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Bohemian Rhapsody



“Bohemian Rhapsody” -by Queen released Oct 1975 written by Freddie Mercury and there are 116 cover versions according to Secondhandsongs.com (Notwithstanding the version by Døsty Cåwshit in 1995, that’s Dusty Cowshit in English) most of them are pretty good!


From the album "A Night at the Opera", ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ stayed at the top of the UK singles chart for nine weeks. It is the third best-selling British single of all time, beaten only by Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ and Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind’ 1997. It peaked at number 9 in the U.S. but reached number one in Canada. 

Read more about the band in this great article. 

A timely post for me as there's just been announced a Freddie Mercury/Queen Biopic coming out apparently this fall. Here is a bit of a primer I guess to that movie which I am looking forward to seeing!

So a few years after the songs release in the late fall of 1978 I purchased two tickets to see Queen play in my hometown of London Ontario. We didn’t get a lot of big names in London and being a fan, this was pretty exciting. They were playing Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens December 3 and 4 and I guess tacked on the London date as it was not on the official tour schedule. I don’t remember how much I paid for the tickets, but I seem to recall somewhere in the $8-15 per range, but “nothing really matters, anyone can see, nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me” because the concert was cancelled. Something about Freddie’s voice -being strained I believe, more like Freddie saying to the booking agent something like …so we are in Canada in the bloody cold? And now we’re playing a place called London, Ontario? In the winter Ya? Not bloody likely!

Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara, September 5,1946 in Stone Town, Sultanate of Zanzibar (now Tanzania) He died on November 24, 1991 (aged 45) in Kensington, London, England. The cause of death was Bronchopneumonia  a complication of AIDS. Freddie had announced to the media he had aids on November 23, 1991, he died the next day. Not to focus just on Freddie because the rest of the band was very talented as well but I have to keep this reasonably short.

Mercury grew up in the Sultanate of Zanzibar and in India before moving with his family to Middlesex, England, in his teens. He formed Queen in 1970 with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor.

In 1992, Mercury was posthumously awarded the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, and a tribute concert was held at Wembley Stadium, London. As a member of Queen, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2002, he was placed number 58 in the BBC's 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. He is consistently voted one of the greatest singers in the history of popular music.

Freddie Mercury enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic in West London where he studied art. He earned a diploma in Art and Graphic Design at Ealing Art College, later he used these skills to design the Queen heraldic arms in their logo.

So back to the song, when it was eventually released as a single, "Bohemian Rhapsody" became a commercial success, staying at the top of the UK Singles Chart for nine weeks and selling more than a million copies by the end of January 1976 which by today's standards may not sound like much but back then it was huge. It topped the charts again in 1991 for another five weeks when the same version was re-released following Mercury's death, eventually becoming the UK's third-best-selling single of all time. It reached number two in the U.S. after the movie Wayne’s World in 1992.





Other interesting stuff from Wikipedia

When the band wanted to release the single in 1975, various executives suggested to them that, at 5 minutes and 55 seconds, it was too long and would never be a hit. The song was played to other musicians who commented the band had no hope of it ever being played on radio.  According to producer Roy Thomas Baker, he and the band bypassed this corporate decision by playing the song for Capital Radio DJ Kenny Everett: "we had a reel-to-reel copy but we told him he could only have it if he promised not to play it. 'I won't play it,' he said, winking..." Their plan worked – Everett teased his listeners by playing only parts of the song. Audience demand intensified when Everett played the full song on his show 14 times in two days. Hordes of fans attempted to buy the single the following Monday, only to be told by record stores that it had not yet been released.

The same weekend, Paul Drew, who ran the RKO stations in the States, heard the track on Everett's show in London. Drew managed to get a copy of the tape and started to play it in the States, which forced the hand of Queen's US label, Elektra. In an interview with Sound on Sound, Baker reflects that "it was a strange situation where radio on both sides of the Atlantic was breaking a record that the record companies said would never get airplay!" Eventually the unedited single was released, with "I'm in Love with My Car" as the B-side. Following Everett's escapade in October 1975, Eric Hall, a well-known record plugger, gave a copy to David "Diddy" Hamilton to play on his weekday Radio One show. Eric stated "Monster, Monster! This could be a hit!"

And from Rolling Stone Magazine

Brian May (guitarist, Queen): Mike Myers phoned me up and said, "We've got this thing which we think is great. Do you want to hear it?" And I said, "Yeah." And he said, "Do you think Freddie would want to hear it?" Now Freddie was really sick by that time but I said, "Yeah, I'm sure he will." Mike gave me a tape which I took 'round to Freddie and played to him. Freddie loved it. He just laughed and thought it was great, this little video. The funny thing was, we always regarded the song as tongue in cheek ourselves. If it would come on the radio, we would all be headbanging when it came to the heavy bit as well, us as a group. It was very close to our sense of humor. (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-oral-history-of-the-wayne-s-world-bohemian-rhapsody-scene-20151130)

Sources; Secondhandsongs.com, Wikipedia, Rollingstone.com

Comments

  1. Evan and Austin taught me this whole song when we visited them on the island!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! I don't remember that but it sounds like an Evan and Austin thing!

      Delete
  2. A list of covers would not be complete without noting the Muppet's version!!!!

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T5ZU3TGf7Iw

    ReplyDelete

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