Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...)
|"Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...)"|
|Song by Queen|
|from the album A Night at the Opera|
|A-side||"Bohemian Rhapsody (Poland only)"|
|Released||21 November 1975|
August – November 1975|
Sarm East Studios
|Producer(s)||Queen, Roy Thomas Baker|
|A Night at the Opera track listing|
"Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...)" is a song by the British rock band Queen, and is the opening track on their fourth album A Night at the Opera. The song was written by Freddie Mercury and allegedly describes his hatred of Queen's original manager, the late Norman Sheffield, who is reputed to have mistreated the band and abused his managerial role from 1972 to 1975. Roger Taylor also noted that despite the success of Killer Queen and Sheer Heart Attack, the album preceding A Night at the Opera, the band was broke before the album was made.
The song was recorded and mixed at Sarm East Studios in late 1975. As with "Bohemian Rhapsody", most of the guitar parts on the song were initially played on piano by Mercury, to demonstrate to Brian May how they needed to be played on guitar.
The song is dominated by guitars, strong lead and backing vocals as well as piano. It's in 4/4 meter, and has a piano arpeggio intro with heavy guitars, bowed double bass, mechanical sounding noise and a loud shriek by Roger Taylor, which abruptly leads into the song in B minor. There are numerous subsections and layers, as was typical for Queen at the time. The verses have short sections with the tempo virtually halved, and the choruses are emphasised with strong harmonies and drum fills.
Drum! magazine said of Taylor's drum work: "[...] Shortly after the 2/4 measure there’s an unusual snare accent on the & of 4 and a change to a half-time groove. These back-and-forth feel changes continue throughout the song and Taylor somehow makes them flow smoothly." 
The song is considered to be Freddie Mercury's "hate letter" to Queen's original manager Norman Sheffield, incorporating a range of vicious lyrics, and described by Mercury as being "so vindictive that Brian felt bad singing it." Though the song makes no direct reference to him, Sheffield was appalled when he heard a playback of the song at Trident Studios at the time of the album's release, and sued both the band and the record label for defamation. This resulted in an out-of-court settlement, thus revealing to the public his connection with the song.
In his autobiography published in 2013, Life on Two Legs: Set The Record Straight, Sheffield denied that he had mistreated the band in his capacity as manager, and cited the original 1972 management contracts between himself and Queen — included in the book — in his defence. Sheffield died in 2014.
During live performances Mercury would usually dedicate the song to "a real motherfucker of a gentleman." This line was censored (using bleeps) on their Live Killers album in 1979. On the Protomen's cover album, A Night of Queen, lead singer Raul Panther dedicates the song to "a real asshole that Freddie Mercury used to know."
A Night at the Opera, remarked author Michael Chabon, "is where I progressed from 45s to albums. It was gatefold, with the lyrics printed on the inside, and you could just sit there poring over them and trying to figure who Freddie might be talking about on songs like 'Death on Two Legs'."
"Death on Two Legs" was regularly performed live by Queen up to and including The Game Tour. Only one live version of the song has been officially released, on the 1979 album Live Killers. The piano introduction, however, was played during the Hot Space and The Works tours.
- Freddie Mercury – lead and backing vocals, piano
- Brian May – electric guitars, backing vocals
- Roger Taylor – drums, backing vocals
- John Deacon – bass guitar, double bass
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine (2 December 1975). "A Night at the Opera - Queen | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
- mobile4357 (2008-02-23), Queen: The Making of "Death On Two Legs", retrieved 2017-06-24
- "DRUM!Magazine". www.drummagazine.com. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- 17 March 1977, Circus Magazine.
- Sheffield, Norman (2013). Life on Two Legs. UK: Trident Publishing. p. 239. ISBN 9780957513310.
- "Life on Two Legs: Set The Record Straight: Norman Sheffield, Paul McCartney". Amazon.co.uk. ISBN 9780957513310. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
- Dave Robinson (26 June 2014). "Trident Studios founder Norman Sheffield dies". PSNEurope.com. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
- Daly, Joe (May 2015). "Michael Chabon's 10 life-changing pieces of vinyl". Classic Rock #209. p. unnumbered.