"The album is guilty of attempting to appease people that Queen had no real business in trying to win over": Queen's News Of The World - Album Of The Week Club review

At a time when punk rock was new, Queen suddenly epitomised everything about the old rock aristocracy that the critics now held in contempt... so they released their most popular album yet

Queen: News Of The World cover art
(Image: © EMI)

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Queen - News Of The World

Queen: News Of The World cover art

(Image credit: EMI)

We Will Rock You
We Are the Champions
Sheer Heart Attack
All Dead, All Dead
Spread Your Wings
Fight from the Inside
Get Down, Make Love
Sleeping on the Sidewalk
Who Needs You
It's Late
My Melancholy Blues

At a time when punk rock was considered the new critical yardstick, Queen suddenly epitomised everything about the old rock aristocracy that was now held in contempt: massive production, back-arching guitars and the once glorious, now oddly out of step image of Freddie Mercury preening in front of the audience, wishing them all “champagne for breakfast”.

In fact, what nobody had anticipated when News Of The World was released in the punk-dominated autumn of 1977 was exactly how well it would do – to the tune of seven million sales worldwide, making it the most successful Queen album to date.

Yes, the album’s got We Are The Champions and We Will Rock You, two Queen songs so embedded into the social fabric it’s easy to forget their origins. So it’s also easy to see News Of The World as being about these tracks and nothing else. But that does the album a massive disservice. There were plenty of other highlights - Sheer Heart Attack (which the band had never quite finished in time for the album of the same title), Spread Your Wings, Get Down. Make Love. This was the band in high spirits and musically flying.

"What I love about News Of The World is that it’s dark – really dark," late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins told us. "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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Other albums released in October 1977

  • The Runaways - Waitin' for the Night
  • Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers - L.A.M.F.
  • Electric Light Orchestra - Out of the Blue
  • The Charlie Daniels Band - Midnight Wind 
  • Kansas - Point of Know Return
  • Kiss - Alive II
  • "Heroes" - David Bowie 
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - Street Survivors
  • Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell
  • Genesis - Seconds Out
  • Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
  • Neil Young - Decade
  • UFO - Lights Out
  • Barclay James Harvest - Gone to Earth
  • Levon Helm - Levon Helm & the RCO All-Stars
  • Santana - Moonflower
  • Sammy Hagar - Musical Chairs
  • Nils Lofgren - Night After Night
  • Utopia - Oops! Wrong Planet
  • Dead Boys - Young Loud and Snotty


What they said...

"Despite the explosion of sounds and rhythms, this album doesn't add up to party thanks to that slightly distancing chilly vibe that hangs over the album. Nevertheless, many of these songs work well on their own as entities, so there is plenty to savour here, especially from Brian May. Whether he's doing the strangely subdued eccentric English pop All Dead, All Dead or especially the majestic yet nimble rocker It's Late, he turns in work that gives this album some lightness, which it needs." (AllMusic)

"In which the group that last January brought us a $7.98 LP to boycott devotes one side to the wantonness of woman and the other to the futile rebelliousness of the doomed-to-life losers (those saps!) (you saps!) who buy and listen." (Robert Christgau)

"Most of the songs on News of the World either challenge Queen’s artistic enemies or endeavour to establish a vision of the new order. We Are the Champions ends with the line, 'No time for losers, ’cause we are the champions – of the world.' It’s an appropriate comment for a side that also includes We Will Rock You, which has the atmosphere of a political rally in a Leni Riefenstahl movie and is at once a rock anthem and a commandment." (Rolling Stone)


What you said...

Alex Hayes: Queen are a funny one. Although I've been a fan of the band since before my early teens, and consider them to be without doubt one of the greatest rock bands of all time, their discography is undeniably patchy in places.

They are one of several bands (Genesis being another example) whereby I'm such a big fan of a certain early stage in their career, that everything recorded subsequently just fails to resonate in the same way, despite being brilliant in places. In Queen's case, that's with their first four albums. If I'm in a good mood, I may attach A Day At The Races onto there too, despite it being an obvious, not to mention slightly inferior, rehash of the previous year's majestic (pun intended) A Night At The Opera.

In many ways, News Of The World (Queen's sixth album, released in 1977) goes a long way in explaining exactly why that is. It's the first album where a blatant shift in modus operandi is taking place. Here, a great rock band are splintering into four very distinctive and contrasting songwriters. Later albums suffered even more from this change, as each band member wrestled for his share of album space, pulling the music in different directions and leaving us with rather uneven records. I often think of Queen's music, post 1976, as resembling a kind of giant elastic band. The more experimental the music becomes, the more the elastic band is stretched. By 1982's Hot Space, it had finally snapped under the pressure (again, pun intended).

The album is also guilty of attempting to appease people that Queen had no real business in trying to win over. Screw the punk crowd and the likes of the journalists from the NME. If they don't like you, you must be doing something right! From this point onwards, keeping up with the times also became central to Queen's creative process. There's nothing wrong with that in principle, but, in Queen's case, it led us away from amazing material like The Prophet's Song, and instead took us towards the likes of One Year Of Love. I know which of those two tracks I personally prefer.

It was a delight to reacquaint myself with News Of The World this week though. I hadn't listened to it in about a year, and it's still terrific in places. Where else to start than with the ubiquitous We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions combo, those stalwart anthems eternally beloved by sports crowds everywhere. They are the work of simplistic genius to be sure, but now suffer from overexposure for me.

Unsurprisingly, it's Brian May's contributions that shine the brightest here (another pet peeve of mine with Queen's musical development over the years was the increasing sidelining of his guitar work in places, hello again One Year Of Love). Much of that praise centres around the epic It's Late though, by far the best thing on offer here. Roger Taylor also comes up trumps with both Sheer Heart Attack (a blinding track that I get a buzz off every time it gets played on classic rock radio), and Fight From The Inside, with it's superb central guitar riff.

We get the best and worst of John Deacon here. Spread Your Wings is another album highlight, possibly only beaten by It's Late. But then we get Who Needs You, the musical equivalent of wet lettuce. I'm also sad to say that I find Freddie Mercury's songs here a little bland, certainly when put into comparison with something like The March Of The Black Queen. Between them, Deacon and Mercury would help steer the band towards the likes of Hot Space and One Year Of Love, the side of Queen that I'm much less fond of. What great artists and performers all four members of this extraordinary band were though. I guess that's all that ultimately matters.

In my ideal world, Queen would have continued in the same pomp driven vein as those first four albums, probably fading more and more into obscurity as the years rushed by and tastes changed. They didn't though, they moved with the times and ended up one of the biggest acts of all time. So that shows what I know. Along the way though, their albums definitely strayed into more uneven territory, and that started with News Of The World. It's still a good listen though, and merits a very commendable 7/10.

Dave Ferrier: Fantastic album.

Uli Hassinger: My favourite album from the band, and the most varied.

When it comes to the two opening classics I never get tired of them, even if they are played to death. I still remember me as a young teen going down on my knees with all the others to We Will Rock You, clapping the distinct rhythm on the floor. And when the guitar comes in it still sends shivers down my spine. It's the quintessential Brian May guitar sound. We Are The Champions is still a monster of a hymn.

Then there's Spread Your Wings, a song flying under the radar most of the time and not even included in their Best Ff albums. To me it's their absolute masterpiece. All Dead, It's Late and Get Down, Make Love are also brilliant. Overall a 9/10.

Jeff Belval: It’s raw, it’s gritty, to me this queen at their best.

Bill Griffin: Not a bad album, but a bit of a let down after the first five. Not as progressive. I always opt for the fast version of We Will Rock You over this one.

John Davidson: Queen were always a hard act to pin down. They performed a heady combination of guitar rock, complex , operatic vocal harmonies, glam rock and quirky music hall cabaret numbers all mixed together on an album and sometimes in the same song.

News Of The World sees the band ease back on the operatic styles they explored on Night At The Opera and Day At The Races in favour of the more “straightforward” pop rock that they continued to develop on follow up album Jazz, before perfecting the formula on The Game.

News Of The World is in that sense a transitional album, but it’s no slouch either. The two obvious crowd pleasers get the party started but the real standouts have always been Spread Your Wings and It’s Late. It's not perfect, but News Of The World is probably their most consistent studio album after Sheer heart Attack.

Brian Carr: A perfect example of why I like full albums better than greatest hits collections. Yes, a large amount of the world’s population will recognize We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions, and despite their overwhelming ubiquity, they are just too well crafted for me to burn out on. But the rest of the album is loaded with spectacular tracks unknown to Greatest Hits fans. All Dead, All Dead and It’s Late are excellent. Get Down, Make Love elicits multiple emotions as a nasty verse groove rolls into the anthemic, well, it isn’t a chorus… how in the world would you analyse the song structure of that one? It’s Queen and it’s tremendous. Finally, Spread Your Wings might be my personal favorite Queen song. There’s just something about it that resonates with me completely.

There is absolutely no filler here, just fantastic songs and epic performances from these four brilliant souls that blessed us with some of the greatest music ever recorded.

Greg Schwepe: Good revisit on this selection as I probably hadn’t listened all the way through since when I bought on cassette shortly after it came out back in high school. This album shows that Queen were no “one trick pony.” Tons of different styles and moods crammed into this masterpiece.

Let it be said that the first two tracks on this album are the ultimate one-two punch of iconic rock songs to ever lead off an album (that compliment coming from a huge Zeppelin fan who thinks the first two tracks off of Led Zeppelin IV are a close second!). You have to be living under the world’s biggest rock to not know the cultural impact of We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions. The commercials, movie trailers, sports championships… think of the places you heard those songs.

Next comes Sheer Heart Attack which suffers from Houses Of The Holy syndrome, where the song doesn’t appear on the album of the same title. Here’s where the the low E string gets ground down as that riff chugs along. That sixpence Brian May uses for a pick got quite the workout. When someone asks for the most hard-rocking Queen song, you can point them to this one.

And from that slightly head banging venture, here comes along All Dead, All Dead filled with piano, Freddie’s vocals, and enough harmony vocals to let you know it’s Queen.

And probably my favourite track on this album appears next, and both the lyrics and the mood literally take you away. Yes, Spread You Wings and fly away. May’s solo shows you why he’s what I call a “two-note guitarist”, because by the time he plays note #2 you know it’s Brian May.

Get Down, Make Love plays on the strengths of each member as the vocals, bass, drums, and guitar all make quite the impression. Bonus points here for the Dazed and Confused style freak out in the middle of the song. Sorry, third Zeppelin reference in a Queen review!

And is this an out and out blues song in Sleeping On The Sidewalk? Could be. Then hearing Brian May’s solo… I’m sure it is!

Will end this review with yet another backstory about the album. When I bought this cassette I had yet to upgrade to high grade stereo components (cash from a high school job was about a year away!) and my cassette player was a Realistic brand from Radio Shack I had gotten for Christmas. Anything I played in it started to jam and chatter at random at some point. 

My Mom drove me to the store to have them check it out. The salesman hooked up my player to a megawatt receiver and huge speakers. I had taken the Queen tape to hopefully recreate the issue. The salesman started the cassette and We Will Rock You made its grand entrance. He then proceeded to crank the song to almost ear splitting levels, even though the issue had nothing to do with volume or the cassette not playing. I think he was just in a mood to hear that song totally cranked up in the store. And then, right on queue, the player jammed like it did at home. 

With a new replacement in hand, I was leaving the store and my Mom goes “My gosh, that was loud.” To which I replied “Yeah, I know!” 9 out of 10 on this one for me.

Gary Claydon: I'm not a Queen fan. Don't assume that means I dislike 'em, though. Truth is, I don't have strong feelings either way about Queen. They're a band that I find difficult to get excited about, for the most part. Oft times, when you say you're not a fan of a band, someone who is will be only too happy to show you the error of your ways. Indeed, in some cases, they absolutely Will. Not. Stop until they feel they have done so. 

When all else fails, they will simply tell you that 'you don't get it'. For my own part, that may well be true with regard to some bands. But not Queen. I absolutely get Queen. I absolutely get why they are so popular and I absolutely get what made them such a great band. Because, even a non-fan would be foolish to dispute the fact that they were a great band and that they left a legacy befitting that status.

So where does News Of The World fit into that legacy? Actually, I'll leave that to Queen fans to decide but, for me, it's OK, not great. Then again, I genuinely believe that Queen never made a truly 'great' album. They wrote great songs and plenty of them but, when you stick two or three great songs on one album, it's easy to ignore the mediocre, the filler or the downright dross that makes up the rest of the track listing and proclaim it to be 'great'. It's happens a lot. It's no surprise that Queen's best selling album is their Greatest Hits, though.

Back to News of The World and the opening salvoes need no introduction. Overplayed and over familiar We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions undoubtedly are, but that doesn't change the fact that they are perfect pieces of anthemic pop-rock. Their ubiquity is undeniable and will remain so while ever cheesy DJs exist or sports - any sports - are broadcast anywhere in the known universe. Guaranteed floor fillers, instant karaoke, total crowd pleasers. I wish I had written either one 'cos right now I'd be sitting on an exclusive, luxury island, reaching into my pretty cabinet for the Moet et Chandon while watching the royalties roll in.

You'd normally fear for the track that had to follow those two but the spiky Sheer Heart Attack is the best thing here and one of my favourite Queen songs, proof that they could pack a real punch when they wanted. The rest? It's Late is Queen at their pomp-tastic best and really should have been the album closer. Instead, we're treated to a slice of Freddie self indulgence and not a particularly good one, at that. I really want to like Spread Your Wings, mainly because it's a John Deacon composition. To me, the bassist has always come across as the downtrodden, slightly oppressed, member of the quartet and I've always been a sucker for an underdog but the track just doesn't do it for me. Nor does the rest of the album. It all gets a little bit dull.

News of The World is Queen in a nutshell, for me, three genuinely great tracks, one very good one but with the rest thrown in? 6/10 (catch me on a good day, I might stretch that to a 7 for the opening trio alone).

Adam McCann: I used to dislike this album, but it's grown on me massively over the years. Good production and songwriting, tracks like It's Late and Spread Your Wings are massively overlooked in the Queen catalogue. Personally, I could do without many of ditties Queen put on their records, but News Of The World perfectly bookends the first Queen era, and no better way to do it than two anthems still played events worldwide today.

Chris Twinam: My favourite Queen album. Practically perfect!

Stephen Dyer: Their best for me, and Spread Your Wings is their best track.

Toni Rosas Gomez: The first album I bought back in 1978. Still one of my all-time favourites.

Philip Qvist: Well this one got me thinking, because this one has always ranked highly on my best Queen album lists, yet it has been ages since I last listened to News Of The World.

My mid to late teens was all about Queen, the band that introduced me to rock and turned me into a huge music lover. Simply put, they were one of my all time favourite bands (still are), and they had a huge influence on my future music choices.

As already mentioned above, I have always rated this one highly - just behind Sheer Heart Attack, A Night At The Opera and Queen II. And yet, when I listened to it today, I realised that it had been the best part of three decades since I last played News Of The World from start to finish.

So how does it compare now and have I been judging this album through rose tinted glasses? Well actually no, the best songs on News Of The World all fit into the excellent category, and fortunately there are plenty of them.

We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions are established classics. Brian May's It's Late and All Dead, All Dead are great, while John Deacon stole the show with Spread Your Wings, his strongest ever song, and probably the strongest number here.

In fact the band's guitarist and bass player did a lot of the heavy lifting here, and just as well, as, apart from We Are The Champions, both Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor's efforts are not their best. Get Down, Make Love is okay, but better on Live Killers (and oh boy, in my young naive teens those lyrics went straight over my head) - but that's it. I can understand why Sheer Heart Attack never appeared on the album of the same name, while My Melancholy Blues is too whimsical for my liking.

So, all in all it's a bit of a mixed bag, but the quality of the best songs does ensure that it remains on my Top 5 Best Queen Albums list. I still give it an 8/10.

Mike Sargent: Love most of the album. We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions is an automatic skip for me now though. I have heard these two songs way too many times in my life.

Abraham Castro-Kreimerman: If I can erase We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions it could be one of the greatest Queen album. All Dead is poetry.

Chris Elliott: Sort of sums up the general disappointment of Queen albums. A couple of truly great tracks, some that are just naff despite their popularity and a lot of filler. Not as bad as Jazz. "Great tracks, forgettable albums" sums up my Queen opinion.

Mark Herrington: News of the World was a return to a rawer, rockier Queen and a move away from their mid 70’s theatrics. The album follows a complementary pattern, lifting you up with epic classics and dovetailing them with classy, moodier tracks. 

No introduction needed for the Stadium anthem pair that opens News of the World. Except that, in their natural environment they sound more relevant. We Will Rock You, shorter than remembered, and a clear statement of intent. We Are The Champions, a celebration of a band at the height of its powers. Then Sheer Heart Attack storms in, a full on onslaught, like a challenge to punk rock’s 1977 heyday. Unfinished in time for its namesake album, it fits in well here, in this energetic opening sequence.

The song creation and vocals are shared more widely amongst the band, a more collaborative effort here, and it shows. Ultimately, this strengthens the cohesive sound that flows throughout.

All Dead arrives at the right moment and calms proceedings down, with its wonderfully Beatlesque sound, May on vocals. Spread Your Wings is the album's triumph and one of the best of all Queen tracks - an anthem of ambition to go your own way, and Freddie on fine form throughout, leading on to the rocking Fight From The Inside, Taylor on vocals. Then the sinuous Get Down Make Love with Freddie back again.

Sleeping on the Sidewalk cools things down with a trademark Queen jangly tune, Brian May on vocals here. Who Needs You takes proceedings down another level preparing for the next blockbuster. It’s Late has it all, classic Queen harmonics married with power, a grandiose six-minute track to start to close out the album.

Having taken us on this rocking journey - and fulfilled their promise to Rock You, the album finishes perfectly with My Melancholy Blues, Freddie bemoaning that "Another party’s over…". A classic finale.

This and the equally good Sheer Heart Attack are my favourites of theirs, an easy 10.

Lloyd Bolster: This album and Sheer Heart Attack are my two favourite Queen albums, depending on my mood it’s first or second. Love it.

Andrew Holmes: Brilliant album.

Mike Canoe: Like previous picks from Thin Lizzy or Jethro Tull, News Of The World by Queen was considered a change of direction at the time of release. But, like those other releases, listening to News Of The World several decades later, it seems a typical entry in the band's back catalog.

Of course, in the world of Queen, "typical" means another genre-conquering collection of songs by four solid songwriters and three great singers, made cohesive through excellent musicianship and ridiculously exquisite vocal harmonies.

While I don't need to ever again hear the one two punch of We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions, the rest of the album is pretty great.

Being the second best singer in Queen is kind of like being the best guitarist in Rush; you're going to get left behind anyway. I absolutely love Roger Taylor's raspy rock'n'roll voice and it's used to great effect on the two numbers he wrote, the funk rock Fight From the Inside and, in tandem with Freddie Mercury, on the turbo-speed Sheer Heart Attack.

John Deacon, the "quiet one," turns in two great songs as well, both sung by Mercury: the breezy tropical kiss-off of Who Needs You and the gorgeous ballad, Spread Your Wings.

The lion's share of the writing credits go to Brian May this time around with his own beautiful ballad, All Dead, All Dead, and Mercury-sung rock mini-opera It's Late standing out.

All that and we haven't gotten to the phenomenal Freddie Mercury yet, who turns in the vampy vocal showcase of My Melancholy Blues and the disco funk of Get Down, Make Love.

Odds are, if you like Queen, especially their albums released between 1974 and 1980, you'll like this one too - and probably already do. If you think of Queen as a band that just doesn't know when to say when, this one won't change your mind either.

Cristian Fabian: Great album, one of their best, not as operatic or experimental as their previous stuff but still pretty diverse and entertaining.

Chris Webb: It's Late is probably Brian's most underrated riff and features a smokin' solo. Throw in We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions and Sheer Heart Attack and you got an album. Also, Sleepin' On the Sidewalk was fantastic, and contained some of Brian's best work.


Final score: 8.28 (132 votes cast, total score 1094)

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