"Live Killers" Analysis

Not sure what this is all about?
Read the introduction here.

Last updated: August 15, 2020

Back in 2007 Queen's archivist Greg Brooks posted on the now defunct Queenzone.com about the state of affairs surrounding Live Killers:

"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. It looks like we might have 13 shows represented but this does NOT mean they are entire shows, neither does it mean that 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."

But seeing as nothing has materialized since then, here we are well over a decade later, in all improbablity, where this analysis remains the definitive one.

And it has now been immortalized into video form by Chinwonder on YouTube:

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.

About two thirds of the album has been sorted out to date. 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 - 1:22 Lyon - February 17, 1979
  1:22 - 1:55 unknown
  1:55 - 2:48 unknown
  2:48 - 3:16 Lyon - February 17, 1979
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 - :38 unknown
  :38 - 1:43 Barcelona - February 20, 1979
  1:43 - 2:12 unknown
  2:12 - 2:35 Paris - February 28, 1979
  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 Lyon - February 17, 1979
You're My Best Friend 0 - 2:10 Lyon - February 17, 1979
Now I'm Here 0 - :06 Lyon - February 17, 1979
  :06 - :12 Frankfurt - February 2, 1979
  :12 - 4:05 Lyon - February 17, 1979
  4:05 - 5:35 Lyon - February 17, 1979
  5:35 - 5:41 unknown
  5:41 - 8:42 Lyon - February 17, 1979
Dreamer's Ball 0 - 3:42 Lyon - February 17, 1979
Love Of My Life 0 - :24 Paris - February 27, 1979 (?)
  :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 - :13 unknown
  :13 - :31 Paris - February 28, 1979
  :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 Lyon - February 17, 1979
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

There is a cut just before John's bass solo in We Will Rock You (at 1:16), leading us to our first identifiable part of the album - February 17, 1979 in Lyon. You'll notice the stereo sound become wider just as Freddie sings "rock". At 1:22 there is a second edit into another show, and the stereo width lessens (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. From 2:48 to the end of the song we're back in Lyon again.

The majority of these edits will only be noticable to most with a high quality stereo system or in studio headphones. 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.

Top of page

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 Dreamer's Ball remains a mystery. Its inclusion on the Bohemian Rhapsody biopic soundtrack in 2018 was most welcome. It's almost certainly from the first night in Paris, February 27.

It's Late was also performed on this tour but omitted from the album.

Top of page

Death On Two Legs

This song, almost in its entirety, including Freddie's spoken intro, is from Barcelona, February 20th, although there was a lot of work done on it. Here is Freddie's bleeped intro in its entirety: "We call him motherfucker; do you know what motherfucker means? We call him, we also call him Death On Two Legs, heh heh heh hey". On Live Killers, if you listen carefully, you suddenly hear the echo of the "him" from "we also call him" as Freddie says "Death." On the Barcelona recording, Freddie then shouts a couple further "heys", but they were muted for the official release, likely to minimize the repetition.

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 (this bookends the overdubs). After 1:04, he is still mixed widely, but without the slight channel delay. Freddie's "all right" at 1:13 is barely in the mix on the audience recording, so his level was raised, as was "fools" at 2:04, and the vocal harmonies on "suicide" at 2:47. And at 3:25, a seamless cut is made, and we are now in Frankfurt, February 2nd.

Top of page

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 :06 of the track, an amplifier feeds back, just like on the Frankfurt recording. There's an overdub at :22 on "decline," as the original vocal is heard underneath the overdub.

Top of page

Bicycle Race

Bicycle Race is also from Frankfurt. At :20, just before "you say black, I say white," someone in the audience sets off a firecracker. On the audience tape the bang is right on the beat, but on Live Killers it's a quarter beat late, accounting for the distance between the perpetrator and the audience mics on the stage. After the firecracker sound there is a strange buzz that lasts for a couple seconds and fades out.

At 1:28 a click is heard, and now we're in Zurich, February 4th.

Top of page

I'm In Love With My Car

This is from Zurich, unaltered. It is definitely one of Roger's best ever vocal performances of the song, along with a fantastic guitar solo from Brian towards the end. At 1:59 there is a cut, as the audience reacts to the song's ending noticeably a bit too soon.

Top of page

Get Down, Make Love

At least five concerts were used to compile this one song. 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. It no longer matches the Barcelona recording at 1:43, and until 2:12, we're in another venue. From 2:12 to 2:35 it's February 28 in Paris, although only the vocal and guitar (other effects have been removed from the mix). From 2:35 to 3:17 it's the third night 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, this time to Lyon on February 17, as the sound clearly changes from a very wide stereo sound to an almost mono mix at 4:04 for the last chorus (the mix is completely different from the first chorus).

For this last edit, Freddie's vocal switches concerts before the rest of the band. This was a perfectly clean edit, along with all the other edits in this song. The background hiss and audience disappear at this point as well.

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, as it was overlapping quite a bit. 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, almost certainly 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.

Top of page

You're My Best Friend

The entire song is from Lyon, unedited.

Top of page

Now I'm Here

The spoken intro is from Lyon and Frankfurt. The echo on the latter was falsely added in the studio, as it matches the Frankfurt audience recording perfectly, minus the echo. From :06 to :12 we are in Frankfurt, and then we have a seamless edit back into Lyon. "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", the audience can be heard sing singing a "yeah", which indicates that part of the vocal exchange was clipped (which is now clear on the audience tape). A bar is cleanly edited out at 3:29. 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" (in Lyon he says the much less exciting "yeah, you're good"), but we return to Lyon at 5:40 until the end of the song.

These edits are ultimately minimal, ensuring this remains one of the greatest recorded performances of the song.

Top of page

Dreamer's Ball

Greg Brooks' 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 from Lyon - but it is.

Other than a cut at :42 that excises about 25 seconds of the jam leading into the song, it is unaltered.

Top of page

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 Paris on February 27 (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 (it's a chorus/doubling effect being used). At 1:37 there is a cut, as well as at 2:05. The line "and everything's all" has the chorus effect removed, which is a line that Freddie hesitated on in Frankfurt (at 2:08, on "by the way", the chorus is back on again). The chorus is removed between 2:20 and 2:32 again, and there is a cut at 2:24. On the "to" of "to remind you", the original vocal in the room mic can be heard underneath the overdub. In addition, his voice cracked on the long "you", and it's nicely patched up at 2:28.

In the last chorus, once again, there is no chorus effect on the parts where Mercury lets the audience sing in Frankfurt. 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 other shows, but it is possible that any or all of them could be studio overdubs.

Top of page


Once again we're in Frankfurt, complete with the band intro. May's dialogue is identical to the actual turn of events, minus an "um" before he introduces Roger, and Meddows from "Roger Meddows-Taylor" (Roger wasn't fond of his full name, and it was almost certainly excised on his insistence).

The vocal harmonies after the first chorus were overdubbed a bit. On the Frankfurt audience tape Roger doesn't hit the high F# as heard at 1:31 on Live Killers, so surely that was patched up. The next two bars have Mercury using a harmonizer set to an octave, as Taylor couldn't hit the highest note anymore by 1979 (this was done live every night, not post in the studio). A studio overdub of Taylor is added, and while the harmonizer is mostly muted from the mix, it still bleeds through in the overhead mics at 1:36 on the last note.

Top of page

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, although it's worth noting that it runs a half-semitone too fast.

On most nights of the tour Mercury sang a couple lines of Fun It during the intro or after the first chorus, but here it was was either removed or they selected a night where they performed a more economical version of the song as they had in earlier years.

Summary of disc 1: only two of the thirteen songs were left unaltered - I'm In Love With My Car and Keep Yourself Alive.

Top of page

Don't Stop Me Now

After hearing about 20 audience recordings of this song, including some Crazy Tour '79 shows when Mercury was in excellent voice, one can be fairly certain that he never sang the entire introduction of the song on stage and that the first 30 seconds of the vocal here are a studio overdub.

It's unknown which show(s) this song comes from. There's a blip in the sound at 1:05 that sounds like a cut, which may indicate a transition to another concert, although nothing sonically changes at that point.

Top of page

Spread Your Wings

There's no information of the whereabouts of this one, but what we do know is that the fader on Roger's vocal track was brought all the way down. Every 1979 recording of this song proves that he always sang in the choruses (either in full or to some extent). This change to the mix creates a nice effect of hearing the audience singing it alone, although it isn't the way it actually happened.

Top of page

Brighton Rock

Note the hiss starting on "Rock" (: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 :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 Sheer Heart Attack. 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 live version from any era (about 300 of them).

The first obvious edit is the fade out at 2:36, which could either be a venue switch or cutting something out. The next one is at 5:56, putting 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 audience recording, which indicates how close to the stage it was taped from. A perfectly seamless cut is made at 6:58, and off we go again to another show which culminates with the incredible jam by Brian, Roger, and John - a spontaneous and magical moment of Queen on stage.

From 11:02 to 11:27 we are in Frankfurt (the guitar suddenly cuts in, if you refer to the Frankfurt audience tape), and then we're taken somewhere else for the remainder of the song. This final portion could be from the same show as Keep Yourself Alive, as it runs a half-semitone too fast from this point until the end of the song.

Top of page

Mustapha (intro) / Bohemian Rhapsody

This track is from Frankfurt. Although this portion of the Frankfurt audience tape 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) is beyond me, especially considering they'd already patched up his "carry on, carry on," which was much less flawed.

Top of page

Tie Your Mother Down

This is from Frankfurt as well. Despite the audience tape's poor quality, Brian's solo in the middle was quite unique on this night 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 post in the studio.

Top of page

Sheer Heart Attack

This is from Lyon, unedited.

Top of page

We Will Rock You
We Are The Champions

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.

It's possible that We Are The Champions is from the first night in 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.

One thing we can be certain of is that parts of Freddie's vocal were overdubbed 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 as well. A pile 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 as on this version. One would like to think that Freddie had an amazing night on the tour that we haven't heard a recording of yet, but any realistic enthusiast of live albums is likely to be inclined to believe otherwise.

Top of page

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, so it's possible that this last segment of Live Killers is from January 30th. But this cannot be confirmed, since both audience tapes of the second night cut out well before the encore.

Summary of disc 2: two of the eight songs were left unaltered - Sheer Heart Attack and We Will Rock You.

Thanks to Kieran Chamberlain, Janneman, Leon, Ryan Newton, Valery Oganov, and René Wiersma for their observations to help make this analysis more complete.

Top of page