Behind the classic: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Bohemian Rhapsody

Queen’s single cover for “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Published December 15th 2014

I don’t know if this is a world wide thing, but when the end of the year approaches the radio stations in The Netherlands get chart crazy. Most of the radio stations will start their countdown to the greatest song of all time, usually voted for by listeners. And in most cases, alost every year, there’s one song that tops the charts: Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

I’ve often wondered about this song. Though I think that radio formats is a thing of the modern age we live in, it’s clear this song, probably wasn’t considered radio friendly when it was first created in 1975. First of all, I think it’s over 5 minutes long. So I’ve often wondered if the record company didn’t turn this song down at first and how did this remarkable record became so popular.

So it’s been an absolute 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 geat way to make a debut! The record company thought it was too risky and released two other singles first.

The record company did suggest an edit, to cut the length of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Even Elton John has reportedly said he thought the song would never get on the radio. However a radio DJ gave them the advice 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 the song just about made it into the top ten reaching number 9.

Only three Queen members actually sing all of the background vocals you hear on the song. They kept recording vocals over and over again (a process called dubbing) so that in the end they actually had 180 vocals! In those days this was done on tape, which literally had been worn out at the end of the recordings, leaving the tape completely see through. The technique was very innovative for those days (while currently most pop songs dub vocals). It made the song the most expensive production of that time. All together the band took 6 weeks to record it; 3 weeks of practise and 3 weeks of recording!

The famous video for this song was actually not intended to be the official video. Queen shot this for the UK chart show Top Of The Pops because the song was just too difficult to perform and mime on a TV show. I guess that explains why there aren’t any promotional performances for this song. The video was the first video to be more popular than the song. In a way, you could say, 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.

In the UK the song had to give up it’s 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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