Brighton Rock

Composed by Brian May / Queen

Song Review by

This breathtaking combination of theatrical pomp and grinding power chords is a stellar example of what made Queen such a unique group in the world of hard rock. The lyrics portray the giddy rush of joy that young lovers feel as they present a determined young man pursuing an elusive upper-crust girl: "Oh, rock of ages do not crumble/Love is breathing still/Oh, Lady Moon shine down/A little people magic, if you will." The music captures the euphoric feel of the lyrics with a fast-paced melody that pairs breathless, staccato verse melodies crammed with notes a la Gilbert & Sullivan with a smoother but no less rousing chorus that has a sing-along feel. On paper, "Brighton Rock" is the stuff of pure pop but Queen transforms into a hard-rocking juggernaut on their recording thanks to an arrangement that places Brian May’s guitar chops front and center: it starts with carnival sound effects that quickly give way to a wave of dazzling, percolating (but very heavy) guitar riffs that fuel an arrangement anchored by a stomping but no less intricate beat from the rhythm section. It also includes a solo break where May trots out a jaw-dropping guitar solo that weaves a series of Hendrix-style riffs into a mini-symphony of power chords. The final piece of the puzzle is the typically complex vocals that were a trademark for Queen: Freddie Mercury contributes a cheeky lead that uses different ‘voices’ for the two characters (a helium falsetto for the girl, a lusty baritone for the boy) and May and Roger Taylor join Mercury to create a symphonically-dense set of backing vocals that pump the chorus up to grandiose heights. It all added up to a multi-layered feast of sound that was balanced pop sweetness and hard rock muscle with skill and a totally personalized sense of style. "Brighton Rock" went on to become a favorite with Queen fans, many of whom consider it May’s definitive guitar performance on record. It also became a mainstay of Queen’s live show, where May utilized tape-delay units to recreate the ornate instrumental section (an epic 12-minute live version of "Brighton Rock" can be found on Live Killers).

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Sheer Heart Attack 1974 Hollywood 5:11
Live Killers 1979 Hollywood 12:16
At Wembley [DVD] 1990 Hollywood / Hollywood Video
Live in Rio [Video] 1991 Masterplan
The Crown Jewels 1998 Hollywood 5:10
Rock You from Rio: Live 2009 Immortal 3:02
Queen 40 Limited Edition Collector's Box Set 2011 Hollywood / Hollywood Records (UK) 5:10
40, Vol. 1 2011 Hollywood 5:11
An Evening at the Concert Hall 2012
The Studio Collection 2015 Virgin EMI 5:11
A Night at the Odeon: Hammersmith 1975 [Video] 2015 Eagle Rock
blue highlight denotes editor's pick