It's a Hard Life

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This article is about the Queen song. For the 1962 Italian novel, see It's a Hard Life (novel).
This article is about Queen's song. For the 1973 song by Roger Daltrey, see Daltrey (album).
"It's a Hard Life"
Single by Queen
from the album The Works
B-side "Is This the World We Created...?"
Released 16 July 1984
Format Vinyl record (7", 12")
Recorded January 1984
Genre Glam rock, Art rock, Progressive rock
Length 4:08 (Album version)
5:05 (12" extended version)
Label EMI, Capitol
Writer(s) Freddie Mercury
Producer(s) Queen and Reinhold Mack
Queen singles chronology
"I Want to Break Free"
"It's a Hard Life"
"Hammer to Fall"

"It's a Hard Life" is a song by the British rock band Queen, written by lead singer Freddie Mercury. It was featured on their 1984 album The Works, and it was the third single from that album. It reached number 6 in the UK Singles Chart and was their third consecutive Top 10 single from the album. It also reached number 2 in Ireland and number 20 in the Netherlands. It also came 19th on a poll, The Nation's Favourite Queen Song broadcast on ITV on Tuesday 11 November 2014.


The opening lyric and melody of "It's a Hard Life" is based on the line "Ridi, Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore infranto!" (Laugh, clown, at your broken love!) from "Vesti la giubba", an aria from Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci.

Musically, the song recreates the feel of "Play the Game" in order to update the story,[1] utilising Mercury's piano playing and the band's characteristic technique of layered harmonies. It is recorded very much with the ethos of earlier Queen albums in that it features 'no synthesizers'. By that time the band had been using synths on record since 1980's The Game and the gesture of returning to the traditional Queen sound was comforting to some fans.

Music video[edit]

Tim Pope's video which accompanies the song has been created in an operatic "style," with the band and extras appearing in period "operatic-style" costume. The video also featured an unusual "skull and bones"-themed guitar that cost more than £1,000,[2] played by May, which can be seen on the single cover.

The band found the costumes hot and uncomfortable, and the "eyes" on Mercury's outfit were ridiculed by the others, saying he looked "like a giant prawn".[2] Both Brian May and Roger Taylor groaned out loud when shown this video during their commentary for the Greatest Video Hits 2 collection. Taylor said it was "the most stupid music video ever made." May pointed out more positively that the video was an ironical take, as it portrayed Mercury as a wealthy man singing about how hard life and love are, and at that point Mercury in real life possessed great wealth but was still searching for love.

Taylor, by his side, remarked that he'd "actually loved the song, but hated the video." Despite this, the video was posted on the band's official YouTube channel.

One of the extras in the clip is Austrian actress, Barbara Valentin.


Live recordings[edit]

The song was only played on The Works Tour.

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1984) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[3] 6
Australia (Kent Music Report)[4] 65
Germany (Official German Charts)[5] 26
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[6] 20
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[7] 4
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[8] 31
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[9] 30
Ireland (IRMA)[10] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[11] 72


  1. ^ "Queen's Greatest Videos". Episode 1/1. 1999. 30 minutes in. Channel 4.  Missing or empty |series= (help)
  2. ^ a b Queen, Box of Flix, 1991, Picture Music International, liner notes p. 7
  3. ^ "July 1984/ Archive Chart: 28 July 1984" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  4. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (doc). Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  5. ^ " – Queen Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  6. ^ " – Queen – It's A Hard Life" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Queen search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  8. ^ " – Queen – It's A Hard Life" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  9. ^ " – Queen – It's A Hard Life". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  10. ^ Irish charts search. Accessed on 23 July 2013. In the box under Search by Song Title, type in It's a Hard Life. Then click search. Accessed on 23 July 2013.
  11. ^ "Queen – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Queen. Retrieved 23 July 2013.

External links[edit]