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The Song Queen Crafted About an Extraordinary Gentleman

While Queen is widely recognized for their grand, pop-infused brand of rock, the band’s artistic range goes beyond their often celebrated attributes. Beyond Freddie Mercury’s extraordinary vocal range and Brian May’s explosive guitar work, Queen showcased a capacity for a more biting and edgy musical expression that may not receive due credit.

The band, led by Mercury, delved into inspired and cutting critiques, presenting a side that contrasts with their more theatrical persona. Beneath the flamboyance, Queen had a harder, more confrontational core that significantly contributed to their success, offering a counterbalance to their lighter aspects.

One of their standout early tracks, ‘Death On Two Legs,’ the opening song from 1975’s ‘A Night at the Opera,’ asserts itself as perhaps their most scathing composition. Mercury penned and dedicated the track to Norman Sheffield, the band’s former manager and co-owner of London’s Trident Studios. The quartet parted ways with Sheffield before recording the album, feeling aggrieved and unsupported.

In the 2011 documentary ‘Days of Our Lives,’ surviving Queen members reflected on the tension during Sheffield’s tenure. Despite producing hits, they saw little financial return, leading to frustration. Drummer Roger Taylor recalled being told not to hit the drums too hard due to budget constraints, contrasting sharply with the lavish lifestyle of the management.

The song opens with the pointed couplet, ‘You suck my blood like a leech / You break the law and you breach,’ where Freddie Mercury eloquently expresses his and the band’s sentiments. Ironically, Mercury initially hesitated, finding the song too resentful, but May encouraged its completion.

Boldly, the song’s title includes ‘Dedicated to…’ after it, making a strong statement, though it avoids a direct reference to Sheffield. However, Sheffield took offense and sued Queen and their record label, eventually settling out of court. In a twist of irony, this publicized the song’s connection to the matter, further tarnishing Sheffield’s reputation.

Sheffield denied mistreating Queen in his role as manager, citing the 1972 management contract in his 2013 autobiography as a defense. Regardless, the damage was done. On the Live Killers version of ‘Death of Two Legs,’ Mercury introduces the song, stating, ‘This is a song about a real motherfucker of a gentleman!’

Listen to ‘Death On Two Legs’ below.

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