By Greg Brooks and Gary Taylor
When Queen’s 11th studio album The Works was released in the UK on February 27th 1984, many fan’s and critics alike hailed this as a return to their rock roots, and the traditional ‘Queen sound’ had returned, which was absent on the previous album Hot Space in 1982. Although this new album made a deliberate use of electronic sounding keyboards for the first time, with some tracks helped out by their ‘USA Tour’82’ keyboard player Fred Mandel, the media were unusually kind in their overall comments on the album, Record Mirror described it as “Another jewel in the crown”.
The album was again produced by Queen and Mack, as after the previous 3 albums a good working relationship had been formed and was only logical that this should continue.
The album cover was conceived by Queen and the photo session was held with legendary Hollywood photographer the late George Hurrell, who had previously shot Marilyn Monroe and other Hollywood greats in his time.
The album entered the UK chart at number 2, on the anticipation of a brand new album from the band for nearly two years, and on the strength of the current hit single Radio Ga Ga, which had been released just over 4 weeks prior. The album would reach number 1 in Portugal and Holland and the Top 10 everywhere else around the world.
The album went platinum in the UK and Gold in the USA where the album reached number 23. The band had severed their contract with Elektra records for the US in 1983 and had signed a new contract with Capitol records in October of the same year. The band were all in full agreement that this new album would not be released by Elektra with Freddie saying he felt the company no longer seemed capable of doing their job, and so therefore he felt it would be throwing it away. So The Works became the first Queen album to be released by Capitol Records in this territory (in April the bands contract with Electra in Japan had expired and they decided not to renew, and signed instead to EMI /Toshiba records).
For the first time ever the band started the new recordings in Los Angeles, USA, at the Record Plant studios in August 1983 (and finished up at Musicland studios in Germany, ending in January 1984). During this time the band had been approached to work on some music for a forthcoming film called The Hotel New Hampshire, based on the novel by John Irving. Although the band initially agreed to work on some of the music (after John and Freddie had met the director of the film in Montreal), and maybe record two albums, a Queen album and the film music, they regretfully pulled out the project to concentrate on finishing their own album. Some of the original ideas for the new album were based on the book The Hotel New Hampshire, which they had all read, but as work progressed they realised the music wasn’t right for the film.
They were all so enthusiastic and excited about the new album that they put everything into it, inspiring its title The Works.
There was one track that Freddie had written for the film, Keep Passing The Open Windows, that made the final album, which was a phrase used throughout the book and film as words of encouragement in bad times.
Another two of Freddie’s songs were Man On The Prowl and It’s a Hard Life. The latter would be cited as one of Brian and Roger’s favourites by Freddie, and in this song would have the intro based on an aria called Vesti La Giubba from the opera Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, who was an Italian opera composer. Man On The Prowl on the other hand is in a rockabilly style and lets Fred Mandel play the piano throughout.
Brian’s contributions were two guitar driven heavy rockers called Tear It Up and Hammer To Fall, and is very much in the Queen style of old. Where as Tear It Up is very simple in it’s arrangement, Hammer To Fall on the other hand is a more socially concious and complicated song.
With it’s lyrics of war and destruction, Brian recently revealed that the song “ is really about life and death, and being aware of death as being part of life....the hammer coming down is only a sign of the Grim Reaper doing his job”!
Machines (or ‘Back To Humans’) is one of two collaborations on this album. Roger initially part wrote the song, about the conflict between man and machine, and Brian liked the idea and helped him finish it.
The second collaboration to emerge from these sessions was written by Freddie and Brian late one night in the studio after watching the news. Is This The World We Created? was a duet with Brian on acoustic guitar and Freddie on vocals, a gentle song with a heavy and heart felt message of poverty around the world. The song would pre date the Band Aid song by nearly a year and Live Aid by a year and a half. The song would be performed near the end of the Live Aid event at Wembley Stadium on July 13th 1985 as a duet and become a regular live song on the subsequent 1984, 1985 and 1986 Queen tours.
At the start of the year on 3rd February the band performed at the annual song festival in San Remo, Italy. This was the first time they had played in this country, and the festival was like a huge version of Top Of The Pops, with all the artists miming. Queen were the main band of the night and played Radio Ga Ga to 2000 fans and a European audience of 30 million.
On May 12th Queen performed at the annual 4 day Golden Rose pop festival in Switzerland. None of the performances by Queen and all the other artists are live and the band mime their way through Radio Ga Ga, Tear It Up, I want To Break Free and It’s A Hard Life. The event is recorded by both Swiss TV and the BBC and is eventually broadcast to over forty countries around the world.
Roger’s contribution to the album was Radio Ga Ga which became the first single to be released, reaching number 2 in the UK, number 16 in the USA and number 1 in nineteen other countries around the world. The single contained the non album track I Go Crazy as the ‘b’ side, a song written by Brian, and was also the first time that a Queen single would carry it’s own personal catalogue number – Queen 1. The song was inspired by Roger’s son, who after hearing something he didn’t like on the radio, commented that it was all ‘radio ka ka’ , in which Roger had to agree. With Roger locked away in the studio, the song was amended and composed on a synth and a drum machine. Freddie would later re arrange the song both musically and lyrically.
The track needed an epic video and were all keen to work with director David Mallett again. They had discussed using some of the footage from Fritz Lang’s old silent film Metropolis, for which Freddie had been writing a track for a newly restored version, and bought the rights to certain scenes of that film directly from the East German government.
With the help of 100’s of fan club members as extras, dressed in white boiler suits and arranged in rows in front of the band on stage, the famous ‘Handclapping’ sequence was born, and would become a staple at all live concerts where the song was performed.
The second single was John Deacon’s only contribution to the album, I Want To Break Free. A special remix of the song was released on April 2nd 1984 and reached number 3 in the UK charts. The ‘b’ side was Machines (or ‘Back To Humans’) and on the USA single a specially remixed Instrumental version was used.
David Mallett was recruited again for the video, in which the main parts would feature the band dressed as women, and based on the UK TV soap opera Coronation Street. Once again fan club members were used in the ‘miners’ scene wearing this time black boiler suits and helmets. The middle part of what turned out to be their most expensive video they had made, featured just Freddie re creating Debussy’s L’Apres-midi d’un faune, the ballet made famous by Nijinsky. For this Freddie shaved off his moustache, and rehearsed for some time with the Royal Ballet corps de ballet, making this their most outrageous video to date.
Roger says “We had done some really serious, epic videos in the past, and we just wanted people to know that we didn’t take ourselves too seriously, that we could still laugh at ourselves. I think we proved that”.
The third single to be released was It’s A Hard Life on July 16th at home and in most other territories around the world. This was the first time that a Queen single was available as a 12” picture disc. The ‘b’ side was the gentle Is This The World We Created? It reached number 6 in the UK, and featured a video filmed in Munich by Tim Pope, which Brian, Roger and John has said was one of the worst they had made. What with the tight, heavy and uncomfortable costumes and thick make up, they were all depicted at a masquerade ball, complete with a specially made ‘skull’ guitar costing around £1,000 and Freddie in a costume that made him look like a ‘giant prawn’. Popular with fans, this extravagant video was mainly showcasing Freddie’s outrageous ideas onto film.
The final single from the album was an edit of Hammer To Fall b/w Tear It Up on September 10th. The single reached number 13, and in it’s original and withdrawn picture sleeve, is a very sought after single for collector’s. The video was filmed in August on the first night of the Works European Tour at the Forest National in Brussels, Belgium. The video was directed by David Mallett, making use of the live footage to compliment the song.
The last four videos made up the long form video release of The Works Video EP released on November 19th 1984.
A specially recorded Christmas single written by Roger and Brian called Thank God It's Christmas, was released on November 26th and reached number 21 in the charts. The last two tracks from the album that hadn’t been issued on a single, Man On The Prowl and Keep Passing The Open Windows were used as the ‘b’ sides. The single was only available in the USA on the 12” format. To everyone’s surprise a video was not made for this track, one of the most overlooked omissions from the video catalogue.
The song would eventually feature on The Complete Works, a fourteen album box set that included all the albums up to the end of 1985 (apart from Greatest Hits) and an LP of non album tracks, released almost a year later in December 1985.
Did You Know?
1. The Works was Queen’s first album to be recorded in the USA and was their 13th album release
2. The album featured two of the biggest ever hits accompanied by mega budget videos in Radio Ga Ga and I Want To Break Free
3. The band promoted album with extensive tour of UK, Europe, South Africa, Japan, Australia and South America
4. Every track off the album was made available on a single release – first time this had happened. ‘Man On The Prowl’ was the b-side to ‘Thank God It’s Christmas’
5. The works video EP promoting the album won a highly commended award for best compilation video
Radio Ga GaRADIO GA GA Written by Roger Taylor for The Works, their first album to be recorded in Los Angeles. Released in the UK on January 23rd 1984, produced by Queen and Mack. The track was inspired by MTV, and itself inspired a video based on Fritz Lang’s famous silent movie Metropolis. The track peaked at No. 2 in the UK chart, and reached No. 1 in 19 other countries. Taylor wrote the song when his three year old son Felix, was listening to some bad record on the radio and uttered the words, ‘Radio Ca Ca.’ In fact, listen closely and you will hear that the lyric never actually changed! b-side: I Go Crazy
Want To Break Free remixSecond single from the album The Works
It's A Hard LifeThird single from the album The Works
Hammer To FallFourth single from the album The Works
3. It's A Hard Life
I don't want my freedom There's no reason for living with a broken heart This is a tricky situation I've only got myself to blame It's just a simple fact of life It can happen to any one You win, you lose It's a chance you have to take with love Oh yeah I fell in love But now you say it's over and I'm falling apart Yeah yeah, it's a hard life To be true lovers together To love and live forever in each others hearts It's a long hard fight To learn to care for each other To trust in one another right from the start When you're in love I try and mend the broken pieces Ooh I try to fight back the tears Ooh they say it's just a state of mind But it happens to everyone How it hurts (yeah) deep inside (oh yeah) When your love has cut you down to size Life is tough on your own Now I'm waiting for something to fall from the skies I'm waiting for love Yes it's a hard life Two lovers together To love and live forever in each others hearts It's a long hard fight To learn to care for each other To trust in one another right from the start When you're in love Yes it's a hard life In a world that's filled with sorrow There are people searching for love in every way It's a long hard fight But I'll always live for tomorrow I'll look back at myself and say I did it for love (ooh) Yes I did it for love for love oh I did it for love
4. Man On The Prowl
I'm gonna take a little walk on the wild side I'm gonna loosen up and get me some gas I'm gonna get me some action Go crazy driving in the fast lane My baby left me alone She done me dirty and I'm feeling so lonely So come home, come home If you don't you're gonna break my heart Man on the prowl, you better watch out I'm on the loose and I'm looking for trouble So look out (yeah yeah) look out (yeah yeah) I'm a man on the prowl I don't wanna be a rock'n'roll steady I just wanna be low down trash I wanna go to the movies All I wanna do is sit on my ass ooh So honey come home (come home come home) Don't leave me when I'm feeling so lonely Come home (yeah yeah) come home (yeah yeah) If you don't you're gonna break my heart Man on the prowl You better watch out I'm on the loose and I'm looking for trouble So look out (yeah yeah) look out (yeah yeah) Coz I'm a man on the prowl Well I keep dreaming about my baby But it ain't gonna get me nowhere - (bap bap) hey I gonna teach my baby dancin' - (bap bap) But I ain't no Fred Astaire So baby look out I'm a man on the prowl Look out man on the prowl yeah Yeah baby, baby, baby look out, yeah man on the prowl Baby come home I'm on the loose and I'm looking for trouble Baby come home oh yeah Coz I'm a man on the prowl So honey come home come home Coz I'm a man on the prowl yeah Man on the prowl yeah - hey Stay with it - loosen up - wooh yep ha wooh ha - yeah
5. Machines (Or Back To Humans)
"Machines machines machines machines" "Machines machines machines machines aaah" It's a machines world, don't tell me I ain't got no soul When the machines take over It ain't no place for rock and roll ha They tell me I don't care, but deep inside I'm just a man They freeze me they burn me they squeeze me they stretch me With smoke blackened pistons of steel they compress me But no one, but no one, but no one can wrest me away Back to humans "We have no disease, no troubles of mind" "We are fighting for peace, no regard for the time" "We never cry, we never retreat" "We have no conception of love or defeat" What's that machine noise It's bytes and megachips for tea It's that machine, boys With random access memory Never worry, never mind Not for money, not for gold Yeah, it's software, it's hardware, it's heartbeat is time share It's midwife's a disk drive, it's sex life is quantised It's self perpetuating a parahumanoidarianised Back to humans - back to humans "Back to machines - machines - machines" "Machines machines" Living in a new world, thinking in the past humans Living in a new world, how you gonna last humans Machine world, it's a machine's world - humans Living in a new world, thinking in the past back to humans Living in a new world, how you gonna last - machine world It's a machine's world - machine world yeah yeah - "change" It's a machine world wooh - yeah I'm coming yeah yeah wooh Back to humans hey yeah - ha ha haa - back to humans Back to humans Living in a new world, how you gonna last Machine world, it's a machine's world
7. Keep Passing The Open Windows
This is the only life for me yeah Surround myself around my own fantasy You just gotta be strong and believe in yourself Forget all the sadness - coz love is all you need Love is all you need Do you know what it's like to be alone in this world When you're down and out on your luck and you're a failure Wake up screaming in the middle of the night You think it's all been a waste of time It's been a bad year You start believing everything's gonna be alright Next minute you're down and you're flat on your back A brand new day is beginning, get that sunny feeling And you're on your way (way) Just believe, just keep passing the open windows Just believe, just keep passing the open windows Do you know how it feels when you don't have friend (friend) Without a job and no money to spend, you're a stranger All you think about is suicide One of these days you're gonna lose the fight You better keep out of danger yeah That same old feeling just keeps burning deep inside (inside) You keep telling yourself it's gonna be the end Oh get yourself together, things are looking better everyday Just believe, just keep passing the open windows Just believe, just keep passing the open windows This is the only life for me yeah Surround myself around my own fantasy You just gotta be strong and believe in yourselves Forget all the sadness 'cause love is all you need Just believe, just keep passing the open windows Just believe, just keep passing the open windows You just gotta be strong and believe in yourselves Forget all the sadness coz love is all you need yeah Love is all you need, oh baby, love is all you need Just believe, just keep passing the open windows Just believe, just keep passing the open windows Just keep passing the open windows