Video of the Week: Bohemian Rhapsody Movie and Live Aid Footage–Side by Side Comparison

Guitarist Brian May Explains the Making of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

(Source: Open Culture)

“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen is one of the most audacious pop songs ever made. Part ballad, part opera, part heavy metal orgasm, the song has six distinct sections and took over a month to record. At just under six minutes, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was considered too long for pop radio. “The record company, in their infinite ignorance, of course immediately suggested that we cut it down,” said Queen drummer Roger Taylor, who stood by his bandmates and refused to let the song be cut. “It really was hit or miss. It was either going to be massive or it was going to be nothing.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” of course, went on to become one of the most popular songs in music history. It spent nine weeks at number one in the UK following its release in the fall of 1975, and went back to number one after the death of singer Freddie Mercury in 1991. In America the song peaked at number nine in 1976 and re-entered the charts in 1992, when it was featured in the movie Wayne’s World. Last year, an ITV poll in Great Britain listed “Bohemian Rhapsody” as “The National’s Favorite Number One” song in 60 years of music.

In this fascinating video, Queen guitarist Brian May goes back to the mixing board to explain the complexity of layers that went into realizing Mercury’s vision for the song. The original 24-track analogue recording system was far too limited, so the band used the ping-pong technique to “bounce” literally hundreds of overdubs into the mix. May explains how the operatic vocal layers were inspired by the “cascading strings” effect made famous by Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, a technique May first tried out in 1974 with the guitar solo on “Killer Queen.”

The video is an excerpt from Inside the Rhapsody, a documentary that was included on the 2002 DVD Queen: Greatest Video Hits 1. For more on the making of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” please see our post, “Listen to Freddie Mercury’s Wonderous Piano and Vocal Tracks for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (1975).” And for a reminder of how it all came together, here’s the official video:

Queen Documentary: The Rise, Fall, Revival, and Tragic End of One of Rock’s Greatest

(Reprinted from Open Culture)

If there was ever a band that perfectly embodied all of the massive excesses of late 70′s arena rock, that band was Queen. Occasionally ridiculous, often sublime, never boring, the four piece overtook The Who for stage theatrics and personality, and could boast of one of the most adventurous and innovative rock guitarists of all time in Brian May.

The rhythm section of John Deacon and Roger Taylor didn’t slouch either, but as we know, when we’re talking Queen, we’re talking Freddie Mercury, the most charismatic, powerful lead singer in rock history, or as Allmusic’s Greg Plato put it, “one of rock’s greatest all-time entertainers/showmen,” who “possessed one of the greatest voices in all of music and penned some of pop’s most enduring and instantly recognizable compositions.” I suspect there a little hyperbole there, but maybe not much.

In any case, Mercury sold all those “greatests” to hundreds of millions of fans, over a 20 year career spanning 26 albums and many hundreds of operatic megashows. Mercury and the band worked incredibly long and hard to earn every accolade, tribute, box set, and memorial since Mercury’s shockingly sudden death from AIDS complications in 1991. One of the most recent of those tributes is the documentary above Queen: The Days of Our Lives.

Released on the 40th anniversary of Queen’s founding in May 2011, the film takes its title not from the long-running soap opera but from the band’s final recording together, “These Are the Days of Our Lives,” written by drummer Roger Taylor and issued as a single in the U.S. just one month before Mercury’s death. The song (and video) subsequently became a poignant reminder of what the music world lost when it lost Freddie Mercury.

Originally released in two parts on UK television, the full version of the documentary above has Dutch subtitles, tons of archival footage and revealing interviews, and enough awesome guitar solos to fill up Wembley Stadium.

Astronomers tip Queen’s Brian May as BBC replacement for Sir Patrick Moore

Astronomers tip Queen's Brian May as BBC replacement for Sir Patrick Moore

Guitarist is praised for his ‘gift for communication’

(Reprinted from NME)

Leading academics have called for Queen guitarist Brian May to replace the late Sir Patrick Moore as presenter of the BBC show The Sky At Night.

Sir Patrick, who fronted the monthly astronomy show since its launch in 1957, passed away on December 9 aged 89. Now, a number of astronomers are calling for Moore’s job on the long-running programme to be given to May, who picked up a PhD in astrophysics from London’s Imperial College in 2007.

“Both of them have a terrific gift for communication… Brian is an enthusiast for astronomy,” Professor David Southwood, president of the Royal Astronomical Society and a senior research investigator at Imperial College told The Daily Telegraph. “You’ve got to have a pretty strong personality to replace someone who had such a strong identity, like Patrick.”Moore

Another astronomer, Dr Richard Miles, former president of the British Astronomical Association, said May would “grow into the job if he was given a free hand”. The BBC have yet to name a replacement for Moore.

May was a regular guest on The Sky At Night and collaborated with Moore on the book BANG!. On learning of Moore’s passing, May commented: “It’s no exaggeration to say that Patrick, in his tireless and ebullient communication of the magic of astronomy, inspired every British astronomer, amateur and professional, for half a century. Patrick will be mourned by the many to whom he was a caring uncle, and by all who loved the delightful wit and clarity of his writings, or enjoyed his fearlessly eccentric persona in public life. Patrick is irreplaceable. There will never be another Patrick Moore. But we were lucky enough to get one.”

20 Things You Never Knew About ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Bohemian Rhapsody

(Reprinted from NME)

By Matthew Horton

Thirty-seven years ago this week, Queen released ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, a masterful – if ludicrous – six-minute suite of operatic cock-rock about a lad who’s killed someone, sold his soul to Beelzebub and wants to know if Scaramouche can do the Fandango. Is it a rejigged myth? A metaphor for a failed Mercury relationship? Well, your guess is good as ours. It was a mammoth undertaking for a band about to become one of the biggest in the world – and these are the facts. How many did you know?

1

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’’s nine consecutive weeks at No.1 at the end of 1975 was the joint third UK total at the time, trailing David Whitfield’s ‘Cara Mia’ (10 weeks, 1954) and yodeling country star Slim Whitman’s ‘Rose Marie’ (11 weeks, 1955). It was eventually supplanted by ABBA’s ‘Mamma Mia’, a title curiously contained in ‘Bo Rhap’’s lyrics. Some Hallowe’en spookiness for you there.

2

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ producer Roy Thomas Baker was one of the ill-fated pilots of Guns N’ Roses’ forever delayed ‘Chinese Democracy’, parachuting in in 2000 to drive everyone mad getting the guitar sound just right. Obviously he failed. At least in the exacting eyes of Axl Rose.

3

Scaramouche is a stock character from commedia dell’arte, a buffoon who always manages to wriggle out of the sticky situations he invariably finds himself in, usually at the expense of someone else. Original name ‘Scaramuccia’ means ‘skirmish’.

4

It was introduced to radio by comedian Kenny Everett, then a Capital DJ. At first he thought it was crazily long, but had a change of heart.

Queen

5

Freddie Mercury plays the same piano that Paul McCartney used for ‘Hey Jude’. You can tell, can’t you?

6

EMI in the UK and Elektra in the U.S. both tried to cut chunks off the epic. As Roger Taylor says: “They said it was too long and wouldn’t work. We thought, ‘Well we could cut it, but it wouldn’t make any sense’, it doesn’t make much sense now and it would make even less sense then; you would miss all the different moods of the song. So we said no. It’ll either fly or it won’t.”

7

The song was Freddie’s baby. Here’s Brian May in 2002: “He knew exactly what he was doing… We just helped him bring it to life.”

Queen

8

The opera parts took more than 70 hours to complete.

9

Freddie wrote the whole song – including the composite harmonies – on telephone books and scraps of paper, making it a little tricky for everyone else to get a handle on the thing.

10

After the crucial first radio play the Capital switchboard went nuts and EMI realised they had a hit – however unusual – on their hands. That was the moment they agreed to release the full-length single.

11

180 overdubs were needed to get the track into epic condition. 180! Treble top.Bohemian Rhapsody video

12

It only made No.9 in the States on its initial release but hi-jinks in the Wayne’s World car saw it storm all the way to No.2 in 1992. It was held off top spot by Kriss Kross’s classic ‘Jump’.

13

In 2007, Radio 1 confessed this was their most-played song since the station was launched. It’s probably ‘Chasing Cars’ now or something.

14

During their show-stealing performance at Live Aid on 13 July 1985, Queen used tapes for the fiddly bits of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?Freddie Mercury

15

That epoch-starting video cost around £4,500 to make and centred around a formation of the band familiar from the cover of ‘Queen II’, released 18 months earlier. Apparently, they liked themselves that way.

16

There was a lot of chat that Queen recorded their seminal ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ promo because they were out of the country and couldn’t do Top Of The Pops, but the plain fact was they couldn’t be arsed. Taylor told the Observer in 2004: “We did everything we possibly could to avoid appearing on Top Of The Pops. It was… the most boring day known to man.”

17

At 5 minutes 55 seconds, it was a riskily long song to fire at the top of the charts, but ‘Hey Jude’ (there it is again) was a minute-and-a-half longer. Oasis have since busted all records with the nine-and-a-half-minute ‘All Around The World’. Makes ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ seem like a Napalm Death track.

18

Its re-release as a double A-side to ‘These Are The Days Of Our Lives’ after Mercury’s death in 1991 means it’s the only song to be Christmas No.1 twice with exactly the same recording. Band Aid blew its own chances by getting all those Stock Aitken Waterman artists second time around. And then the Bedingfields and Justin Hawkins  the third time around.

19

It’s been covered by a host of distinguished artists, including ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, G4, Elaine Paige, The Massed Bands of the RAF and Rolf Harris, with a wobble-boarding country take.

20

But, in the end, what does it all mean? Over to a weary Freddie: “It means whatever you want it to mean.”

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