Sheer Heart Attack

Sheer Heart Attack
Sheer Heart Attack
Studio album by Queen
Released 1 November 1974
Recorded July–September 1974, AIR, Rockfield, Trident, and Wessex Sound studios
Genre Rock
Length 39:09
Label EMI and Parlophone (Europe)
Elektra and Hollywood Records (US)
Producer Roy Thomas Baker, Queen
Queen chronology
Queen II
Sheer Heart Attack
A Night at the Opera
Singles from Sheer Heart Attack
  1. "Killer Queen/Flick of the Wrist"
    Released: 11 October 1974
  2. "Now I'm Here/Lily of the Valley"
    Released: 17 January 1975
  3. "Lily of the Valley/Keep Yourself Alive"
    Released: April 1975

Sheer Heart Attack is the third album by the British rock group Queen, released in November 1974. It was produced by Queen and Roy Thomas Baker and distributed by EMI in the United Kingdom, and Elektra in the US.

The album launched the band to mainstream popularity both in the UK and internationally: the first single, "Killer Queen" reached #2 in the British charts and provided Queen with their first US Top 20 hit, peaking at #12 on the Billboard singles chart. Sheer Heart Attack was also the first Queen album to hit the US Top 20, peaking at #12 in 1975. Digressing from the progressive themes featured on their first two albums, Sheer Heart Attack featured more conventional rock tracks and marked a step towards the classic Queen sound.[1] In recent years, it has been listed by multiple publications as one of the band's best works.


Track listing

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

Song information

Brighton Rock

Brian May wrote "Brighton Rock" in 1973 before the completion of Queen II, but time restrictions meant that the song was not ready for inclusion on an album until Sheer Heart Attack. The title is something of a pun: Brighton rock is a long, cylindrical sugar candy traditional to that seaside resort. The term was also iconic in UK pop culture as the title of a dark Graham Greene thriller/noir novel later adapted into a successful film starring Richard Attenborough as a teenage sociopath.

The song, the first track on the album, tells the story of two young lovers meeting in Brighton on a public holiday.[2] 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 is probably best-known for its lengthy guitar solo interlude.[2] This featured May's technique of using multiple echoes used 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, he would usually split his guitar signal into "main" and two "echoed", with each going to a separate bank of amplifiers.

Variations of this solo often featured during live Queen concerts, either as part of a rendition of Brighton Rock, a medley of it with some other songs (as witnessed on the News of the World tour where it segued after Mercury's multiple echoed vocal solo at the end of "White Man" and May's solo would segue into "The Prophet's Song" or "Now I'm Here"), or on its own as a guitar solo.

In the late 70s, the guitar solo was adapted to include some bass and drums, including a timpani solo by Taylor (from October, 1978 to November, 1981). In 1980 and 1981, the solo was included as a medley with "Keep Yourself Alive", before becoming a performance in its own right. During the recent tour of Queen + Paul Rodgers, a modified version, incorporating bits of "Chinese Torture" (from the album The Miracle) and the introduction from "Now I'm Here" was featured in the concerts. The live piece is often between nine to thirteen minutes long.

Killer Queen

"Killer Queen" (Sample ) was written by Mercury as the band's first international hit.[3][4] It is one of the few songs by Mercury for which he wrote the lyrics first. The band initially did the song without May while he was in the hospital, leaving spaces for whenever he felt better. Mercury played an upright "jangle" piano as well as a grand piano.

Tenement Funster

"Tenement Funster" is Taylor's song on the album, as he sang the lead vocals. The backing track consisted of Taylor's drums, Mercury's piano, Deacon's bass, and May's Red Special guitar. It's a typical Taylor track about youth and rebellion. In addition to showcasing the out-of-phase tone capabilities of the Red Special, it also includes echo effects with May's guitar, like in "Brighton Rock". The last couple of guitar notes overlap into "Flick of the Wrist". The original working titles for the song were "Teen Dreams" and "Young and Crazy".[5]

Flick of the Wrist

"Flick of the Wrist" was the double A-side of "Killer Queen" but it was much less promoted and therefore not as popular outside the Queen fandom. The song includes Mercury singing octave vocals. When May returned to work having recovered from his hepatitis, he had not heard the song before he recorded his guitar and backing vocals. It is a heavy track with quite dark lyrics and an aggressive tone, something that may seem unusual for later Queen songs, but in the early days (especially on Queen II) Mercury and May would often write grim songs, such as "Great King Rat" and "Son and Daughter". At about 1:14 - 1:16, the line "Baby you've been had" can be heard. This line is also the opening to the next song on the album, "Lily of the Valley", making a 3-song overlap ("Tenement Funster" into "Flick of the Wrist", and 'Flick of the Wrist" into "Lily of the Valley").[6]

Lily of the Valley

"Lily of the Valley" features Mercury playing the piano and providing all of the vocals. The song has a reference to "Seven Seas of Rhye" in the line "messenger from Seven Seas has flown to tell the King of Rhye he's lost his throne".

The song, together with "Tenement Funster" and "Flick of the Wrist", was covered by Dream Theater on the Bonus Disc of their album Black Clouds & Silver Linings.[6]

Now I'm Here

"Now I'm Here" is the band's second single in the album. Written by May while at the hospital, recalling touring with Mott the Hoople, it was recorded during the last week of the sessions, with May playing piano. The song relies a lot on delay machines, foreshadowing "The Prophet's Song". The song opens with a lone, guitar riff, and is followed by choir-like vocal harmonies and overdubbed guitar parts.[7]

In the Lap of the Gods

"In the Lap of the Gods" is, according to Mercury himself, the direct prelude to "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the A Night at the Opera album in general. It is built in three parts: the introduction, which contains fast piano arpeggios, very high-toned screams by Taylor plus vocals harmonies, the second part which is a slow love song, featuring slowed-down vocals by Mercury, and the third part, based on vocals harmonies singing "leave it in the lap of the gods", with more screams by Taylor. Those screams were thought to be made using synthesizers, and to prove they were not, Taylor would reproduce them in live performance every night. Throughout the entire song, wind effects can be heard.

Stone Cold Crazy

"Stone Cold Crazy" was allegedly written by Mercury whilst in Wreckage, one of his pre-Queen bands. Queen played it live as early as 1972, but the song underwent many changes musically and lyrically before a studio version was recorded in 1974. Amusingly enough, nobody seemed to remember who wrote the lyrics when the album was released, hence they shared writing credit. The lyrics themselves deal with gangsters, making a reference to Al Capone. It was the first song credited to all four members of Queen. This track is known for its fast tempos and heavy distortion, thus being a precursor to speed metal.[8] Music magazine Q described "Stone Cold Crazy" as "thrash metal before the term was invented".[9] The song was played live at almost every Queen concert between 1974-1978.[10][11][12][13]

Dear Friends

"Dear Friends" was May's song featuring him on the piano and backing vocals, and Mercury providing lead vocals.

Def Leppard covered this song (and sung by bassist Rick Savage) for a Wal Mart bonus EP for their cover album, Yeah!.


"Misfire" was John Deacon's first composition. Deacon played most of the guitars including the solo, and Mercury sang all the vocals.

Neko Case performed a country version of the song on her 1997 solo début album, "The Virginian."

Bring Back That Leroy Brown

"Bring Back That Leroy Brown" was written by Mercury and features him on most of the vocals (with production techniques using tape speed to make it sound really low in the harmonies) as well as grand piano and jangle piano. May played ukulele-banjo and Deacon did a line with a double bass. The song's title alludes to the then-recent hit "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" by the American singer-songwriter Jim Croce (little known in Queen's native UK) who had died in a plane crash the previous year. The song was played live in a different arrangement that shortened the song and was, except for the very end and one other line, purely instrumental. May's ukelele-banjo would be brought onstage especially for this song.

She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettoes)

"She Makes Me" was written and sung by May with Deacon playing acoustic guitars. The song's 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

With its powerful chorus and stadium rock-esque sound, "In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited" could perhaps be considered the forerunner to "We Are the Champions".

Reception and legacy

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“.[14] 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".[15] Circus referred to the album as "perhaps the heaviest, rockingest assault on these shores we've enjoyed in some time".[16] Rolling Stone offered a mostly positive review, giving the album a 3/5 star rating, and concluding, "If it's hard to love, it's hard not to admire: This band is skilled, after all, and it dares".[17] 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".[18] As 1974 drew to a close, the album was ranked by Disc as the third best of the year[19] and placed joint #24 of the 60 albums to appear in NME's end-of-year list.[20]

Allmusic awarded the album 4.5/5 stars, writing, "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".[1] Mojo awarded the album 4/5 stars, noting that it was "often overlooked in favour of A Night at the Opera," and calling it "equally stellar".[21] Q awarded the album 5/5 stars, calling it "indispensable" and "one of the great pop/rock admixtures of the '70s".[22] 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".[23]


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die UK 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[24] 2005 *
Classic Rock UK The 100 Greatest British Rock Albums Ever[25] 2006 28
The 200 Greatest Albums of the 70's (20 greatest of 1974)[26] 2006 *
Kerrang! UK Poll: The 100 Best British Rock Albums Ever[27] 2005 8
The 100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever[28] 2007 45
Mojo UK 100 Greatest Guitar Albums[29] 2002 72
70 of the Greatest Albums of the 70's[30] 2006 *
The 100 Records That Changed the World[31] 2007 88
NME UK Poll: Greatest 100 Albums of All Time[32] 2006 63
Radio Caroline UK Poll: Top 100 Albums[33] 1977 50
Trouser Press US Best Albums of the 1970s[34] 1980 *
Virgin UK Poll: All Time Album Top 1000 Albums[35] 2000 492

(*) designates unordered lists.

Queen comments on the record

The album is very varied, we took it to extreme I suppose, but we are very interested in studio techniques and wanted to use what was available. We learnt a lot about technique while we were making the first two albums. Of course there has been some criticism, and the constructive criticism has been very good for us. But to be frank I'm not that keen on the British music press, and they've been pretty unfair to us. I feel that up and coming journalists, by the large, put themselves above the artists. They've certainly been under a misconception about us. We've been called a supermarket hype. But if you see us up on a stage, that's what we're all about. We are basically a rock band.

—Freddie Mercury[36]


During Queen's first North American Tour (as a support band for Mott the Hoople), May fell ill with hepatitis (he had been infected with an unclean needle during a vaccination before the Australian tour), but he continued to work from hospital. When he was fit, the work continued in studio, but then he fell ill again, this time with a duodenal ulcer. When May was recovering after an operation, the next tour had been cancelled. He felt guilty, and was a bit nervous that someone would replace him in the band. Much to his relief, no one in the group had even considered it. All three members were continuing on recording without May at the time. Production planning had left a lot of spaces in the songs for May's solos. When he felt well enough, he returned and completed the tracks with guitar solos and backing vocals.

Chart performance

Chart (1974) Peak
Canadian Albums Chart[37] 6
Dutch Albums Chart[38] 7
Norwegian Albums Chart[39] 9
UK Albums Chart[40] 2
U.S. Billboard 200[41] 12

2011 re-issue

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.


From 10 October 1974 through 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.


  1. ^ a b Allmusic review
  2. ^ a b Brighton Rock Allmusic. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums. London: Guinness World Records Limited
  5. ^ Queenpedia article about Tenement Funster
  6. ^ a b Black Clouds & Silver Linings (Special Edition) Allmusic. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  7. ^ Now I'm Here Allmusic. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  8. ^ Jones, Chris (2007-06-07). "Queen: Sheer Heart Attack Review". BBC. Retrieved July 2, 2011. 
  9. ^ Queen News: February 2011 Retrieved July 2, 2011
  10. ^ Queen live on tour: Sheer Heart Attack: Setlist Queen Concerts. Retrieved July 2, 2011
  11. ^ Queen live on tour: A Night At The Opera: Setlist Queen Concerts. Retrieved July 2, 2011
  12. ^ Queen live on tour: Day At The Races (world): Setlist Queen Concerts. Retrieved July 2, 2011
  13. ^ Queen live on tour: News Of The World: Setlist Queen Concerts. Retrieved July 2, 2011
  14. ^ Quoted in Jacky Gunn, Jim Jenkins. Queen. As It Began. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1992, p. 84. ISBN 0-283-06052-2
  15. ^ Winnipeg Free Press, 5 July 1975 (Queen Archives)
  16. ^ Circus review (archived at
  17. ^ Rolling Stone review
  18. ^ John Mendelsohn review (archived at
  19. ^ Disc, end-of-year list, December 1974
  20. ^ NME end of year list, 1974 (rocklistmusic)
  21. ^ Mojo, August 1995, p.34: "...often overlooked in favour of A Night at the Opera"... "equally stellar... (4 stars)"
  22. ^ Q Magazine, August 2002, p.150: "Indispensable... Introduced the roaring chrome camp-rock of future Queen... This album was one of the great pop/rock admixtures of the '70s... (5 stars)."
  23. ^ BBC review
  24. ^ "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die"
  25. ^ Classic Rock "The 100 Greatest British Rock Albums Ever", (rocklistmusic)
  26. ^ Classic Rock/Metal Hammer, "The 200 Greatest Albums of the 70s", March 2006
  27. ^ The 100 Best British Rock Albums Ever!. Kerrang!. Feb 19, 2005. Archived at
  28. ^ "The 100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever", Kerrang, November 8, 2006
  29. ^ "100 Greatest Guitar Albums". Mojo, 2002. Archived at
  30. ^ Mojo, MOJO Classic: The Who & The Story Of 70’s Rock, July 2006
  31. ^ Mojo, "The 100 Records That Changed the World", June 2007
  32. ^ "Oasis album voted greatest of all time". The Times. 1 June 2006
  33. ^ Top 100 Albums. Radio Caroline. 1977. Archived at
  34. ^ "Best Albums of the 1970s", Trouser Press, January 1980 (archived at
  35. ^ All-Time Album Top 1000 Albums. Virgin. 2000. Archived at
  36. ^ Melody Maker 9 November 1974
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^

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