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Great King Rat: A Unknown Queen Piece Of Powerful Heavy Royal Rock

The 1973 Queen tune, Great King Rat, never made it into the Starlight. “Lost Tracks” features a song with deep meanings that is still debated today that many listeners have never heard
June 28, 2018
By subcomtom

 

Most people know Queen from their highly popular Greatest Hits Album and have not bothered to dig much deeper into the earlier works on their first three albums – Queen, Queen 2, or Sheer Heart Attack.

Although I was aware of the big Queen hits as a kid, I had each of these three albums in the early Eighties. The LPs were released as “Nice Price” vinyl records and, therefore, affordable for a young teenager, ready to explore the exciting universe of Rock.

The self-titled debut Album Queen was released in 1973 and is one hell of a debut album. Most bands start small while Queen took off right from the beginning in a pompously unique manner (not all that surprising considering the personality of their frontman, Freddie Mercury).

 

According to the Guinness Book Of Records, the Official International Queen Fan Club is the longest running rock group fan club in the world.

 

 

The back cover of Queen, the band's 1973 debut album. The record included "Great King Rat," the subject of this week's "Lost Tracks."

 

 

The album, which was recorded at Trident Studios in London, was released in July 1973. The record showcases an interesting mix of songs influenced by a broad variety of musical genres and is best known for “Keep Yourself Alive,” which also appears on Queen’s celebrated multi-platinum double live album “Live Killers” (1979).

Great King Rat, however, was the song that got me right away when I listened to Queen for the first time in the early Eighties. The tune remains one of my favorite Queen songs.

 

 

 

 

How could you not love a song that kicks off 6 minutes of bombastic greatness with feedbacks, a fantastic guitar riff, jumping right into a story of a rat king who was the swearing son of a whore, wanted by the law, and dying of syphilis at the age of forty-four? I mean, if this ain’t Rock ‘n’ Roll, then I have been chasing a phantom for the past 35 years that doesn’t exist.

Great King Rat died today
Born on the twenty-first of May
Died syphilis forty-four on his birthday
Every second word he swore
Yes he was the son of a whore
Always wanted by the law

This is most probably one of the most intense opening verses in Rock history, and mind you, this is just the opening verse that kicks in the door into the world of the Great King Rat. Further down the line, Freddie, who wrote Great King Rat, gives the ultimate Rock ‘n’ Roll advise:

Don’t listen to what mama says
Not a word, not a word mama says

Looking back at the impact these lines most probably had on me as a kid, one could say that Freddie and Queen somehow planted the seed of anarchy into my subconscious mind, without me even understanding what was about to come.

More “Lost Tracks” – Early Influencers of the Heavy Metal Bands to Come

 

 

Queen (L-R: Bassist John Deacon, Drummer Roger Taylor, Guitarist Brian May, and Freddie Mercury)

Queen (L-R: Bassist John Deacon, Drummer Roger Taylor, Guitarist Brian May, and Freddie Mercury)

 

 

The song structure changes from heavy electric riffs to melodious acoustic guitar parts, and back to stomping beats, just giving the listener an early glimpse on the kind of over the top music that Queen was bound to create in the future.

Great King Rat with its multiple tempo changes would fit nicely into albums like A Day at the Races or A Night at the Opera. I believe that if the song had been written a couple of years later, and published on one of these albums, it would have become one of Queen’s biggest hits.

 

On the album sleeve for their debut release, “Queen,” the words ‘No Synthesizers’ were printed, to correct a common mistake people made.

 

Another entertaining aspect of Great King Rat is the conspiracy and prophecy related theories that some people have posted on the internet regarding the meaning of the song.

It seems that people never tire of coming up with weird and twisted theories as soon as an artist passes away, as they cannot just accept the fact that, like themselves, their rock star idols are just mortal human beings.

 

 

The band member of Queen. Left to right: Roger Taylor, Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, and Brian May.

 

 

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These theories range from Brian May being a member of a secretive group luring Freddie Mercury into singing the song – to claiming that the whole song is a prophecy, and foretells the AIDS-related death of Freddie Mercury.

I will spare you the details of the opinions, as there are other platforms to discuss these kinds of things. I will leave it up to you to decide what to make of other’s conjecture.

I prefer to enjoy the greatness of this magnificent song by Queen; one of my all-time favorite bands.

 

Great King Rat died today
Born on the twenty-first of May
Died syphilis forty-four on his birthday
Every second word he swore
Yes he was the son of a whore
Always wanted by the law

Wouldn’t you like to know?
Wouldn’t you like to know, people?
Great King Rat was a dirty old man
And a dirty old man was he
Now what did I tell you
Would you like to see?

Now hear this
Where will I be tomorrow?
Will I beg or will I borrow?
I don’t care I don’t care anyway
Come on come on the time is right
The man is evil and that is right
I told you, ah yes I told you
And that’s no lie oh no no

Wouldn’t you like to know?
Wouldn’t you like to know?
Wouldn’t you like to know?
Great King Rat was a dirty old man
And a dirty old man was he
Now what did I tell you
Would you like to see?
(Show me)

Wouldn’t you like to know?
Wouldn’t you like to know, people?
Great King Rat was a dirty old man
And a dirty old man was he
Now what did I tell you
Would you like to see?

Now listen, all you people
Put out the good and keep the bad
Don’t believe all you read in the Bible
You sinners get in line
Saints you leave far behind
Very soon you’re gonna be his disciple

Don’t listen to what mama says
Not a word, not a word mama says
Or else you’ll find yourself being the rival
The great Lord before He died
Knelt sinners by his side
And said you’re going to realize tomorrow

No, I’m not going to tell you
What you already know
Cause time and time again
The old man said it all a long time ago
Come, come on the time is right
The man is evil and that is right
I told you once before

Wouldn’t you like to know?
Wouldn’t you like to know?
Just like I said before
Great King Rat was a dirty old man
And a dirty old man was he
The last time I tell you
Would you like to see?

 

For the full Story of Queen: Mercury Rising, watch the documentary below.

 

 

Do you like what you’re reading? See the other “Lost Tracks” articles from the archive below. Be sure to check back next Thursday when RTN delves into another Lost Track.

 

© 2018 rockingthenet.com

RTN’s “Lost Tracks” is a weekly feature of Rock’s hidden gems and little-known bands.

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The Lost Tracks Archive

The Who: A Creepy Crawly Horror Show Starring Boris The Spider

On The Hunt With New Model Army And Sepultura

David Bowie’s Newly Shoed Dark Horse Lives In A Criminal World

Ween: Two Longtime Friends And A DAT Machine = Eclectic Music

Beasts Of Bourbon Redefined Guitar-Based Rock’N’Roll

Wet Pussycat And The Unreleased Riff That Describes Stoner Rock

Stepping Stone Finds Its Way Through More Than 50 Years

An Obscure Rolling Stones Song Mick Jagger Wrote In Prison

Hank Williams III: Generation Spanning Sadness, Depression, and Solitude

Lucifer’s Friend Makes Their Mark In “Lost Tracks” With Ride The Sky

Woods Of Ypres Takes Us On A Spiritual Journey In “Lost Tracks”

Old Men’s Desire For War, Seen By Mudhoney, The Founders Of Grunge

Budgie: An Early Influencer Of The Heavy Metal Bands To Come

Aphrodite’s Child: Two Unexpected Greek Titans Of Progressive Rock