After an exhaustive seven years together and several trips around the world – not only to the United Kingdom and the United States, but Europe, Japan, and Australia – the band were ushered back into the recording studios in the summer of 1977 to record a follow-up to A Day At The Races. Instead of recording a similar album, several clashing musical styles were beginning to overtake the airwaves and attention of musicians worldwide: punk, new wave, and disco. Smartly opting to explore the first two genres, the band started to write and record more stripped-back songs, foregoing the usual production gimmicks of multiple overdubs and studio trickery.
During this period, Roger started to write and record songs that he felt didn't suit Queen's sound. Four songs – Sheer Heart Attack, Fight From The Inside, Turn On The TV, and a deconstruction of Parliament / Funkadelic's I Wanna Testify – were written and demoed in the summer of 1977, with the explicit decision of issuing them as a solo release. While the first two titles would be ultimately used on Queen's new album, the latter two became the B-side and A-side, respectively, of Roger's first single release in August 1977, and the first time that a Queen band member would release a solo single. (It should be noted that I Can Hear Music and Goin' Back were released under the guise of Larry Lurex in 1973, though these two songs would later appear on Freddie solo compilations in later years.)
The recording sessions for News Of The World were held at Basing Street Studios and Wessex Studios, and spanned a mere six weeks (late July until mid-September); the band were notorious for generally using vast amounts of time in the studio. This severe cutback in time could be because the band had a commitment to a North American tour that November, or that they wanted to get the songs recorded as quickly as possible to retain a spontaneous and fresh feel.
Musical roles were also switched: while Roger had debuted as a guitarist on his 1976 song Drowse, making his six-string contributions to his two compositions all the less surprising, he also performed bass guitar on those two songs, providing lead vocals on Fight From The Inside and co-lead vocals on Sheer Heart Attack, which had been written during sessions for the titular album in 1974. Brian played piano on All Dead, All Dead and sang lead vocals on that song (harmonizing with Freddie at times) and the bluesy Sleeping On The Sidewalk, knocked off in a one-take session with none of the present musicians (Brian, Roger, and John; Freddie is nowhere to be found) realizing the tape was running. John's musical contributions, apart from (abridged) bass duties, included acoustic guitar on his two songs, though it is still debated who played the acoustic guitar solo on Who Needs You: Brian or John. As of writing, neither guitarist nor bassist have revealed the truth.
The album was preceded a fortnight by the single We Are The Champions in October 1977, with a video filmed at the New London Theatre on October 6th, implementing a specially-invited audience of members of the fan club, the first (but not last) time the band would reach out to their fans in this way. The single was a huge smash, reaching #2 in the UK and #4 in the US, ensuring that their North American tour that winter would be a sell out. Further singles – Spread Your Wings, released in the UK in February 1978, and It's Late, released in the US in April 1978 – were not as successful, reaching only #34 and #74, respectively. The album itself charted at a respectable #4 in the UK (which could have been seen as a minor mis-step, considering their previous two albums had topped the British charts), while it peaked one position higher in the US, becoming the first and only time that a US LP release would chart better than in the UK.
In 1991, the album would be re-released on compact disc for the North American market, with a rap remix of We Will Rock You (suitably titled "Ruined by Rick Rubin") appearing as a bonus track. Opinion has been divided over the merits of such a remix, and no other remix from Hollywood Records' CD re-release campaign has caused quite as much controversy as Rick Rubin's.