“We Will Rock You” is a song written by Brian May and recorded by Queen for their 1977 album News of the World. Rolling Stone ranked it number 330 of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004, and it placed at number 146 on the Songs of the Century list in 2001. In 2009, “We Will Rock You” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Other than the last 30 seconds containing a guitar solo by May, the song is generally set in a cappella form, using only stomping and clapping as a rhythmic body percussion beat. In 1977, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” were issued together as a worldwide top 10 single. Soon after the album was released, many radio stations began playing the songs consecutively and without interruption.
Since its release, “We Will Rock You” has been covered, remixed, sampled, parodied, referenced and used by multiple recording artists, TV shows, films and other media worldwide. Since its release, the song has become a staple at sports events around the world as a stadium anthem, mostly due to its simple rhythm.
On 7 October 2017, Queen released a Raw Sessions version of the track to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of News of the World. It features a radically different approach to the guitar solo and includes May’s count-in immediately prior to the recording.
“We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” were written in response to an event that occurred during the A Day at the Races Tour. The band played at Stafford’s Bingley Hall, and, according to Brian May:
We did an encore and then went off, and instead of just keeping clapping, they sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to us, and we were just completely knocked out and taken aback – it was quite an emotional experience really, and I think these chant things are in some way connected with that.
One version was used as the opening track on 1977’s News of the World. This consists of a stomp-stomp-clap-pause beat, and a power chorus, being somewhat of an anthem. The stamping effects were created by the band overdubbing the sounds of themselves stomping and clapping many times and adding delay effects to create a sound like many people were participating. The duration of the delays was in the ratios of prime numbers, a technique now known as non-harmonic reverberation. A tape loop is used to repeat the last phrase of the guitar solo three times as opposed to Brian May playing it three separate times on the recording. The “stomp, stomp, clap” sounds were later used in the Queen + Paul Rodgers song “Still Burnin'”.
When performed live, the song is usually followed by “We Are the Champions”, as they were designed to run together. The songs are often paired on the radio and at sporting events, where they are frequently played. They were the last two songs Queen performed at Live Aid in 1985.
Queen also performed an alternate version “We Will Rock You” known as the “fast version”, featuring a faster-feeling tempo and a full band arrangement. The band would frequently use this version to open their live sets in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, as heard on the albums Live Killers (1979), Queen on Fire – Live at the Bowl (2004), Queen Rock Montreal (2007), and the expanded edition of News of the World (2011). A studio recording of this version is also known to exist, recorded for John Peel’s show on BBC Radio 1 in 1977. It is part of a longer cut that starts with the original version. In 2002, the fast version was officially released on a promo single distributed by the tabloid The Sun. The “fast” BBC studio version can also be found on The Best of King Biscuit Live Volume 4. Between the two versions, there is a brief cut of a woman discussing Brahmanism, used in a BBC Radio documentary. The fast version is also used as the curtain call music for the musical of the same title after the finale, which is a pairing of the original “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.”
Since its release, the song has become a staple at sporting events around the world as a stadium anthem. It was the most played song during the 2008–2009 seasons of the National Football League, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball.