Although classical music is considered serious and reserved for a special type of audience, great composers have always had an influence on jazz and pop/rock musicians. It was back in ’45 when Sinatra sang lyrics to a theme from Rachmaninoff’s concerto. Bands like Procol Harum, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Doors and many others will later perform their cult songs based on the motifs from classical music. However, one man peeked in the world of classical music in a special way, not by using the classical melodies, but by applying the classical form as an expression of rock – the rhapsody. Once a boy from Zanzibar, his name would be forever written in the pages of rock history thanks to this extremely unique composition that won over the audience in a moment causing the explosion of emotions! Above all, it changed the idea of popular music. Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you Freddie Mercury and the Bohemian rhapsody.
The composition itself was created by merging three of Freddie’s songs into one. Although it was not a rare thing for bands of the 70’s to create songs with the fragmentary form inherent for 19th-century music, no musician managed to connect progressive rock with the elements of opera, pop and classical instrumentation in such an exquisite way like Freddie did. In support of that stands the fact that 37 years from its release (in 2012.) the Bohemian Rhapsody was proclaimed the nation’s favorite song in the period of 60 years, by the British people! On the other hand, even though Bohemian is not as complex as the rhapsodies Liszt or Gershwin wrote, for example, its duration was still disputable for a pop song in the ’70s, because 5 minutes and 55 seconds on the radio was not quite a guarantee for the bright future. At least, that was what the message from the publishers in Britain sounded like, to which the author confidently replied: It either goes out in its entirety or not at all.
Not wanting to compromise seemed like a risky move at the time, since the band was at the very edge of disaster because of huge debts, so the break up was to follow if the album Night at opera were to pass unnoticed. Today, knowing what a great success it made, mostly thanks to the Bohemian Rhapsody, we can say that this fateful song determined their route, and imposed the Queen as ultimate leaders. This is obvious if you take into account their followers performing Bohemian rhapsody in most different ways. As if Freddie’s complex idea fragmented in pieces and now, each of them in new shape realizes its full potential – orchestral, operatic, choral pop, with acoustic guitars or just with a piano (we imagine 20th Century Liszt playing similar, Mercury played it like drums). With lavish harmonies in his mind, he saw the elements of the operatic drama in the ’’fractures’’ of the song. When we add the dynamic nuances and gradually lift of the song’s atmosphere assisted by May, Taylor, and Dickon, we get a true multimedia masterpiece.
The fact that Queen never performed the entire song live on stage gives a clear picture of the complexity of the Bohemian rhapsody. Having in mind the sound effect of a hundred people choir – achieved with multiple overdubs of the tape – it was a logical choice to play the operatic segment from the video. In those moments, the band would go behind scenes to take a breath, while the video would shortly remind the listeners of the peculiar characters with long hair who sang lyrics that were a bit confusing (the same video with whom, according to the Rolling Stone magazine, The Queen invented the music video seven years before MTV). With the first bars of the most explosive rock part of the song, the crew would get back on stage and bring the audience to complete ecstasy. It started with the spiteful and authoritative Freddie and would later culminate with May’s riff and sequence crowned by those four ’cathartic’ tones that lead to the final calm and resigned conclusion that nothing really matters. Although there is a huge number of fantastic covers of Bohemian rhapsody, there is no instrument or an orchestra, that can surpass this original moment.
Freddie did not pay too much attention to the questions regarding the meaning of the song in general. He applied his right to remain silent and to keep his feelings and thoughts to himself. That is how the diverse speculations and theories about the possible metaphors and hidden messages were invented. The best advice he has given to his fans and music critics was to listen carefully to the lyrics and to find out for themselves what is the thing Bohemian rhapsody is trying to say.
Maybe the answer lies in the music, woven from emotions, energetic, lucid, sad humoresque and a passionate anthem… One thing is for sure – Bohemian rhapsody is, like its author, completely ahead of its time and by extensions eternal like him. Anywhere the wind blows.