Think about the type of song that makes you crank the volume. It’s gotta be dynamic. It’s gotta make you feel good. Ever better if that song makes YOU feel like a rockstar. It’s gotta have lyrics that you a) understand b) are easy to sing along with.
P.S. The theme for today’s 5 @ 5 is just that – 5 of rock’s greatest sing alongs… call 519.643.9696 | Tweet @FM96Rocks | or comment on this blog / the Facebook post with a song you can’t help but singalong with every time you hear it!
Tomorrow marks 40 years since the release of a song that has hints of metal, prog, and opera…a song you can head-bang to, air-guitar to, and sing along with like it’s your last day on the planet. A song that is #166 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. A song off an album that horrible reviews at first. A song that radio stations DID NOT WANT TO PLAY at first.
October 31st, 1975 Queen released Bohemian Rhapsody.
Back to 1975 and first impressions:
Queen was with EMI Records at the time and their label was apprehensive about it’s release, almost 6 minutes in length. Bohemian Rhapsody’s success can be tracked back to a radio DJ by the name of Kenny Everett, who the band slipped a copy to early on. He played it on London’s Capital Radio 14 over and over again, standing up for a single that had no real chorus but three different parts. There’s the ballad, the opera, and the hard-rock part.
The story goes that Freddie Mercury came up with the idea for the song as heard in a dream. A piano was the headboard for his bed during this time so he could play whatever he heard as soon as he woke up.
As for bad reviews…here’s a look back from Time Magazine:
The song “Bohemian Rhapsody”–which was released 40 years ago, Oct. 31, 1975–did not appear destined for the hit parade. It was, in TIME’s words, “a six-minute cut that mingles introspection with Gilbert and Sullivan operatics” by a band with little public profile.
“Unfortunately,” TIME opined, “Queen’s lyrics are not the stuff of sonnets.”
The New York Times, reviewing a 1978 appearance at Madison Square Garden came down equally hard: “Lyrically, Queen’s songs manage to be pretentious and irrelevant. Musically, for all the virtuosity—though it was cheating a bit to turn over the complex middle portion of their ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to a taped version, with empty stage and flashing lights—the songs still sound mostly pretty empty, all flash and calculation.”
Rolling Stone didn’t mention the song in its review of the album A Night at the Opera (“The Prophet’s Song” got top billing as the best track) but later referred to the song as a “brazen hodgepodge.”
From Rolling Stone:
According to Queen guitarist Brian May, everyone in the band was bewildered when Mercury brought them a draft of this four-part suite — even before he told them, “That’s where the operatic bits come in!” Recording technology was so taxed by the song’s multitracked scaramouches and fandangos that some tapes became virtually transparent from so many overdubs.
After Wayne’s World in 1992, suddenly the song was topping the charts again thanks to the scene in the car with Wayne and Garth!
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen will release a special limited-edition vinyl reissue – a 12″ LP with the song’s original B-side I’m in Love With My Car – which you can buy at certain Record Stores for Black Friday’s Record Store Day November 27th.
Rolling Stone caught up with Brian May on the memories and the monster song:
When you were recording “Bohemian Rhapsody,” did you have any idea what a big deal it was going to be?
I don’t think anybody thought that. We were just thinking, “This is fun, this is interesting, this’ll be something that people enjoy.” Freddie [Mercury] wrote it. Of course we all interacted, we all contributed bits and pieces and argued as we always did, but it was Freddie’s baby and everyone respected that in the end.
We had an unwritten law that whoever brought the song in would have the final say in how it turned out. But we weren’t that shocked, because we were used to that way of working and we’d done things like “My Fairy King” on the first album, and lots of complexity on Queen II, so it wasn’t unusual for Freddie to come in and have this rather baroque-sounding backing track and wondering what was going to go on top. Probably the most unusual thing was, John [Deacon] said to him, “What are you going to call it then, is it called ‘Mama?'” And Freddie went, “No, I think we’ll call it ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.'” And there was a little silence, everybody thought, “Okaaay…” I don’t think anybody said, “Why?” but there it was. How strange to call a song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but it just suits it down to the ground and it became a milestone. But nobody knew.
How did you feel about the Wayne’s World scene when you heard about it?
Mike Myers phoned me up and said, “We’ve got this thing which we think is great, do you want to hear it?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Do you think Freddie would want to hear it?” Now Freddie was really sick by that time but I said, “Yeah, I’m sure he will.” Mike gave me a tape which I took ’round to Freddie and played to him and Freddie loved it, he just laughed and thought it was great, this little video.
It’s odd because that was a huge thing in the States. You’ve got two events there – you’ve got Wayne’s World and Freddie dying which, looking back on it, is the oddest thing and it did become a sort of rebirth for us in the States. We have a strange history with the States. We worked there more than anywhere in the world in the early days, we’d generally tour there for months and then do a couple of months in other places, and then go back in the studio again. So life was more or less all about touring the States and recording.
And then there came a period where we really lost our contact with the States because of a number of things. There was a big backlash to our video for “I Want to Break Free,” where we all dress up as women. Everyone thought it was really funny around here and Europe but in the States a lot of people did not find it funny. I remember going out with that on a little promo tour and people’s faces would go ashen when they saw that we were dressed as women, because it was just unheard of. These days, you get the Foo Fighters doing something similar on “Learn to Fly” and everybody is rollicking with laughter, but in those days there was a real feeling of shock and horror in some of those media people and it absolutely damaged the record. In Europe it was huge, same in Australia. But in the States, no.
Then our [U.S.] record company at the time [Capitol] got investigated for payola. They suddenly dropped all their independent promotion people and got a massive backlash from the system and that made “Radio Gaga” drop like a stone.
And the other thing was Paul Prenter, who became Freddie’s personal [manager]. We had a great relationship with radio in America; we’d get off the plane and go and do two or three or four radio stations. But this guy, whenever anyone rang up for Freddie, he’d say, “No, Freddie’s not interested, he doesn’t need to talk to you” — and that, in a very short time, spoiled our relationship with radio. So we lost touch with the States until the Mike Myers time.
Did you know that the movie people actually wanted Guns N’ Roses in that scene, rather than Queen?
No, I did not know that. Is that right? How funny. It’s a great scene. The funny thing was, we always regarded [“Bohemian Rhapsody”] tongue in cheek ourselves. If it would come on the radio, we would all be headbanging when it came to the heavy bit as well, us as a group. It was very close to our sense of humor. Mike’s an Anglophile so he has a real feel for what people find funny in this country.
Was it strange to be catapulted back into the MTV generation when you won the Video Music Award?
Well, people tell us we invented it, that we’re to blame because “Bohemian Rhapsody” was effectively the first [music video]. We found ourselves unwittingly at the center of that and then it zoomed off at a tangent and became something that was harder for us to relate to. We never had the idea that a song would only be represented by a video, it was just one way of promoting it. And suddenly you couldn’t possibly put out a record without having a video and the video locked in people’s minds in terms of how they visualized the song. Very often music is about people spinning their own images in their head and [videos] took away that ability and meant that the song was forever welded to this creation and you couldn’t get away from it.
Is it a bit like that now for “Bohemian Rhapsody?” Is it always linked in people’s minds to Wayne’s World?
Yeah, but “Bohemian Rhapsody” does cross a lot of boundaries. It’s been done so many different ways now by different people. I think Freddie did good — and we did good, I guess!