Hammer to Fall

"Hammer to Fall" is a 1984 song by the British rock band Queen. Written by guitarist Brian May, the song is the eighth track on their 1984 album The Works.[3] It was the fourth and final single to be released from that album, although the single version was edited down by thirty seconds in contrast to the version on the album. Different sleeves were used to package this single and the live picture sleeve is now a collector's item. The song harks back to the Queen of old, with a song being built around a hard angular and muscular riff.

"Hammer to Fall"
Single by Queen
from the album The Works
B-side"Tear It Up"
Released10 September 1984 (UK) (UK etc.)
12 October 1984 (US)
RecordedJanuary 1984
  • 4:28 (Album version)
  • 3:40 (Single edit)
  • 5:25 (12" Headbanger's Mix)
LabelEMI, Capitol
Songwriter(s)Brian May
Producer(s)Queen and Reinhold Mack
Queen singles chronology
"It's a Hard Life"
"Hammer to Fall"
"Thank God It's Christmas"
Withdrawn cover
Music video
"Hammer to Fall" on YouTube

The song peaked at number 3 in South Africa, and 13 in the UK Singles Chart.[4] It was featured in the film Highlander, a movie that the band had composed tie-in songs for. The music video was filmed in Brussels during The Works Tour, and features drummer Roger Taylor wearing an oversized message T-shirt (“CHOOSE LIFE”) created by Katharine Hamnett.

"Hammer to Fall" was the third song the band performed at Live Aid in 1985.[5][6][7] The song features in the setlist of both The Works Tour and The Magic Tour.[8][9] The full album version of the song appears on Queen Rocks while the single version appears on Greatest Hits II and Classic Queen.[3]


The lyrics at several points refer to the Cold War era in which the band members grew up, fuelling the popular conception that the song was about nuclear war:

For we who grew up tall and proud
In the shadow of the mushroom cloud
Convinced our voices can't be heard
We just wanna scream it louder and louder and louder
What the hell we fighting for
Just surrender and it won't hurt at all
You've just got time to say your prayers
While you're waiting for the Hammer to Fall.

The term "waiting for the hammer to fall" in the song was taken to refer to the anticipation by the public that Cold War would turn "hot" – or, alternatively, as a reference to the Soviet Hammer and Sickle.

The song also contains references to death and its inevitability:

Rich or poor or famous
For your truth it's all the same (oh no oh no)
Lock your door but the rain is pouring
Through your window pane (oh no)
Baby now your struggle's all in vain

The question of the meaning of the song was effectively settled when May wrote on his website that "Hammer to Fall is really about life and death, and being aware of death as being part of life", and that "the Hammer coming down is only a symbol of the Grim Reaper doing his job!"[10]

Music videoEdit

The music video was directed by David Mallet, containing footage of a performance of the song in Brussels during The Works Tour.[11]

Live performancesEdit

"Hammer to Fall" was the third song on the band's setlist at Live Aid, after "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Radio Ga Ga".[6] Live versions of the song in the 1980s also usually served as an opportunity for touring keyboardist Spike Edney to appear onstage playing rhythm guitar, as he was usually not visible from behind his keyboard stack. "Hammer to Fall" features in the setlist of both The Works Tour and The Magic Tour.[8][9]

At the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, Extreme singer Gary Cherone performed the song with Queen and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, having previously done a medley of other Queen songs with his own group.[12]

A different version of the song with the first part played in the style of a ballad was played by May on his 1998 solo tour promoting second album Another World. This arrangement was revived for Queen + Paul Rodgers in 2005.

In other mediaEdit

  • The song appears in the 1987 science fiction book The Tommyknockers by Stephen King.[13]
  • A portion of the song is heard during the scene with the well-armed Vietnam veteran in the 1986 film Highlander.[14]
  • The song was made available to download on 7 December 2010 for use in the Rock Band 3 music gaming platform in both Basic rhythm, and PRO mode which allows use of a real guitar / bass guitar, and MIDI compatible electronic drum kits / keyboards in addition to vocals.
  • A portion of the song is heard during a scene of the sixth episode of Netflix's Stranger Things second season.[15]
  • The song is heard in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody where Queen's Live Aid performance is reenacted.




Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[22] Silver 200,000 

 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ Purvis, Georg (2007). Queen: Complete Works. Reynolds & Hearn. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-905-28733-8. Brian's love of hard rock is evident in 'Hammer To Fall'
  2. ^ "The Ten Heaviest Queen Songs Ever - Metal Hammer". TeamRock. 22 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b The Works Ultimate Queen. Retrieved 11 July 2011
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums. London: Guinness World Records Limited
  5. ^ Stanford, Peter (24 September 2011). "Queen: their finest moment at Live Aid". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
  6. ^ a b Queen Concerts: 13 July 1985 Wembley Stadium, London, (Live Aid) Retrieved 11 July 2011
  7. ^ Live Aid: Hammer to Fall Ultimate Queen. Retrieved 11 July 2011
  8. ^ a b Queen live on tour: The Works 1985 Queen Concerts. Retrieved 11 July 2011
  9. ^ a b Queen live on tour: Magic tour Queen Concerts. Retrieved 11 July 2011
  10. ^ Brian May: Brian's Soapbox, April 2004, brianmay.com
  11. ^ Queen Biography 1984 Archived 28 January 2012 at WebCite Queen Zone. Retrieved 11 July 2011
  12. ^ The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert: Hammer to Fall Retrieved 25 May 2011
  13. ^ The Tommyknockers (1987) Google Books Result
  14. ^ "SoundTreks - Highlander". CraveOnline. Archived from the original on 29 October 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Stranger Things 2: Complete Easter Egg and Reference Guide". Den of Geek. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  16. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums. London: Guinness World Records Limited
  17. ^ "Queen Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  18. ^ "Queen Chart History (Japan Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  19. ^ "Queen Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  20. ^ "Hot Rock Songs – Year-End 2019". Billboard. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  21. ^ "Top AFP - Audiogest - Top 3000 Singles + EPs Digitais" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Associação Fonográfica Portuguesa. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  22. ^ "British single certifications – Queen – Hammer to Fall". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 17 April 2020.

External linksEdit