Bohemian Rhapsody

“Bohemian Rhapsody” began as a complete imaginative epic that resided in Freddie Mercury’s brain. From piano melodies, choral vocals, and guitar riffs, “Bohemian Rhapsody” had been conceived long before one lick had gone recorded. Never baring all and fully revealing the inspiration and meaning behind his legendary body of work, Mercury instead guided the listener into their own interpretation, hoping that they would there find a link that held true within their own life. Queen guitarist, Brain May speculated that the chaos that ensued within Mercury’s own private affairs may well be reason enough to understand the complexity and power within one of Queen’s most celebrated tunes.

After a massive success with “Killer Queen,” Queen was a young band on the rise. Striving to compete with their previous hit, Mercury took to scrap paper and discarded phone book pages to illustrate to his bandmates the beautiful mayhem that was inhabiting his thoughts. Brian May once spoke of the song stating, “It was Freddie’s baby… He knew exactly what he was doing… We just helped him bring it to life.” Hooking his bandmates with the alluring piano melody, which was recorded on the same piano as the Beatles “Hey Jude,” and haunting opening line, “Mama, just killed a man” it wasn’t long before every member knew that they were now creating a song that would prove to be a risk and possibly remold their entire image.

Declaring early on that his mock opera would be called “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Mercury began by leading the band through the instrumental elements of the song. An extremely challenging task given the day in age of technology and the massive gapes in which the band’s timing would need to be absolutely precise to allot for the theatrical vocals. Adding color and creating an orchestral component to the Rock N’ Roll tune, “Bohemian Rhapsody” ended up as rainbow collage of creative instrumental techniques.

The harmonies at the opening are solely Mercury’s vocals being multi tracked. Throughout the remainder of the song, the coral vocals are a mix of bandmates singing and even at times pretending to be girls to achieve the outrageously high-pitched notes.  Continuing the layered effect, the bass guitar is a mix of three separate recordings. One involves the bass naked and unplugged, the next is the bass as it sounds through the amp into a hollow room, with the final effect being the traditional amp routed straight into the recorder. A variety of guitars, amps and picks up were manipulated throughout the nearly six minute song to aid to its chaotic nature and to continue on this pattern of buildup and intensity. “Bohemian Rhapsody” took three weeks to record with the operatic vocals taking 70hrs to complete.

Once finished, Queen unanimously determined that “Bohemian Rhapsody” would be the single off their album A Night at the Opera. However, their record label, EMI strongly disagreed, claiming the song was far too long for radio play. In response Mercury stated, “We have been forced to make compromises but cutting a song will never be one of them.” Refusing to give in, Mercury took the single to his friend and popular DJ, Kenny Everett for a second opinion. With Everett promoting the song on his station fourteen times over the following weekend “Bohemian Rhapsody” proved to be a capable and worthy smash hit single. Prior to release, record shops were filling order books with requests for Queen’s latest album.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” not only became the single from A Night at the Opera, but topped British charts and remained there for nine straight weeks. Proving a six minute rock opera could appeal to main stream audiences, Queen’s influence and presence in the Rock N’ Roll genre is prevalent and very much alive. Creativity, talent, and unconventionality molded “Bohemian Rhapsody” into a legendary tune and Queen’s unequivocal belief behind it provided the world an opportunity to be completely awe struck by a song not even the greatest of music lovers could have seen coming.


–Victoria Shaffer


95JakeTv. “Freddie Mercury Interview 1977.” YouTube, YouTube, 4 Oct. 2017,
Chiu, David. “Unconventional Queen Hit Still Rocks After 30 Years.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Dec. 2005,
McAlpine, Fraser. “10 Things You May Not Know About Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.” BBC America,
queenofficial. “Inside The Rhapsody – Queen (Full Documentary).” YouTube, YouTube, 30 Oct. 2015,

17 thoughts on “Bohemian Rhapsody

  1. Victoria, it’s so nice to read the actual details of this recording years after it was released. I’ll be listening for the multitracking of Freddie’s vocals and the bass tracks next time I hear it. I’m not surprised at all at the time required to create such an iconic single and long-lived song.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post – didn’t know Freddie Mercury used the same piano, on which Paul McCartney had played “Hey Jude” – that’s pretty cool!

    In my opinion, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of the weirdest, yet most brilliant rock songs I know. Mercury had a one of a kind voice. You really could have pictured him as an opera singer. In that regard, he reminded me a bit of Roy Orbison.

    I also dig Brian May. A guy who builds his own guitars is a pretty remarkable dude to begin with. In addition, he did something else not many guitarists can pull off – creating his own signature sound! Similar to U2’s The Edge, most of times, you can instantly recognize him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!

      I thought the piano connection was far to cool not to include!

      What I always loved about the song was that it was so unique and unlikely to be widely enjoyed in theory but yet can be heard consistently in the radio even to this day!

      I absolutely agree with about Freddie Mercury, he was such an interesting combo of theatrics, rock n roll, and classic tone. Unmatched by anyone else.

      I adore Brian May, he is not only brilliant as you have pointed out, but seems like a genuinely kind hearted person.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and for your input! I love conversing with people who enjoy these stories just as much as me!

      Liked by 2 people

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