Freddie Mercury’s isolated vocals for Queen’s first hit ‘Killer Queen’ proved he was one of a kind

30 March 2023, 12:32 | Updated: 19 September 2023, 13:49

'Killer Queen' was Queen's breakthrough hit.
'Killer Queen' was Queen's breakthrough hit. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

Freddie Mercury was truly one of a kind.

As Queen's eccentric and extroverted frontman, Freddie Mercury established himself as one of rock 'n' roll music's all-time greats.

Everyone instantly remembers his ability to captivate a crowd and hold each member of the audience in the palm of his hand whenever he performed live, no matter the size or scale.

But what helped set Freddie and Queen apart from their glam rock peers during the band's early years - other than their signature hit 'Bohemian Rhapsody' of course - was his remarkable voice.

Where David Bowie brought messianic space-age characters to glam rock and Marc Bolan gave it soulful cool, Freddie offered an operatic edge to the rock genre with his exceptional vocals.

There's no better example of how Queen confirmed their unique take on rock music than their breakthrough hit single 'Killer Queen'.

Listen to Freddie Mercury's isolated vocals on the track below:

Queen - Killer Queen (vocals only!) + guitar mix

One of the band's earliest chart successes, the song depicts a sex worker with expensive taste, which comes into focus when you can only hear Freddie's illuminating singing voice in isolation.

Mercury delved into the song's inspiration during an interview with NME in 1974, confirming: "It’s about a high-class call girl."

"I’m trying to say that classy people can be whores as well. That’s what the song is about, though I’d prefer people to put their interpretation upon it – to read into it what they like."

Featuring on Queen's third album Sheer Heart Attack, 'Killer Queen' was the band's most significant hit to date upon its release, peaking at No.2 in the UK charts as well as charting in the US.

Queen's legendary guitarist Brian May said: "This is a perfect pop record and one of Freddie’s greatest songs."

"It’s beautifully constructed, and it’s also got one of the solos I’m most proud of. Every slice of that record is pure pop perfection."

"Little things that visit once and come again, like the little bell in the second verse."

Freddie Mercury was one of rock 'n' roll music's greatest ever talents. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
Freddie Mercury was one of rock 'n' roll music's greatest ever talents. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns). Picture: Getty

Though, given the song's departure from the hard rock sound that they'd been playing with at the time, the band were concerned about how 'Killer Queen' would be received at first.

"I was a little hesitant," Brian recalled thinking ahead of the single's release. "I was thinking are we setting ourselves as something very light?"

In fact, the reception to 'Killer Queen' and the song's infectiously fun nature gave a platform for Freddie and Queen to express themselves differently, arguably opening the doors for the outlandish and iconic 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

One thing is for sure, is that it proved Freddie Mercury was a singular talent from the get-go.