KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Forty Year Friday – QUEEN “NEWS OF THE WORLD”

Artist: QUEEN
Album: NEWS OF THE WORLD

[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]

queen-news-of-the-worldFollowing two albums of operatic rock & roll grandeur that gave us “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “You’re My Best Friend” and “Somebody To Love,” Queen decided to scale things back for 1977’s News Of The World. Of course, “scaled back” in the world of Queen is misleading, as this is far from a back-to-basics effort for a band that seemed to think “subtlety” was a 4-letter word. Some artists might take this as an insult but, as I pointed out in my Thirty Year Thursday post on 1986’s under-appreciated A Kind Of Magic, Queen was always immune to criticism. The quartet of singer/pianist Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor simply followed their own muse, creating music that was uniquely their own, with flamboyant frontman Mercury making even their campiest material seem substantial. The bulk of this album has been overshadowed by the mammoth double-A-side single, “We Are The Champions/We Will Rock You,” which just missed topping the charts in the US and UK. These two songs opened the album (in the opposite order, which is how radio stations have sequenced them ever since) and have since become crowd-pleasers at sports arenas around the world. “We Are The Champions” is an uplifting piano ballad by Mercury with a gigantic lighter-waving chorus, while “We Will Rock You” is May’s foot-stomping/hand-clapping chant-along. Both are masterpieces queen-news-of-the-world-inner-gatefold-sleevein their own unique ways and feature May’s typically sublime guitar work. This is a rare instance where neither song feels complete without the other. It’s understandable that no other singles from the album made a similar impact, but there are a number of should-have-been hits among the nine remaining tracks.

Deacon & Taylor each composed two songs here. Deacon had previously written “You’re My Best Friend” and both would go on to compose hit singles for Queen, but they were still honing their songwriting skills at the time of Sheer Heart Attack. Deacon’s “Spread Your Wings” and Taylor’s “Sheer Heart Attack” are the stronger of their contributions; the former a stunning ballad that cracked the UK Top 40, with a rousing chorus and Mercury in peak vocal form, while the latter is a straight-ahead driving rock & roll song which rivaled the emerging punk scene in speed & aggression. May delivered two more all-time great Queen songs. The pretty “All Dead, All Dead,” with May on lead vocals, has hints of the showtune “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered” in the tender piano intro, then shifts to a sparse arrangement with subtle use of backing queen-band-photo-1977vocals and a simple, striking chorus. The 6-1/2 minute epic “It’s Late” is a 3-part suite about the stages of a love affair (or something to that effect) that shifts from a quiet vocal-and-guitar section to a fast-paced guitar solo and a huge, harmony-laden chorus (“It’s late, it’s late, it’s late, but not too late”). Mercury’s “Get Down, Make Love” is an unheralded classic; a gritty/funky song with snarling vocals and stop-start instrumentation. In spite of its title, guitar-free album closer “My Melancholy Blues” is actually more of a smoky jazz ballad with a Cole Porter vibe (a la “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”). With that ominous sci-fi artwork and a more direct musical approach, News Of The World remains one of Queen’s definitive statements, and most of its songs stand the test of time. That will be confirmed the next time you’re singing “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions” at the top of your lungs, whether at a game, a pub or alone in your car.

 

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42 comments on “Forty Year Friday – QUEEN “NEWS OF THE WORLD”

  1. ianbalentine
    March 10, 2017

    A fantastic synopsis, as always, this time on one of my favorite bands and one of my favorite albums! I love the story of Freddie meeting Sid Vicious at the studio when they were making this album: “Wessex Studios, summer 1977. Queen are hard at work on their sixth album. In a neighboring studio, the Sex Pistols are putting together Never Mind The Bollocks…. “Still bringing ballet to the masses?” asks a sneering Sid Vicious during a brief encounter in the conjoining corridor. “Ah, Mr Ferocious!” pipes back Freddie Mercury, “well, we’re trying our best!”

    This album is one of my favorites, and I even believe that May’s All Dead All Dead is about his cats, if I’m not mistaken. And while I love the album version of We Will Rock You I am REALLY digging the BBC fast version on the newest comp.Live Killers also contains some excellent versions of a few of these songs, especially Spread Your Wings.

    Nice job, Rich, really enjoyed this one. I’m an absolute sucker for anything Queen!

    Like

    • Hi Ian. It’s always a good day whenever you & I get to chat about music. I remembered that you’re a huge Queen fan…you even supported my praise of A Kind Of Magic last year…so I’m not surprised you love this one. I’ve always enjoyed that story about Freddie and “Mr. Ferocious.” You can tell thatt Freddie was not someone to mess with.

      Queen was notorious (in a good way) for re-working their songs in concert, so it was never surprising to hear something like a revved-up version of “We Will Rock You.” I remember when they appeared on SNL in ’80 (or early ’81?) in support of The Game. They did a pretty straight version of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” but added a rockin’ guitar solo section at the end that put a great song into a whole new dimension. There was no band like them before, and none since.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. stephen1001
    March 10, 2017

    Nice call Rich on Queen’s version of ‘scaled back’ – they’re just not a bare bones group!

    Like

  3. Pete
    March 10, 2017

    I love this album so much. The version of Get Down, Make Love on Live Killers floored me when I first heard it and still does today. Spread Your Wings and It’s Late are equally awesome.

    Like

    • Thanks, Pete. I always liked this album but I remember a particular road trip we took where you played this album and those songs really jumped out at me. The whole thing holds up extremely well and it’s hard to believe it’s 40 years old.

      Like

  4. kevin
    March 10, 2017

    I have a love/hate relationship with Queen and you selected all of my ‘love’ choices from this album (I would add “All Dead All Dead” to that list also). As good as “Spread Your Wings” is, I wish it contained some of those trademark stacked harmony vocals – it would have given it a nice lift. “It’s Late” is epic and contains one of my favorite May solos. “Get Down Make Love” is my favorite. An “unheralded classic” indeed. I can’t remember what my 7 year old self thought of those lyrics, but I remember not wanting my parents to hear it.

    Like

    • Hmm, love/hate with Queen? I guess I can see how some of their songs might rub certain people the wrong way. There’s very little in their catalog that I don’t like or love. Glad we found some common ground on this album, though. I’m only choosing three songs to highlight with each of these posts, but if I added a fourth it most certainly would have been “All Dead, All Dead.” What an incredible song.

      Like

  5. deKE
    March 10, 2017

    I always found Deacon to be the secret weapon of Queen! His writing for me on The Game album simply put is brilliant! This is a great album that I have not visited in a while. That will change now after reading your fantastic post!

    Like

    • Derek, that’s a good observation about John Deacon (or Deacon John as he was billed on their debut album). I thought he wrote more songs on The Game, but apparently it was only “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Need Your Loving Tonight.” I’m sure the former has paid for just about everything he’s ever purchased. He was a much better writer than he’s ever been given credit for, probably because he was the bass player and let the other guys hog the spotlight. Glad you liked this post. I hope you enjoy this album the next time you play it.

      Like

  6. keepsmealive
    March 10, 2017

    Spot on, Rich! And I’ll say it again, 40 years? Daaaaaaaamn…

    Like

  7. Aphoristical
    March 10, 2017

    I’m quite possibly alone on this, but I’m a fan of Taylor’s ‘Fight From The Inside’. I like how the ubiquitous hits are at the front – you can skip them and just enjoy the rest of the album.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like that song, and many other Taylor compositions, but I didn’t think it was a highlight of this album with all those other killer tracks. As for skipping the hits, I never do that. I remain a “complete album” guy so I always go start to finish. A song being overplayed on radio never really bothers me, if it’s a great song, of course.

      Like

    • ianbalentine
      March 11, 2017

      I LOVE that song, think it has a certain gritty, gnarly quality that makes it stand out from the pack.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. 80smetalman
    March 10, 2017

    This was a fantastic album, still is. However, my main memory is Mercury singing in that tight body stocking that was black on one side and white on the other.

    Like

  9. Alyson
    March 10, 2017

    This is a great post about a great band – Queen just didn’t fit into any particular genre, they were a whole genre of their own. (Also I was able to watch the clips here this week so a bonus.)

    Not so familiar with this album but by reading the above I now feel as if I am. We Will Rock You has been turned into one of those Jukebox Musicals (of which you are so fond!) and just keeps on going. People will never tire of Queen but so sad that Freddie died so young. Like that story above about his encounter with Sid Vicious – just sounds so Freddie-like. Nor sure how many FYFs we’ve had now but it’s another Yes from me so about 6/8 so far.

    PS – My daughter’s school had a Pop/American Idol type talent show and she was pipped at the post by a band who played We Will Rock You on the bagpipes (this is Scotland).

    Like

    • Thanks for the feedback, Alyson. I’m glad we have another artist in common (even if you’re not too familiar with this album). This was post #10 in this series, believe it or not, so I’m not sure what our albums-in-common percentage is at this point. Hmm, “We Will Rock You” with bagpipes? I like the sound of that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        March 11, 2017

        Yes sorry, I now see it is no.10 in the series but was in mid reply and couldn’t go back to check. I’m afraid my album collection is very sparse compared to yours and my music collection is nearly all of the digital variety now in big databases of individual tracks but I love this year for music and it’s interesting just to find out if you feature one of the artists I loved/love and showcase some of the “tracks of my years” (my tagline).

        As for the winning band, yes there were drums, guitars, keyboards and three bagpipers – Needless to say the whole audience of mainly mums and dads were doing the whole hand-clapping in the air thing by the end. Darling daughter lost out to a better act I think and all down to that great, crowd-pleasing song, by Queen.

        Like

      • Nothing wrong with your musical set-up as long as you have access to the music you love. I’ve always been an “album guy” so I need those albums in whatever format I can find, as opposed to individual tracks. I’ve probably mentioned before that I’ve been without my physical music collection for more than a year-and-a-half, ever since I moved from New York to North Carolina. When our upcoming renovations are done, hopefully by end of October, I will finally have a music room again after more than 2 years. For now I rely on the digital copies I’ve made of my CDs as well as Spotify. It’s better than nothing.

        Like

  10. mikeladano
    March 10, 2017

    Ah Rich. My favourite Queen album. I was late to the Queen game. I bought my first Queen album about a week before Freddie died. I got News of the World shortly after.

    It’s Late is my favourite, the multi section suite is just awesome. The chorus…I didn’t know what the words were about and I didn’t think too much about on this album!

    Every year for Mother’s Day my sister used to make tapes for my mom called “Mom’s Mix”. I copied the idea and I used one song from this album. My mom thought Freddie was great but liked the softer songs. I chose Who Needs You, because it’s light and enjoyable.

    It might be Forty Year Friday, but to me it’s been 25 years of pure love. I’m really glad I discovered Queen just before Freddie died — I feel I have street cred. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not about when you first heard the record but the immediate impact it made on you, although it’s nice that you were able to appreciate it while Freddie was still with us. I figured some people would consider this album their favorite even though it’s not mine. They have a few others that are a little more consistent for me, but I seem to like News Of The World a little more with each listen. “Who Needs You” is a nice choice for that tape for your mom. Sorry I didn’t mention it in this post but I don’t think it’s one of the standout tracks, especially compared to the ones I wrote about.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mikeladano
        March 10, 2017

        For my money, I prefer tunes like All Dead, All Dead. But I didn’t want to put a tune called All Dead, All Dead on my Mom’s Mix 😉

        When I hear a band like Extreme do some of their more varied albums, I think most of that goes right back to News of the World. I hear so much of this album in that band!

        Like

      • I didn’t make the Extreme-Queen connection until III Sides To Every Story. They never quite reached Queen-level heights but few if any bands have come close.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mikeladano
        March 10, 2017

        Agreed. I often think of Queen as continuing on the mission of the late Beatles in some ways.

        Like

      • Late-period Beatles + Zeppelin + Glam Rock = Queen. But with a frontman like Freddie they were always going to stand apart from their influences.

        Like

  11. Tangled Up In Music
    March 11, 2017

    Spread Your Wings is among my very favorite Queen songs.

    Like

  12. John Earle
    March 11, 2017

    I was 10 when the album came out. Spread Your Wings was the first Queen song I remembered hearing. My Melancholy Blues is, to me at least, Freddie’s most heartfelt vocal performance. Everyone seems to have strong opinions on Queen’s departure from the lush vistas of earlier albums. I see it as the realization that times and tastes were changing. Contemporaries like Roxy Music and Genesis had shape shifted by this date as well. The arrangements on the album are deceiving complex. It may sound raw, but it is still a well crafted, affected raw.

    Like

    • Hi John. Thanks for your feedback. I was only a year older than you when News Of The World was released. I wasn’t a fan yet but I loved the double-A-side single and wasn’t aware of their “departure from the lush vistas of earlier albums” (well-stated). When I eventually dove into their discography I always liked this album but it didn’t make the kind of impact that some of their others did. That took some time but it’s grown on me immensely over the years. Good call about “deceivingly complex.”

      Cheers…
      Rich

      Like

  13. MichelleMB
    March 19, 2017

    Some great musical analysis here…and now for a comedy break:

    Like

    • Thanks, Michelle. I hadn’t seen that Family Guy episode until recently but I loved it when I did. Thanks for sharing that clip here. Hopefully others will watch & enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • MichelleMB
        March 21, 2017

        I actually have the artist’s autograph; a friend got it for me at a sci-fi convention on the “NOTW” CD booklet. Frank Kelly Freas; a giant in sci-fi illustration of that era.

        Like

      • That’s a really nice autograph to have. Did you get it framed or is it just in the CD jewel case?

        Like

      • MichelleMB
        March 21, 2017

        Right now it’s still in the jewel case. Framing autographs is a future project. But I could put it by Brian May’s!

        Like

      • Ooh, I’m starting to sense a theme here. Something tells me you’re a Queen fan.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. MichelleMB
    March 23, 2017

    Just a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

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