Sheer Heart Attack
|Sheer Heart Attack|
|Studio album by Queen|
|Released||8 November 1974|
|Recorded||July–September 1974 at AIR, Rockfield, Trident and Wessex Sound studios|
|Label||EMI / Parlophone (Europe)
Elektra / Hollywood (US)
|Producer||Roy Thomas Baker, Queen|
|Singles from Sheer Heart Attack|
Sheer Heart Attack is the third studio album by British rock band Queen, released in November 1974. It was produced by the band and Roy Thomas Baker and distributed by EMI in the United Kingdom, and Elektra in the United States.
The album launched Queen to mainstream popularity both in the UK and internationally: the first single, "Killer Queen" reached No. 2 in the British charts and provided them with their first top 20 hit in the US, peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard singles chart. Sheer Heart Attack was also the first Queen album to hit the US top 20, peaking at No. 12 in 1975. Digressing from the progressive themes featured on their first two albums, this album featured more conventional rock tracks and marked a step towards the classic Queen sound. In recent years, it has been listed by multiple publications as one of the band's best works.
Brighton Rock tells the story of two young lovers named Jenny and Jimmy meeting in Brighton on a public holiday, Mods travelling to Brighton on bank holidays was a popular narrative at the time, such as The Who's Quadrophenia. 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, which used delay to build up guitar harmony and contrapuntal melodic lines. 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 closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Killer Queen was written by Mercury and was the band's first international hit. It is one of the few songs by him for which he wrote the lyrics first, which are about an upper-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.
Taylor wrote "Tenement Funster" about youth and rebellion, and sang lead vocals. The song segues into "Flick of the Wrist" (which became the B-side to Killer Queen), and then into "Lily of the Valley", making the three songs a medley. This medley was covered by Dream Theater on the bonus disc of their album Black Clouds & Silver Linings.
"In the Lap of the Gods" was written by Mercury and featured multiple vocal overdubs from himself and Taylor.
"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 tempos and heavy distortion, in a similar style speed metal. Music magazine Q described "Stone Cold Crazy" as "thrash metal before the term was invented". The song was played live at almost every Queen concert between 1974-78.
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. Hellyeah played Metallica's version of "Stone Cold Crazy" on the 2007 Family Values Tour, sometimes referring to it under the title "Stone Cold Wasted".
"Misfire" was Deacon's first composition for the band, and featured him playing most guitars.
"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. 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 a different arrangement that shortened the song and was, except for the very end and one other line, purely instrumental. May's ukelele-banjo was brought onstage especially for this song.
"She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)" was written and sung by May with May 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 ... Revisted" was Mercury's first attempt to write a song that the audience would all sing along to, similar to the more successful "We Are the Champions". It was one of the set closers from 1974 to 1977. In 1986 it was performed was again in a medley which would segue into "Seven Seas of Rhye", and recently has been performed once again on their tours with vocalist Adam Lambert.
Reception and legacy
|Winnipeg Free Press||(favourable)|
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“. 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". Circus referred to the album as "perhaps the heaviest, rockingest assault on these shores we've enjoyed in some time". Rolling Stone offered a mostly positive review, giving the album a 3/5 star rating, and concluding, "If it's hard to love, it's hard not to admire: This band is skilled, after all, and it dares". 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". As 1974 drew to a close, the album was ranked by Disc as the third best of the year and placed a joint No. 24 of the 60 albums to appear in NME's end-of-year list.
Allmusic awarded the album 4.5/5 stars, writing, "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". Mojo awarded the album 4/5 stars, noting that it was "often overlooked in favour of A Night at the Opera," and calling it "equally stellar". Q awarded the album 5/5 stars, calling it "indispensable" and "one of the great pop/rock admixtures of the '70s". Pitchfork awarded the album a 9/10, writing, "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." 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".
|1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die||United Kingdom||1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die||2005||*|
|Classic Rock||United Kingdom||The 100 Greatest British Rock Albums Ever||2006||28|
|The 200 Greatest Albums of the 70's (20 greatest of 1974)||2006||*|
|Kerrang!||United Kingdom||Poll: The 100 Best British Rock Albums Ever||2005||8|
|The 100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever||2007||45|
|Mojo||United Kingdom||100 Greatest Guitar Albums||2002||72|
|70 of the Greatest Albums of the 70's||2006||*|
|The 100 Records That Changed the World||2007||88|
|NME||United Kingdom||Poll: Greatest 100 Albums of All Time||2006||63|
|Radio Caroline||United Kingdom||Poll: Top 100 Albums||1977||50|
|Trouser Press||United States||Best Albums of the 1970s||1980||*|
|Virgin||United Kingdom||Poll: All Time Album Top 1000 Albums||2000||492|
|Rock Hard||Germany||The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time||2005||308|
(*) designates unordered lists.
Queen comments on the record
|“||The album is very varied, we took it to extreme I suppose, but we are very interested in studio techniques and wanted to use what was available. We learnt a lot about technique while we were making the first two albums. Of course there has been some criticism, and the constructive criticism has been very good for us. But to be frank I'm not that keen on the British music press, and they've been pretty unfair to us. I feel that up and coming journalists, by the large, put themselves above the artists. They've certainly been under a misconception about us. We've been called a supermarket hype. But if you see us up on a stage, that's what we're all about. We are basically a rock band.||”|
— Freddie Mercury
|1.||"Brighton Rock"||Brian May||5:08|
|2.||"Killer Queen"||Freddie Mercury||3:01|
|3.||"Tenement Funster"||Roger Taylor||2:48|
|4.||"Flick of the Wrist"||Mercury||3:19|
|5.||"Lily of the Valley"||Mercury||1:43|
|6.||"Now I'm Here"||May||4:10|
|7.||"In the Lap of the Gods"||Mercury||3:20|
|8.||"Stone Cold Crazy"||Mercury, May, Taylor, John Deacon||2:12|
|11.||"Bring Back That Leroy Brown"||Mercury||2:13|
|12.||"She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)"||May||4:08|
|13.||"In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited"||Mercury||3:42|
|Bonus track (1991 Hollywood Records CD reissue)|
|14.||"Stone Cold Crazy" (1991 remix by Michael Wagener)||2:15|
|2011 Universal Records reissue bonus disc|
|1.||"Now I'm Here" (live at Hammersmith Odeon, December 1975)||4:25|
|2.||"Flick of the Wrist" (BBC session, October 1974)||3:24|
|3.||"Tenement Funster" (BBC session, October 1974)||2:58|
|4.||"Bring Back That Leroy Brown" (a cappella mix 2011)||2:17|
|5.||"In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited" (live at Wembley Stadium, July 1986)||2:35|
|2011 iTunes deluxe edition bonus videos|
|6.||"Killer Queen" (Top of the Pops, Version 2)|
|7.||"Stone Cold Crazy" (live at the Rainbow 1974)|
|8.||"Now I'm Here" (live at the Forum, Montreal 1981)|
- Freddie Mercury: lead and backing vocals, piano, jangle piano on "Killer Queen" and "Bring Back That Leroy Brown"
- Brian May: guitars, backing vocals, piano on "Dear Friends", banjo ukelele on "Bring Back That Leroy Brown", lead vocals on "She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)", organ on " Now I'm Here"
- Roger Taylor: drums, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Tenement Funster", screams on "In the Lap of the Gods"
- John Deacon: bass guitars, acoustic guitar, rhythm and lead guitar on "Misfire", double bass on "Bring Back That Leroy Brown"
During Queen's first North American Tour (as a support band for Mott the Hoople), May fell ill with hepatitis, but he continued to work from hospital. When he was fit, the work continued in studio, but then he fell ill again, this time with a duodenal ulcer. When May was recovering after an operation, the next tour had been cancelled. He felt guilty, and was a bit nervous that he was going to be replaced. Much to his relief, no one in the group had even considered it. All three members were continuing on recording without May at the time. Production planning had left a lot of spaces in the songs for May's solos. When he felt well enough, May returned and completed the tracks with his guitar solos and backing vocals.
Sales and certifications
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 would come to an end after almost 40 years. According to Universal Music, all Queen albums are to be remastered and reissued in 2011.
From 10 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.
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- Mojo, August 1995, p.34: "...often overlooked in favour of A Night at the Opera"... "equally stellar... (4 stars)"
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- Rolling Stone review
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- Lyrics of "In Lap Of The Gods…Revisited" from Live at Wembley '86 on Queen's official website