Here Is How Queen May Have Invented Thrash Metal

Freddie Mercury Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage (via Getty Images) / James Hetfield Photo by Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for P+ and MTV
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While thrash metal as many know it today came about in the 1980s, some say that the genre was “birthed” back in the ’70s thanks to Queen.

During a recent conversation with Total Guitar, Queen guitarist Brian May is asked about the band’s song “Stone Cold Crazy” (released in 1974) and if he considers it their heaviest song. (Little fun fact for you: Metallica has actually covered “Stone Cold Crazy”).

While talking about the song, May mentions a riff on the track that, per other folks, apparently “is the birth of thrash metal.” This is what May had to say exactly about the Queen song “Stone Cold Crazy”:

“I think so. Stone Cold Crazy goes back a long way. It was one of the first songs we ever played together, so it’s interesting that it never made it onto a record until the third album. That’s quite unusual, isn’t it? I think we were playing Stone Cold Crazy in our very first gigs.

“Freddie had written the lyrics with his old band, and the original riff was very different – it sounded like the riff in Tear It Up [from 1984 album The Works]. So that original version of Stone Cold Crazy sounded like a lot of other things which were around at the time, with quite an easygoing riff. It didn’t have much pace to it.

“But I thought: these lyrics are kind of frenetic, so the music should be frenetic as well. So I put this riff on it, which people are telling me is the birth of thrash metal or something! I don’t know about that. But was unusual at the time to play at that pace.

“That song was a bit of fun, really. I don’t think we regarded it as that serious, which is perhaps why it never made it onto an album until number three. But it’s nice and heavy. I still remember going in to do the definitive version of it, and it was faster than ever – we just went for it! There’s a lot of adrenaline: let’s go for it! It really does burn. And I liked the sounds that we had in place by that time.

Stone Cold Crazy is a good example of us recording in a live atmosphere but in the studio. And we started to have it down by that point. Once you get a grip on that kind of stuff, you can fool yourself into thinking it’s live when you’re in the studio. So it doesn’t sound calculated – it sounds real and spontaneous. And we captured it. I think that’s all one take. It’s not like messing around doing take after take. We just did it. I’d say that’s when we started to master the studio.”

You can listen to Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” below; you will also find Metallica’s cover of the song as well. What do you think of May’s comments and do you think this song is the “birth of thrash metal”?

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