List of users

Path: Queen Songs - Forum - Song Analysis: Sheer Heart AttackBookmark and Share


--- Only registered users can post a message ---pages 1
Sebastian: Sheer Heart Attack15 Oct 2007 00:07

Since you've already completed all of this album's analyses, I thought it'd be nice to make some general comments:


 By summer 1974, Queen had already enjoyed some success, appearing in some magazines, scoring a top 10 hit in March and travelling overseas to support Mott the Hopple, unfortunately having to return in mid-May because Brian had been infected with hepatitis. In order to keep in the scope, the band were rushed to record another album due to be issued before winter.

They only had some weeks to come up with the new songs and quickly went to Rockfield Studios in South Wales to start off the recording sessions. The result would be a breakthrough album with loads of new and atypical elements, all four members contributing, yet it would reflect Queen’s earlier style too.

While some fans have pointed out the apparent loss of complexity compared to ‘Queen II’, in reality this album offered some arrangements and compositions which were as sophisticated (and in some aspects even more), with the difference that they were at the same time catchy and accessible.

‘II’ had been arranged on blocks of songwriters (first side written by Brian and Roger, second by Freddie), but this one was more mixed in that department, although we can still note that A-Side started and finished off with May tunes, and B-Side featured a similar case with Mercury songs.

Check out the order, composer-wise: B F R F F B – F Q B J F B F. A slightly similar sequence would be used for ‘A Day at the Races’ (B F B F J F B F R B), where tracks by Freddie and Brian would be found in pairs with occasional changes of order.

Brian’s absence from much of the recordings led to an increase in John Deacon’s functions, as he played acoustic and electric guitar alongside his bass; a number of unusual instruments were included here too: banjolele (by Brian), double-bass (John) and jangle piano (Freddie), as well as an uncredited organ.

Roy Thomas Baker was, for the first time, the only (co-)producer, which gave a good sense of unity to the eclectic project: his job was to maintain the Queen sound regardless of the songwriter and style of the particular number. Four studios were used: the already mentioned Rockfield in Wales, for backing tracks (piano, bass and drums), two of George Martin’s – Air and Wessex – and those owned by Trident Productions in London, where the album was mixed.


Brighton Rock:

Drums, bass, rhythm and lead guitars (including a guitar canon)

Lead vocals by Freddie

Backing vocals appearing only during the chorus


I think your analysis should be revised, especially regarding its "flow". It's half-a-decade old anyway...

Points of interest:

- A Brighton rock is a peppermint-flavoured confectionary, often sold in seaside resorts in England; Brian may have been influenced by George Formby (one of his heroes), who used to play a piece titled With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock.

- Note the clever approach Brian used for virtually all of his epics: the song goes "normally", then there's an acyclic interlude of several sections only appearing once, and at the end it all comes back to normality. The same was used for Father to Son, Resurrection, Prophet's Song and even Keep Yourself Alive (although it's not considered an "epic"). Fred too applied that formula - Liar and Masterstroke, for instance.


Killer Queen:

Drums, bass, jangle piano, electric guitars, triangle, chimes*, fingerclicks

Lead vocals by Freddie

Backing vocals during verses (chordal) and chorus (both in harmony, counterpoint and antiphony with lead)

Guitar choirs during solo (counterpunctual) and last chorus (first species counterpoint)


This is one of the very few songs we've got many details about: Fred wrote down the words one Saturday night, then the next day he worked on its melody, structure and chords. Brian first listened to it while lying down at Wessex, and after he recovered he put the guitar bits and asked Fred to repeat one of the harmony parts with May joining, in order to have a cleaner feel.

I think the analysis has a major problem: it's quite hard to follow. Visual aids would work a lot for this one, and there are some nice details you could expand on (guitar and vocal harmonies, mainly).

What's the unidentified noise you refer to there?


Tenement Funster:

Drums, bass, acoustic & electric guitars, piano

Lead vocals by Roger

Backing vocals during choruses (chordal) and last verse ("driving me crazy").

Featuring guitar canon (so-so)


Note that the i>iv intro is used in Lily of the Valley too, off the same album. Roger did it live on his solo tours, first just singing, then sitting at the drum-kit from the solo onwards. Mike Crossley played Flick intro on keyboards too.


Flick of the Wrist:

Drums, bass, piano, electric guitars (including backwards fills), handclaps

Lead vocals by Freddie (octave-vocals during the first part of each verse)

Backing vocals (mostly chordal) appearing at several parts of the song


Quite a complicated song, with some interesting counterpoints worthy of being commented further IMO. Some nods to Black Queen here and there. This is the earliest Queen song with octave vocals (others would be Drowse, Action and the live versions for both Brighton Rock and '39, albeit just in certain parts).


Lily of the Valley:

Drums, bass, piano, electric guitar-choir

Lead vocals by Freddie

Backing vocals (mostly chordal) appearing at several points


Wonderful work on vocals and guitar. Again, it'd be worth to expand on that.


Now I'm Here:

Drums, bass, piano (by Brian), organ (not credited), electric guitars

Lead vocals by Freddie (sometimes in canon)

Four-part backing vocals during chorus (supporting the lead one)


It'd be nice to compare live and studio versions. In the early days, this one sounded great vocal-wise. Then ... not so much.


In the Lap of the Gods:

Drums, bass, piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar-choir (intro), lead guitar

Lead vocals by Freddie (distorted), screams by Roger

Multi-tracked harmony vocals (operatic during the intro, parallel during chorus and coda)


By far the most complicated piece in the album. Some nice parallels with Bohemian Rhapsody.


Stone Cold Crazy

Drums, bass, electric guitar (sometimes in canon)

Lead vocals by Freddie

Backing vocals only during chorus ("stone cold crazy you know")


Nice comments on Roger's drumming. It'd be nice to find out who could have influenced this song ... definitely not Hendrix or Zeppelin, IMO.


Dear Friends

Piano (by Brian)

Lead vocals by Freddie

Chordal backing vocals


One of my favourite songs now. Great chordal backing.



Drums, bass, acoustic & electric guitars (mostly by John)

Lead vocals by Freddie (hocket)

Chordal backing vocals during solo


Missing more comments on bass-bit IMO.


Bring Back that Leroy Brown

Drums, bass, double-bass, banjolele, jangle piano, grand piano, overdriven guitar

Lead vocals by Freddie (slowed down during one phrase)

Backing vocals appearing at several points (sometimes chordal, sometimes providing support to the lead)


We could write a book about only this one ;)


She Makes Me

Drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars

Lead vocals by Brian

Backing vocals during one of the choruses


Nice use of dissonances. Perhaps it'd be nice to use comparative method.


In the Lap of the Gods ... Revisited

Drums, bass, piano, electric guitars

Lead vocals by Freddie

Backing vocals during second verse (on counterpoint with the lead melody) and choruses (parallel and octave)

I'll ask Brian about these two, maybe he'll tell us more about the background. The most interesting point there is IMO the weak terminal cadence.

Post was edited on 15 Oct 2007 01:00
1.PD 21 Oct 2007 06:03

Brighton Rock:

"I think your analysis should be revised, especially regarding its "flow". It's half-a-decade old anyway..."
I know it should, especially its tail part.

Killa Queen
"the analysis has a major problem: it's quite hard to follow."
I too think so. Going to be re-written.

"What's the unidentified noise you refer to there?"
It occurs 5-7 times between the the guitar fragments.
I guess it is the open G string. The last one is lower.

"some interesting counterpoints "
I remember having highlighted one of these (?).

"This is the earliest Queen song with octave vocals"
Hmm let me think about it... maybe Seven Seas outro?

"It'd be nice to compare live and studio versions"
I may have a run on that.

She Makes Me
"Perhaps it'd be nice to use comparative method."
Between what and what exactly do you mean?


2.Sebastian 21 Oct 2007 15:40

Octave vocals: Good point. Do you happen to know any pre-Queen example in popular music?

Comparative method: I think one of your best analyses is 'Seven Days', where you draw parallels between that one and 'Spread Your Wings'. Also 'Who Needs You?' has some very interesting points, which are both instructional and marketable. In the case of 'She Makes Me' I meant a comparison between that one and 'Night Comes Down', for instance, or even 'White Man'.

Post was edited on 21 Oct 2007 15:41
3.PD 23 Oct 2007 06:05

"Do you happen to know any pre-Queen example in popular music"

Beatles is good for a start. "Mother superior...". I expect there must be some male-female duets with octave singing as well.

Comparison: Night Cmes odwn is maybe closer (pedal bass)

4.Sebastian 03 Aug 2008 14:45

Some comments on KQ, especially thanks to the multitracks:

> After the full of experiments "Queen II", they made a less complex and more "catchy" album

I don't think 'SHA' is less complex than 'II'. Just the 'Lap of the Gods' intro goes far beyond anything done before, and some parts are harder to play/sing than those on 'II': the guitar ending on 'Brighton Rock' (multi-tracked), the piano break on 'Leroy Brown', Roger's stint as sopranist. 'Queen II' was a much more 'prog' album in terms of having reversed things and the odd classical-influenced part, but as far as complexity goes, I think 'SHA' was more advanced. The funny thing is, it's also more accessible.

> This was their first not guitar-driven single although there is a lot of guitar work in the production

What about Seven Seas? I mean, that one already has the 'guitar as overdub' approach.

> Fingerclicks only go up until 'Antoinette'. They end up when bass+drums kick in. Recorded after the lead vocals.

> Second Verse features more overdubs than the first: triangle, a guitar fill in the fourth measure, and slowly oscillating three-part backing vocals (see also the intro of The March Of The Black Queen) from the fifth measure.

Yes but the first verse also had the oscillating harmonies. Note that at one point Eb and Ab appear simultaneously, a rare case of chord-juxtaposition (somewhat more common in the early days, for instance in Black Queen). Another overdub is the second bass during 'fastidious and precise'.

pages 1