Release date: 27 February 1984
UK chart peak: #2
Running time: 37:15
Singles: Radio Ga Ga (#2), It’s A Hard Life (#6), I Want To Break Free (#3), Hammer To Fall (#13)
By 1984 a band with a large global following, it’s no surprise that The Works performed pretty well, reaching the top 10 in many different countries: #1 in Argentina & the Netherlands, #2 in Austria & Norway, #4 in Italy, #7 in Japan, #9 in New Zealand, and #3 in Sweden & Switzerland.
Queen came into the 80s ditching their proud ‘no synths’ tag, embracing the changing soundscape like musical chameleons; 1982’s Hot Space was a notable change in direction, as dance crept in and everything became more electronic & beats-driven. Around the time of The Works‘ release, the Thompson Twins reached number one in the album charts with Into the Gap, as did Howard Jones’ Human’s Lib. Queen had been on a brief hiatus prior to working on this album, pursuing other interests and rejuvenating themselves – so much so that they even had enough left in the can for a standalone Christmas single penned by Roger Taylor and Brian May, Thank God It’s Christmas (actually released 35 years ago today).
The Works brought Queen back into slightly more familiar territory, sounding a bit more rock than its predecessor, whilst still retaining some 80s influence – Machines (Or ‘Back To Humans’) and Radio Ga Ga up against something like Hammer To Fall exemplifies this. That’s not to say it sticks rigidly to this ideal; Mercury’s Man on the Prowl is more of a rockabilly number, perhaps something of an extended follow-up to Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and his It’s A Hard Life is almost like Bohemian Rhapsody in style (though not in scale). All in all it makes for a varied listen, and proves that Queen were willing to assimilate aspects of the music of the time without trading off their own style.
My choice of standout album tracks reflects the variety on offer; May’s Tear It Up roars through the speakers, a live favourite that gives you the chance to stomp along at will (perfect if you’re pounding the streets of London!), whereas his collaboration with Mercury (Is This The World We Created… ?) is understated and beautiful – and actually ended up being performed at Live Aid as an encore. Mercury’s Keep Passing The Open Windows is also a highlight (it always reminds me a bit of Ultravox’s Dancing With Tears In My Eyes in the bassline and use of synths), which was written for the 1983 film The Hotel New Hampshire.
Let Me Entertain You
Queen headed out on The Works Tour from 24 August 1984 until 15 May 1985; it comprised 48 shows over five legs worldwide. The tour proved slightly controversial in places, as the band chose to play in apartheid South Africa – their shows were for mixed audiences but, as you might expect, a lot of acts at the time boycotted the country entirely.