This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #172: Killer Queen by Queen.
“Killer Queen” was a hit song from Queen’s third album called, “Sheer Heart Attack”. While “Killer Queen” never reached #1 on the charts, it is a very important song in the evolution of Queen’s career because it was the very first hit that actually sounds like a Queen song. Let me explain.
For the first two albums that Queen released, they had adopted a heavy, Prog-like style that put them in the company of peers such as early Genesis, Pink Floyd and so on. Knowing what we now know about the whole of Queen’s career, it seems almost unimaginable that they started out singing of Arthurian legends and other fantasy-esque topics. It wasn’t until it came time to start work on their third album that the band took their theatricality in a more cabaret direction. Thus, when “Killer Queen” was released, it suddenly seemed fresh and new and a departure from the heavy, laden-with-meaning music they had put out to date.
“Killer Queen” was written by Freddie Mercury. The subject matter revolves, specifically, around a high-class call girl but, in a broader sense, Mercury was quoted as stating that the main idea behind “Killer Queen” is how so many people of means end up prostituting themselves in a variety of ways in order to maintain their access to higher society. In any case, listening to this song, it is impossible to not think of it as being a play or a scene from a show because of how it is littered with such saucy characters. “Killer Queen” became “Queen’s” first Top Twenty hit and, just as importantly, it was the first song of theirs to gain airplay in the US. Because of the theatricality woven into this song, the general public was prepared, somewhat, for what was to come from their very next album……it was a little song called, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Without “Killer Queen” laying the groundwork, as it did, there is a chance that people would not have accepted “Bohemian Rhapsody” as enthusiastically as they did.
The one story that I have heard about the this song is how it was introduced to guitarist, Brian May. At one point during a tour, May and the rest of the band travelled internationally and, as part of crossing borders, he managed to contract hepatitis. As the disease took hold, he collapsed and had to be rushed back to the UK, where he ended up requiring stomach surgery. So, the story is that, one day, as he was recovering in a villa that the band had rented, he awoke to the sound of Freddie Mercury at a piano, singing the words to a new song he was trying to work out. That song was “Killer Queen”. May remembers laying there, listening to this song that he had never heard mention of before and thinking, “Wow! This is fantastic!” The rest of the band liked the song, too. They recorded their parts and, when May was well enough to rejoin the band, he recorded his guitar parts, including an excellent solo.
All in all, when most of us think of a typical Queen song, “Killer Queen” has the quality of musical composition and lyrical substance that we are often thinking about. It was the song that started Queen off on, what was to become, an epic and glorious journey.
So, without further delay, here is “Killer Queen” by Queen. Enjoy!
The link to the video for the song, “Killer Queen” by Queen, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Queen, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.