Killer Queen

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For the Third fragrance by Katy Perry, see Killer Queen by Katy Perry.
For the Queen tribute album, see Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen.
For the Family Guy episode, see Killer Queen (Family Guy).
"Killer Queen"
Single by Queen
from the album Sheer Heart Attack
A-side "Flick of the Wrist"
Released 21 October 1974
Format Vinyl (7")
Recorded 1974, Trident Studios
Genre Rock
Length 3:00
Label EMI (UK), Elektra (US)
Writer(s) Freddie Mercury
Producer(s) Roy Thomas Baker, Queen
Queen singles chronology
"Seven Seas of Rhye"
(1974)
"Killer Queen" /
"Flick of the Wrist"
(1974)
"Now I'm Here"
(1975)

"Killer Queen" is a song by the British rock band Queen. Written by pianist and lead singer Freddie Mercury, it was featured on their 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack, and also appears on the band's compilation album, Greatest Hits.[1] When released as a single, "Killer Queen" was Queen's breakthrough hit, reaching number two in the United Kingdom and number 12 in the United States.[2][3] It was released as a double A-side in the UK, the US and Canada (where it reached number 15 in the RPM 100 national singles chart),[4] with the song "Flick of the Wrist". In 1986, it was featured as the B-side to "Who Wants to Live Forever".[5]

Mercury commented that he wrote the lyrics first before adding the musical arrangements. The recording features elaborate four-part harmonies (particularly in the choruses, and also providing backing parts in the verses), and also an elaborate multitracked guitar solo by Brian May, including use of the "bell effect". The song, in the second line, mentions the phrase "Let them eat cake", a phrase (mis)attributed to Marie Antoinette: "Let them eat cake," she said, Just like Marie Antoinette. In an interview for a documentary video about Queen, Eric Hall, who promoted Queen in radio stations at that time, unveiled that the song was written about him. Eric Hall:

The story is this: He comes to see me one day to play me a record, and he says to me, "Eric, I want you to hear this." And he puts this record on. I said, "Love it, love it. It's gonna be a hit. Love it, monster. Monster me!" [Freddie then says], "No, you have... Eric. Have a listen to the lyric." He put it on again. ♪ She keeps Moet et Chandon in her her fancy cabinet...♪ [Freddie:] "This song's about you. I'm the Queen—me. "I'm" being Freddie, and I can't have you. And that's killing me." Now I listen to it again. He was right, 'cause I had a fancy cabinet at EMI which I kept Moet et Chandon on.[6]

Recording sessions[edit]

Besides using his grand piano as usual, Mercury overdubbed the song with an upright (credited as "jangle piano"), to give the track a vaudeville sound. At one point there are two bass guitars, one of which does a descending run. Contrary to songs for the first two Queen albums, this one was partly recorded outside England, at Rockfield Studios in Wales.[7]

Queen on the record[edit]

Freddie Mercury:[8]

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:

'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.

Live performances[edit]

The song was played from 1974–78 live as part of a medley.[9][10][11][12] In 1974, the song was played following "In the Lap of the Gods",[9] and in 1975–76, the song was played after "Bohemian Rhapsody".[10] In 1977, the song was played as the introduction to a medley, followed by "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy",[12] and in 1978, preceded "Bicycle Race".[13] In 1979, the band played most of the song, and after the guitar solo ended, the opening bars of "I'm in Love with My Car" were played.[14] The song was played at the Montreal Forum, Quebec, Canada in November 1981, and is recorded in the live album, Queen Rock Montreal.[15] In 1984 and 1985, during The Works Tour, it was reintroduced in a medley following a truncated version of "Somebody to Love".[16]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1974/1975) Peak
position
Australian Singles Chart[citation needed] 24
Austrian Singles Chart[17] 10
Belgian Singles Chart[citation needed] 4
Canadian Singles Chart[18] 15
Dutch Singles Chart[19] 3
French Singles Chart[citation needed] 10
German Singles Chart[20] 12
Irish Singles Chart[21] 2
Norwegian Singles Chart[22] 4
UK Singles Chart[23] 2
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[24] 12

Sales and Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
United Kingdom (BPI)[25] Silver 250,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Personnel[edit]

On some performances Deacon provided backing vocals and played the triangle.

Rock Band Music Gaming Platform[edit]

The song was made available to download on December 7, 2010 for use in the Rock Band 3 music gaming platform in both Basic rhythm, and notably PRO mode which allows use of a real guitar / bass guitar, and MIDI compatible electronic drum kits / keyboards in addition to up to three-part harmony or backup vocals.[26][27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Queen: Greatest Hits Allmusic. Retrieved 31 August 2011
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books
  3. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums. London: Guinness World Records Limited
  4. ^ Top Singles - Volume 23, No. 14, 31 May 1975 Library and Archives Canada
  5. ^ Who Wants To Live Forever Ultimate Queen. Retrieved 4 September 2011
  6. ^ Documentary video The Story of Queen: Mercury Rising. Entertain ME Ltd. 2011.
  7. ^ Mark Hodkinson Queen: The Early Years Omnibus Press 2004. Retrieved 31 August 2011
  8. ^ NME, 2 November 1974 (Queen Archives)
  9. ^ a b Queen live on tour: Sheer Heart Attack: Setlist Queen Concerts. Retrieved 31 August 2011
  10. ^ a b Queen live on tour: A Night At The Opera: Setlist Queen Concerts. Retrieved 2 July 2011
  11. ^ Queen live on tour: Day At The Races (world): Setlist Queen Concerts. Retrieved 2 July 2011
  12. ^ a b Queen live on tour: News Of The World: Setlist Queen Concerts. Retrieved 2 July 2011
  13. ^ Queen live on tour: Jazz Queen Concerts. Retrieved 30 August 2011
  14. ^ Queen Rock Montreal Killer Queen Ultimate Queen. Retrieved 31 August 2011
  15. ^ Queen Rock Montreal Allmusic. Retrieved 31 August 2011
  16. ^ Queen live on tour: The Works 1984 Queen Concerts. Retrieved 31 August 2011
  17. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen - Killer Queen". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  18. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  19. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen - Killer Queen". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "charts.de". charts.de. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  21. ^ Jaclyn Ward - Fireball Media Group - http://www.fireballmedia.ie. "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  22. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen - Killer Queen". norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  23. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Killer Queen by Queen Search". The Official Charts Company. 6 May 2013. 
  24. ^ Queen. "Queen - Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  25. ^ "British single certifications – Killer Queen". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Killer Queen in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Go
  26. ^ Cortez, Hector (2010-12-04). "More Queen Tracks Coming To Rock Band 3". m&c. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  27. ^ Snider, Mike (2010-06-10). "Rock Band 3: What's New, What's Notable". USA Today. Retrieved 2012-11-08. 

External links[edit]