Study Guide

Bohemian Rhapsody Introduction

Bohemian Rhapsody Introduction

In a Nutshell

To the uninitiated, the six-minute rock operetta "Bohemian Rhapsody" may seem like a strange choice for Britain's favorite single of all time. In fact, it may seem like a strange choice for a top single at all, at any time.

But you have to admit. You've totally belted this out at the top of your lungs a time or two.

In 1975, this unpredictable masterpiece was unlike anything rock had ever seen before, and arguably nothing much like it has been pulled off since. What made Queen's wildly ambitious combination of piano ballad, Italian opera, and hard rock and roll into one of the most beloved songs of the century?

About the Song

ArtistQueen
Year1975
LabelEMI (UK), Elektra, Hollywood (U.S.)
Writer(s)Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Bulsara)
Producer(s)Roy Thomas Baker, Queen
Musician(s)Freddie Mercury (vocals, piano), Brian May (guitar, backing vocals), John Deacon (bass guitar), Roger Taylor (drums, backing vocals, timpani, gong) Mike Stone, Gary Lyons and Geoff Workman (mixing)
Learn to playPiano, Guitar Tablature
AlbumA Night at the Opera

Music Video

Influences on Queen

Liza Minnelli
Robert Plant
Led Zeppelin
David Bowie
The Who

Influenced by Queen

Duran Duran
Foreigner
Def Leppard
Aerosmith
Guns 'N Roses
Foo Fighters
Nirvana
My Chemical Romance
The Scissor Sisters

Bohemian Rhapsody Resources

Books

Peter Freestone and David Evans, Freddie Mercury: An Intimate Memoir (2001)
It's no masterpiece, but it's a nice view into the life of Freddie Mercury from his longtime personal assistant.

Phil Sutcliffe, Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock (2009)
This beautiful book is a great textual tribute to Queen, and fun for the fan and even for the uninitiated.

Albums

Queen: Greatest Hits I & II
What is a great band these days without a greatest hits album or two? Although Queen is one of those groups whose albums are generally worth listening to in full, Greatest Hits will work for the casual listener—or the listener who wants to get "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Another One Bites the Dust," "We Are the Champions," and "We Will Rock You" in one place.

A Day at the Races (1976)
The follow-up album to A Night at the Opera, viewed by the band as a twin to the first, also takes its name from a Marx Brothers film.

A Night at the Opera (1975)
In addition to featuring "Bohemian Rhapsody" as its lead single, this is still recognized as one of the greatest Queen albums.

Queen II (1974)
Though no single song on this earlier opus achieved the notoriety of some of Queen's later songs, this album shows their development into glam rock superstars and contains a lot of great songwriting in its own right.

Images

Iconic Queen
This photo, modeled after an old black and white portrait of Marlene Dietrich, was the cover photo for the 1974 album Queen II and has since become a recognizable symbol of the band.

A Night at the Opera (1975) Cover Art
The cover to the 1975 album is a re-make of Queen's logo in psychedelic watercolors. Note the lions, fairies, and swan, each a symbol of members of the band. Can you guess who's who? Hint: Freddie, who's a Virgo, is represented by two of the creatures.

Queen Live, circa 1980s
This live photo of Queen performing "Under Pressure" captures the sheer energy the band kept up throughout their days as global stars.

Mercury and May, circa 1982
Freddie Mercury and Brian May's drastically different personalities contrasted well in their wild stage antics.

Movies & TV

Queen: The Making of A Night at the Opera (2006)
This short documentary goes song-by-song through the revered and absurd album and features interviews about the inspiration behind "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Freddie's Loves (2004)
This documentary about Freddie Mercury's complicated love life is available on YouTube in three parts. Some did not appreciate the film's frank exposure of elements of his life that Mercury was very private about.

Queen: Greatest Video Hits 1 (2002)
This two-disc pack features 16 popular Queen songs and videos, digitally re-mastered and reformatted for widescreen TV, plus, on disc two, a rare version of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Flash Gordon (1980)
Queen provided the soundtrack for this odd little comic strip-based flick.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" Video (1975)
This official video is considered by many to be a godfather to all music videos.

Websites

Queen Online
The official Queen website is better than most sites for older bands, with a regularly updated news section, merchandise, photos, and even an archive of interviews with the band.

David Chu, "Unconventional Queen Hit Still Rocks After 30 Years," The New York Times (2005)
Chu's fond review of "Bohemian Rhapsody" at thirty is one of many recent demonstrations of how much the song still means to people.

"Smashed Hits: What Is a Bohemian Rhapsody," BBC (2011)
The BBC news site gives us a cheeky run-down of the strange plot of "Bohemian Rhapsody"—still strange after more than 35 years of contemplation.

Video & Audio

"Bohemian Rhapsody" Music Video
And here's the official video for our song of the hour.