Behind the classic: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Bohemian Rhapsody

Queen’s single cover for “Bohemian Rhapsody”

I don’t know if this is a global thing, but when the end of the year approaches the radio stations, The Netherlands goes chart crazy. Most  radio stations start their countdown to the greatest song of all time. Usually, it’s the public’s favorites – voted for by listeners. And almost annually, one song tops the charts: Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

The Story Of Bohemian Rhapsody

I’ve often wondered about this song. I know radio formats is a recent thing, but somehow, I think the song wasn’t considered radio friendly in 1975 either. First of all, I think it’s over 5 minutes long! So, I’ve often wondered if what the record company really thought when they heard the song. Did they initially turn it down? How did this remarkable record become so popular?

Mama Mia

It’s such a pleasure researching the history of this song. I knew the song was a break through record for Queen, but “Bohemian Rhapsody” was actually supposed to be their very first single – Wouldn’t that have been a great debut?! The record company thought it was too risky and released two other singles first.

A Good Song Is Never Too Long

And yes, the record company suggested an edit to cut the length of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. It’s been reported that even Elton John thought the song would never get on the radio due to its length. However, a radio DJ told Queen not to change anything. In fact, the very same DJ played the song 14 times over one weekend and the rest is music history. It’s the second most played song on British radio of all time.

In the UK, the song reached the number 1 chart position. In the US, it reached number 9.

Stack The 180 Vocals

All the vocals all come from (three!) Queen members. They kept recording vocals over and over again (a process called dubbing). In the end, they had 180 vocals!

Back then, this was all done on tape. Tape literally worn out at the end of the recordings. Apparently, it was so thin it was see-through.

12 Weeks of Recording

The technique was very innovative for those days (while it’s currently done for almost all pop songs). It made the song the most expensive production of that time. All together, the band took 6 weeks to record it; 3 weeks of practice and 3 weeks of recording!

The Song Had No Video

I think the video is as iconic as the song, but that famous head shot of the group didn’t actually come from a planned video shoot. Queen shot this for the UK chart show Top Of The Pops, because the song was just too difficult to perform on a TV show. I guess that explains why there aren’t any promotional performances for this song.

The video was the first video that became more popular than the song. In a way, Queen were ahead of their time and paved the way for the video star. No wonder The Muppets chose this song to be their first YouTube video ever!

Oh, And By The Way…

In the UK, the song gave up its number 1 chart position to Abba’s “Mamma Mia”…. How ironic.

Read more:
The story behind Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (Performing Songwriter)
Lyric meaning and song facts (Rock-songs.com)
Bohemian Rhapsody (Wikipedia)

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