Sheer Heart Attack



This little burst of anger is clearly brought to you by the glistening chest guy on the cover of that other record.

It’s a storming little riot of a track, with a wonderfully painful solo and finale. Utter bliss, really; bottled anger, poured over bitter ice cream.

Sheer heart attack.

Notably absent from the album of the same name, it was written for it, but not finished in time. Roger actually ended up pleased that it’s recording was delayed, as he felt the sheer energy found within the track much better suited 1977 (apparently, the Sex Pistols were recording next door).

It’s not exactly Queen’s punk track, but it’s not necessarily that far off. And if it is, then it was written a few years before punk existed, so that’s something.

It’s pleasingly DIY, with Roger doing almost everything apart from the most painfully noodly guitars and the verse vocals. As with much of his work, it’s also about being young and lost and in this case very angry.

I’m not sure it’s entirely empathetic though. Though that’s just an impression

It ain’t no, it ain’t no, it ain’t no, it ain’t no surprise

Turn on the TV let it drip right down in your eyes

It opens with one of the great rock clichés, the stroke down the strings before the chord kicks in. Then it just hammers forward, relentlessly. Lyrics repeat and punch at the air, never letting up.

The core of the specialness here, rage aside, is the horrific, noisy and unpleasant guitar solo. Overdriven and whammied into feedback, Brian steps in just to make some noises that genuinely punish the ear. The guitar wails and screams and claws at you. It’s the only thing angry enough to match the rest of the thrashing noise. Actual sonic violence.

I feel so inar-ticulate

The chorus pulls back in, and it’s a relief. The roaring guitar pounds onwards, and Roger continues his cry for help.

And then the end. Sudden, abrupt, once again painful. The heart attack ends with a permanent and threatening relief.

The noise carries the heart of this song. It’s not just angry, it’s brutalist. It pushes you away, and walks out on you. It slams the door.

Honestly, I think it’s a little piece of dynamite. Faintly terrifying. Utterly surprising. Genuinely dangerous.

I love it.

Lyrically, it’s mostly repetition and cliche. There’s not much to grab hold of, the chorus itself is nearly laughable:

Sheer heart attack

Sheer heart attack

Real cardiac

But the delivery is perfect. The music rips through and carries everything to conclusion. Meaning is delivered through pulsing guitars and violent feedback. It genuinely is inarticulate, and that’s correct, because this is pointing at something more dangerous and honest than words.


This is special in many of the ways that Drowse was special. It’s nearly synaesthetic in its use of guitar effects, rhythm and sound. It sounds like angry suffering. Which is the (admittedly somewhat self indulgent) core of so much rock, metal and punk.

This is one of those moments that should make you stop and rethink who you think Queen are.

There’s a lot of them.

That’s the point here.

Real cardiac.


Queen: An Exploded Diagram is me having big and little thoughts about every Queen song in chronological order. If you want to support me, making it more financially viable and easier to explain to people at parties, please back my patreon.

Illustration by Emma.

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