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#ThrowbackThursday: “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody” Parlophone/EMI/Elektra Records

by Sean Smith

Kanye West spent last weekend across the pond, where he headlined at the Glastonbury Festival in England on Saturday night. The most talked about portion of Kanye’s set, at least on social media, was when the Yeezus rapper did a brief cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. And let’s just say that most of the reaction online wasn’t very complimentary of Kanye’s voice.

One in particular jab at Kanye’s cover was put together by a New York classic rock radio station Q104.3. They spliced together a video of the late Freddie Mercury reacting to Kanye’s cover laughing, before going into clips of Mercury performing “Bohemian Rhapsody” to perfection. The video so far has racked up nearly 25 million views.

Kanye has also caught some grief from a fellow musician in Adam Lambert. The former American Idol star, who actually toured with the surviving members of Queen last year, reacted to the performance on twitter saying,

“OYE VEY Kanye. That Bohemian Rhapsody at Glastonbury though… Ouch”.

With all due respect to Adam Lambert, who has become a favorite of Queen fans in recent years, he also  cannot compare to the band’s original legendary front-man. When it comes to who can belt out the best rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody”,  there is Freddie Mercury, and then everyone else. With that being said, let’s take some time to remember the classic Queen track.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” served as the lead single for Queen’s fourth studio album A Night at the Opera released in 1975. The song was written by Freddie Mercury, who never gave an outright explanation for the lyrics before his passing. This being the case, rumors have run rampant for years regarding the original source of inspiration for the song’s lyrics; everything from it was born out of Mercury’s journey of discovery in regards to his sexuality to just being random words picked because they fit the song’s arrangement. At the time of its release, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the most expensive single ever recorded. This is in large part due to the complexity and many layers of the song. The rehearsal and recording process spanned nearly two months and was done in four separate studios. The band would record the backing track, and then record a layer on top of that, another on top of that, and so on. In one part of the song there are 180 layers combined to create the final product the listener hears, which is just insane. Queen recorded a video for the single as well, mainly to play on a popular British music show called “Top of the Pops”. It was done so that the band could get press for the song on the show while not having to actually be there. As for the commercial success of the song, “Bohemian Rhapsody” grabbed the number one spot in Queen’s native Britain, where it stayed for nine weeks. In the U.S., the single went as high as the number nine spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in its initial 1975 release. But the song would find a new audience some years later when it was included in the 1992 comedy film Wayne’s World. The song was re-released and faired even better that time around in the U.S. reaching as high as the number two spot on the Hot 100. The more popular song at the time that kept Mercury and company off of the top spot, “Jump” by Kris Kross. In 2004 “Bohemian Rhapsody” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

So in light of Kanye West covering the song last weekend at Glastonbury, and all the talk that created, we take a moment to remember Queen’s masterpiece “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Enjoy.


“Bohemian Rhapsody”

From A Night At The Opera

Parlophone/EMI/Elektra Records

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“Bohemian Rhapsody” Featured in 1992’s Wayne’s World 
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