Queen’s News Of The World: the story behind the cover

Queen’s News Of The World: the story behind the cover

Think of a Queen album sleeve. Chances are that, if you’re not picturing Mick Rock’s shadowy floating heads on Queen II, then you’ve chosen the giant, impassive steel robot murdering the line-up on 1977’s News Of The World. Aesthetically – not to mention musically – Queen’s sixth album was quite a departure.

Their previous two album sleeves – 1975’s A Night At The Opera and 1976’s A Day At The Races – had been exercises in classic minimalism, little more than the Mercury-designed crest and a monochrome background. For NOTW the jump-off came when Roger Taylor dug out an old issue of the American comic Astounding Science Fiction from 1953. On its cover was the now-familiar robot, but here, in its original form, it proffered a dead man in its palm, its eyes cold and blank, seemingly unable to process the crime it has just committed).

Roger Taylor with a copy of Astounding Science Fiction

(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images )

Ever ambitious, the band didn’t want to simply reproduce the image, so they tracked down its creator, US fantasy artist Frank Kelly Freas, to discuss an adaptation. In the niche world of science-fiction artwork, Freas was something of a superstar too. As the first artist to win 10 Hugo Awards (dubbed the ‘Oscars of sci-fi art’), he had illustrated for genre heavyweights including Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, while his most famous work was perhaps MAD magazine’s mischievous cover star Alfred E Neuman.

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