Death On Two Legs

Album: A Night At The Opera (1975)


  • Freddie Mercury wrote this and dedicated it to Norman Sheffield, Queen's former manager and a co-owner of Trident Studios. Queen felt that Norman had not provided them with the support they needed, and so Mr. Sheffield and the band parted company prior to the recording of A Night At The Opera.

    The surviving band members noted the unhappy atmosphere in the Days of our Lives documentary, explaining that the band felt hard done by when they were producing hit singles without seeing any of the money - and with incidents such as Roger Taylor being told he couldn't hit the drums too hard as they supposedly "couldn't afford" new drumsticks. But as Taylor noted, "you see them (the management) running around in stretch limos and think 'hang on there's something not right here!'"

    The split occurred under very acrimonious circumstances, and this song acted as something of a final word from the band. The lyrics form a harsh character portrait that outline the band's full animosity towards their former acquaintance. Mercury was reportedly not a fan of the song after writing it, having felt it was too angry and bitter, but May encouraged him to complete it. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Andy - Sacramento, CA
  • As it appears on the album, the song had "Dedicated to..." written after it. We found out it was dedicated to their ex-manager when he tried to sue for defamation of character. By doing so he rather admitted there was cause for them to dedicate the song to him.

    Queen's next manager, John Reid, spent a lot of his initial time working with the band clearing up their finances and resolving the bad deals they had gotten into. As Brian May admitted in the Days of our Lives documentary, the band had actually signed a publishing agreement with Trident Studios, who then sold their records to a record company. "In hindsight it was the worst decision we ever made" he noted.
  • This song was covered by Rooney for the 2005 Queen tribute album Killer Queen. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Rachel - South Point, OH
  • On the Live Killers version, Freddie Mercury introduced this song by saying, "This is a song about a real motherf--ker of a gentleman!" This was concealed by three bleeps to avoid legal issues. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jonathon - Clermont, FL

Comments: 23

  • Tom from AlabamaThis song is actually the second of two songs about Sheffield and Trident... see also Flick of the Wrist from their third album, Sheer Heart Attack.
  • Brad from FlExcellent analysis Jfv.
  • Lindsay from Coweta, OkYou can't help but feel a little angry. Which is what makes the song great.
  • Ryan from Eaton, InIt's commonly believed that part of the betrayal Queen felt was particularly on the part of Freddie, who had apparently been "initiated" into the gay lifestyle by Sheffield (prior to this, he was heavily involved with his girlfriend, Mary Austin). So, this man "helping" Queen by allowing them to record their albums at his studio for next to nothing, involving himself sexually and romantically with the lead singer of the band he was "helping", all the while robbing the band blind through bad publishing deals, and then trying to sue when actually being confronted about all this. You can certainly understand why Queen were feeling so betrayed that they would write something so vicious as this.
  • Ryan from Eaton, InThere were actually several songs Queen wrote on this subject..."Death On Two Legs"; "Flick of the Wrist" seems to be about signing a bad contract (same general idea); "If You Can't Beat 'Em", is basically about the band setting up their own publishing deal, so they stop getting screwed out of royalties.
  • Titania from Jeddah, Saudi ArabiaFreddie was just a human,theyre getting peanuts from their ex-manager who was driving 2 rolls royce cars,when they ask 2000 sterling pounds for John Deacon who just married,his asnwer was:what 2000? what you are thinkingof yourselves!!!!thats why he got mad..and the ex manager regretted it when he lose the can watch in utube.
  • Jfv from Philadelphia, PaFirst of all, Brian May does not sing every other line of the lead vocals. It's Freddie Mercury in all cases. However the lines are nearly overlapping such that they could not have been sung in one continuous take. That's is why when you hear Freddie sing this song live, he either omits the first word of the line or rushes it. Although Mercury and May did occassionally share lead vocals (Who Wants To Live Forever, I Want It All, one short line in Las Palabras de Amor) it did not happen often. In fact, Roger Taylor sang as much if not more more lead vocal parts in songs on which Freddie also sings lead (Keep Yourself Alive, March Of The Black Queen, Rock It (Prime Jive), Action This Day)than Brian did.
  • Nikki from Perth, AustraliaIt says "the only reason we found out it was dedicated to their ex-manager was when he tried to sue for defamation of character." I actually think from memory (Possibly from Classic Albums: A Night At The Opera) that they DID mention his name somewhere, before they played it at a concert, hence why he went to sue. You've got no case sueing for defamation of character unless you can prove the songs about you, so I think that's where that came from. I could be wrong, but I do seem to remember that being said somewhere. That Freddie named him in relation to the song, that is.
    And in relation to the comment about Brian May feeling that the song was too vicious, apparently they tried to talk Freddie into reigning it in a bit, but ultimately he wrote the song so they couldn't make him.
  • Liquid Len from Ottawa, CanadaYes this is a vicious song, indeed, my hair stands up on end when I hear this. And Norman Sheffield made himself a (black) name in rock history, when he sued the band and revealed who the song was about. Talk about being hoisted on your own petard....
  • Beatriz from Campinas, BrazilThis song is really amazing. I love to listen to Freddie singing this song. He was really angry. I love Freddie. He is a legend.
  • Jonathon from Clermont, FlOn the live album, Freddy dedicated the song something like this: "Ladies and gentlemen, this next song is dedicated to a real mother@#$%er of a gentleman!"
  • Headbanger1 from Orangeville, Canadawhat a vicious song
  • Theresa from San Diego, CaI LOVE this song so much! It's my second favorite Queen song, after Don't Stop Me Now. I know it's dedicated to someone, but it's an EXCELLENT song!!!!!! Queen is the best band EVER (in my opinion)
  • Brian from Overbrook, KsActually Brian does sing on the song, he sings every other line. Freddie and Brian share vocals in many songs.
  • Alicia from Tamaqua, Pamy goodness..... Freddie had to be extremely ticked off to write something so angry. He's generally such a loving person...... but this is totally understandable. I'd do the same. I love this song never-the-less.... One of the only songs I ever heard Freddie curse.... The concerts are a different But on a CD I mean. I just love it!!!
  • Narin from London, EnglandI read in a book that when Freddie was recording the vocals for this song, he had so much anger in him that when he took the headphones off there was blood coming out of his ears. And this was told by someone who was there.
  • Jared from North Bend, Waas* and dam* r bleeped oput on the live verison
  • Shawn from Rochester, NhThat is an awesome question Gordon....I wish I knew. Anyone???
  • Freddie from Orlando, Flwhen he said that Bri felt bad singing it, its like... they all sing in the choruses and stuff you know.
  • Freddie from Orlando, FlI have never ever heard Fred so POed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Gordon from Glasgow, Scotlandon the live album what is bleeped out
  • Jared from North Bend, Wagood thing he didn't sing it, freddie did. but i would feel kinda bad singleing him out and being aprt of it
  • Carolina from São Paulo, BrazilI read that Brian May, Queen´s guitarist, said the song was so vicious, he felt bad singing it.
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