Sheer Heart Attack

Written by Roger Taylor

Recording information by Philipp (PraxisNothaft@t-online.de)

Recorded in summer 1977.
Released in october 1977 on the album News Of The World.

First I wanna thank Matt for all his useful tips and his valuable help.
Thanks a lot!

Tuning:
All guitars and the bass are tuned down a half-step. So it was played in E, but it sounds in Eb. Live, however, they played it in D.
Tuning from low to high: Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, Eb (for the bass just leave the two high strings away).

General:
Queen's only "punk" song was written in a time when the word "punk" didn't even exist. Roger actually wrote the song for the album of the same name (in 1974), but it wasn't completed early enough and it didn't find a place on it. The concept of the two following albums didn't have place for it either, so it had to wait till 1977 to see the light of day.

Musically it sounds extremely wild and primitive, when you listen to it for the first time. But behind this heaviness a good song is hidden, which is cleverly arranged and recorded. All in all, this song is something totally extraordinary!

Drums:
Roger is making lots of noise with a bass-drum, a snare, an open hi-hat and some crash cymbals. After the furious instrumental break, there's a strange fill: two high toms (overdubbed) are playing left and right, and they're going away from each other, more and more into separate stereo directions. The left drum gets gradually lower, whilst the right gets higher. This makes the "flanging" sound.

Bass:
For the first time somebody other than John is named in this section: Roger! The bass-sound has a very warm and low tone and seems to be played with a Fender P-bass.The signal probably went directly into the desk.

Guitars:
Roger again! He plays two rhythm guitars (left-right), which are furious,dirty punk-guitars with fast stroking. The third guitar is played by Brian. He plays some fills and creates lots of strange noises, using feedback and pinched harmonics (by squeezing the strings between the pick and finger). On some places the guitar sound is flanged/phased.In his little solo at 1:39, Brian uses the whammy bar to create a vibrato-bar trill.
In the furious instrumental part, Brian creates extreme feedback and the guitar signal seems to go through an oscillator.
Then the oscillator-effect gets overdriven and there seems to be some tape manipulation as well.

SoundZ:
Roger's punk sound is the result of a tube amp with full volume and distortion. Roger played the same Fender Elite Brian would use two years later on 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love'. Brian's stuff is done with the Red Special and the Vox Ac30. A treble-booster was used to make the sound scream. The rest is already mentioned above.

Vocals:
Most of it is done by Roger again. The first verse is sung by Freddie.The hey, hey, hey, hey-parts etc... have got a harmony voice by Roger. In the chorus, Roger multi-tracked his voice (about 4 tracks) and used heavy flanging. The "I feel so" - is done by Freddie again, followed by some harmonies (1 Freddie,2 Rogers), and the "ticulate" is Roger's lead voice.  Roger sings the whole second verse (+harmonies). Listen to his great "how I feel" - articulation at 1:43. Till the instrumental break we only hear Roger's voice. After the break there's nothing new. The vocal parts are a stunning demostration of Freddie's and (especially) Roger's great articulation.

Tape phasing:
All the flanging/phasing-effects in the song are made by tape manipulation. The signal is recorded on two tapes, which are played simultaneously. Then one tape is made slower via resting the finger on it or taking the tape away from the synch head, putting it through a couple of delays and then bringing it back to the head. One tape is a TINY bit off-key now and this makes the phasing-effect.

By the way:
This is a real do-it-yourself-song by Roger. He recorded most of the vocals and instruments. Everybody has such personal spotlights on the News Of The World album. Some songs are even totally missing one member: here it is John. Roger had to wait a long time to get the song released,but at least he earned some money with it in the end: it was the b-side of the single Spread Your Wings.