This article originally appeared in Classic Rock #222.
Released in 1977, News Of The World was Freddie Mercury and co’s most straightforward rock album in years – and a swaggering riposte to the punk explosion. Here, Foo Fighters drummer and longtime Queen aficionado Taylor Hawkins slips into his black and white leotard to extol the virtues of one of his favourite records.
Taylor Hawkins: “I heard We Are The Champions and We Will Rock You on the radio a lot when I was six years old. I’m not sure why, but I thought at that age We Will Rock You was kinda screwy. I heard the whole album for the first time a few years later, when the brother of a friend of mine played it, and I loved it.
What I love about News Of The World is that it’s dark – really dark. Not just lyrically, but also musically. Roger Taylor’s drum sound is very dark, and some of Brian May’s solos have an edge that perhaps you didn’t get on their previous couple of albums. For me it was as if the band were returning to the style they had on their debut, sounding a lot more raw. The difference was they had become such great songwriters since then. So it was the best of both worlds – a live-sounding album combined with excellently constructed songs.
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I genuinely feel that News Of The World was the band’s reaction to punk. There was a very basic approach on here, albeit the vocal harmonies were still obvious. Listen to a song like It’s Late. This comes across as the band going into the studio and playing together live. Which is what I think they actually did. The same is also true of Sheer Heart Attack. That song was a few years old by the time it appeared on this album, but when you listen back to it you know here were Queen saying to the punks: “We can be just as stripped-down and full on as you!”
There are times here when Queen sound more like the Faces or the James Gang; there are no frills, it is straight-ahead rock’n’roll. Fight From The Inside, Who Needs You and Spread Your Wings fit so well into this approach. And I love that sci-fi album cover. That was Roger’s idea. And it seems to capture the darkness I was talking about earlier. It’s striking, giving News Of The World a sense of mystery.
I don’t know why this isn’t regarded as real classic – one of Queen’s best albums. For me it certainly is. But perhaps we’ve gotten so used to We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions that we take them for granted, and therefore we also take the album for granted.
What they said at the time: “Late sons of the Empire though they may be, Queen has nothing to fear, or to do. In their moneyed superiority, they are indeed champions.” Rolling Stone
“It’s my favourite end-to-end Queen record”
It’s not only Taylor Hawkins who thinks Queen’s sixth album is their best
Slash: “Queen were always mad geniuses. They wrote a lot of songs that didn’t necessarily appeal to me, because they were so orchestrated. But when they dug in to do something mean or hard, they could do it better than anybody. News Of The World has Fight From The Inside, one of my favourite Queen songs, and also the brilliant Get Down Make Love. This is just my favourite end-to-end Queen record.”