Friday, August 6, 2010

Queen Will Rock You

In a new interview with NPR Radio, Queen’s Brian May offered some cool insight into the writing of “We Will Rock You.”

"I was thinking of it more as a rock anthem and a means of uniting an audience,” said May. “Enjoying the fact that an audience is united.”

The “stomp-stomp-clap” portion of the song wasn’t a part of the original version. May was inspired to write the “stomp” section after a particularly lively Queen show at Bingley Hall near Birmingham, UK.

"The audience was responding hugely, and they were singing along with everything we did,"
said Brian. "I remember talking to Freddie Mercury about it. And I said, 'Obviously, we can no longer fight this. This has to be something which is part of our show and we have to embrace it, the fact that people want to participate — and, in fact, everything becomes a two-way process now. And we sort of looked at each other and went, 'Hmm. How interesting.' "

May went home after the show and said he awoke the next morning with the “stomp-stomp-clap” thing in his head. "I was thinking, 'What can you give an audience that they could do while they're standing there? They can stamp and they can clap and they can sing some kind of chant," he says. "To me, it was a united thing. It was an expression of strength."

Getting the sound from his head onto tape was another matter, though, as May worked through the process. "I had this idea that, if we did it enough times and we didn't use any reverb or anything, that I could build a sound that would work," said Brian. “We were very lucky — we were working in an old, disused church in North London, and it already had a nice sound. And there were some old boards lying around, but they just seemed ideal to stamp on. So we piled them up and started stamping. And they sounded great anyway.”

“But being a physicist, I said, 'Suppose there were 1,000 people doing this; what would be happening?',” continued May. “And I thought, 'Well, you would be hearing them stamping. You would also be hearing a little bit of an effect, which is due to the distance that they are from you.' So I put lots of individual repeats on them. Not an echo but a single repeat at various distances. And the distances were all prime numbers. Now, much later on, people designed a machine to do this. But that's what we did. When we recorded each track, we put a delay of a certain length on it. And none of the delays were harmonically related. So there's no echo on it whatsoever, but the clapped sound — they spread around the stereo, but they also kind of spread from a distance from you — so you just feel like you're in the middle of a large number of people stamping and clapping."

Once released, the song took on a life of its own. “I didn't realize that it would translate to sports games,” said May. “This is an amazing thing. It's wonderful for me to see what "We Will Rock You" has done.”

“'We Will Rock You' and 'We Are the Champions' have kind of transcended the normal framework of where music is listened to and appreciated — they've become part of public life, which I feel wonderful about. It's fantastic to me, if I go to a football game or a soccer game or basketball or whatever — or any place all around the world — and there it is. And I think, 'My God. Most people don't even realize that I wrote it.' Most people don't realize that it was written. It's sort of become one of those things that people think was always there. So in a way, that's the best compliment you could have for the song."

WeQueen - We Will Rock You (Live) - On Fire - Live At the Bowl

Queen – We Will Rock You (1977)

Queen also performed a “fast version” of the song live; it probably represented the original version of the track, before May added the “stomp” section…

We Queen -We Will Rock You (Fast) [Live] - On Fire - Live At the Bowl

Queen – We Will Rock You (fast version)
From “Queen On Fire - Live At The Bowl” (2004)
National Bowl, Milton Keynes, UK – June 5, 1982