Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...)
|"Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...)"|
|Song by Queen from the album A Night at the Opera|
|Released||21 November 1975|
|A-side||Bohemian Rhapsody (Poland only)|
Sarm East Studios
|Label||EMI, Parlophone (Europe)
Elektra, Hollywood (US)
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.
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, 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, Norman Sheffield denied that he had mistreated the band in his capacity as manager, and referred to copies of the original 1972 Queen management contracts between Sheffield and Queen — included in the book — to back up his defence.
Sheffield died in 2014.
"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
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine (1975-12-02). "A Night at the Opera - Queen | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-07-01.
- "DRUM!Magazine". www.drummagazine.com. Retrieved 2016-09-04.
- 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 2016-07-01.
- Dave Robinson (2014-06-26). "Trident Studios founder Norman Sheffield dies". PSNEurope.com. Retrieved 2016-07-01.