Queen's 50 UK singles – ranked!

Following the release of Bryan Singer’s Freddie Mercury biopic, we run the rule over the band’s British releases

50 The Miracle (1989)

Queen sound on autopilot on this late-period minor hit, from the cliched “peace on Earth” lyrics to Brian May’s ghastly twiddly guitar solo.

49 The Invisible Man (1989)

Invisible tune, more like. A forgettable track from The Miracle, featuring a panned guitar effect reminiscent of the Rolling Stones’s Undercover of the Night.

48 Scandal (1989)

Strings propel May’s furious riposte to tabloid attention over his relationship with the similarly poodle-permed Anita Dobson, AKA EastEnders barmaid Angie Watts.

47 Body Language (1982)

Loathed by Queen’s more rockist fans, which at least is one positive for a song that mostly consists of Freddie Mercury trying to lift a limp electro groove by moaning: “Give me! Your bod-ayyy!”

46 Headlong (1991)

Lord Frederick of Lucan, as Smash Hits nicknamed Mercury, was audibly ailing by the time Queen recorded their most hair metal moment. Typically, he urges: “You can’t stop rocking.”

45 No One But You (Only the Good Die Young) (1998)

Unusually, a Queen single not sung by Mercury. May and the band’s drummer, Roger Taylor, sing this posthumous lament for the singer. It was the bassist John Deacon’s final Queen recording.

44 Heaven for Everyone (1995)

Another from posthumous corner. Heaven for Everyone was a song by Taylor’s band the Cross with Mercury vocals. Reworked as a Queen single after the singer’s death from an Aids-related illness in 1991, it is rather lovely.

43 Friends Will Be Friends (1986)

A story song with a moral from a band whose music did not often feature them. Here, the “other half” runs off with the cash, leaving the song’s protagonist to realise the value of trusted friendships.

42 Breakthru (1989)

Train wreck ... Queen atop a locomotive for the Breakthru video.

An intro in the style of a barber shop quartet, a powerpop song and a barmy video where the band play atop a moving train? Queen may have been going off the rails by this point.

41 It’s a Hard Life (1984)

From the album The Works, this was a return to rock/opera roots after the synth adventures of The Game and Hot Space. The intro is based on the aria Vesti La Giubba from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci.

40 Las Palabras de Amor (the Words of Love) (1982)

Sung partly in Spanish, which may or may not be why Mercury mimed the wrong lyrics on Top of the Pops.

39 Thank God It’s Christmas (1984)

Queen’s decent Christmas song could certainly apply to 2018: “It’s been a long, hard year. Thank God it’s Christmas!”

38 I’m Going Slightly Mad (1991)

Mercury had less than a year to live when he penned this romp (“I’m a banana tree”) that laughs in the face of his deterioration.

37 Flash (1980)

A truly bonkers single from the Flash Gordon soundtrack in which the actor Brian Blessed bawls: “Gordon’s alive!” The magnificently ludicrous chorus (“Flash! A-ah! King of the impossible!”) may have fathered Muse.

36 Innuendo (1991)

Dark power ... the video for Innuendo.

Queen kicked off their 90s singles with another No 1, which returns to their early progressive sound but, with Mercury fading, harnesses a darker power.

35 A Winter’s Tale (1995)

This posthumously released recording captures some of Mercury’s final thoughts as he gazed from his apartment in Montreux, Switzerland. A dreamlike appreciation of a world he would shortly leave behind.

34 Back Chat (1982)

After dabbling in the euphoric melodrama of disco, Deacon’s groove nails the art of early 80s white electro funk.

33 Let Me Live (1996)

A defiant cut from the posthumous album Made In Heaven. With Mercury refusing to let his illness stop him singing, the vocal choir is immense and the title and lyric are heartbreaking.

32 You Don’t Fool Me (1996)

Posthumously produced using lyrics Mercury recorded before his death, this is a lovely, airy single that harks back to the disco-rock of the 1982 album Hot Space.

31 Hammer to Fall (1984)

Keeping the rock in ... watch the video for Hammer to Fall.

May once told Radio 1 that he saw his role in Queen as “keeping the rock in”; he certainly does that on this riff-heavy hard rocker.

30 Save Me (1980)

May penned this big-lunged power ballad about a friend’s fracturing relationship. Typically, Mercury sings it with a lorry-load of passion, as if it were about him.

29 A Kind of Magic (1986)

Queen’s 80s hits were not always their best, but they were their biggest-sounding. This No 3 smash was penned by Taylor for the Highlander soundtrack (the line: “It’s a kind of magic,” featured in the film).

28 I Want It All (1989)

Apparently, this was inspired by Dobson saying: “I want it all and I want it now!” This rockier number became a protest song against apartheid and for gay rights.

27 Play the Game (1980)

Queen’s 1980 album The Game chucked their 70s “no synthesisers” boast in the bin. The first sound heard here is an Oberheim OB-X, although there is plenty of May’s trademark pomp-rock guitar as Mercury shares advice for someone unlucky in love.

26 One Vision (1985)

Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech is the unlikely inspiration for this totalitarian-sounding hard rock. It is not known whether Freddie’s yell of: “There’s only one direction,” sired the boyband.

25 Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy (1977)

Queen in 1973
Destined for greater things ... Queen in 1973. Photograph: Michael Putland/Getty Images

Mercury described this music-hall-influenced single as one of his “ragtime” numbers. It is full of old-time romancing – nights at the Ritz – before the mischievous singer cheekily invites his guest to “sit on my hot seat of love”.

24 Too Much Love Will Kill You (1996)

May wrote this in 1987 for a solo album after the breakdown of his marriage and his father’s death, but the version released after Mercury’s death, featuring his vocals, shows Mercury’s stellar talent as an interpreter of songs. With his health failing, he makes this song sound like an epitaph.

23 Keep Yourself Alive (1973)

Queen’s debut single hinted at what was to come: a straight, genre-busting rock band fronted by a glamorous, gay Asian man (few grasped the obvious clue in the band name for years). May and Taylor are on fire as the lyrics dream of rock stardom, which arrived almost immediately afterwards.

22 The Show Must Go On (1991)

A showman to the last, Mercury was months from death when May wrote this stirring ode to his defiant resilience. Typically, the singer summons up one of his strongest vocal performances. The Queen show does indeed go on, with the former American Idol contestant Adam Lambert providing vocals.

21 Fat Bottomed Girls (1978)

US critics missed the demented humour in Queen’s album Jazz, with one appalled critic suggesting they were “the first fascist rock band”. There are no obvious political extremes in this bizarre hit, which describes a childhood molestation at the hands of “big fat Fanny … a naughty nanny”. It was released as a double A-side with Bicycle Race.

20 Bicycle Race (1978)

It is a long way from Queen’s early prog epics such as Great King Rat to this hoot of a track featuring weird time signatures, lyrics referencing cocaine and John Wayne and – the pièce de résistance – a massed bicycle-bell solo.

19 Now I’m Here (1975)

Queen on stage in 1974: Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Freddie Mercury
Tearing it up ... (left to right) Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Freddie Mercury on stage in 1974. Photograph: Michael Putland/Getty Images

A 1974 US tour supporting Mott the Hoople inspired one of May’s most unashamed hard rockers (hence the lyric “Hoople and me”). On tour, Queen used a Mercury doppelganger to make it look as if the singer was singing in two places at once, the wags.

18 These Are the Days of Our Lives (1991)

Stifle your tears at this one if you can. Released alongside Bohemian Rhapsody, it has a lovely melody, some of the band’s most graceful playing and heartfelt words that deliver Mercury’s farewell message. It contains his final recorded public utterance: “I still love you.”

17 Crazy Little Thing Called Love (1979)

By 1979, Queen were so prolific that Mercury was able to lounge in the bath in the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, pick up a guitar – not his usual instrument – and bash out this globally successful tribute to Elvis Presley in 10 minutes. We are not worthy.

16 Tie Your Mother Down (1977)

Queen rarely rocked harder than on this May-penned live staple. It is probably best not to labour on the guitarist’s lyrics, in which a hot-blooded young male has less than gentlemanly intentions towards a pigtailed “little school babe”.

15 Who Wants to Live Forever (1986)

An orchestrated gem for the Highlander soundtrack, this one penned by May, about a love between a mortal and an immortal. Sadly, lines such as: “Who wants to live forever anyway?” took on new poignancy after Mercury’s death.

14 I Want to Break Free (1984)

Ode to escape ... the Corrie spoof I Want to Break Free.

The video for Deacon’s ode to escape saw the band wear drag to spoof Coronation Street and comment on domestic drudgery. Alas, the Ronald-Reagan-era US was not ready for the sight of a leather-skirted Mercury pushing a vacuum cleaner. “We lost America overnight,” May said later.

13 Spread Your Wings (1978)

The high-flying rock aristocrats did not often concern themselves with mundanity, but Deacon’s stirring tale of a bar worker’s yearning for a better life is one of their loveliest songs.

12 Love of My Life (live at Festhalle Frankfurt, 2 February 1979) (1979)

Mercury taught himself to play the harp for this eulogy to his girlfriend Mary Austin, originally on 1975’s A Night at the Opera. He need not have bothered: this version, with May on piano, turned a forgotten album track into one of their best-loved songs.

11 We Are the Champions (1977)

In 2011, scientists observed thousands of clubbers and wedding party guests’ listening habits to find the catchiest song ever – and it is this. Queen’s football-inspired, chest-beating, triumphalist anthem remains ubiquitous at sporting events.

10 Somebody to Love (1976)

Mercury on stage during the tour for 1977’s News of the World
The catchiest song ever? Mercury on stage during the tour for 1977’s News of the World, which featured We Are the Champions. Photograph: Steve Jennings/WireImage

Queen spent their career shapeshifting with looks, moustaches, sounds and genres. Here, they follow the grandiose, operatic Bohemian Rhapsody with a sweet soul tune influenced by Aretha Franklin.

9 You’re My Best Friend (1976)

This sublime love song, written by Deacon for his wife, Veronica Tetzlaff, is fairly straightforward. However, unusually, the bassist – not the singer – plays a Wurlitzer electric piano. Mercury favoured a grand piano and proclaimed its humbler relation “a horrible instrument”.

8 We Will Rock You (1977)

Remarkably, this was a double A-side with We Are the Champions. The formidable drum beat was created from stamping feet in an old church. The sessions hosted Mercury’s legendary encounter with Sid Vicious, who sneered: “Still bringing ballet to the masses are we?” Cue Mercury: “Ah, Simon Ferocious. We try our best.”

7 Don’t Stop Me Now (1979)

By the late 70s, Queen had catapulted from glam oddities to an all-conquering mainstream force throwing parties featuring class-A drugs and dwarves. This smash hit finds their supremely talented frontman full of confidence, among other things: “They call me Mr Fahrenheit/I’m travelling at the speed of light.” Wowsa.

6 Another One Bites the Dust (1980)

Deacon visited Chic when they were recording the song Good Times, while Michael Jackson apparently told Mr Fahrenheit that his band needed a dance track. The two factors came together in this timeless slice of dancefloor-slaying white disco: the drums are bone dry, the vocals swaggering and electrifying.

5 Seven Seas of Rhye (1974)

Queen’s second UK single – and first hit – signalled the arrival of a unique new force in British pop: rampaging glam/hard rock with operatic, multitracked harmonies assisted by outrageously tight trousers. The rising stars’ Top of the Pops debut introduced Mercury’s famous “sword” microphone (actually a broken mic stand).

4 Radio Ga Ga (1984)

The onslaught of pop ... Roger Taylor’s electro anthem Radio Ga Ga.

Taylor’s electro anthem observes the onslaught of pop’s visual mediums, while the song’s video (which incorporates Fritz Lang’s dystopian 1927 film Metropolis) was a key clip of the period. At Live Aid, 72,000 people clapped in unison to the song.

3 Killer Queen (1974)

Mercury wonderfully described this glam-era classic about a high-class sex worker as “one of those bowler-hat, black-suspender-belt numbers”. It is certainly a riot of phased vocals, rock cabaret and lyrics referencing Marie Antoinette and laser beams. An unlikely influence on Katy Perry.

2 Under Pressure (with David Bowie) (1981)

This mighty duet was born in a jam session, during which Mercury and Bowie had an amiable ding-dong over whose vocals should be loudest. Relish those flying sparks and forget that Deacon’s inimitable bass line later powered Vanilla Ice’s stinkerus maximus, Ice Ice Baby.

1 Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)

Forty-three years of ubiquity have not dulled Queen’s most audacious single, instantly recognisable thanks to the opening second of multitracked harmonies. Most of the band’s trademarks are subsequently heaped into six explosive minutes: Mercury’s gentle piano playing, May’s incendiary guitar work, the rhythm section’s thunder and a terrific Faustian from Mercury about a young man who kills someone and sells his soul to the devil. Even by Queen’s standards, the sudden gear shift from balladry to hard rock is dramatic. The thrillingly complex song continues to delight the public and fascinate musicians, the latest to record it being Panic! at the Disco. All together: “Bismillah!”


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