Friday, March 26, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Sheer Heart Attack

Because Queen is a bunch of tricky guys, the song Sheer Heart Attack is not on the album Sheer Heart Attack. However, this album cover is great so I wanted to include it.  I found a hysterical quote allegedly by Freddie Mercury: "God, the agony we went through to have the pictures taken, dear. Can you imagine trying to convince the others to cover themselves in Vaseline and then have a hose of water turned on them?" I say allegedly because I can't find the direct quote online, but the interview would be close to 40 years old so I'm not discounting the possibility that it exists simply because I can't find it using Google.

Sheer Heart Attack (the album) was released in 1974, but Sheer Heart Attack (the song) was not finished yet. In fact, Queen released two more studio albums (1975's A Night at the Opera and 1976's A Day at the Races) before the song was finally finished. As another aside, it is completely astonishing to me that in the span of four years, Queen released four absolutely amazing albums!

Sheer Heart Attack (the song), written by RT, was ultimately included on 1977's News of the World. RT wrote the song about the up-and-coming punk scene, many of whom he felt were talentless (note the tongue-in-cheek lyric, "I feel so inarticulate.") The song is unusual in that up until that point, RT had sung all of his own compositions, but here Freddie Mercury sings the lead vocals. Some suggest that RT is singing the chorus ("Do you know, do you know, do you know, just how I feel?"), but it is very clearly Freddie Mercury (for confirmation, listen to Freddie sing the song live here)

The song itself is three and a half minutes of pure energy. In the Audio Commentary to the Queen Rock Montreal Blu Ray, RT laments about what a difficult song it was for him to play and it always seemed to come at the end of the setlist when he was already exhausted. The opening lyric always makes me think of the Beatles song I Saw Her Standing There ("Well you're just seventeen") but then the song takes off in a pseudo-punk direction and doesn't let up. Halfway through, the band experiments with feedback which is initially a little grating (don't have your volume turned up too high), but does add an interesting element to the song. The drum solo going back into the last chorus is great (and for some reason gives me a mental image of RT banging on trash cans as opposed to drums - they just have a real unusual sound to them).

Played live this song turns into a "wall of noise" (that's straight from RT's mouth on the Audio Commentary) and he's absolutely right. Some people may not go for that because it does sound like a bit of a hot mess. I think it's great - one of my favorite things is when music gets so complex and layered that it sounds like a disaster but beneath the surface it's still very calculated. The individual members are essentially playing their own thing while still keeping the main thread of the song going and having a great time.

So check out Sheer Heart Attack (the song) and while you're at it, Sheer Heart Attack (the album) too - I'll pick a song off that album for next week!

Happy Listening!

And one last thing - I'm such a dork that I'm tickled that I have 39 followers right now because of this. Can a few more people please follow me and put me out of my Queen-dorkness misery!?!?

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