Monday, September 24The Voice of London

40 years of “Bohemian Rhapsody”: Why We Can’t Forget It

Today rock music marks the 40th anniversary of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” — the iconic six-minute suit with a mixture of ballad, opera and hard rock riffs. Or, in most cases, that song that everyone knows.


Words: Karolina Zilenaite, Subeditor: Cerys Kenneally

Queen in 1976
Queen publicity shot from in 1976 Source: Wikipedia

“Bo Rhap” (abbreviated by Queen’s die-hard fans) wouldn’t be “that song that everyone knows” now, without its unexpected entry into the charts and rebirth with the help of MTV and Wayne’s World in 1992.

Brian May recalled that none of the four had any high expectations for the song. It was just going to be a track with an interesting sound and something that people would enjoy.

With the rock opera parts of the track being recorded in six different studios, merging various genres into a one big record resulted in snatching third place in the UK’s Official biggest selling singles of all time with 2.4 million sold records in the UK alone. It’s no wonder that “Bohemian Rhapsody’s” lyrics are engraved in our hearts and minds.

This was the first time, Thomas Baker, the producer for Queen said that an opera part was recorded in a Number One hit. “We just left a 30-second strip of tape on the reel for later use, not knowing that we would even overrun it.”

However, it turned out to be one of the most original parts in the rock music track, bringing something fresh and extraordinary to the charts.

The heavy rock riff was a way to show themselves as a rock band, Brian May told the BBC. But, surprisingly, the head-banging part didn’t come from May. It was Freddie Mercury, who played out the legendary riff on a piano with his left hand.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” wasn’t an easy sell. The long track, with still unheard variations, didn’t appeal much to the radio stations at first. But their hero turned out to be DJ Kenny Everett, who voluntarily played the song 14 times on Capital Radio over the following weekend after the release, which resulted in other stations following his lead.

Even though the path was long and unpredictable for “Bohemian Rhapsody”, it shook not only rock music, but music world itself with a mastermind approach to song writing. With a six-minute long track, everyone was sceptical, and Queen proved it to be the most successful piece of rock music yet.