The Works is a 1984 rock album by English band Queen. The band's eleventh studio album, it marked a partial return to their rock roots, although with a much lighter approach. It has also the heaviest electronics amongst all group albums. In comparison, rock was mostly absent on their previous effort Hot Space giving room to dance and funk with the use of analogue synths and brass, while electronics were not that much present.
Recorded at the Record Plant Studios and Musicland Studios from August 1983 to January 1984, the album's title comes from a comment drummer Roger Taylor made as recording began – "Let's give them the works!"
This was the first Queen album to be featured on Compact Disc.
Following the release of and subsequent touring for their 1982 album Hot Space, the four members of Queen opted to take a break from the band the following year, indulging in solo projects and taking the chance to stretch in individual directions. While a spring tour of South America had been an early possibility, especially following the band's success there two years prior, equipment and promotional problems brought an end to these plans. Brian May worked with Eddie Van Halen and others on the Star Fleet Project, while Freddie Mercury began work on his solo album. By August 1983, however, the band had reunited and began work on their eleventh studio album. It would be Queen's first album for EMI (and its United States affiliate Capitol Records) worldwide after the band nullified its recording deal with Elektra for the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan.
Recording commenced at Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles – Queen's first time recording in America – and Musicland Studios in Munich. Also during this time, their manager Jim Beach offered them the opportunity to compose the soundtrack for the film The Hotel New Hampshire. The band agreed, but soon discovered much of their time was being spent on the soundtrack instead of the upcoming album, and the project fell through. Only one song written for the soundtrack, "Keep Passing the Open Windows", made it onto The Works. By November 1983, Roger Taylor's "Radio Ga Ga" was chosen as the first single from the album. The Works was released on February 27, 1984.
"Radio Ga Ga" (Taylor) – 5:44
"Tear It Up" (May) – 3:28
"It's a Hard Life" (Mercury) – 4:08
"Man on the Prowl" (Mercury) – 3:28
"Machines (Or 'Back to Humans')" (May/Taylor) – 5:10
"I Want to Break Free" (Deacon) – 3:20
"Keep Passing the Open Windows" (Mercury) – 5:21
"Hammer to Fall" (May) – 4:28
"Is This the World We Created…?" (Mercury/May) – 2:13
Bonus tracks (1991 Hollywood Records CD reissue)
"I Go Crazy" (May) (Original B-side) – 3:42
"Radio Ga Ga (Extended Version)" (Taylor) – 6:50
"I Want to Break Free (Extended Mix)" (Deacon) – 7:19
Radio Ga Ga
Main article: Radio Ga Ga
"Radio Ga Ga" was composed on keyboards, after Roger Taylor heard his son Felix (3 years old at the time) saying "radio ca ca". He wrote it in Los Angeles and locked himself in the studio with a Roland Jupiter 8 and a drum machine. Afterwards John Deacon came up with a suitable bass line. Mercury reconstructed the track, both musically and lyrically. It was still credited to Taylor since Mercury was an arranger rather than a co-writer. Fred Mandel, their session keyboardist, put together an additive track with piano, synth and a temporary bass part. May used a glass slide for his guitar show-off. Taylor sang all the backing vocals, and used a Vocoder throughout the song. Most of the song is made out of electronics and synthesizers.
Tear It Up
"Tear It Up" is May's song, and the demo features him doing the vocals instead of Mercury. It was written as an attempt to revive Queen's old sound. It features stomping percussion similar to "We Will Rock You" that drives the song. The song is about a relationship with a girl.
It's a Hard Life
Main article: It's a Hard Life
"It's a Hard Life" is one of May's and Taylor's favourite songs from Mercury (although they admitted that they hated the video). May contributed with some of the lyrics, and the intro was based on Ruggero Leoncavallo's Vesti la giubba, an aria from his opera Pagliacci. Mercury played piano and did most of the vocals, and conducted May about the scales he should use for the solo, described by May in the guitar program Star Licks as very "Bohemian Rhapsody"-esque.
Man on the Prowl
"Man on the Prowl" is a three-chord rockabilly Mercury composition (similar to "Crazy Little Thing Called Love") in which Fred Mandel plays the piano ending. Note that "Tear It Up", "It's a Hard Life" and this song are free of synthesizers. Mercury played rhythm guitar throughout the song, while May played the solo using a Telecaster.
Machines (Or 'Back to Humans')
"Machines (Or 'Back to Humans')" came up as an idea by Taylor, and May collaborated with him and finished it. Producer Reinhold Mack programmed the synth-"demolition" using a Fairlight CMI II Sampler, and the song is sung as a duet between two Mercury (harmonising with each other) and a robotic Taylor (using a Roland VP330 Vocoder). The instrumental remix of the song samples parts of "Ogre Battle" from Queen's second album Queen II. This song, along with Radio Ga Ga are some of the heaviest uses of electronics on the album.
I Want to Break Free
Main article: I Want to Break Free
"I Want to Break Free" was written by John Deacon out of frustration. This pop song is best known probably because of its controversial video, featuring all four Queen members dressed up as women, in a parody of the British soap opera Coronation Street. The synth solo is played by Fred Mandel – live, however, May played it on guitar.
Keep Passing the Open Windows
"Keep Passing the Open Windows" was written by Mercury in 1983 for the film version of The Hotel New Hampshire, based on a novel by John Irving. The phrase is mentioned on a number of occasions throughout the film and was, according to the opening credits, also co-produced by the band's manager Jim Beach, who changed it in order to suit the album mood better. Mercury played piano and synths and wrote the lyrics after reading the quote in the book.
Hammer to Fall
Main article: Hammer to Fall
"Hammer to Fall" is May's other rock song in the album. Live versions were considerably faster and he sang it in his solo tours as well. Synths are played by Mandel and most of vocal harmonies were recorded by May himself, particularly in the bridge (save for "oh no" which is Taylor).
"Is This the World We Created…?" was written in Munich after Mercury and May watched the news. Mercury wrote the lyrics and May wrote the chords. The song was recorded with an Ovation but live they used May's Gibson Chet Atkins CE nylon-stringed guitar.
Freddie Mercury: Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards, Rhythm Guitar, Backing Vocals
Brian May: Electric Guitar, 12-String Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals
Roger Taylor: Drums, Electronic Drums, Keyboards, Guitar, Lead Vocals (Machines), Backing Vocals
John Deacon: Bass Guitar, Rhythm and Acoustic Guitars, Keyboards
Fred Mandel: Piano ("Man on the Prowl"), Keyboards, Programming
Mack: Demolition Fairlight programming on "Machines", engineering
Mike Beiriger: Additional engineering
Stefan Wissnet: Additional engineering
Ed Delena: Additional engineering
Bill Smith: Sleeve Design
George Hurrell: Photography
For the first and only time in their career, all the songs (and one non-album track, "I Go Crazy") from a Queen album were used as either A-sides or B-sides on singles. Starting with this album, the group began issuing singles in the United Kingdom under their own catalogue numbers.
Number Format A-side B-side Released date (UK)
QUEEN 1 (7" Single) "Radio Ga Ga" "I Go Crazy" —
12QUEEN 1 (12" Single) "Radio Ga Ga (Extended Version)" "Radio Ga Ga (Instrumental Version)"/"I Go Crazy" January 23, 1984
QUEEN 2 (7" Single) "I Want to Break Free (Single Mix)" "Machines (or 'Back to Humans')" —
12QUEEN 2 (12" Single) "I Want to Break Free (Extended Mix)" "Machines (or 'Back to Humans')" April 2, 1984
QUEEN 3 (7" Single) "It's a Hard Life" "Is This the World We Created…?" —
12QUEEN 3 (12" Single) "It's a Hard Life (Extended Version)" "Is This the World We Created…?" July 16, 1984
QUEEN 4 (7" Single) "Hammer to Fall (Headbanger's Mix Edit)" "Tear It Up" —
12QUEEN 4 (12" Single) "Hammer to Fall (Headbanger's Mix)" "Tear It Up" September 10, 1984
QUEEN 5 (7" Single) "Thank God It's Christmas" (non-album track) "Man on the Prowl"/"Keep Passing the Open Windows" —
12QUEEN 5 (12" Single) "Thank God It's Christmas" "Man on the Prowl (Extended Version)"/"Keep Passing the Open Windows (Extended Version)" November 26, 1984
Format A-side B-side
US 7" Single "Radio Ga Ga (US Single Edit)" "I Go Crazy"
US Promo 7" Single "I Want to Break Free (Single Mix)" "I Want to Break Free (Special 7" Single Edit)"
US 7" Single "I Want to Break Free (Single Mix)" "Machines (or 'Back to Humans') (Instrumental Version)"
Country Charts Sales
Peak position Weeks Certification Sales
Ireland 1 Platinum 20.000
Netherlands 1 Gold 50.000
Portugal 1 Gold 20.000
Austria 2 40 Platinum 100.000
Norway 2 10
United Kingdom 2 93 3x Platinum 1.000.000
Germany 3 Gold 470.000
Sweden 3 5 40.000
Switzerland 3 32 Platinum 125.000
Italy 4 2xPlatinum 200.000
Spain 4 Gold 50.000
Japan 7 150.000
Canada Platinum 150.000
France 14 180.000
United States 23 20 Gold 900.000
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