Sheer Heart Attack

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Sheer Heart Attack
Queen Sheer Heart Attack.png
Studio album by
Released8 November 1974
RecordedJuly 15 - September 1974
Queen chronology
Queen II
Sheer Heart Attack
A Night at the Opera
Singles from Sheer Heart Attack
  1. "Killer Queen” / “Flick of the Wrist"
    Released: 21 October 1974
  2. "Now I'm Here"
    Released: 17 January 1975
  3. "Lily of the Valley"
    Released: April 1975 (Japan only)

Sheer Heart Attack is the third studio album by the British rock band Queen, released on 8 November 1974 by EMI Records in the United Kingdom and by Elektra Records in the United States. Digressing from the progressive themes featured on their first two albums, this album featured more pop-centric and conventional rock tracks and marked a step towards the "classic" Queen sound.[1] It was produced by the band and Roy Thomas Baker and launched Queen to mainstream popularity in the UK and throughout the world.

After the release of Queen II, the group embarked on a promotional tour with Mott the Hoople. However, in the middle of the tour, Brian May was struck down with illness, forcing the entire tour to end early. Much of the album was written while May was recovering in hospital; nonetheless, the album's first single "Killer Queen" reached number 2 in the British charts and provided them with their first top 20 hit in the U.S., peaking at number 12 on the Billboard singles chart. Sheer Heart Attack was the first Queen album to hit the U.S. top 20, peaking at number 12 in 1975. The album has been acknowledged for containing "a wealth of outstanding hard rock guitar tracks".[2] Retrospectively, it has been listed by multiple publications as one of the band's best works and has been deemed an essential glam rock album.[3]

Background and recording[edit]

"Nobody knew we were going to be told we had two weeks to write Sheer Heart Attack. And we had to — it was only thing we could do. Brian was in hospital."

-Freddie Mercury[4]

After completing their second album, the group embarked on their Queen II Tour as a support act for Mott the Hoople. They toured extensively throughout the UK, at which point the two groups decided to tour through the US, in what was Queen's first US tour. The two bands would remain on friendly terms for the rest of their career, with Ian Hunter performing "All the Young Dudes" at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.[5] They played their first US show on 4 April in Denver, Colorado,[6] as a support which Freddie Mercury reportedly disliked, saying "Being support is one of the most traumatic experiences of my life".[4] However, at the climax of the tour in Boston, Brian May was discovered to have hepatitis, possibly from the use of a contaminated needle during vaccinations the group received before travelling to Australia.[6] The remainder of the tour was subsequently cancelled and Queen flew back home, where May was hospitalised.[7] The group began writing new material until May was rushed back to hospital with an undiagnosed stomach ulcer. This left the remaining members with two weeks to write their next album, the majority of which was done in the studio.[6]

Unlike their earlier albums, Sheer Heart Attack was recorded at four different studios; though they still worked at Trident Studios, they began moving to AIR, Rockfield and Wessex Sound Studios.[8] They left spaces on their songs for May to record his guitar and vocal parts upon return.[9] When May returned to work, he remembered it as a strange experience, citing that “It was very weird, because I was able to see the group from the outside, and was pretty excited by what I saw”.[6] Gary Langan (later with ZTT Records), who was a tape operator on "Now I'm Here" and "Brighton Rock", recalled that “When we finished work at Sarm, we’d meet them at a club called the Valbonne in Soho. That’s when they let their hair down.”[6]



The album noticeably shifts away from the progressive rock themes of its predecessors, and has been categorised as hard rock[2][10][11] and glam rock.[3][12] The Daily Vault described it as "an important transition album" because it showcased "what the band would soon become while giving a nod to their hard-rock past,"[11] while Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic observed that although there are still references to the fantasy themes of their earlier works, particularly on "In the Lap of the Gods" and "Lily of the Valley", "the fantasy does not overwhelm as it did on the first two records".[1]

"Killer Queen" was written in a single night, which contrasts with the "ages" it took to write "The March of the Black Queen" as Mercury put it,[4] while John Deacon would write his very first song, "Misfire". "Brighton Rock" was written during the making of Queen II, "Stone Cold Crazy" had its genesis in Mercury's pre-Queen band Wreckage, and Mercury had written "Flick of the Wrist" during May's absence. Sheer Heart Attack was also the first album in which all four band members contributed songs; "Stone Cold Crazy" was the first song in which all four band members would receive a writing credit.

Side one[edit]

"Brighton Rock"[edit]

"Brighton Rock" was written by Brian May during the Queen II sessions, but was not recorded at that time as the group felt it would not fit with the rest of the album.[13] Lyrically, it tells the story of two young lovers named Jenny and Jimmy meeting in Brighton on a public holiday.[14] Mods travelling to Brighton on bank holidays was a popular narrative at the time, such as The Who's Quadrophenia.[15] Jenny cannot linger because she is afraid her mother will find out "how I spent my holiday", but afterwards "writes a letter every day"; Jimmy, eager on the day, is not so happy with her "nothing can my love erase": now he is the one afraid of discovery by "my lady".

The song includes an unaccompanied guitar solo interlude,[14] which makes extensive use of delay to build up guitar harmony and contrapuntal melodic lines. It grew out of May's experimentation with an Echoplex unit, as he had been attempting to recreate his guitar orchestrations during live performances of "Son and Daughter". He had made modifications to the original unit so that he could change the delay times, as he felt that it wasn't the length he needed, and ran each echo through a separate amplifier to avoid interference.[16]

The studio version only contains one "main" guitar and one "echoed" guitar for a short section, but live, May would usually split his guitar signal into "main" and two "echoed", with each going to a separate bank of amplifiers. The guitar solo on this song has been performed live at most concerts by Queen or May, either as part of this song, in a medley with another, or as a standalone piece. May also performed some of the solo at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.[17]

It is considered to be one of May's finest solos,[14] with Guitar World ranking it 41 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time.[16] The song was notably used in the 2017 film Baby Driver, being one of the favorite songs of the main character Baby and played during the film's final action scene.

"Killer Queen"[edit]

"Killer Queen" was written by Freddie Mercury and was the band's first international hit.[18][19] It is one of the few songs by him for which he wrote the lyrics first, which are about a high class prostitute. The band initially recorded tracks for the song without May, because he was recovering in hospital from a duodenal ulcer, leaving spaces for him to fill when he was able to. Mercury played a jangle piano as well as a grand piano. It was performed on Top of the Pops after charting as a single.

"Tenement Funster, Flick of the Wrist and Lily of the Valley medley"[edit]

Roger Taylor wrote "Tenement Funster" about youth and rebellion and sang lead vocals, while John Deacon played the song's prominent acoustic guitar parts in May's absence. The song segues into Mercury's "Flick of the Wrist" (which was a double A side along with Killer Queen), and then into another Mercury song, "Lily of the Valley", making the three songs a medley.[20]

"Now I'm Here"[edit]

"Now I'm Here" was written by May while hospitalised, and recalls the group's early tour supporting Mott the Hoople, it was recorded during the last week of the sessions, with him playing piano.[21]

Side two[edit]

"In the Lap of the Gods"[edit]

"In the Lap of the Gods" was written by Mercury and featured multiple vocal overdubs from himself and Roger Taylor. The song features one of the highest notes on the album. Although most people believe Roger’s high notes are falsetto, they are not. They are a part of his normal range. Taylor was a choirboy as a child and always sang the high parts because of his unusually high register. Other than the name, it is completely unrelated to In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited.

"Stone Cold Crazy"[edit]

"Stone Cold Crazy" was one of the earliest tracks that Queen performed live, and had several different arrangements before being recorded for Sheer Heart Attack. No band member was able to remember who had written the lyrics when the album was released, hence they shared writing credit, the first of their songs to do so. The lyrics themselves deal with gangsters, making a reference to Al Capone. The track has a fast tempo and heavy distortion, presaging speed metal.[22] Music magazine Q described "Stone Cold Crazy" as "thrash metal before the term was invented".[23] The song was played live at almost every Queen concert between 1974–78.[24][25][26][27]

Metallica covered the song as their contribution to the 1990 compilation album Rubáiyát: Elektra's 40th Anniversary. This cover version was later used as a B-side of their "Enter Sandman" single and subsequently won a Grammy Award; it also appeared on their covers/B-sides album Garage Inc. The Metallica version of the song is more aggressive than the original; they also slightly altered the lyrics, adding two uses of the word "fuck" and changing the more humorous lines for more violent lyrics, such as "walking down the street/shooting people that I meet/with my fully loaded tommy gun". James Hetfield once performed it together with Queen & Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath fame (singing Metallica's altered lyrics) at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. Metallica also played the song as an encore during their 1991–93 Black Album tour; it appears on the live CD Live Shit: Binge & Purge and the 2009 live DVD Français Pour une Nuit.

"Dear Friends"[edit]

"Dear Friends" was written by May and sung by Mercury.


"Misfire" was John Deacon's first individual composition for the band, and featured him playing most guitars.

"Bring Back That Leroy Brown"[edit]

"Bring Back That Leroy Brown" was written by Mercury and features him playing grand piano and jangle piano, as well as multiple vocal overdubs. May played a short section on ukulele-banjo and Deacon played a line on the double bass. DRUM! Magazine commends Taylor's drum work, calling it a good example of his versatility. "It really shows off Taylor’s versatility. He nails dozens of kicks throughout this fast and tricky song and proves that he could’ve been a big band drummer or ably fit into any theatrical pit band if Queen hadn’t worked out so well for him. Honky-tonk piano, upright bass, ukulele-banjo, and a smokin’ drummer all add up to a rollicking good time."[28] The song's title alludes to the then-recent hit "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" by American singer-songwriter Jim Croce who had died in a plane crash the previous year. The song was played live in an arrangement that shortened the song and was, except for the very end and one other line, purely instrumental. May's ukulele-banjo was brought onstage especially for this song. An a cappella version was released as part of the 2011 remaster of the album.

"She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)"[edit]

"She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)" was written and sung by May with him and Deacon playing acoustic guitars. Its finale features what May referred to as "New York nightmare sounds", which include NYC police vehicle sirens and deep-breathing sounds which accompany the closing bars.

"In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited"[edit]

"In the Lap of the Gods ... Revisited" was Mercury's first attempt to write a song that the audience would sing along to, similar to the more successful "We Are the Champions". It was one of the set closers from 1974 to 1977. In the 1986 Magic tour it was performed again in a medley which would segue into "Seven Seas of Rhye".

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]
Chicago Tribune2.5/4 stars[29]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[30]
Pitchfork Media9/10[31]
Q4/5 stars[33]
Record Collector4/5 stars[33]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[34]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[35]
Uncut4/5 stars[33]
The Daily VaultB+[11]
Classic Rock4.5/5 stars[36]
Backseat Mafia8.5/10[37]

NME wrote, "A feast. No duffers, and four songs that will just run and run: Killer Queen, Flick of the Wrist, Now I'm Here, and In the Lap of the Gods...revisited".[38] The Winnipeg Free Press commended "Brian May's multi-tracked guitar, Freddie Mercury's stunning vocalising and Roy Thomas Baker's dynamic production work", calling the album "a no-holds barred, full-scale attack on the senses".[39] Circus referred to the album as "perhaps the heaviest, rockingest assault on these shores we've enjoyed in some time".[40] Rolling Stone wrote, "If it's hard to love, it's hard not to admire: This band is skilled, after all, and it dares".[34] John Mendelsohn was unimpressed, writing, "I hunted all over both sides of this latest album for something, anything, even remotely as magnificent as "Keep Yourself Alive" or "Father to Son", only to end up empty-eared and bawling".[41] As 1974 drew to a close, the album was ranked by Disc as the third best of the year[42] and placed a joint No. 24 of the 60 albums to appear in NME's end-of-year list.[43]

AllMusic later said "the theatricality is now wielded on everyday affairs, which ironically makes them sound larger than life. And this sense of scale, combined with the heavy guitars, pop hooks, and theatrical style, marks the true unveiling of Queen, making Sheer Heart Attack as the moment where they truly came into their own".[1] Q called the record "indispensable" and "one of the great pop/rock admixtures of the '70s".[33] Pitchfork wrote, "Sheer Heart Attack not only improves on every aspect of their sound suggested by the first two records, but delivers some of the finest music of their career... This is the band at the height of its powers."[31] Jon Bryan of Backseat Mafia described it as "the first album where Queen got it unarguably right," noting that "such obvious arrogance suited them."[37]

Benjamin Ray of the Daily Vault felt that "Queen somehow manages to sound like every rock band of the 70s on here, including Rush, Zeppelin and even Uriah Heep." However, he noted the difference was that "Queen actually tries to be pretentious and bombastic, and often times they are so over the top one can't help but be entertained," finally concluding that it was "their most fun and showcases everything they did right."[11] The BBC wrote, "they stretched contemporary production methods to their very limit with multi-layered vocals and guitars and Freddie's vaudevillian streak finally emerged... this was the album that finally saw Queen find their true voice".[44] Rock historian Paul Fowles wrote in A Concise History of Rock Music that Sheer Heart Attack "saw the band become increasingly focused on the emerging cult figure of Mercury" and his "unique brand of rock theater", especially on the single "Killer Queen".[45]


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die United States 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[46] 2005 *
Classic Rock United Kingdom The 100 Greatest British Rock Albums Ever[47] 2006 28
The 200 Greatest Albums of the 70's (20 greatest of 1974)[48] 2006 *
Kerrang! United Kingdom Poll: The 100 Best British Rock Albums Ever[49] 2005 8
The 100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever[50] 2007 45
Mojo United Kingdom 100 Greatest Guitar Albums[51] 2002 72
70 of the Greatest Albums of the 70's[52] 2006 *
The 100 Records That Changed the World[53] 2007 88
NME United Kingdom Poll: Greatest 100 Albums of All Time[54] 2006 63
Radio Caroline United Kingdom Poll: Top 100 Albums[55] 1977 50
Trouser Press United States Best Albums of the 1970s[56] 1980 *
Virgin United Kingdom Poll: All Time Album Top 1000 Albums[57] 2000 492
Rock Hard Germany The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time[58] 2005 308
* denotes an unranked list

Mercury's appraisal[edit]

2011 reissue[edit]

On 8 November 2010, record company Universal Music announced a remastered and expanded reissue of the album set for release in May 2011. This as part of a new record deal between Queen and Universal Music, which meant Queen's association with EMI Records would come to an end after almost 40 years. All of Queen's studio catalog were reissued in 2011.


From 30 October 1974 to 1 May 1975, the album was promoted on tour. The tour consisted of three legs and 77 individual shows, and was the band's first world tour.

The supporting bands consisted of Styx, Kansas, Hustler and Mahogany Rush.

Track listing[edit]

All lead vocals by Freddie Mercury unless noted.

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Brighton Rock"Brian MayMercury with Brian May5:08
2."Killer Queen"Freddie Mercury 3:01
3."Tenement Funster"Roger TaylorRoger Taylor2:48
4."Flick of the Wrist"Mercury 3:19
5."Lily of the Valley"Mercury 1:43
6."Now I'm Here"May 4:10
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
7."In the Lap of the Gods"Mercury 3:20
8."Stone Cold Crazy"
9."Dear Friends"May 1:07
10."Misfire"Deacon 1:50
11."Bring Back That Leroy Brown"Mercury 2:13
12."She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)"MayMay4:08
13."In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited"Mercury 3:42
Total length:38:41


Partially sourced from.[60] Track numbers refer to CD and digital releases.



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Poland (ZPAV)[73]
2008 Agora SA album reissue
Platinum 20,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[74] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[75] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


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External links[edit]