Killer Queen

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"Killer Queen"
Killer3cdfront.JPG
Single by Queen
from the album Sheer Heart Attack
A-side(double A-side) "Flick of the Wrist"
Released21 October 1974
FormatVinyl (7")
Recorded1974, Trident Studios
Genre
Length3:18
Label
Songwriter(s)Freddie Mercury
Producer(s)
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. It was written by lead singer Freddie Mercury and recorded for their third album Sheer Heart Attack in 1974. It was their first international hit, reaching number two in the UK and becoming their first US hit.[3] The song is about a high-class call girl and has been characterised as "Mercury's piano-led paean to a Moët-quaffing courtesan".[3][4]

Background and release[edit]

When released as a single, "Killer Queen" was Queen's breakthrough hit, reaching number two in the United Kingdom and number twelve in the United States.[5][6] It 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),[7] with the song "Flick of the Wrist". In 1986, it featured as the B-side to "Who Wants to Live Forever".[8] The song marked a departure from the heavier material of the band's first two albums, as well as the beginning of a more stylistically diverse approach in songwriting. At the same time, "Killer Queen" retained the essence of Queen's trademark sound, particularly in its meticulous vocal harmonies.

Mercury commented he wrote the lyrics before the melody and music, whereas normally he would do the opposite. He stated that the song was about a high-class call girl, although it has been suggested that he wrote the song about EMI promoter Eric Hall.[9][10] The recording features elaborate four-part harmonies (particularly in the choruses, and also providing backing parts in the verses), and also a multitracked guitar solo by Brian May which makes use of the bell effect. The song's first verse quotes a phrase falsely attributed to Marie Antoinette: " 'Let them eat cake,' she says, Just like Marie Antoinette."

Recording sessions[edit]

Besides using his grand piano as usual, Mercury overdubbed the song with an upright piano to give the track a vaudeville sound. At one point there are two distinct bass guitar lines, one of which diverges into a descending run. Unlike the first two Queen albums, this song was partly recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales.[11]

Queen on the song[edit]

Freddie Mercury:[12]

Brian May:

Live performances[edit]

The song was regularly performed between 1974 and 1981 as part of a medley.[13][14][15][16] In 1974–75, the song was played following "In the Lap of the Gods",[13] and in 1975–76, the song followed "Bohemian Rhapsody".[14] In 1984 and 1985, during The Works Tour, it was reintroduced in a medley following a truncated version of "Somebody to Love".[17]

Critical acclaim and legacy[edit]

The song won Mercury his first Ivor Novello Award.[18]

"Killer Queen" has been described by AllMusic as the true beginning of Queen's "radio sound" and "recalls the cabaret songs of yesteryear, but also shows how Queen was fast becoming a master of power pop".[3] Rock historian Paul Fowles wrote that "Killer Queen", with its "sleazy Parisian imagery", allowed "free rein" to Mercury's "unique brand of rock theater".[19]

American pop singer Katy Perry cites "Killer Queen" as an important influence on her. She said: "Queen's track 'Killer Queen' made me discover music and helped me come into my own at the age of 15. The way Freddie Mercury delivered his lyrics just made me feel like a confident woman."[20]

Chart performance[edit]

Sales and certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[39] Silver 250,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Personnel[edit]

5 Seconds of Summer version[edit]

"Killer Queen"
Single by 5 Seconds of Summer
Released25 October 2018
FormatDigital download, streaming
Length3:18
LabelVirgin EMI
Songwriter(s)Freddie Mercury
5 Seconds of Summer singles chronology
"Valentine"
(2018)
"Killer Queen"
(2018)

In October 2018, Australian pop-rock band 5 Seconds of Summer released a version of the song.[40]

The song was released to coincide with the release of the film Bohemian Rhapsody. Universal Music Group will release 3 tracks by different artists' channeling their inner Freddie Mercury; this is the second instalment, following Shawn Mendes' "Under Pressure" released two weeks earlier.[41][42][43]

According to Summer, Queen's "unique harmonies, the fluidity to their songwriting and how they each used their own musicality to back each other up have always inspired us. For us, the exploration of individual vocalists in a band is incredibly important and Queen helped us to see the future of how we want to sing, in addition to how we play our instruments."[44][45] A portion of the profits from the "Killer Queen" cover will be donated to Mercury Phoenix Trust, which was founded by Queen's Brian May and Roger Taylor (and the group's manager, Jim Beach) after Mercury's death to help fight AIDS worldwide. [44]

Reception[edit]

Brooke Bajgrowicz from Billboard said "The four-piece pop rock band launch into the anthemic a cappella chorus from the get-go... By the time the full-force chorus arrives, the fluid harmonies and catchy phrasing are instantly recognizable. While somewhat modernized, the single fades out in a style similar to the original Queen banger, and other '70s hits of the time".[44] Daniel Kreps from Rolling Stone called the version "Faithful".[45]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2018) Peak
position
New Zealand Hot Singles (RMNZ)[46] 18

References[edit]

  1. ^ "10 Essential Glam Rock Albums". Treblezine. 6 June 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2015. cheeky art-pop romps ("Killer Queen")
  2. ^ "Top 10 Freddie Mercury Queen Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 19 December 2015. three near-perfect minutes of orgiastic heavy glam rock
  3. ^ a b c d Prato, Greg. "Song Review by Greg Prato". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2015. the song recalls the cabaret songs of yesteryear, but also shows how Queen was fast becoming a master of power pop
  4. ^ Monahan, Mark (30 October 2015). "Why we still can't get enough of Queen". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums. London: Guinness World Records Limited
  7. ^ Top Singles - Volume 23, No. 14, 31 May 1975 Archived 25 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Library and Archives Canada
  8. ^ Who Wants To Live Forever Ultimate Queen. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  9. ^ "Presenter Profile: Eric Hall". BBC Essex. British Broadcasting Corporation. 31 July 2009. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  10. ^ "Flamboyant agent Eric Hall, who made his name during the nineties soccer boom, is out to conquer a new sport". Manchester Evening News. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  11. ^ Mark Hodkinson Queen: The Early Years Omnibus Press 2004. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Queen Interviews - Freddie Mercury - 11-02-1974 - NME - Queen Archives: Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, Interviews, Articles, Reviews". queenarchives.com. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Queen live on tour: Sheer Heart Attack: Setlist". Queen Concerts. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Queen live on tour: A Night At The Opera: Setlist". Queen Concerts. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  15. ^ "Queen live on tour: Day At The Races (world): Setlist". Queen Concerts. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  16. ^ "Queen live on tour: News Of The World: Setlist". Queen Concerts. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  17. ^ Queen live on tour: The Works 1984 Queen Concerts. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  18. ^ "Queen - forty years of glam-rocking genius". NME. 11 March 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  19. ^ Fowles, Paul (2009). A Concise History of Rock Music. Mel Bay Publications, Inc. p. 244. ISBN 978-0786666430.
  20. ^ "Katy Perry hails Freddie Mercury and 'Killer Queen' as a major influence". NME. 7 September 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  21. ^ Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Australian-charts.com. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  22. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen - Killer Queen". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  23. ^ "Queen - Killer Queen". Ultratop.be. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  24. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 8 June 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  25. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen - Killer Queen". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  26. ^ "charts.de". charts.de. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  27. ^ Jaclyn Ward. "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  28. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen - Killer Queen". norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  29. ^ [1][dead link]
  30. ^ Queen. "Queen - Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  31. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 5/31/75". Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  32. ^ "The ARIA Report: Issue 1499 (November 19, 2018)" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  33. ^ "Queen Chart History (Japan Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  34. ^ "Queen Chart History (Hot Rock Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  35. ^ "Top Selling Singles for 1974". Music Week. London, England: Spotlight Publications: 20. 4 January 1975.
  36. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  37. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1975" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  38. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1975/Top 100 Songs of 1975". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  39. ^ "British single certifications – Killer Queen". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Killer Queen in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  40. ^ "Killer Queen (single)". iTunes Store. Apple iTunes. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  41. ^ "Shawn Mendes drops cover of Queen's 'Under Pressure'". EW. October 12, 2018. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  42. ^ "Shawn Mendes and Teddy Geiger Pay Tribute to Queen With Acoustic 'Under Pressure' Cover: Listen". Billboard. October 12, 2018. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  43. ^ "5 SECONDS OF SUMMER HONOR FREDDIE MERCURY WITH "KILLER QUEEN" COVER". alt press. 26 October 2018. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  44. ^ a b c "5 Seconds Of Summer Pay Homage to Freddie Mercury With 'Killer Queen' Cover". Billboard. 26 October 2018. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  45. ^ a b "5 Seconds of Summer Celebrate Queen's Legacy With 'Killer Queen' Cover". Rolling Stone. 26 October 2018. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  46. ^ "NZ Hot Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. 5 November 2018. Retrieved 2 November 2018.

External links[edit]