Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind (any time)!"
Sheer Heart Attack is the third studio album by English Glam Rock band Queen, released through EMI in the United Kingdom and Elektra Records in the United States on 8 November 1974. While on tour for Queen II as a supporting act for Mott the Hoople, Brian May had fallen ill with hepatitis, forcing an early end to the tour. Back home, the band would write a significant chunk of the songs that would end up on this album, with this new glut of material instigating a shift away from both the pure Hard Rock sound of the band's debut album and the Progressive Rock of their second one. Instead, their new approach would feature a mix of more conventional, radio-friendly song structures and Genre Roulette-style experimentation that marked the first vestiges of the band's Signature Style.
Sheer Heart Attack was supported by two singles: "Killer Queen"— which reached as high as No. 2 in the UK charts, and was their first top 20 hit in the United States, acting as their mainstream Breakthrough Hit in both territories— and "Now I'm Here".
- "Brighton Rock" (5:08)
- "Killer Queen" (3:01)
- "Tenement Funster" (2:48)
- "Flick of the Wrist" (3:19)
- "Lily of the Valley" (1:43)
- "Now I'm Here" (4:10)
- "In the Lap of the Gods" (3:20)
- "Stone Cold Crazy" (2:12)
- "Dear Friends" (1:07)
- "Misfire" (1:50)
- "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" (2:13)
- "She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)" (4:08)
- "In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited" (3:42)
- John Deacon: bass guitar, guitars, double bass
- Brian May: guitars, backing vocals, lead vocal ("She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)"), banjolele
- Freddie Mercury: lead vocals (except "Tenement Funster" and "Dear Friends"), backing vocals, keyboards
- Roger Taylor: drums, backing vocals, percussion, lead vocals ("Tenement Funster")
It's in the lap of the tropes:
- Audience Participation Song: "In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited" is Freddie's first written number for the audience to sing along to.
- Artifact Title: The song "Sheer Heart Attack" was meant to be the title track for this album, but was dropped before its release. It would later find its way onto News of the World instead.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty!: In-Universe. Marie Antoinette almost certainly didn't say "Let them eat cake", as she is quoted as saying in "Killer Queen"; she would have been literally nine years old when the phrase was first attested, and would in fact have been horrified by the sentiment, as she was deeply involved with charity work for the poor, giving more of her income to feed the poor than the rest of the French royal family combined. The attribution has stuck to her anyway.
- Bookends: Side Two begins and ends with "In the Lap of the Gods". The two songs are completely different except for sharing the title lyric.
- Chuunibyou: "Stone Cold Crazy" is narrated by a kid who fantasizes about being Al Capone.
- Continuity Nod: During the carnival music intro of "Brighton Rock", one can hear whistling a portion of the 1907 music hall song "I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside", which was on the ending of "Seven Seas of Rhye" from their previous album.
- Credits Gag: The liner notes credit Roger Taylor's "screams", Freddie Mercury's "vocal extravaganzas", John Deacon performing "almost all guitars on 'Misfire'", and Brian May's "genuine George Formby ukelele-banjo".
- Epic Instrumental Opener: "Brighton Rock", which is mostly devoted to a lengthy Brian May guitar solo.
- Epic Rocking: The "Tenement Funster"/"Flick of the Wrist"/"Lily of the Valley" suite runs for 7:49 altogether and has often been covered as if it were a single track (notably by Dream Theater).
- Face on the Cover: Like their second album, this one has a Mick Rock photo of the four band members on the cover, accompanied only by the band name and album title. It's not quite as iconic as the Queen II cover, but it's still pretty recognisable.
- Fading into the Next Song: "Tenement Funster", "Flick of the Wrist", and "Lily of the Valley" form a seamless, three-song medley. They border on Siamese Twin Songs, although they were originally written and recorded separately and stitched together in the studio.
- Franchise Codifier: After the straight Hard Rock of Queen and the Progressive Rock of Queen II, Sheer Heart Attack introduced the eclectic and theatrical Glam Rock sound that would serve as Queen's Signature Style for the rest of their careers.
- Gratuitous Panning:
- Done with Freddie's self-duetting vocals on "Brighton Rock" and "Now I'm Here", which jump between the left and right channels to give the impression of him duetting with himself.
- "Flick of the Wrist" gives an unusual spin to this trope. The line "a dig in the ribs" is processed so that it sounds like it's playing from both sides of the mix, as if two people were singing directly into each of the listener's ears (an effect which is more pronounced through headphones), rather than from the center.
- "Lap of the Gods" combines this with a fade-out, fade-in effect to give the illusion of the band doing a lap around the room in the span of a few seconds during the Incredibly Long Note.
- High-Class Call Girl: "Killer Queen" is a cabaret number about an assertive bohemian call girl who's "guaranteed to blow your mind anytime." Freddie Mercury described the song as his way of saying that "classy people can be whores as well."
- Last Note Nightmare: "In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited", and by extension the album, closes out with a cacophonous explosion, which intentionally peaks and clips to sound as if the recording equipment itself blew out.
- Limited Lyrics Song: The three verses and one chorus of the five-minute "Brighton Rock" make up only a minute portion of the song, with the majority of it being devoted more to Brian May's guitar work.
- Longest Song Goes First: The 5:08 "Brighton Rock" opens the album.
- Metal Scream: Roger Taylor opens "In the Lap of the Gods" with a long, high-pitched shriek, which reappears later in the song.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Lily of the Valley" (1:43), "Dear Friends" (1:07), "Misfire" (1:50). "Lily of the Valley" is part of a three-song suite that runs for 7:49, though.
- New Sound Album: This album sees the band moving (somewhat) away from the Progressive Rock sound of their first two albums and more towards a more straightforward Glam Rock/Hard Rock sound. The fantasy themes that had dominated the lyrics of their first two albums are also less prevalent here, although they still do show up on some songs ("In the Lap of the Gods", "Lily of the Valley"). This is given away even by the album cover, which depicts the band "wasted and abandoned" compared to the classier-looking covers of the first two records.
- No Ending: To an extent, "Tenement Funster". The song builds up to something akin to a Grand Finale near the end, but when it actually happens, the song technically just segues into "Flick of the Wrist". Even on most versions of Queen's First EP (which also has the song), the song fades out during the transition without a proper ending. Of course, many people argue that the song's ending can be heard beneath said transition, but it's still jarring nonetheless. A proper ending of sorts does occur in a 1974 BBC Radio performance included on the 2011 remaster's bonus EP, if only out of necessity (as BBC sessions were typically played live in the radio booth).
- Non-Indicative Name: The title of "In the Lap of the Gods... Revisited" makes it sound like a reprise of "In the Lap of the Gods", but in actuality it's a completely different song that just happens to share a title lyric.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: The title character of "Killer Queen" has "an invitation you can't decline".
- Product Placement: An accidental one. "Killer Queen" opens with the line "she keeps Moët & Chandon in her pretty cabinet", which was a mere comment on how classy the fictional girl was. The winery benefited when the song became a big hit, and as a reward, they sent the band and producer vats of champagne as well as passes for Wimbledon and Grand Prix.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Flick of the Wrist" was described by Freddie Mercury as "a sort of tongue-in-cheek story about the con-men and rip-off artists we're always running into." The song is believed to be directed at the band's former manager (also the subject of "Death on Two Legs" from the next album), whom Mercury also described as "a motherfucker of a gentleman"; however, in the case of "Flick of the Wrist", Mercury never confirmed whether the song was based on anyone in particular, and in fact denied rumors that it was about their manager.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" is entirely Freddie, including the highest and lowest notes.
- "Brighton Rock" briefly mentions the funeral hymn "Rock of Ages".
- "Lily of the Valley" quotes the line "my kingdom for a horse" from Richard III.
- The outro to "Now I'm Here" quotes "Little Queenie" by Chuck Berry.
- "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" is a homage to Jim Croce, who had died the previous year. The title and lyrics additionally reference Croce's "Bad Bad Leroy Brown".
- Solo Duet: Freddie sings the parts of the two lovers in "Brighton Rock", shifting from falsetto to chest voice.
- Soprano and Gravel: Freddie does this with himself on "Brighton Rock", performing as both of the lovers on the song.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Roger Taylor sings lead vocals on "Tenement Funster", while Brian May sings lead on "She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)".
- Thrash Metal: "Stone Cold Crazy" is often cited as an Ur-Example, to the extent where Metallica covered it for Elektra Records' 40th anniversary compilation Rubáiyát (later including it on Garage Inc.) as a homage to its influence.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Half of the band members appear shirtless on the album cover. They were also covered in Vaseline and had had cold water thrown on them shortly before the shoot, because, according to photographer Mick Rock, they wanted to look "wasted and abandoned, like we've been marooned on a desert island," as a direct contrast to the more bohemian photo for Queen II. Brian May commented, "it was agony, this session, but it was worth it. I think we wanted to explode our own myth. We didn't want to be pretty any more."
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Killer Queen": "Dynamite with a laser beam". It doesn't even make any sense in context! But it is guaranteed to blow your mind.