Music History

The Story Behind “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Weirdest Rock Classic Ever

candle multiband radio

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The radio–a Juliette multi-band on my dresser–was tuned to Winnipeg’s CFRW on a weekday winter’s evening. The DJ–I wish I remember who–came on and said “This next one is kind of weird. You’ve probably never heard anything like it, so sit back and take a listen.”

After the first two lines, my young teenaged brain locked up, a metaphorical beachball spinning somewhere slightly beyond the auditory cortex. Something didn’t compute. What IS this? Is it a joke? Some novelty song? A rock opera? They can’t be serious, right?

Queen, however, was deadly serious. But no one–and I mean no one–could have ever predicted that this goofy multi-movement mini-symphony would became one of the most beloved classics of all time.

How did this happen? The BBC takes a look.

Forty years after it was recorded, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody still sounds bonkers. That it continues to reign as a work of wigged-out genius rather than a dated gimmick testifies to its go-for-broke attitude – one that has resonated across generations.

Hear it now, and you’re immediately transported to Wayne and Garth’s car in Wayne’s World, head-banging and slapping the dashboard as Brian May’s power chords kick in. Or you’re bellowing “Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?” along with Freddie Mercury in your best opera-diva voice.

The prog-rock pocket operetta has sold more than 6 million copies worldwide. It’s one of the biggest-selling rock singles of all time. It was a top 10 hit twice, 15 years apart, even though it was – at nearly six minutes long – twice the length of the typical hit single.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38321 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “The Story Behind “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Weirdest Rock Classic Ever

  • Hey Alan – I thought it looked like the radio is tuned to 1470!

    Reply

Let us know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.