"Live Killers" Analysis

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Read the introduction here.

Last updated: January 27, 2012

I'll begin with a state of the union from Queen's archivist Greg Brooks, as posted on Queenzone.com:

"In terms of Euro 79 sound, we have a fair bit I'm pleased to say. 13 shows I think. Mostly full shows but that has yet to be confirmed coz we have never played through them all. But rest assured the Live Killers period is well covered AUDIO wise... but far far far less so in footage terms. Only when we play every tape all the way through will we know exact details. I will then discover precisely which segments were used for the Killers LP, and I’m looking forward to confirming all that stuff. [This does not mean] what does exist will be great quality which will ALL be usable at some point. That presumption would be naive. Most of what was discarded for Live Killers was probably left for good reasons – not least technical ones. I don’t know, none of us do, but we will soon. At the moment Live Killers details are rather vague because we have never had reason to go into them in great detail like we did with the Freddie tapes for the 2000 'Solo' box, for example."

Quick info

All portions are noted because there are audible cuts within the songs indicating that it is switching to another concert.

My track times correspond with the 1991 Hollywood Records CDs.

Click on a song to jump down the page for its specific details.

Song Portion length Actual concert
We Will Rock You (fast) 0 - 1:16 unknown
  1:16 - 1:55 unknown
  1:16 - 1:22 unknown
  1:55 - 3:16 unknown
Let Me Entertain You 0 - 2:34 unknown
  2:34 - 3:15 unknown
  3:15 - 3:16 Barcelona - February 20, 1979
Death On Two Legs 0 - 3:25 Barcelona - February 20, 1979
  3:25 - 3:33 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
Killer Queen 0 - 1:57 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
Bicycle Race 0 - 1:28 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
  1:28 - 1:29 Zurich - February 4, 1979
I'm In Love With My Car 0 - 1:59 Zurich - February 4, 1979
  1:59 - 2:01 unknown
Get Down, Make Love 0 - 0:38 unknown
  0:38 - 1:43 Barcelona - February 20, 1979
  1:43 - 2:35 unknown
  2:35 - 3:17 Paris - March 1, 1979
  3:17 - 3:44 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
  3:44 - 4:04 unknown
  4:04 - 4:31 unknown
You're My Best Friend 0 - 2:10 unknown
Now I'm Here 0 - 0:06 unknown
  0:06 - 0:12 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
  0:12 - 4:05 unknown
  4:05 - 5:35 unknown
  5:35 - 5:41 unknown
  5:41 - 8:42 unknown
Dreamers Ball 0 - 3:42 Lyon - February 17, 1979 (?)
Love Of My Life 0 - 0:24 Paris - February 27, 1979 (?)
  0:24 - 4:59 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
'39 0 - 3:26 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
Keep Yourself Alive 0 - 4:00 unknown
Don't Stop Me Now 0 - 4:28 unknown
Spread Your Wings 0 - 5:15 unknown
Brighton Rock 0 - 0:13 unknown
  0:13 - 0:31 Paris - February 28, 1979
  0:31 - 2:36 unknown
  2:36 - 5:56 unknown
  5:56 - 6:58 Paris - March 1, 1979
  6:58 - 11:02 unknown
  11:02 - 11:27 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
  11:27 - 12:16 unknown
Mustapha / Bohemian Rhapsody 0 - 6:01 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
Tie Your Mother Down 0 - 3:41 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
Sheer Heart Attack 0 - 3:35 unknown
We Will Rock You 0 - 2:48 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
We Are The Champions 0 - 3:27 Paris - February 27, 1979 (?)
God Save The Queen 0 - 1:32 Rotterdam - January 30, 1979 (?)

We Will Rock You (fast)
Let Me Entertain You

So far, 12 unofficial recordings have not revealed the versions that appear on Live Killers. However, with 16 shows remaining to be heard, this is by no means unfair. There is a cut just before John's bass solo in We Will Rock You (at 1:16), which leads me to believe they are cutting into a different show. You'll notice the stereo sound become "wider" just as Freddie sings "rock". At 1:22 there is another edit, and the stereo width lessons (clearly they must have liked John Deacon's bass solo, or perhaps the little bit of guitar feedback at 1:19). At 1:55 the stereo width lessens slightly once again, similar to the mix of the first 1:16 of the song.

These edits, and the majority of such things to be mentioned on this page, will only be noticable with a high quality stereo system, or in headphones and, in many cases, only by trained ears. Let Me Entertain You has one such edit - there is an audible cut at 2:34 (a blip can be heard in the left channel), so it is likely from two shows.

One second before the CD changes over to track three there is a slight click, and the level of background hiss suddenly increases. We are transported to Barcelona, February 20.

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Somebody To Love
If You Can't Beat Them Fat Bottomed Girls

These songs weren't on Live Killers, but being situated at this point of the usual setlist throughout the Jazz tour, they are worth mentioning.

One can understand why If You Can't Beat Them didn't make the album, being a more obscure album track. Somebody To Love, on the other hand, was a stalwart in Queen's shows for nearly a decade. But this particular tour didn't find Mercury at his vocal best on most nights, leading the band to opt out of including the gospel-flavoured hit.

Fat Bottomed Girls was usually on rotation on this tour with If You Can't Beat Them. The exclusion of this track that translated perfectly to the live environment in favour of the more frivolous Dreamers Ball remains a mystery. It's Late was also performed on this tour but overlooked.

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Death On Two Legs

This song, almost in its entirety, including Freddie's spoken intro, is from Barcelona, February 20th. But there was a lot of work done on it, so bear with me as I guide you through it. Freddie's words before the song begins are pretty vulgar as we know, as they were bleeped (come on, it was 1979!). "We call him motherfucker; do you know what motherfucker means?" Just after the bleep, what he actually says in Barcelona is: "We call him, we also call him Death On Two Legs, heh heh heh hey". "We also call him" was removed, and on Live Killers, if you listen carefully, you suddenly hear the echo of the second "him" as Freddie says "Death." On the Barcelona recording, Freddie then shouts a couple further "heys", but they were muted for the official release, probably for the sake of avoiding such six repititions of the word "hey."

Part of Brian's guitar intro was overdubbed from another show (:59 to 1:04 precisely). He doesn't hit the low Db with his whammy bar the second time (it's supposed to alternate G-D-G-Db), so he must have felt like he wanted a better take to be on the album. And at 1:04, he plays a quick low D (whammy bar pressed down a full tone) that isn't on the Barcelona recording. After that, the mix of his guitar suddenly changes. For those first five seconds, you hear him mixed hard-right for a split second, and then you hear him in the centre channel as well. After 1:04, he is still mixed widely, but without the slight channel delay. Freddie's "all right" at 1:13 was overdubbed (or at least, his level was raised, as you can't hear him on the Barcelona recording), as was "fools" at 2:04, and the vocal harmonies on "suicide" at 2:47. Aside from these few minor things, it's still a great version of the song, and still one of my favourites. At 3:25, a seamless cut is made, and we are now in Frankfurt, February 2nd.

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Killer Queen

The audience reaction from Frankfurt to the piano and vocal seems to be identical to the one on Live Killers. The taper must have been in the front row, or close to it. Every note matches the Live Killers version. At 0:06 of the track, an amplifier feeds back, just like on the Frankfurt recording. With no doubt, this is the Frankfurt version, unaltered.

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Bicycle Race

Bicycle Race is also from Frankfurt. After hearing about 20 versions, including many from USA and Japan, I have concluded that the clap just before "You say black, I say white" is the second song on Live Killers containing an overdub. After the clap, there is a strange buzz that lasts for a couple seconds and fades out. Contrary to the fact that to this day Brian May adamently says there aren't any overdubs, there are indeed several, and I will elaborate furthermore on those as my analysis progresses. Perhaps he has just forgotten about these things, considering how long it's been since this album was compiled. At 1:28, a slight click is heard, and now we're in Zurich, February 4th.

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I'm In Love With My Car

This is from Zurich, unaltered, and is definitely one of Roger's best ever vocal performances of the song. Fantastic guitar solo from Brian towards the end, might I add. At 1:59, there is a cut, as the audience reacts to the song's ending noticeably too soon.

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Get Down, Make Love

The first 38 seconds couldn't be found, but from this point until 1:43, we are once again in Barcelona, February 20th. Just as Freddie and Roger sing "Get" for the first time, you can hear a slight click-like sound in the right channel with headphones if you listen for it. It no longer matches the Barcelona recording at 1:43, and until 2:35, we're in another venue. From 2:35 to 3:17 we are in Paris, March 1. Between 3:17 and 3:44 we are in Frankfurt. Note that Roger doesn't blow the whistle on the Frankfurt recording before the last verse begins. There is yet another cut, as the sound clearly changes from a very wide stereo sound to an almost mono mix at 4:04 for the last chorus. The (somewhat crackling) background hiss and audience disappear at this point as well. Any doubters can compare the sound directly to the first chorus, as it's completely different.

I don't think Freddie's vocal switches concerts at this point along with the rest of the band, since he continues right through the cut. This was a perfectly clean edit, along with all the other edits in this song. Unbelievable, they used at least 5 concerts for this one song. But were all the edits truly necessary, as opposed to simply choosing another version?

Unlike Greg Brooks' claim to the contrary in his revised book, the final night in Paris, March 1, *does* feature on Live Killers - although it should be noted that the 42 seconds of this song from Paris are not heard on the album exactly as they happened in Paris. An analog delay on Freddie's vocal was removed. Also, the "ch ch ch ch" from Freddie at 3:03 comes from another show.

This song was edited out of the South Korean version of the LP, probably because the lyrics were considered to be too suggestive. There is a half-second of silence between I'm In Love With My Car and You're My Best Friend.

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You're My Best Friend

The entire song is from a single show.

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Now I'm Here

The spoken intro had the echo falsely added in the studio, as it matches the Frankfurt recording perfectly, minus the echo. From :06 to :12 we are in Frankfurt, and then we have a seamless edit into another show. "Just a new man" has an overdub, as there are clearly two Freddies singing in harmony. At around 4:05, there is a cross-fade. Before Freddie sings his first "Yeah", you can hear the audience singing a "Yeah", which indicates that part of the vocal exchange was edited out (thanks to René Wiersma for that great observation). There is another edit at 5:35 that moves us to a different venue, right before Freddie quips "Hey, you buggers can sing higher than I can."

Edits aside, this is still one of the greatest recorded performances of the song.

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Dreamers Ball

Greg Brooks' new book has Brian's "a little bit of nonsense now" quote transcribed as being from Lyon on February 17, but unfortunately Brooks didn't let us know whether or not the rest of the song is, too, from Lyon.

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Love Of My Life

The level of background hiss increases slightly, so we're changing venues right as the track begins. Brooks insists that Freddie's spoken intro comes from the first night in Paris, February 27th (even though he contradictorily states earlier in his book on page 9 that he won't give any Live Killers answers away). And it's worth noting that the other comment he transcribed from the first night in Paris matches the video. At the end of the show, Freddie says, "Merci beaucoup, Paris; thank you, God bless you". The time code on the video indicates it's from February 27, being at 17 hours and 7 minutes. Somebody To Love, which is the third song of the second night, February 28, clocks in at the 17 hour, 24 minute mark (the "merci" comment also doesn't match the audience recordings of the other two nights in Paris, providing further confirmation).

Also, it was confirmed by someone who attended the Paris shows that Freddie did indeed say "The things you have to do for money" at one of the shows. Since this line isn't on the audience recordings of the second and third nights, we can conclude that it was definitely the first night. The rest of the song on Live Killers is from Frankfurt. There is a cut before Freddie's long "ooh", made clear by the slight pop at :24.

In Frankfurt, Freddie sings less of the song than what actually appears on the Live Killers version, but the parts he does sing on the Frankfurt recording are identical to what is heard on the album. In fact, during the parts he does sing in Frankfurt, if you listen really carefully, it sounds like there are two Freddies singing - this is most likely the chorus effect being used. At 1:37, there is a cut, as well as at 2:05. The line "and everything's all" has only "one Freddie" singing, and of course by sheer coincidence, Freddie hesitated on this exact line in Frankfurt. At 2:08, when he sings "by the way", you hear him in chorus again. Again, there is only one Freddie between 2:20 and 2:32, and there is a cut at 2:24. Freddie didn't sing most of this part in Frankfurt, and again, there's only "one Freddie" on Live Killers at this point. In addition, his voice cracked on the long "you", and it's nicely patched up at 2:28.

In the last chorus, once again, the parts he misses in Frankfurt contain only "one Freddie" on the album, and he's in chorus again for the parts he does sing in Frankfurt. I count nine vocal edits in all, at least. At all of the concerts, Freddie would stop at random points to allow the audience to sing, but clearly it was decided that Freddie would sing as much of the song as possible on the live album. The extra bits are likely from another concert, but it is possible that any or all of them could be studio overdubs.

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Once again we're in Frankfurt, complete with the band intro. The intro is identical to the actual turn of events, minus an "um" before Brian introduces Roger, and Meddows from "Roger Meddows-Taylor". It seems Roger wasn't fond of his full name, hence why it was cut out. The vocal harmonies after the first chorus were overdubbed a bit. On the Frankfurt recording, Roger doesn't hit the high F# as heard at 1:31 on Live Killers, so surely that was patched in, and rather cleverly. You'd never know the difference if it wasn't for these audience recordings.

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Keep Yourself Alive

The setlist is manipulated to make the best use of LP space, and Keep Yourself Alive's location works well on the live album. This version is unaccounted for, but most versions were pretty similar, minus the jams that would sometimes occur after the first chorus. The bit of Fun It was removed, or perhaps they chose a version in which Freddie didn't sing that. This song, along with Dreamers Ball, runs a half-semitone too fast, leading me to believe that they may be from the same unknown show. I realize this is of little help, but it's a fair observation which could mean Keep Yourself Alive is from Lyon, February 17th.

Summary of disc 1: it seems only four of the thirteen songs were left unaltered - Killer Queen, I'm In Love With My Car, Dreamers Ball, and Keep Yourself Alive.

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Don't Stop Me Now

After hearing about 20 audience recordings with this song, including some Crazy Tour '79 shows when Freddie's voice was in nearly perfect shape, I can be almost completely sure that Freddie never sang the entire introduction of the song live on stage. Therefore, I believe there was some overdubbing done for this song as well - likely in the studio. The possibility remains that Freddie did have an incredible night somewhere on the tour where he hit such high notes, but basing this on the raw recordings available from this tour, it's a bit difficult to believe. Unfortunately we cannot know which show (or shows) this base for this song comes from just yet.

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Spread Your Wings

Again, no information about the whereabouts of this one, but I do know that Roger's vocal track was muted during the choruses. Every unofficial recording of this song proves that he always sang the choruses (either in full or to some extent). Even though this edit was made, I do like the effect of hearing the audience singing it alone, although this isn't the way it actually happened. Nice try, guys!

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Brighton Rock

Note the hiss starting on "Rock" (0:13) in Freddie's introduction of the song. This is the point where we are in Paris on February 28, and the first few bars are from that date, until 0:31, when it reverts to another show.

Freddie's lead vocal in the second verse was likely done in the studio, as there is no live recording of him from any tour singing it with the lyrics "it would be of no avail to talk of magic in the air" like on the album version. Furthermore, he ends the second verse with "I'll weave my spell," while every known live version has him singing "I'll say farewell." Similarly, on Now I'm Here of the Montreal '81 releases, Freddie sings "down in the valley just you and me" before the song's final climax, unlike any version from any era.

This version of Brighton Rock features an incredible jam by Brian, Roger, and John, and it seems this portion of the song was left unaltered, thankfully. It was surely a spontaneous and magical moment of Queen on stage. But there are still many edits during the song which I need to report. There is a very clear fade-out at 2:36, so we are either switching venues, or cutting something out.

There is another cut at 5:56, and this one puts us in Paris on March 1st for second time, despite Greg Brooks' claim to the contrary. At 6:52, the faint voice shouting "Brian" can now be very clearly heard on the Paris recording, which indicates how close to the stage it was made! A perfectly seamless cut is made at 6:58, and off we go again to another concert. On a personal note, might I say that from this point until 11:02 is sheer musical bliss! From 11:02 to 11:27 we are in Frankfurt (actually, it's not a clean cut, if you check on the Frankfurt recording to see where it cuts in), and then we're taken somewhere else for the remainder of the song. This final portion could be from the same show as Dreamers Ball and Keep Yourself Alive (again, perhaps Lyon), as it runs a half-semitone higher from this point until the end of the song. At least seven edits in all.

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Mustapha (intro) / Bohemian Rhapsody

This track is from Frankfurt. Although this portion of the Frankfurt recording is pretty bad sound quality, Freddie is heard fumbling on "Can't do this to me baby" as on the live album. For this reason, why they couldn't have chosen a different night for this song (or even overdub that line) I'll never figure out!

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Tie Your Mother Down

This is from Frankfurt as well. Despite the audience recording's poor quality, Brian's Tie Your Mother Down was quite unique and thus easy to spot. The vocal line immediately after the guitar solo is an overdub. The original vocal bled through as it is faintly heard on the "Ooh" preceding the line, and "understand" in "They don't understand it" (kudos to Mark Dillon for picking this out). The echo on the final "Tonight" was added in the studio.

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Sheer Heart Attack
We Will Rock You
We Are The Champions

No idea about Sheer Heart Attack. We Will Rock You is from Frankfurt (the mic feedback just before the first verse is evidence in itself). Freddie's voice is failing in the third verse of We Will Rock You, so it's beyond me why they chose this version for the live album.

As for We Are The Champions, I have heard from many fans from Yugoslavian countries that this song is from the Zagreb concert on February 6th. It's also possible that the track is from Paris, as bicycle bells can be heard in the audience during the first verse. A group of Queen fans informally called the "royal family" turned up at the Paris gigs in the front rows with bicycle bells. Since the audio doesn't match the two existing Paris recordings, it could very well be from the first night, February 27. Thanks to Janneman for the thought.

One thing we can be certain of is that parts of Freddie's vocal were overdubbed - likely in the studio. The first clear jump to the overdub is at 32 seconds, on "but I've come through." The tone of Mercury's voice changes at this spot. It returns to the live vocal for the second verse (until 1:45), and the last two choruses are mostly overdubbed. A lot of reverb was added to the guitar in the last chorus, likely to digsuise the studio work and make it sound more live.

On 11 recordings from this tour, not once does Freddie sing We Are The Champions half as strongly and passionately as on this version. As a faithful Queen fan, I'd like to think that Freddie had an amazing night on the tour that we haven't heard a recording of yet, but as a realistic enthusiast of live albums, I'm inclined to believe otherwise.

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God Save The Queen

Fans can be faintly heard singing the "olé olé" football song in the background after the God Save The Queen playback ends. There is therefore a strong possibility that the end of Live Killers may be from a Dutch concert, since this song was only sung by Queen fans in Holland, as heard on numerous recordings of concerts the band played there. Freddie's "good night" speech doesn't match the recording of the January 29th show in Rotterdam, and being as they played only two shows in Holland on the tour, both in Rotterdam, it's very possible that this last segment of Live Killers is from January 30th. Unfortunately this cannot be confirmed, since both recordings of the second night cut out well before the end of the show. It is an interesting observation made by Leon, and I appreciate it!

Summary of disc 2: at best, three of the eight songs were left unaltered - Bohemian Rhapsody, Sheer Heart Attack, and We Will Rock You.

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