Queen's classic anthems We Are The Champions and We Will Rock You are 40 years old

We look back at an iconic smash hit and possibly the most famous B-side in the world.

One is as ingrained into British culture as egg and chips and the other has its own special handclap and BOTH of them can be heard at pretty much any sporting event around the world. And, in the UK, at least, they both appeared on opposite sides of the same record. Could We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions be the catchiest pair of songs in the world?

It's the ultimate dream of almost any artist: find at least one song that becomes so beloved the your audience that they know all the words and sing it back to you, and Queen are lucky enough to have a clutch of such hits, with two in particular taking on a life of their own. 40 years ago, Queen released the ultimate "sing it back" single, from their huge-selling News Of The World album: We Are The Champions, backed up on the B-side by the equally iconic We Will Rock You.

We Will Rock You was pretty groundbreaking at the time – and still is – in that it features barely any instrumentation other than a voice (and what a voice), foot stamps, hand claps and, right near the end, a guitar solo. Yep, no drums!

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Back in 1977, singing along at a concert wasn't as commonplace as it is now, with some rock stars preferring to be the ones doing the performing. The members of Queen, however, noticed after one gig that their fans even carried on singing after the show was over, breaking out into the classic ballad You'll Never Walk Alone. Brian May had a thought: what if they embraced this audience participation and made their fans feel part of the performance? With the final concept coming to Brian in a dream, the band set to work.

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The song was an instant classic, especially when paired with emotional, rousing ballad We Are The Champions. The songs open the News Of The World album, just making five minutes in total. The tracks made up a double-A side in the US, and such was the tracks' unbreakable bond that it's very common for radio stations there to play them together as one continuous track. In an interview with Billboard, Brian May says one radio station made their own disc with both songs on the same side so they didn't have to flip it!

Brian May had no idea We Will Rock You would be adopted by sports fans, but when it came to We Are The Champions, Freddie Mercury always had it in the back of his mind. "I was thinking about football when I wrote it,” said Freddie in an interview at the time. "I wanted a participation song, something that the fans could latch on to. Of course, I’ve given it more theatrical subtlety than an ordinary football chant." He certainly did.

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Brian May has said the duo are his favourite songs to perform live, and that even now We Are The Champions gets him in the feels: "It does still sometimes bring a big lump to my throat."

After debuting at Number 30 exactly 40 years ago this week, the double A-side peaked at Number 2 five weeks later, beaten to the top spot by ABBA's Name Of The Game and Wings' Mull of Kintyre, but their impact lives on.

View the full Official Singles Chart Top 100 from this week in 1977

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We Will Rock You has notched up 9,000 downloads this year so far, and 4.2 million streams. We Are The Champions has managed 6,200 downloads in 2017, with streams hitting 2.7 million.

We Are The Champions was sung to rousing effect by Liza Minnelli at the Freddie's concert and regularly tops polls as the world's favourite or catchiest song, even though it missed the Number 1 spot almost everywhere.

We Will Rock You lent its name to the title of the smash hit musical using Queen's back catalogue, and despite never becoming a hit on its own upon release, it did find its way to the Number 1 spot when covered by boyband Five (featuring Queen) in 2000.

It's also been covered countless times and sampled by Eminem, among others. Not to mention this breathtakingly expensive advert which managed to get P!nk, Beyoncé and Britney in the same room for at least a day. Oh, and Enrique too. Watch out for a quick cameo from the original members of Queen.

To mark the songs' 40th anniversary, parent album News Of The World has been reissued to include alternative versions of both tracks, featuring different vocal takes, a very different version of that famous guitar solo from We Will Rock You.

The previously unheard versions also reveal We Are The Champions was supposed to fade out, not end abruptly as it does, and in its original length, there were two more choruses.

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Main image: Chris Hopper