Sheer Heart Attack

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Sheer Heart Attack
Queen Sheer Heart Attack.png
Studio album by Queen
Released 8 November 1974
Recorded July–September 1974
Studio AIR, Rockfield, Trident and Wessex Sound
Length 39:09
Queen chronology
Queen II
(1974)Queen II1974
Sheer Heart Attack
A Night at the Opera
(1975)A Night at the Opera1975
Singles from Sheer Heart Attack
  1. "Killer Queen / Flick of the Wrist"
    Released: 11 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 conventional rock tracks and marked a step towards the "classic" Queen sound.[5] It was produced by the band and Roy Thomas Baker and launched Queen to mainstream popularity in the UK and throughout the world.

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.[4]


Side one[edit]

"Brighton Rock"[edit]

"Brighton Rock" tells the story of two young lovers named Jenny and Jimmy meeting in Brighton on a public holiday,[6] Mods travelling to Brighton on bank holidays was a popular narrative at the time, such as The Who's Quadrophenia.[7] 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,[6] 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 the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.[8]

"Killer Queen"[edit]

"Killer Queen" was written by Mercury and was the band's first international hit.[9][10] 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.

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

Taylor wrote "Tenement Funster" about youth and rebellion, and sang lead vocals. The song segues into "Flick of the Wrist" (which was a double A side along with Killer Queen), and then into "Lily of the Valley", making the three songs a medley.[11] This medley was covered by Dream Theater on the bonus disc of their album Black Clouds & Silver Linings.[11]

"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.[12]

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 Taylor. The song features one of the highest notes on the album. It is most notable for the falsetto screams from Taylor. 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 tempos and heavy distortion, in a similar style speed metal.[13] Music magazine Q described "Stone Cold Crazy" as "thrash metal before the term was invented".[14] The song was played live at almost every Queen concert between 1974-78.[15][16][17][18]

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".

"Dear Friends"[edit]

"Dear Friends" was written by May and sung by Mercury. Def Leppard covered this song (sung by bassist Rick Savage) for a Wal Mart bonus EP for their cover album, Yeah!.[19]

"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."[20] 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 Capella version was released as part of the 2011 Remaster of the album.


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

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

"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... 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", and was performed most recently on their tours with vocalist Adam Lambert.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[5]
Chicago Tribune 2.5/4 stars[21]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[22]
Pitchfork Media 9/10[23]
PopMatters 8/10[24]
Q 4/5 stars[25]
Record Collector 4/5 stars[25]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[26]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[27]
Uncut 4/5 stars[25]

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".[28] 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".[29] Circus referred to the album as "perhaps the heaviest, rockingest assault on these shores we've enjoyed in some time".[30] Rolling Stone wrote, "If it's hard to love, it's hard not to admire: This band is skilled, after all, and it dares".[26] 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".[31] As 1974 drew to a close, the album was ranked by Disc as the third best of the year[32] and placed a joint No. 24 of the 60 albums to appear in NME's end-of-year list.[33]

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".[5] Q called the record "indispensable" and "one of the great pop/rock admixtures of the '70s".[25] 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."[23] 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".[34] 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".[35]


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die United States 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[36] 2005 *
Classic Rock United Kingdom The 100 Greatest British Rock Albums Ever[37] 2006 28
The 200 Greatest Albums of the 70's (20 greatest of 1974)[38] 2006 *
Kerrang! United Kingdom Poll: The 100 Best British Rock Albums Ever[39] 2005 8
The 100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever[40] 2007 45
Mojo United Kingdom 100 Greatest Guitar Albums[41] 2002 72
70 of the Greatest Albums of the 70's[42] 2006 *
The 100 Records That Changed the World[43] 2007 88
NME United Kingdom Poll: Greatest 100 Albums of All Time[44] 2006 63
Radio Caroline United Kingdom Poll: Top 100 Albums[45] 1977 50
Trouser Press United States Best Albums of the 1970s[46] 1980 *
Virgin United Kingdom Poll: All Time Album Top 1000 Albums[47] 2000 492
Rock Hard Germany The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time[48] 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 would come to an end after almost 40 years. All of Queen's studio catalog were 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.

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

Track listing[edit]

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


  • John Deaconbass (all but 9), acoustic guitar (3, 7, 10, 12), electric guitar (10)

Chart positions[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Poland (ZPAV)[62]
2008 Agora SA album reissue
Platinum 20,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[63] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[64] Gold 500,000^

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


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  3. ^ Joe Bennett (March 2005). Complete Guitar Player. William S. Konecky Associates, Incorporated. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-56852-513-6. 
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  5. ^ a b c AllMusic review
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External links[edit]