On this very day 40 years ago, the British band known as Queen released one of the best rock songs ever created, “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Though the album A Night at the Opera, where the song originates, released a couple weeks later, this song was released as a single on Halloween 1975. The result was critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.
Lead singer and writer of the song, Freddie Mercury, had apparently been working on this track years before he joined Queen. The song contains bits and pieces of random songs he was writing since the late 60’s, one of which was named “The Cowboy Song”. (This bit of song is the origin of the line “Mama… just killed a man.”). Mercury presented the song idea to the band in the mid-70’s during production of their fifth album.
Recorded between six recording studios containing as many as 180 overdubs, the song took three weeks to complete. At 5 minutes 55 seconds long, the song is one of Queen’s longest singles released (second only to “Innuendo” in 1991). Hits aren’t usually this long, leading everyone to believe that “Bohemian Rhapsody” had no chance for mainstream success.
It’s success is mainly due to the workings of DJ Kenny Everett of Capital Radio. He received a copy of the song early and teased bits of it during airplay. The demand for the whole song was sky-high, leading him to play the entire song 14 times in two days. Everyone loved it, and the rest is history. Queen’s record labels in Europe and North America had no choice but to release the single ASAP.
The song enjoyed mainstream success for its time and several times afterwards. Today it is considered a classic, one of the best rock songs ever created, and one of the best songs of all-time. Though not their first hit, this is easily Queen’s magnum opus and the work they’re most known for. It stands the test of time almost half a century later, and it probably always will.
To this day we acknowledge the music video as one of the best (not to mention one of the first). We are also still pondering what in the hell this song means. Freddie Mercury has stated that the lyrics are just gibberish. Still, that isn’t stopping people from trying to figure it out. If he was lying, then that’s unfortunately a secret he took to the grave. Nonetheless, the song is enjoyable whether it has a meaning or not.
To get personal for a moment, this is my second favorite song ever. It was my favorite for many years, but was surpassed by yet another Queen song four years after first hearing “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I often consider this my first Queen song. That’s, of course, bullshit. Anyone my age and even a bit older was introduced to Queen through other means whether they knew it or not. I consider it my first because this was the song that made me a Queen fan. Had I never experienced this song, I would’ve never gained the curiosity to check out the Queen library. Today I stand by the fact that Queen is my favorite band of all-time.
It’s for that reason I thank this song for changing my attitude toward music and introducing me to the rock genre. Therefore, I invite those who either don’t know this song, or haven’t seen the video in a long time, to enjoy the above video along with me and the billions of other who can now do the fandango.
God save the Queen!
On a slightly separate note. I’ve been meaning to make a Top 5 Queen Songs post for a while. That post is still in “the works” (if you know what I mean). I’ll try and get it done as soon as I can, especially since there’s no better time than now to give it a go. If all goes well, you’ll see it within the week.
I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!