Forty years after the release of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, one of the most iconic and instantly recognisable songs of all time, the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour announce QUEEN as the recipients of the Living Legend Award.
Their enigmatic frontman, Freddie Mercury, was one of the greatest of all time. His vocal range and musical vision was unique, and alongside the unmistakable guitar playing of Brian May, Roger Taylor’s thunderous drumming and John Deacon‘s incredible bass lines, Queen became one of the UK’s greatest musical exports ever. Formed in London in 1970, Queen have sold in excess of 150 million albums, and continue to sell out arenas and stadiums throughout the world (with Adam Lambert singing in place of the late, great Mercury).
Queen have the distinct honour where all four members have individually composed worldwide No.1 hits. ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘We Are The Champions’, ‘Another One Bites The Dust’, ‘Radio Ga Ga’ and ‘Under Pressure’ comprise just a tiny part of the incredible legacy that makes them 2015’s Living Legend recipient.
‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, possibly their most famous song, first charted on November 8, 1975. Taken from the ambitious album “A Night At The Opera”, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was a game changer in rock music, and a song that has gone on to transcend generations. It has inspired an array of cover versions from The Muppets to Weird Al Yankovic, while its use in the famous Wayne’s World scene – one of the most iconic moments in film history – introduced the song to a whole new audience and propelled it to No.2 in the US Billboard Charts in 1992.
In honour of Queen‘s 2015 Living Legend award and Bohemian Rhapsody’s 40th anniversary, here are 15 facts about THAT song…
1. Originally dismissed as too long to be a hit by record company executives (5 minutes and 55 seconds) , the band gave it directly to Kenny Everett, who promised to not play it on his radio show, going on to air it 14 times over two days on Capital Radio. Its iconic status was only just beginning.
2. Freddie Mercury originally started writing the song in the late 60s when it went by the name The Cowboy Song.
3. Freddie Mercury never really explained what the song was about and there have been many fanciful theories about a murderer about to be put to death or man having sold his soul to the devil though allegedly Mercury once described it as “random rhyming nonsense”.
4. The song took three weeks to record in six studios with the operatic sections alone taking 70 hours to put together (some sections have 180 overdubs on them, the tape as worked on so much that by the end of the session it was virtually see-through).
5. It first charted on November 8, 1975.
6. It spent nine weeks as the UK No.1 in 1975 and was that year’s Christmas No.1.
7. Because of its complexity live, and the band being unable to group for a Top Of The Pops appearance, a film was made echoing the sleeve photography of the Queen II album.
8. Taking three hours to film, five hours to edit and costing £3,500, the director was Bruce Gowers, who helped pioneer the music promo as cameraman for The Beatles’ Paperback Writer. Thanks to Wayne’s World’s reimagining, in 1992 it won an MTV award for ‘Best Video From A Film’.
9. It spent a further five weeks at UK No.1 in 1991 following Freddie Mercury’s death.
10. It is the third best-selling single of all time in the UK after Elton John’s Candle In The Wind and Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas.
11. Axl Rose and Elton John covered it at Wembley Stadium at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in April 1992. Other versions include Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and Montserrat Caballe, who had another operatic hit Barcelona, with Freddie Mercury, William Shatner, The Flaming Lips, Weird Al Jankovic, Pink, The Muppets, Beyoncé and most recently Kanye West at the Glastonbury Festival.
12. There is a blue vinyl version of the 7-inch single that was released to celebrate the band winning the ‘1978 Award To Industry For Export Achievement’. Numbered copies of this now sell for well over £10,000 and it is regarded as one of the rarest ever British records.
13. In 2004 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame.
14. In 2007, for BBC Radio 1’s 40 anniversary, Bohemian Rhapsody was announced as the most played song in the station’s history.
15. In a 2012 poll conducted by ITV, it was pronounced The Nation’s Favourite No.1.
Siân Llewellyn, Editor of Classic Rock, says “I don’t think there could be a more perfect year for us to honour Queen with the Roll Of Honour’s headline award. Almost four decades to the day that one of rock’s defining songs made its phenomenal presence known, we get to celebrate the incredible, unparalleled career of the band that made it and who changed the world’s soundscape forever.”
Voting for the Classic Rock Roll of Honour has never been closer. With just a handful of votes splitting potential category winners, you have until midday on the 27th October, vote now here.
Classic Rock Roll of Honour takes place on November 11, at the Roundhouse, Camden, London.