Release date: 8 November 1974
UK chart peak: #2
Running time: 39:09
Singles: Killer Queen (#2), Now I’m Here (#11)
Though it’s widely considered to be a classic now, the band were still finding their feet and it just managed to reach the top 10 in Canada (#6), the Netherlands (#7), France (#6), and Norway (#9).
The 70s was a fairly eclectic time for music, but it was on the approach to the middle of the decade where the choice between different genres really started to proliferate. Around the time of Sheer Heart Attack‘s release, the Bay City Rollers had a number one album with Rollin’, and Elton John’s Greatest Hits also hit the top spot; glam and prog rock were still going strong, plus punk was on the horizon. For Queen it was a rather fraught time: Brian May had come down with hepatitis (his fellow band members had to all but smuggle him back home from the US) and then a stomach ulcer, leaving the others around two weeks to write the new album.
With this record the band stepped away from prog (though didn’t leave it behind entirely, with fantasy elements cropping up in Lily of the Valley and others) and moved more into glam rock territory, with some pop and musical theatre stylings thrown in for good measure. The result is quite a varied listen, not quite settling on one particular style – but instead making a move towards the kind of sound that would stay with them for a lot of their career. Its slightly transitionary nature is perhaps reflected by when some of the songs were first written (Stone Cold Crazy has its origins in Freddie Mercury’s old band Wreckage and Brighton Rock was written in the Queen II sessions, for example); May’s absence probably helped tip the balance towards the theatrical as Mercury took on the bulk of the songwriting effort. By this stage, all four members of the band were contributing their own compositions, which would eventually lead to them each individually writing a number one song for the band – the only group in music history to have achieved this feat.
I enjoy listening to this record so much that it is quite difficult to pick any standout album tracks, but if pushed I’d have to single out Roger Taylor’s Tenement Funster (which segues into Flick of the Wrist, another highlight) and Mercury’s In The Lap of the Gods… Revisited (a live staple, even up to the Magic Tour in 1986). May’s She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos) has also grown on me recently, with a slight hangover from the psychedelic era just trickling through at times.
Let Me Entertain You
The band went out on the Sheer Heart Attack Tour in support of the album; they played 77 shows across three legs (30 October 1974 – 1 May 1975), and it was in fact their first world tour. Styx and Kansas were among the support acts enlisted for these dates.