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Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody lyric meanings and song facts
 

All facts provided by Songfacts.com Songfacts

Freddie Mercury wrote the lyrics, and there has been a lot of speculation as to their meaning. Mercury's parents were deeply involved in Zoroastrianism, and words like "Bismillah" do have a meaning in that religion. His family grew up in Zanzibar, but was forced out by government upheaval in 1964, and they moved to England. Some of the lyrics could be about leaving his homeland behind.
Mercury may have written "Galileo" into the lyrics for the benefit of Brian May, who is an astronomy buff. Galileo is a famous astronomer known for being the first to use a refracting telescope.
The backing track came together quickly, but they spent days overdubbing the vocals in the studio using a 24 track tape machine. By the time they were done, about 120 vocal tracks were layered together. According to Rolling Stone magazine in their list of the top 500 songs, Brian May said that everyone in the band was bewildered when Mercury brought them a draft of this four-part suite - even before he told them, "That's where the operatic bits come in!" Recording technology was so taxed by the song's multitracked scaramouches and fandangos that some tapes became virtually transparent from being overdubbed so many times.
Queen made a video for this to air on Top Of The Pops, a popular British music show, because the song was too complex to perform live. It started a trend in the UK of making videos for songs to air in place of live performances. When MTV launched in 1981, most of their videos came from British artists for this reason. In the December 12, 2004 issue of The Observer newspaper, Roger Taylor explained: "We did everything we possibly could to avoid appearing in Top Of The Pops. It was one, the most boring day known to man, and two, it's all about not actually playing - pretending to sing, pretending to play. We came up with the video concept to avoid playing on Top Of The Pops." (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 2)
The video was very innovative. It was the first where the visual images took precedence over the song. It was based on their album cover, with the 4 band members looking up into the shadows. It was shot in 3 hours for $3,500. Effects were achieved by using camera feedback and prism lenses. At the time, it looked high-tech. It was also the first music video in the sense that it was shot in video instead of film.
This was Queen's first Top 10 hit in the US.
This got a whole new audience when it was used in the 1992 movie Wayne's World, starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. In the film, Wayne and his friends lip-synch to it in his car (the Mirth Mobile), spasmodically head-bobbing at the guitar solo. As a result of the movie, it was re-released as a single in the US and charted at #2. "Jump" by Kris Kross kept it out of #1.
The original album version was over 7 minutes long. It was cut down to 5:55 for release as a single, which the record company leaked to a London radio station in order to build anticipation for the album. This helped the single jump to #1 in the UK shortly after it was released.
In the UK, this was #1 for 9 weeks, a record at the time.
In 1991, this was re-released in the UK shortly after Freddie Mercury's death. It again went to #1, with proceeds going to the Terrence Higgins Trust, which Mercury supported.
Elton John performed this with Axl Rose at the 1992 "Concert For Life," held in London at Wembley Stadium. It was a tribute to Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS the year before. In 2001, Elton John got together with Eminem, who like Axl Rose, was often accused of being intolerant and homophobic. They performed Eminem's "Stan" at the Grammys.
When this was re-released in the US, proceeds from the single went to the Magic Johnson AIDS Foundation. Johnson and Freddie Mercury were 2 of the first celebrities to get AIDS.
The album was the most expensive ever made at the time. They used 6 different studios to record it.
Queen did not use any synthesizers on the album, which is something they were very proud of.
The album was re-released as an audio DVD in 2002. The original video was included on the disc.
In 2002, this came in #1 in a poll by Guinness World Records as Britain's favorite single of all time. John Lennon's "Imagine" was #2, followed by The Beatles' "Hey Jude."
A lot of words from the lyrics appear in the Qu'ran. "Bismillah" is one of these and it literally means "In the name of Allah." The word "Scaramouch" means "A stock character that appears as a boastful coward." "Beelzebub" is one of the many names given to The Devil. (thanks, Jonathan Horgan - Cork, Ireland)
In an interview with Brian May and Roger Taylor on the Queen Videos Greatest Hits DVD, Brian said: "What is Bohemian Rhapsody about, well I don't think we'll ever know and if I knew I probably wouldn't want to tell you anyway, because I certainly don't tell people what my songs are about. I find that it destroys them in a way because the great thing about about a great song is that you relate it to your own personal experiences in your own life. I think that Freddie was certainly battling with problems in his personal life, which he might have decided to put into the song himself. He was certainly looking at re-creating himself. But I don't think at that point in time it was the best thing to do so he actually decided to do it later. I think it's best to leave it with a question mark in the air." (thanks, Callum - Bendigo, Australia)
The name "Bohemian" in the song title seems to refer not to the region in the Czech republic, but a group of artists and musicians living roughly 100 years ago, known for defying convention and living with disregard for standards. A "Rhapsody" is a piece of Classical music with distinct sections that is played as one movement. Rhapsody's often have themes. (thanks, George - Dusseldorf, Germany)
Roger Taylor (from 1000 UK Number One Hits by Jon Kutner & Spencer Leigh): "Record companies both sides of the Atlantic tried to cut the song, they said it was too long and wouldn't work. We thought, 'Well we could cut it, but it wouldn't make any sense,' it doesn't make much sense now and it would make even less sense then: you would miss all the different moods of the song. So we said no. It'll either fly or it won't. Freddie had the bare bones of the song, even the composite harmonies, written on telephone books and bits of paper, so it was quite hard to keep track of what was going on." Kutner and Leigh's book also states that, the recording included 180 overdubs, the operatic parts took over 70 hours to complete and the piano Freddie played was the same one used by Paul McCartney on "Hey Jude." (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England)
Ironically, the song that knocked this off the #1 chart position in the UK was "Mama Mia" by Abba. The words "Mama mia" are repeated in this in the line "Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go." (thanks, James - St Albans, England)
Weird Al Yankovic took the entire song and sung it to a Polka tune, called simply "Bohemian Polka," which is on his 1993 album Alapalooza. (thanks, Steph - SoCal, CA)
The story told in this song is remarkably similar to that in Albert Camus' book The Stranger. Both tell of a young man who kills, and not only can he not explain why he did it, he can't even articulate any feelings about it. (thanks, Bob - Santa Barbara, CA)
You can make the case that the song title is actually a parody, and a clever one at that. There is a rhapsody by Franz List called "Hungarian Rhapsody," and "Bohemia" is a kingdom that is near Hungary and was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Furthermore, "Bohemian" is an adjective for something unusual or against convention, and the song is just that. So "Bohemian Rhapsody" could be a clever title that not only parodies a famous work but describes the song. (thanks, Con - Melbourne, Australia)
This song was covered by Constantine M. (featuring the cast of We Will Rock You) and also by The Flaming Lips for the 2005 Queen Tribute album Killer Queen. (thanks, Rachel - South Point, OH)

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