“We Will Rock You,” this week’s episode of Queen’s yearlong ‘The Greatest Live’ video series, continues the exploration of how Queen songs are adapted from studio to stage. This week’s episode – No. 22 in the series – reveals archive footage of one of the band’s all-time classics to discover how that transition can often inspire unexpected results. You can watch the episode in full below.
Few songs have remained at the heart of popular culture like “We Will Rock You” – and Queen’s classic anthem has evolved alongside the changing times. When Brian May presented the song for 1977’s News Of The World, the band tracked the original studio version without drums, with all four members instead supplying foot stamps and handclaps.
“I wasn’t sure if it was going to sound like a proper song,” Brian told Guitar World. “But as soon as I heard Freddie singing it, I started to be more confident, because he sounded like a kind of rabble-rouser.”
Performed live on that year’s “News Of The World” tour, and rapidly earning its enduring status as a must-play setlist highlight (usually followed by “We Are The Champions”), “We Will Rock You” has shed its skin countless times. In last week’s episode of ‘The Greatest Live,’ Brian explained how the Queen crowd claimed ownership of the song’s addictive beat (“It’s become a drum extravaganza… the audience sing it and the physicality is there.”)
Now, rare archive footage reveals how the band reimagined “We Will Rock You” through the eras, toying with tempo, instrumentation and many other variables. Opening with the famous show at Budapest’s Népstadion on 27 July 1986, we get to see the performance that cleaves closest to the studio original, with Roger Taylor driving the iconic rhythm at a leisurely pace on his floor toms and snare.
However, a speedier version of “We Will Rock You” always existed in parallel, and the song becomes a very different beast at a 1977 show in Houston, as Brian attacks his Red Special guitar with an almost punky aggression while a leather-jacketed Freddie shoots his vocal from the lip. The song flexes its muscles once again at Queen’s fabled 1982 show at the Milton Keynes Bowl, while the band’s four-way vocal harmonies seemed more prominent than ever when they chose “We Will Rock You” as the opener at Montreal’s Forum in November 1981.