News of the World is the sixth studio album by British rock group Queen, released in 1977. Containing the hit songs "We Will Rock You", "We Are the Champions" and "Spread Your Wings", it went 4x platinum in the United States, 2x platinum in the United Kingdom and achieved high certifications around the world.
News of the World was the second album to be produced solely by the band (the first being A Day at the Races) and recorded at Sarm West and Wessex Studios, London and co-produced and engineered by Mike Stone.
Having received some criticism that their first completely self-produced project, A Day at the Races, was a "boring" album, Queen decided to shift their musical focus towards the mainstream but remain as the producers of the next album.
After completing the A Day at the Races Tour, the quartet re-entered the studio to begin work on their sixth studio offering in July 1977, enlisting Mike Stone as assistant producer at the Basing Street and Wessex Studios in London. They scaled down their complex arrangements and focused on a "rootsier" sound (as Brian May put it). However the staple of the Queen sound, multi-tracked harmonies and guitar orchestrations, still exist on this album, albeit a bit more subtly. News of the World shows Queen's songwriting less dominated by May and Freddie Mercury, with Roger Taylor and John Deacon composing two songs each. The group completed recording and production of the album two months later in September and released the album on 28 October 1977.
"We Will Rock You"
"We Will Rock You" was released as the B-side of "We Are the Champions", and became one of Queen's biggest songs worldwide as a staple of arena and stadium sports everywhere. It was a conscious decision by Brian May to make the song simple and anthemic ("stomp, stomp, clap, pause" twice per 4/4 measure), so that their live audience could be more directly involved in the show. In the video for "We Will Rock You" and "Spread Your Wings", May used a copy of his guitar. He supposedly did not want to commit his Red Special to outside conditions, as the videos for these songs featured the band performing in the snow in Roger Taylor's garden.
"We Are the Champions"
According to Freddie Mercury, "We Are the Champions" had already been written in 1975 but it was not recorded until 1977. Released as a single with "We Will Rock You", "We Are the Champions" reached #2 in the UK and #4 in the US. "We Are the Champions" was the first promotional video for which fan club members were invited to participate in the filming. The video was filmed at the New London Theatre on 6 October 1977. Everyone got a single and Queen did a free concert after the shoot.
"Sheer Heart Attack"
"Sheer Heart Attack" was half-finished at the time of the 1974 album of the same name. Taylor sang lead on the demo but for the definitive version the band decided Mercury should sing lead vocals, with Taylor singing the chorus. Rhythm guitar and bass were played by Taylor, apart from some guitar "screams" by May during the instrumental section.
During this time, the punk rock movement went into full effect, and this song was viewed as something of a jab at the musicians who felt bands like Queen were too self-indulgent. Of note is the lyric "I feel so inarticulate", and the fact that Taylor stated in interviews that he thought many of the 1970s punk bands had very little talent.
"All Dead, All Dead"
"All Dead, All Dead" was written and sung by May, and features Mercury on piano and backing vocals. On an episode of In the Studio with Redbeard, he confirmed rumours that the song is about the passing of May's cat.
"Spread Your Wings"
"Spread Your Wings" was written by John Deacon. The piano is played by Mercury, although Deacon mimes it in the music video. The video was filmed at Taylor's house at that time in his backyard, when the weather was freezing, and the band were performing in the snow. Mercury can be seen wearing star-shaped sunglasses in the video. May is seen playing a copy of his Red Special due to the cold weather conditions. Also, Taylor can be seen singing in the video despite the fact that there are no backing vocals in the song. It was the first Queen single without harmony vocals.
"Fight from the Inside"
"Fight from the Inside" was written and sung by Taylor. In addition to the drums, he also plays rhythm and bass guitar, the latter borrowed from Deacon himself.
The track is built around a jangly guitar riff and is amongst the first in the Queen catalogue to focus predominantly on the drums and bass, as opposed to the lead guitars. It is also one of few song in the band's discography recorded almost entirely by one member, another being Sheer Heart Attack.
Guitarist Slash has cited the guitar riff to this song as one of his favourite riffs of all time.
In 1988, it was rewritten as "Gey, lyubo!" by the Ukrainian rock band Vopli Vidopliassova.
"Get Down, Make Love"
"Get Down, Make Love", written by Mercury, is among the most sexually oriented songs in the Queen catalogue.
The song was introduced into the band's live show immediately after its release, and remained a staple of their "medley" until the end of the Hot Space Tour of 1982. It was never played live in its entirety with only the first and last verses/choruses being played with the guitar feature in the middle. On the Hot Space tour, the song was reduced to the first verse/chorus only as a way to lead into May's guitar solo. Live, this song featured Taylor's use of Latin-influenced percussion with timbales on the News of the World Tour, and tightly tuned Remo Roto-Toms on the Jazz Tour, Crazy Tour, The Game and Hot Space tours.
The distinctive 'psychedelic' sound effects heard in the song were not produced on a synthesiser, but on May's Red Special and an Electroharmonix Frequency Analyzer pedal, which he would often do live. The studio cut featured an Eventide Harmoniser. These sound effects, together with Mercury's moans and groans, were expanded upon during live renditions of the song, presenting the band an opportunity to show off the full potential of their stage lights and effects.
A more aggressive version of this song was covered by Trent Reznor's industrial rock project Nine Inch Nails as a B-side for the 1990 single, "Sin".
"Sleeping on the Sidewalk"
"Sleeping on the Sidewalk", written and sung by May, was inspired by ZZ Top. It was recorded (minus the vocals) in one take. Lyrically, it deals with an aspiring trumpet player's career, delivered in a "rags-to-riches" fashion. May sings with an American accent and measures the aforementioned trumpet player's success by "bucks" (as opposed to pounds). On a close inspection, Deacon can be heard playing the wrong notes in some bass parts, and May can also be heard laughing at the end of the song. It is also one of the few Queen songs that does not feature Mercury.
The band's web site states they were unaware that they were being recorded but May has cast doubt on the authenticity of this, though confirming the first take of the backing track was used.
“Who Needs You”
"Who Needs You" was a song written by Deacon, who, along with May, plays Spanish guitar. Mercury's lead vocal is entirely panned on the right audio channel while the lead guitar is on the left channel. May also plays maracas and Mercury plays a cowbell.
"It's Late", written by May, was the author's idea of treating a song as a three-act theatrical play. It makes use of the tapping technique before Eddie Van Halen of rock group Van Halen made the technique widely known.
"My Melancholy Blues"
"My Melancholy Blues" was composed by Mercury. There are no backing vocals or guitars. Despite the title, the track is more related to jazz. Deacon played fretless bass on stage during this song but used a regular fretted bass on the record.
The album's cover was a painting by American sci-fi artist Frank Kelly Freas. Taylor had an issue of Astounding Science Fiction (October 1953) whose cover-art depicted a giant intelligent robot holding the dead body of a man. The caption read: "Please... fix it, Daddy?" to illustrate the story "The Gulf Between" by Tom Godwin. The painting inspired the band to contact Freas, who agreed to alter the painting for their album cover, by replacing the single dead man with the four "dead" band members (Taylor and Deacon falling to the ground). The inner cover (gatefold) has the robot extending its hand to snatch up the petrified fleeing audience in the shattered auditorium where the corpses were removed. The cover gained some controversy to some fans claiming that the robot killed the members and also, retailer Kmart refused to sell it. Freas said he was a classical music fan and did not know Queen, and only listened to the band after doing the cover "because I thought I might just hate them, and it would ruin my ideas", but eventually liked their music.
The original painting (also called The Gulf Between) features on the cover of Freas's collection of art As He Sees It (Paper Tiger, 2000).
"We Are the Champions" released 7 October 1977 in the UK as the first single where it reached #2. In the US, it was released as a double A-side with "We Will Rock You" where it reached #4.
"Spread Your Wings" followed as the second single from the album. Released in the UK on 10 February 1978, it reached #34.
"It's Late" is the last single from the album and was only released as a single in the US, Canada, Japan and New Zealand in 1978. Only reached #74 in the US, failing to chart everywhere else.
News of the World initially received mixed reviews, mostly reflecting on the differences to the previously predominantly progressive rock sound produced by Queen, and this album's vast shift towards a more mainstream sound. The Washington Post commended the band's experimentation within a range of hard rock to soft rock, while Rolling Stone magazine's Barta Testa found the album's second side dull after highlights such as "We Will Rock You", "Sheer Heart Attack", and "Fight from the Inside". In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau said that one side of the album is devoted to "the futile rebelliousness of the doomed-to-life losers (those saps!) (you saps!) who buy and listen", while the other to songs about indecent women.
In Creem magazine's annual poll, readers voted News of the World as the 19th best album of 1977. In a retrospective review, BBC Music's Daryl Easlea said that the album is an exceptional showcase of "Queen's unerringly ability to sound absolutely like no-other group – even when parodying other musical styles". Brendan Schroer of Sputnikmusic called it "the great arena rock wonder" with very few flaws.
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. This reissue includes a deluxe edition which contains five additional tracks. The second batch of albums (the band's middle five albums) has been released in June.
In popular culture
The album's two opening tracks, "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions", have been used many times in popular culture. The album as a whole has been released on Super Audio CD. The Family Guy episode "Killer Queen" features and references the album cover in several scenes.
01 – We will rock you
02 – We are the champions
03 – Sheer heart attack
04 – All dead, all dead
05 – Spread your wings
06 – Fight from the inside
01 – Get down, make love
02 – Sleeping on the sidewalk
03 – Who needs you
04 – It’s late
05 – My melancholy blues
Freddie Mercury: lead and backing vocals, piano, percussion, cowbell on "Who Needs You"
Brian May: electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals, lead vocals on "All Dead, All Dead" and "Sleeping on the Sidewalk", percussion
Roger Taylor: drums, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Sheer Heart Attack" and "Fight from the Inside", electric guitar, bass guitar
John Deacon: bass guitars, acoustic guitars, Spanish guitar, percussion