In recent weeks, we’ve seen how Queen perfected the art of the opening number. Now, in Episode 11 of ‘Queen: The Greatest Live’, we race to the end of the setlist, with a rare clip from the band’s 1977 end of year USA tour that shows how the band’s new anthem “We Are The Champions” saved the best until last. You can watch the footage below.
Written by Freddie Mercury, “We Are The Champions” was inspired by a May ’77 concert at Bingley Hall, Stafford, where the crowd’s chants of football anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” convinced the band to write a song that invited mass singalongs. “We wanted to get the crowds waving and singing,” Brian May has said. “We Are The Champions” is very unifying and positive. People love it because it’s so uplifting.
Although much of our music was created using multi-layered arrangements and vocal harmonies – which work especially well in the recording studio – we were into making our concerts musical events.”
Featured on 1977’s News Of The World album – and released as a UK#2/US#4 single that included the equally grandiose “We Will Rock You” as its flipside – “We Are The Champions” was introduced into the band’s live set in November 1977 on their end of year North American tour. “It’s the most egotistical and arrogant song I’ve ever written!” Freddie joked in one interview, before explaining that the lyric was intended to empower the entire audience: “Basically it’s a participation thing.”
With the News Of The World tour’s epic production including the iconic Crown lighting rig – a vast network of tungsten bulbs, searchlights and spotlights – the song’s all-conquering sentiment was the perfect fit. In this rarely seen footage from one of those US concerts we see the band throw everything at their performance, with Freddie leading “We Are The Champions” from the piano in a cloud of dry ice.
On the Queen tours that followed, the song, along with “We Will Rock You,” would become the ultimate concert finale and the band’s non-negotiable closing number (albeit followed by a blast of “God Save The Queen”). “We Are The Champions is very triumphal,” Brian has said. “It fits the occasion, whatever the occasion might be. We always end our show with it because it’s the best last song we know.”