Queen guitarist Brian May wrote this, and claimed the idea for the song came in a dream. He told Mojo magazine October 2008 that he wanted to "create a song that the audience could participate in."
In the Days of Our Lives documentary, he remembered a gig where the crowd chanted the Liverpool Football Club anthem, "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the band as they left the stage. "I went to bed thinking, 'What could you ask them to do?' They're all squeezed in there, but they can clap their hands, they can stamp their feet, and they can sing," he noted. "In the morning I woke up and had the idea in my head for 'We Will Rock You."
Freddie Mercury wrote the song that follows on the album, "We Are The Champions
." Although Queen did not intend it this way, the two songs are usually played together. The songs segue together on the album, so disc jockeys would let them play, which is how listeners got used to hearing it.
"We Will Rock You" was released as a double A-side single with "We Are The Champions." Since the single's release, the band has almost always used "Rock You" and "Champions" as a back-to-back encore, with "Champions" closing the show and segueing into a tape playing Queen's version of "God Save The Queen."
A funny story emerged from the sessions surrounding "We Will Rock You." The Punk band Sex Pistols were recording at Wessex studios around the same time, and bassist Sid Vicious drunkenly interrupted the Queen sessions to berate Mercury and ask if he'd "brought ballet to the masses" yet, as he'd been quoted as wanting to do in an earlier NME
"I called him, I dunno, Simon Ferocious or something, and just pushed him out. I think... yeah, I think we passed that test" noted Freddie with a wink in one interview, whilst drummer Taylor noted in the Days of our Lives
documentary that Vicious was "a moron... an idiot!"
Perhaps this all explains the lyrics to 'We Will Rock You'?
Incidentally, it was Queen who accidentally gave the Sex Pistols their big break - they pulled out of an appearance on the Grundy
TV show, so label EMI sent the Sex Pistols on in their place in what turned out to be the infamous "filth and the fury
This was featured in the 1990 episode of Cheers, "Severe Crane Damage," where patrons in the bar gradually form the famous drumbeat with glasses, pool cues, and whatever items are handy.
The song was used in a similar manner in the 2015 episode of The Big Bang Theory, "The Bachelor Party Corrosion," where the scientist main characters are attempting to change a tire. As one of them bangs on it, another adds the beat to create the rhythm to the song and another sings the first verse.
The remaining members of Queen performed this at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Brian May and Roger Taylor took turns on the vocals.
On Queen's next album, they had another set of songs disc jockeys played together. "Bicycle Race" and "Fat Bottomed Girls
" were segued together on their album Jazz
. Those songs were also released as a double A-side single.
In the US, this is often played at sporting events in an effort to intimidate the opposing team. It plays well in stadiums where fans are encouraged to stomp their feet and make a lot of noise.
In London, a Queen musical called We Will Rock You opened in 2002. The show is about a futuristic world where there are no musical instruments and a lack of creativity, but with the help of Queen's music, a bunch of renegades liberate the planet. It was panned by critics, but became a very popular show. In 2004, the show opened in Las Vegas.
This was featured in the 2001 movie A Knight's Tale.
This was featured in a episode of Full House
where Laurie Laughlin's character was giving birth and doing Lamaze breathing exercises and Bob Saget's character was humming the melody to the song.
In 2004, this was used in a lavish commercial for Pepsi
that ran in the UK. The ad featured Brian May, Roger Taylor, Britney Spears, Beyoncé and Pink dressed up as ancient Romans.
In a similarly anachronistic 2018 Super Bowl spot
, a Ram truck tows a Viking ship to Minneapolis, where the Vikings are confronted with the bad news: the Minnesota Vikings didn't make the big game (they lost in the playoffs to the Philadelphia Eagles, who beat the New England Patriots to take the title).
Queen recites a passage from Hermann Hesse's novel Siddhartha
in their 1977 BBC re-take of the song.
Queen often performed a faster version of the song at their concerts, since they wanted an up-tempo song to start the show and get the crowd going. In the late '70s and early '80s, they would often open their shows with this version. This can be heard on their 1979 Live Killers
album, as well as the 1981 Rock Montreal
DVD and the 1982 On Fire Live at the Bowl
DVD. It was replaced in the setlist as the opener by "One Vision
" in 1986.
The band noted that for the News of the World album in 1977, they wanted to go for a more simple, stripped-down sound. Roger Taylor notes in several interviews that perhaps this was a response to the Punk explosion, which actively encouraged stripped-down instrumentation. "We knew we couldn't reinvent ourselves into a punk band, but perhaps maybe we could make it a bit more simple... to keep more in tune with what was going on at the time" notes the drummer. The band (except for Brian May, of course) even got shorter haircuts around this time.
May said in Q magazine, March 2008: "At the opposite extreme stylistically (referring to the musical excess of "The Millionaire Waltz"), there's almost nothing in this. It's our 'three ages of man' anthem."
Queen never released this as a single in the UK. However in 2000 the boy band Five decided they wanted to cover the track and they approached the remaining members of Queen. Not only did they say yes, but also Brian May and Roger Taylor agreed to play on it. This version, which was credited to Five and Queen, spent one week at the top of the UK singles chart.
In an interview with National Public Radio's Terry Gross, Brian May said that his degree in astrophysics helped in the recording of the crucial 'stomp-stomp-clap!" rhythm of the song. He explained: "Being a physicist, I said, 'Suppose there were 1,000 people doing this; what would be happening?' And I thought, Well, you would be hearing them stamping. You would also be hearing a little bit of an effect, which is due to the distance that they are from you. So I put lots of individual repeats on them. Not an echo but a single repeat at various distances. And the distances were all prime numbers."
May continued: "Now, much later on, people designed a machine to do this. But that's what we did. When we recorded each track, we put a delay of a certain length on it. And none of the delays were harmonically related. So there's no echo on it whatsoever, but the clapped sound - they spread around the stereo, but they also kind of spread from a distance from you - so you just feel like you're in the middle of a large number of people stamping and clapping."
Brian May told NPR how recording the song in a church helped with its sound. "We were very lucky," he said. "We were working in an old, disused church in North London, and it already had a nice sound. And there were some old boards lying around, but they just seemed ideal to stamp on."
He expanded on this in the Days of our Lives documentary: "I found some old boards under the stairs, and thought - well, what does this sound like? And the rest is history."
According to a survey by royalty-distribution service BMI, based off data from MLB, NFL and NHL games in 2009-2010, this is the most-played song at sporting events. The #2 song was Kevin Rudolf's "Let It Rock
," followed by Nickelback's "Burn It To The Ground
At the 2012 London Olympics Closing Ceremony, Queen - represented by Taylor and May - appeared, and performed this song with the British Pop star Jessie J.
At the 2012 Reading Festival, headliners My Chemical Romance invited Brian May onstage with them for their encore, and he was welcomed on to the stage by the "We Will Rock You" beat. May accordingly performed his signature solo, then played on MCR's song "Welcome To The Black Parade
" to close the show. For MCR the show was significant - the previous time they had appeared at Reading Festival they had been booed and bottled, and so had refused to appear ever since. Queen was similarly scorned at a French festival in the early 1980s, hence why MCR singer Gerard Way wanted Brian May to appear with the band.
The song does not contain any actual drums. That famous rhythm came from the sound of the band, roadies, engineers - and even their tea lady, Betty - stamping their feet in London's Wessex Studios.