Friday, August 27, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...)

I've found that I have a much easier time with my Queen Song of the Week posts if I have some sort of theme. It's so much easier to pick a RT solo song because it's his birthday or to just go through the set list of a concert, like I did with the 1975 Hammersmith Odeon Christmas Eve show. The alternative is just plucking a song out of thin air and when a band's catalog is as massive and prolific as Queen's that can be a rather daunting task, even for the biggest of fans!

A possible solution was to feature all of the songs on one of Queen's albums. But which one? I mean, there are 15 (excluding The Cosmos Rocks which was recorded with Paul Rodgers in 2008).

Image courtesy of
Finally I decided to go with the obvious choice: A Night at the Opera. Widely considered Queen's masterpiece, there's actually an entire special dedicated to the recording of this album (click here to purchase or alternatively for all you Netflix users, it's available in your instant queue!). Completely coincidentally, as I was writing this post, I realized that VH1 Classic was airing this special! I, of course, rewatched it!

I've already featured several songs off A Night at the Opera (click here for I'm in Love with my Car, here for '39, and here for Bohemian Rhapsody, but the album contains nine other tracks that deserve a little love themselves!

So let's start at the beginning: Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...) was written by Freddie Mercury and is the first track on Queen's 1975 album A Night at the Opera.

Video courtesy of spaccapassa                                                         

The song itself is supposedly written about the band's former management. At the time that A Night at the Opera was recorded, Queen had already released three albums and several popular singles. However, the band was not receiving the royalties that they were expecting and wanted to know why. Prior to recording A Night at the Opera, the band signed with new management who instructed them to go into the studio and record, they'd deal with the contract issues.

Nearly the entire band has spoken about the lyrics of this song. I find it rather amusing since they describe the lyrics as vicious and mean, but honestly, they aren't that bad. I mean, they aren't nice, but they aren't so bad that Dr. May should have felt uncomfortable singing them, as the story goes. I guess Dr. May really just is a really nice guy! Personally it makes me laugh when Freddie sings, "Shark," and I always imagine him imitating a fin on his head with his hand.

Here's a link to the lyrics: what do you think? Am I just desensitized to mean lyrics?

In 1976, Freddie told Sounds magazine, "When the others first heard it they were in a state of shock. When I was describing it they went, Oh yeah, and then they saw the words and they were frightened by it. But for me the step had been taken and I was completely engrossed in it, swimming in it. Wow! I was a demon for a few days.

The album needed a strong opening and what better way than to have the first words, 'You suck my blood like a leech'? Initially it was going to have the intro and then everything stop and the words, 'YOU, SUCK, MY' - but that was going too far."

The opening of this track is amazing and considered by many fans (myself included) to be the best opening song on any Queen studio album. It perfectly sets the stage for what the listener has in store for them with the perfect combination of drama and heaviness.

Queen's influence continues to grow, even now nearly twenty years after Freddie Mercury's death. Just this week, VH1 named Queen #17 on its list of the Greatest Artists of All Time. Back in 1998, Queen was ranked #33 on the same list. Maybe by 2022, they'll be #1!

Happy Listening!


  1. whoa totally rockin! maybe it just *feels* meaner when you know you're actually talking about someone else, even if the lyrics aren't that bad. and the tone seems pretty dark and menacing with the music, too, so i bet it was really intense to sing it!

  2. That's so funny, I've recently re-discovered this song and listened to it several times yesterday! The piano intro is gorgeous. I absolutely love the idea of it too; an artist getting screwed financially gets his revenge through his art. This song is fantastic. Certainly pales in comparison to what you hear now on the radio these days, but for them, and then, I think it was quite abrasive. It's one of my faves for sure.

  3. Suz - Hm I bet you are right about it being meaner when you are singing about a specific person!

    Sarah - Yeah the piano is such a great part of this song. I read that FM actually had to play it several times before he was happy with it. And yeah I guess in comparison to other stuff from the 1970s, this was pretty mean! (And I'm so glad to have a second person commenting on my Queen Song of the Week - so exciting! LOL)