“Freddie, when we were mixing it, had his hand on the guitar fader”: Brian May on the Queen frontman’s vision for We Are The Champions

“He said, ‘No, I want to handle the guitar. I want to push that guitar to make sure it fights with the vocal.’”

Queen's Freddie Mercury and Brian May performing on stage

Image: Phil Dent / Getty Images

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Brian May has spoken about the making of one of Queen’s biggest hits of all time, We Are The Champions, and the reason the track doesn’t have or ‘need’ a guitar solo.

In a new interview with Total Guitar, the rocker reveals that despite there being plenty of guitar playing in the song, a “break-type solo” was never talked about among the members. Instead, “what was discussed was that Freddie [Mercury] wanted the guitar to be fighting with the voice towards the end.”

“It’s a strange story,” May adds. “I’d done the rhythm part for that, and sort of forgotten about it. And then I think we were in Wessex studios. And it came quite quickly to the time when we were going to mix it, and I suddenly thought, ‘I haven’t really thought about this, there’s not really any lead guitar on there.’”

Returning to the studio on the morning of the mix, May says he “basically redid most of it, because I could hear it much more clearly in my head.”

“And I put in those answering pieces, the lead guitar responses to Freddie’s vocal, particularly at the end. Also, again, those little bell chimes-type things in the second verse, because I’d sketched it but it wasn’t clear.”

“So I redid all that. And Freddie came back in and said, ‘Oh, I like what you’ve done with the guitar at the end. I want to make sure we mix it so the guitar is fighting with the vocal at every point at the end. It should be a battle!’”

To realise his vision, Freddie ended up having “his hand on the guitar fader” during the song’s mixing, a sight May calls “unusual” because “usually he’s got his fingers on the vocal and I’ve got my fingers on the guitar”.

“But he said, ‘No, I want to handle the guitar. I want to push that guitar to make sure it fights with the vocal.’ So that’s the way it was done.”

“So that song doesn’t have a solo as such, and I don’t think it’s ever needed one. And the problem would be live. Once you started soloing extensively, the bottom would drop out of it. And I can do a lot with bluff on the night. I can make people think there’s still a rhythm guitar there. But not for very long,” says the musician.

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