Great King Rat

Written by Freddie Mercury

Recording information by Philipp (

Recorded in 1972 at Trident Studios, SoHo, London, UK.
Released in 1973 on the album "Queen".

One of the very first songs Freddie wrote for Queen (its first version was recorded in 1971 at De Lane Lea Studios as a demo) and a quite good one.
It has some very catchy (flamenco-style) music and lyrics. It contains very skilled instrumental work and shows the groups potential at full range (especially Roger and Brian are great on that one!). A clever piece all around, full of rhythm and great guitar licks.

Everything's done by Roger.
Well,this is it. The Trident drum-sound. A thing that the band (especially Roger) never liked, but they could do nothing about it. Roy Thomas Baker said what to do in those days. One trademark of this sound is, that the snare, the toms and the bass-drums are almost sounding the same. The drums were covered with tape to make them dead and then were extremely close-miced to kill any reality in the sound. This is not necessarily bad and may bring an interesting touch into the sound, but it doesn't fit Queen. Nevertheless, here are the drums:
The snare-drum (which is playing some cool patterns) is panned right, as well as the hi-hat. The toms have a stereo-panning, so that the fills go from one side to the other and back (on this song it sound amazing, cause it goes very fast. Check it out! This is the positive side of Trident's production). The bass-drum is in the middle. There are two crash cymbals.
In the intro they're both at the left side and are slightly sweeping over to the right side. Later also the other side is used. At the end there's an amazing drum-solo. However, you can - as I already mentioned - hardly discern the drums.
The fast roll at the end was not recorded at once. There are two parts:
The snare at the right side and this thing which goes at the left side and seems to be low tom. It is flanged.
(Oh man I love listening to the drums on this song.You can't help but move along!)
There's also a tambourine, which was overdubbed later and which was panned into the left channel. Another overdub are the two cowbells which are an important part of the melody (they are appearing when Freddie sings "Great King was a dirty old man..."). They have different pitches, like the ones that are used in Samba-ensembles. And there are also handclaps (slightly right) in the second solo.

Played by John on a Fender Precision Bass. It was played over an amp which was picked up with mics. Panned into the center. Very "bassey" and rumbling sound, but very subdued in the mix.

Everything's done by Brian (though Freddie obviously invented some of the guitar parts).
In the noisy intro there are two guitars first (one left , one right) and then only the right one continues. When the drums kick in, there's the distorted guitar right and an acoustic guitar on the left side. This continues till 1:08.
Then the left side is joined by another distorted guitar with wah-wah.
The solo consists of the wah-guitar on the left side and the other guitar on the right side (as well as a distorted-rhythm guitar on the right side).
After the solo the left guitar turns the wah-wah off and continues as a regular rhythm-guitar till 2:30.
The distorted rhythm-guitar continues in the slow part, whilst the acoustic guitar is on the left side. This goes on for a while till the acoustic guitar is left alone and plays some mysterious lines with lots of reverb. Then the left acoustic guitar is joined by another acoustic on the right side for some rhythmic chords. After that the two distorted guitars are back (one left, one right), playing a cool lick and then going into the second solo.
In this solo, only the left guitar plays solo-lines, whilst the right one stays a rhythm guitar. In the last chorus they're both playing rhythm parts.
And now the sounds:
The distorted guitars are going through different degrees of distortion during the song. They're controlling their sound with pick-up combinations and the volume-poti. The wah-wah was controlled with a pedal.
All electric-guitars were played on the Red Special through VoxAc30-amps that are picked up with mics. The treble-booster is also in use. The acoustic guitars have steel strings and were picked up with maybe two mics. The acoustics have lotsa reverb, especially in the mysterious part where the reverb-effect-signal is mixed seperately on the right side.

Freddie's lead-vocals are in the middle. They got some reverb (in stereo).
From 1:11 on there's a second track for harmonies, doubling and additional parts.
At 4:03 there's an additional track on the right side for another harmony.
This track does also the extremely high-pitched vocal extravaganza at 5:08, which imitates the guitar-solo (right channel). This is also done by Freddie and sounds great. The "Ahh-ahh" backing vocals in the chorus are two two-part harmonies, consisting of two voices by Freddie on the left side and two voices by Roger on the right side.

By The Way:
Yeah, this song is really clever and Brian's guitar is blowing you away, although it isn't his trademark-sound yet. Freddie's vocals are very cool with chilling harmonies and superb lines like "where will I be tomorrow,will I beg or will I borrow". I love this phrase! This song wasn't played live very often. It appeared on some tours in the early 70s and then later on their Works European Tour the second guitar solo got incorporated between Stone Cold Crazy and Brighton Rock.