Bohemian Rhapsody 40th anniversary: 10 facts you may not know about Queen's greatest.

Bohemian Rhapsody 40th anniversary: 10 facts you may not know about Queen's greatest.

For this generation, and maybe some before it, Queen's masterpiece "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the definition of a Rock-Opera classic.

It's hard to realize that it's been 40 years since Freddie Mercury and Queen first released this anthem back in 1975.

To celebrate it's longevity and relevance, here's a pick of my favorite 10 facts about Bohemian Rhapsody so you can keep head-banging with that absolutely cool guitar solo. 

1. Freddie Mercury started writing it in 1968.


“Bohemian Rhapsody” had its beginnings in 1968 when Freddie Mercury was a student at London’s Ealing Art College. He’d come up with an opening line—“Mama, just killed a man”—but no melody. Because of the Old West feel (in his mind) to the lyric, he referred to his work in progress as “The Cowboy Song.”.

Freddie wrote the whole song – including the composite harmonies – on telephone books and scraps of paper, making it a little tricky for everyone else to get a handle on the thing latter on.

2. Galileo's and Scaramouche's

In 1975, “state-of-the-art” recording meant 24-track analog tape. The harmonies on the opera section (all sung by Mercury, drummer Roger Taylor, and guitarist Brian May) required 180 separate overdubs, and eventually the tape had been run over the recording heads so many times that it became almost transparent. In the end it took three weeks (Mercury was always adding “another ‘Galileo’,” Roy Thomas Baker explained) and five different studios to complete the track.

Scaramouche is a stock character from commedia dell’arte, a buffoon who always manages to wriggle out of the sticky situations he invariably finds himself in, usually at the expense of someone else. Original name ‘Scaramuccia’ means ‘skirmish’.

3. The song's success is due in part to Kenny Everett.

Kenny Everett

“Bohemian Rhapsody” owes part of its success to British DJ Kenny Everett, who had a popular morning radio show on Capital Radio. In early October 1975, EMI was still pressuring Queen to release “You’re My Best Friend” as the first single from A Night at the Opera. Everett got his hands on an early pressing of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with strict instructions not to broadcast it (wink, wink). Somehow, strictly by accident (his finger must have slipped), he played the song 14 times over the course of two days. Callers flooded the radio station and local record stores with requests for the song, so the suits at EMI relented and released the magnum opus as a single.

4. The video took only about four hours to film.

The band arrived at Elstree Studios (using the same stage they were using to rehearse for their upcoming tour) at 7:30 in the morning, and were finished and relaxing at the local pub by 11:30 a.m. This was the first music video directed by Bruce Gowers, and the success of that clip eventually prompted him to move to Hollywood, where he went on to direct such TV programs as the MTV Movie Awards, the Primetime Emmy Awards, the People's Choice Awards and the first 10 seasons of American Idol.

The video cost around £4,500 to make and centered around a formation of the band familiar from the cover of ‘Queen II’, released 18 months earlier. Apparently, they liked themselves that way.

BONUS FACT: The Bohemian Rhapsody scene in "Wayne's World" took 10 hours to film! How about that.

5. A blue vinyl pressing of the song is worth more that $5,000.

Bohemian Rhapsody blue vinyl

The Holy Grail in terms of Queen collectibles is a 7-inch limited edition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that was pressed in blue vinyl. In the summer of 1978, EMI Records won the Queen’s Award To Industry For Export Achievement (that’s “Queen” as in Her Majesty Elizabeth II). The label’s primary reason for sales in far-reaching territories that lacked manufacturing facilities was Queen, as in the band. To celebrate their prestigious award, EMI pressed 200 copies of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in blue vinyl, each of which was hand-numbered. Numbers one through four went to the band members, of course, while other low-numbered copies were given to friends and family members. Bona fide copies from this original pressing currently sell for upwards of $5000.

6. The band's producer was skeptical.

Roy Thomas Baker, who produced the band’s A Night at the Opera album, first heard the framework for "Bohemian Rhapsody" when he picked Freddie up at his Holland Road flat in London one evening before going out to dinner. Freddie led him to the piano to play the song he’d been working on. As Baker recalls the scene, Freddie played the opening ballad section of the tune then stopped and exclaimed, “And this is where the opera section comes in!” Baker laughed at the time, but when Freddie came to the studio days later armed with various pieces of paper with notes and doodles outlining his composition, the producer determined to use all his talent and equipment to capture Mercury’s vision on tape.

7. Elton John thought the song was too weird.

Prior to its release, Queen’s manager played a rough mix of the song to one of his other high-profile clients, Elton John, to get his opinion. “Are you f*cking mad?” was the singer’s reaction after listening to the nearly six-minute song. His verdict: it was too long and too “weird” for radio.

8. Promoting the song was problematic.

After it was decided to release “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single, the band was faced with a bit of a dilemma: At the time in England, it was traditional for bands to appear on shows like Top of the Pops to promote their latest hits. But Queen was scheduled to begin a tour soon, plus (as Brian May admitted) they’d feel self-conscious miming to the operatic section. They solved the problem by filming a promotional film, or “pop promo” as it was called in the industry lingo of the time, that could be shown not only on UK music shows, but also around the world in other markets, such as American Bandstand.

9. Freddie Mercury plays the same piano that Paul McCartney used for "Hey Jude".

Not much about it. Just cool to know :P

10. I'ts influence in pop culture

Given it's success and it's power, there's no doubt Bohemian Rhapsody has become part of our popular culture. Countless covers, parodies, etc. It's hard to pick a time in our modern history and not find a reference to this classic.

Just from the top of my head, here are 3 examples of how cool having Bohemian Rhapsody around for 40 years has been.

Wayne's World car scene

The Muppets cover

Suicide Squad trailer

And this one I've just found out about

Bohemian Rhapsody: Star Wars Edition

Main sources: 
Mirror Online

Published on: February 2016