Brian May’s Battle for ‘We Will Rock You’
Brian May recalled his fight to place “We Will Rock You” at the start of Queen’s 1977 album News of the World. In a recent interview with Guitar World, he said the band struggled with the idea of fans singing along during concerts until he decided to fully embrace the concept, leading to a new level of success.
“We were a group which was doing quite well, we had a good following and we had this thing where people insisted on singing along to our songs,” May explained. “And I think we were quite irritated by it! … We thought, ‘People, just listen. We’re working really hard, so bloody well listen!’ But they were unstoppable.”
He remembered a particular night in the English Midlands when the audience “sang every word to every song, which was rather novel in those days. ... We came offstage and we all looked at each other in amazement, because all that singing from the audience was so extreme. And I said to Freddie [Mercury], ‘Maybe, instead of fighting this, we should be encouraging it. Maybe we should be harnessing this kind of energy which seems to be happening.’
“I thought, ‘What can you ask an audience to do if that audience is all crammed in together? There’s not much they can do except stamp their feet and clap their hands, but they can also sing. And if they can chant, what would they chant?’ And with that, I could hear it in my head: ‘We will, we will rock you!’”
May admitted he was “very nervous” while he masterminded the recording process. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to sound like a proper song,” he said. “But as soon as I heard Freddie singing it, I started to be more confident, because he sounded like a kind of rabble-rouser. It sounded like he was going to encourage the audience to do this stuff. And so it was all aimed towards getting the audience involved. It was aimed towards the live situation. And somehow it worked.”
Watch Queen's 'We Will Rock You' Video
His next challenge was to convince drummer Roger Taylor that “We Will Rock You” should open the album. “Roger had severe misgivings about it,” May said. “He said, ‘No radio station is ever going to play this! It doesn’t sound like a rock song.’ But I fought that corner. And generally, I didn’t win those arguments, but this time I won. So that was the beginning of the album.”
Combined with “We Are the Champions,” “We Will Rock You” became a hit single, which May noted “changed our lives radically. ... From that point on, we stuck to that resolution – we became a band that encouraged participation. And that’s not the way we started off, but it became a great thing.
“It probably sounds all very obvious now, because everybody gets the audience to clap and sing along, but that’s not the way rock ’n’ roll was in those days. And I think it was a great bolt out of heaven. Looking back, it’s a no-brainer, but at the time it was a radical departure.”
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