustic guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on “All Dead, All Dead” and “Sleeping on the Sidewalk”, percussion
- Roger Taylor: drums, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals on “Sheer Heart Attack” and “Fight from the Inside”, electric guitar, bass
- John Deacon: bass guitar, acoustic guitar, Spanish guitar, percussion
- Official Website of Queen
- See our piece on Sheer Heart Attack
- See more album from 1977
- Back to the Cool Album Home Page
Listen to the album by clicking play, below that we have some live fun.