Bohemian Rhapsody is a timeless song: Queen released it in 1975 as a single but it never went out of fashion and even the recent film with Rami Malek is named after its.
Why is it called “Bohemian Rhapsody”?
The song wants to be an experiment in alchemy, merging modern rock music with opera. The result is very similar to rhapsody.
The rhapsody is a typology of music born in ancient Greece: the rapsodi were musicians who narrated epic tales accompanied by musical instruments. They varied very much the style of music during the narration, to adapt it to the various situations of the story. In Bohemian Rhapsody you can in fact listen to a cappella parts sung in choir, rock ballad, opera, hard rock.
The term “Bohemian” is instead connected to the artists (musicians, writers, painters) of the nineteenth century called “Bohémiens”. In Europe they lived on their art, like wanderers around the cities and stood out for being at the forefront. They were always ready to experiment with new genres and styles.
Bohemian Rhapsody leads MTV
Many say that Bohemian Rhapsody video is the first promotional video of the story, even if it is not. Before the Queen there were the Abbas and the Beatles, who made videos for their songs.
But we can say that Bohemian Rhapsody is the first video to have had a great success, using the format that six years later will go on MTV.
It is from that moment that record labels began to regularly produce promotional music videos for the songs. Today when a song is launched there is automatically a video for it and songs without videos tend to be less successful than those with the accompanying video. Thanks to Bohemian Rhapsody music videos became marketing tools.
The video lasts six minutes, was shot by director Bruce Gowers and was definitely at the forefront of the era. The registration took place in just 4 hours and a total of around £ 4,500 was spent (others say 3,500).
The video begins with the faces of the four band members in the dark, singing a cappella. This scene was inspired by a photo of Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express taken in 1932 by Don English. Here the actress looks up with a cigarette in her hand and her face stands out against the dark background.
In the video we see then the Queen who play dressed in white and here we hear the part of rock ballad.
The third part is very similar to the opera and returns to the initial set with a black background.
Finally the hard rock part features the Queen on stage playing.
The song is very complex and it took six weeks of recording work. In many parts the voices are recorded many times and in total there are about 180 vocal parts.
The video was therefore born to be broadcast on the BBC and to circulate on the Top of the Pops program, giving the impression that Queen were live.
The meaning of the lyrics
The song was written by Freddie Mercury and would be the declaration of his homosexuality. In fact, when he first says “Mama, just killed a man” he does not intend to describe a real murder but a metaphorical murder. Freddie killed the old image, not real, of himself, and has let his true nature come out.