Bohemian Rhapsody ~ Queen

Queen were an English rock band formed in 1970 in London by guitarist Brian May, lead vocalist Freddie Mercury and drummer Roger Taylor, with bassist John Deacon completing the lineup the following year. However, Philip “Spike” Edney, on keys, bass, guitar, trombone and backing vocals, has worked with the band to such an extent that he has been referred to as “the fifth member of Queen”

The band were noted for their musical diversity, multi-layered arrangements, vocal harmonies, and incorporation of audience participation into their live performances. Their 1985 Live Aid performance was voted the best live rock performance of all time in an industry poll.

Following Mercury’s death in 1991 and Deacon’s retirement in 1997, May and Taylor have performed infrequently under the Queen name. Since 2004 they have been collaborating with Paul Rodgers, under the moniker Queen + Paul Rodgers.

“I thought up the name Queen. It’s just a name, but it’s very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid, It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it.” – Freddy Mercury

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“My songs are like Bic razors. For fun, for modern consumption. You listen to it, like it, discard it, then on to the next. Disposable pop.”– Freddy Mercury

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody” is a song by the British rock band Queen. It was written by Freddie Mercury for the band’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera. The song has no chorus, instead consisting of three main parts: a ballad segment ending with a guitar solo, an operatic passage, and a heavy rock section. It can be described as one of the most diverse songs of the 20th century. It is widely considered one of the greatest songs ever written, being compared to Stairway To Heaven.

Freddie Mercury wrote most of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at his home in Holland Road, Kensington, in west London. The song’s producer, Roy Thomas Baker, related how Mercury once played the opening ballad section on the piano for him: “He played the beginning on the piano, then stopped and said, ‘And this is where the opera section comes in!’ Then we went out to eat dinner.” Guitarist Brian May says the band thought that Mercury’s blueprint for the song was “intriguing and original, and worthy of work.”  Much of Queen’s material was written in the studio according to May, but this song “was all in Freddie’s mind” before they started.  Music scholar Sheila Whiteley suggests that “the title draws strongly on contemporary rock ideology, the individualism of the bohemian artists’ world, with rhapsody affirming the romantic ideals of art rock.”  Commenting on bohemianism, Judith Peraino said that “Mercury intended… [this song] to be a ‘mock opera’, something outside the norm of rock songs, and it does follow a certain operatic logic: choruses of multi-tracked voices alternate with arialike solos, the emotions are excessive, the plot confusing.”

According to Chris Smith (A friend of Mercury’s and a keyboard player in Smile for a brief period), Mercury first started developing Bohemian Rhapsody in the late 1960s; Mercury used to play parts of songs he was writing at the piano, and one of his pieces, known simply as “The Cowboy Song”, contained lyrics that ended up in the completed version produced years later in 1975, specifically, “Mama, just killed a man.”

May, Mercury, and Taylor reportedly sang their vocal parts continually for ten to twelve hours a day. The entire piece took three weeks to record, and in some sections featured 180 separate overdubs.  Since the studios of the time only offered 24-track analogue tape, it was necessary for the three to overdub themselves many times and “bounce” these down to successive sub-mixes. In the end, eighth-generation tapes were used.  The various sections of tape containing the desired submixes had to be spliced (cut with razor blades and assembled in the correct sequence using adhesive tape). May recalled placing a tape in front of the light and being able to see through it, as they had been recording so intensely.  It was the most expensive single ever made and remains one of the most elaborate recordings in popular music history.

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Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy
Because I’m easy come, easy go
A little high, little low
Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me

Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away
Mama, ooo
Didn’t mean to make you cry
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters

Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Body’s aching all the time
Goodbye everybody – I’ve got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooo – (anyway the wind blows)
I don’t want to die
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning – very very frightening me
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo Figaro – magnifico

But I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come easy go – will you let me go
Bismillah! No – we will not let you go – let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go – let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go – let me go
Will not let you go – let me go (never)
Never let you go – let me go
Never let me go – ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no -
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
for me
for me

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
Oh baby – can’t do this to me baby
Just gotta get out – just gotta get right outta here

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah
Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters – nothing really matters to me

Anyway the wind blows…

Footnote to the Lyrics:

Bismillah” is the opening word in the Qu’ran (Koran) and literally means “In the name of Allah.”
Scaramouch” according to the dictionary means “a stock character who appears as a boastful coward.”
Beelzebub” is one of the many names given to “The Devil.”

  • Audio from the 1975 album, A Night At The Opera:
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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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