The Queen song Freddie Mercury called “really out of the usual format”

The late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was one of a kind. A masterful songwriter, blending a theatrical tendency with an inventive approach to words and music, his work was lifted by his four-octave vocal range and flamboyant stage presence. A commanding spirit on record and in the live setting, Mercury’s power continues to captivate new listeners nearly 32 years after his death.

Many moments affirmed Mercury’s unique personality, including the time he and the band threw the wildest album release party of all time. Yet, it was in his music where Mercury’s character manifested most, giving Queen the edge that appealed to both fans of rock and mainstream listeners. From ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, a number of classic songs in Queen’s oeuvre confirm why Mercury is considered one of the all-time greats.

One of these is ‘Killer Queen’, a track taken from the 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack, an art-pop masterpiece about a high-end call girl. When speaking to Caroline Coon in Melody Maker in December 1974, Mercury revealed how he wrote the song and explained that it was written “really out of the format” that he usually used when composing material. He elucidated that, typically, the music would come first, but in this case, the words and the “sophisticated style” that he wanted to convey arrived before all else.

Asked if he was going to find the time to write new songs given that Queen were to tour Europe and America over the following months, Mercury responded: “Well, I don’t ever really sit down at the piano and say, ‘Right, I’ve got to write a song now.’ I feel a few things and I have ideas. It’s very hard to explain but there are always various ideas going through my head. ‘Killer Queen’ was one song which was really out of the format that I usually write in. Usually the music comes first, but the words came to me, and the sophisticated style that I wanted to put across in the song, came first. No, I’d never really met a woman like that. A lot of my songs are fantasy. I can dream up all kinds of things. That’s the kind of world I live in. It’s very sort of flamboyant, and that’s the kind of way I write. I love it.”

“You don’t need money to give an air of being,” the frontman continued. “I don’t know – sort of extreme. The showbiz thing of walking into a room and making sure that people know you’re there. I love being able to let myself go at times. The ideal thing for a group that is successful is to churn out more of the formula that worked. But we want to progress in our own terms.”

Asked if he’d have to take time off to pen new tracks, he said: “It depends. Nobody knew we were going to be told we had two weeks to write Sheer Heart Attack. And we had too – it was only thing we could do. Brian was in hospital.”

What did it feel like to work under that sort of pressure? Mercury explained that everything was fine, as remarkably, he wrote ‘Killer Queen’ in one night, with it all falling into place. He said: “Well, ‘Killer Queen’ I wrote in one night. I’m not being conceited or anything, but it just fell into place. Certain songs do. Now, ‘March Of The Black Queen’, that took ages. I had to give it everything, to be self-indulgent or whatever. But with ‘Killer Queen’, I scribbled down the words in the dark one Saturday night and the next morning I got them all together and I worked all day Sunday and that was it. I’d got it. It gelled. It was great.”

Mercury concluded: “Certain things just come together, but other things you have to work for. The whole band is very particular. We don’t go in for half measures and I’m very hard with myself. There’re no compromises. If I thought a song wasn’t quite right, I’d discard it. I’m very intricate and delicate. You can see that in my paintings. I love painters like Richard Dadd, Mucha and Dali, and I love Arthur Rackham.”

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