17th October 2017

News Of The World by Jim Jenkins

Queen have yet another 40th anniversary to celebrate this year and not many come bigger than this! On 28 October 1977 their 6th album, the prodigious NEWS OF THE WORLD was released in the U.K. to critical acclaim. America had to wait four days whilst Japan had to wait an entire month until 25 November for the release there which included a free sticker! It is their biggest selling studio album which was recorded at Basing Street and Wessex Studios in London. Recording the album was quick by Queen standards. All done and dusted within 2 half months and co-produced by Queen and Mike Stone who also engineered the album. The material was very different to their previous releases and some were taken by surprise at the simplicity of the tracks. Gone were the over the top production we had accustomed ourselves to listen. This was back to basics. It worked!

For the cover, they tracked down American illustrator Frank Kelly Freas and asked him to adapt an old drawing which he kindly offered to do! The result is stunning giving Queen one of their best album covers ever! The cover featured a drawing of a spherical auditorium shell from which the band members have been plucked. The inside cover had an illustration depicting the inside of that shell and the robot reaching inside to grab the fleeing humans. Their record companies would use these ‘Robots’ for promotional purposes which would eclipse all previous releases.

The album opened with Brian’s clapping stomper We Will Rock You. The song featured no drums but foot stomps provided by people who were in Wessex Studios including the band's road crew. Freddie excels on vocal performed a cappella style. This simple basic recording opened the album grandly and set the agenda for the rest. The band made a video for the single in Roger’s back garden in his newly acquired house! They first performed the song live on 11 November at Portland Cumberland County Civic Center on the first night of their 2nd tour of the USA in 1977. The song title would be used as the title of the bands first musical. It’s instantly recognisable and can be heard at many music and sporting events throughout the world. The song was inducted into the ‘Grammy Hall of Fame’ during 2009. It seems to be one of those songs that will be around forever and remains Queens most popular to date. 

Second track in is the big hit single We Are The Champions, released a couple weeks earlier before the album.  Freddie’s triumphant song telling the world the band had eventually made it to the top. They had traveled a path that wasn’t a bed of roses. Queen were an anathema to the press and they thought this was Queens way of letting them know how they progressed without their help! Freddie denied the accusation. This is Queens My Way. The song was premiered at EMI’s Annual Conference that year which was hosted by TV personality Dickie Davies. Everybody jumped to their feet! The memorable video featured Queen Fan Club Members.  The single eventually peaked at No.2 in the UK charts. Over in the USA, the double ‘A’ sided single was Queens 11th single release and their first to have a picture sleeve over there. Elektra Records were rewarded with the single becoming their first ever TWO MILLION selling single and was awarded a platinum status within months! The song was adopted by The Philadelphia 76Ers and used as a fight song to pump up team spirit. Another song inducted into the ‘Grammy Hall of Fame’ and another classic in the true sense of the word. What Freddie set out to achieve came to fruition. It is a victory song for artists, teams, individuals and the followers. It always will be!

These two opening tracks would become much loved around the world and remain in their live repertoire literally forever! The single achieved unprecedented success all over the world hitting the top spot. In France We Will Rock You was No.1 for 12 weeks only to be replaced by We Are The Champions! Laws in France ensure a single can only stay at the top of the chart for a maximum of twelve weeks but as it was released as a double ‘A’ side where it could be ‘flipped over’!

Next up is one of two Roger Taylor compositions and one he wrote three years earlier. Originally to be included on the band's 3rd album release Sheer Heart Attack blasts out at neck-breaking speed. Freddie singing very differently on this track. The minimalistic production keeps this pure rock n roll with hints of punk. Maybe the current music of the day influenced the recording but every one gives 101% and more to make this a stand out track on the album. Live too it excelled on stage with a guaranteed frenzied performance and often resulting in Freddie knocking over speakers! Roger played bass and rhythm guitar on the track too. The song was used as a ‘b’ side for single releases by both their record companies.

Following this is the first John Deacon song. John was becoming more competent as a writer and the band loved Spread Your Wings. A live favourite when performed and seems today to remain popular. Queen+Adam Lambert resurrected the song for live performances during this years summer tour. This song was decided to be the follow-up single. Released on10 March 1978, it surprisingly only reached No.34 in the singles chart. America and Japan decided against releasing this and opted for another. The video was made in Roger Taylor’s newly acquired home even though at the time he didn’t own the house but the vendors allowed the band to use the garden to make the film. An important event occurred whilst filming as the band decided to go their own way and leave John Reid and severance payments contracts were signed. In the back of Freddie’s Rolls Royce! This was also the first Queen single released with no backing vocals!

Brian’s All Dead All Dead is a haunting beautifully crafted ballad and is allegedly partially inspired by Brians cat Squeaky.  A new recording with Freddie’s vocals is about to be released on the new News Of The World 40th anniversary box set on a disc entitled Raw Sessions. I think this song is about to receive a new lease of life. This was one of three songs featured on the album that was never performed live at a show.

Side One as per the original vinyl release closed with Roger’s second song Fight From The Inside. Roger once again showed his versatility and played bass and guitars along with Brian. The song has an element of funk and took me by surprise when I first heard it. Roger revisited this theme on the next album too. Roger had spent some time earlier in the year by himself recording a couple of solo songs and this I feel influenced him on these recording sessions. The band never performed the song live and is one the fans have often wanted to hear live and was hoping at Rogers solo gigs he would have dusted off this rocker built around drum beats. 

In the days when you had to turn the vinyl record over on the turntable (which has made a bit of resurgence lately) side two kicked off with Freddie’s second composition for the album Get Down Make Love and was again a surprising effort. Heavy, sweaty and provoking and worked extremely well live. It gave Freddie a chance to play around vocally using psychedelic sounds which he threw himself into on stage. Great percussion on the track too. In fact, there’s so much going on in this track which takes a few listens to appreciate. Individually the band excels at their respective instruments.

Sleeping On The Sidewalk, another from Brian is next. The story goes that the band didn’t know the tapes were rolling as Mike Stone pressed “record” when they had a run through of the song and the band never bettered this version. This is a bluesy number with a rags to riches storyline. Freddie is nowhere to be seen on this recording. They only ever performed the song live a couple of nights during their North American tour. Freddie sang vocals at the show and thankfully the band recorded these shows for posterity. One of the nights can also be heard on the new  Raw Sessions cd and it sounds incredible! 

John’s second song for the album was a calypso beat Who Needs You and he also played an acoustic Spanish guitar. Brian played the Red Special as usual but also maracas and Freddie played a cowbell! I love the stereo effect of Freddie in one speaker for vocals and Brian in the other for guitar. Different. For me, the weakest track on the album but still has a great feel to it and one that makes you feel happy. The band never performed the song live. 

The fourth and final song contributed by Brian for the album was a three-act musical play! On It’s Late Brian plays the blues but this is Queen at their rockiest best. The whole song features Queen in the way they are famously known for. Epic vocals and heavy guitar. Brian played differently on this track. Inspired after seeing Rocky Athas live on stage, he adopted the tapping technique for this the longest track on the album about a love affair that is ending. It was one of the highlights of their live show when they took the album on tour and remained in the set until their Japanese tour of 1979. The song became Queens 12th single in America where it only reached No.74 in the chart. This edited version was also released as a single in Canada, Japan and New Zealand where it faired no better. The song has been used in a couple of movies. 

Freddie’s third and final contribution closes the album in a melancholic way. My Melancholy Blues is pure joy. No backing vocals required or Brian’s guitar, just bass, drums and Freddie playing his piano and crooning away. This is the perfect way to close this epic album. How the song was never released as a single I will never know. The song has a jazzy blues feel to it and was performed live. It worked perfectly on stage and was one of the highlights of the show at the time. There is an excellent version of the song featuring the whole band on Queen On Air album they recorded for the BBC. 

The album achieved FOUR times platinum in the USA as it sold nearly 7 million copies and remains the bands biggest selling studio album to date.

Queen toured the album around the USA and Europe which culminated with 3 nights at London Wembley Empire Pool where they performed White Queen for the last time. The tours were hugely successful and the band sold out the arenas instantly the tickets went on sale. In America the fans were treated to their most lavish encore at Los Angeles Form on the last night of the tour where the stage was invaded by a gingerbread man, their manager John Reid dressed an elf, walking Christmas trees, clowns, a reindeer, belly dancers and Freddie hiding in a sack carried by Father Christmas! The explosive ending also had 5,000 balloons filled with mock snow explode over the audiences head! No robot in sight!!  The show is also famed for Freddie and Brian’s performance of White Christmas. What a way to end the tour.

Queen are promoting this anniversary on tour currently with Adam Lambert and are taking a new show around the world that features “Frank” the robot making an appearance on stage. They played the USA in the summer and are about to embark on further dates around the world including gigs at home in the UK. 

Ready to be released is a lavished box to help celebrate the anniversary which features remastered recordings, different mixes of the varied songs including unheard live renditions, a documentary DVD and a book full of unseen photos and more

.  This is going to be a collectors dream package. Watch out for a TV documentary too. 

Queen remain the champions of the world and are a hard force to be reckoned with.

Queen – News Of The World – 40th Anniversary Edition - Pre-order now: https://queen.lnk.to/NOTW40