Forums > Queen - Serious Discussion > Bohemian Rhapsody: Myth & Truth

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Sebastian user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 09 Oct 09, 12:08 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Things we're sure about:

* Freddie wrote it on a piano that wasn't concert grand.
* Only Freddie sings during the intro.
* A white Bechstein piano (the same as the one in the video) was used for recordings.
* Sessions started off in Rockfield, Wales.
* It was recorded at Rockfield, Lansdowne, Scorpio, Sarm and The Roundhouse.
* Roger Taylor hits the top note (a soprano Bb).
* Roger plays drums, timpani and gong.
* All guitars were played by Brian May using his homemade instrument.
* All lead and backing vocals were arranged by Freddie Mercury, including parts he didn't sing.
* Bass-voice's done by Freddie Mercury.
* Working title during the Welsh sessions: Fred's Thing.

Things said or implied by official (i.e. band or close to the band) or pseudo-expert sources, but which are false:

* 138 voices.
* 160 voices.
* 180 voices.
* 200 voices.
* Recorded on 16-track machine.
* Partly recorded at Wessex (or Trident, Olympic or Sarm West for that matter).
* It was originally longer, then cut down to 5:55.
* Backing track was done in bits and then pieced together (a la Black Queen or Prophet's Song).
* Done in a three-week span.
* Queen's biggest hit (commercially speaking, Bites the Dust outsold it).
* The first video ever

Things said or implied by official sources, that although haven't been further confirmed, we've got no reasons to doubt about:

* The title came long after the song was written.
* The ascending 'never never never let me go' bit was brought when they were already mixing.
* Roger Taylor was the first one who thought it could be the album's lead single.
* The guitar solo was arranged by Brian May, after Mercury gave it to him as a kind of homework.

Things said or implied by official or expert sources, that could easily be true, or false, or contain both myth and truth:

* It's about Freddie's homosexuality.
* It was written at (now Mary's) Yamaha baby-grand piano which Fred'd bought in Japan earlier that year.
* The intro's reminiscent of (not necessarily equal to) a pre-Queen track titled Real Life.
* Its direct forerunner's In the Lap of the Gods, not The March of the Black Queen.
* Only Roger Taylor knows what's it about.
* Mr Everett played it 14 times in his radio programme over one weekend.

Things we could analyse further:

* How much was it influenced by 10cc?
* Speaking of 10cc... they'd already had I'm Not in Love at #1 that year. That song's with more voices than Bo Rhap and almost as long, so it probably wasn't such a huge surprise or problem for record companies.
* Which composer(s) influenced Lord Teeth for the operatic section. I suspect maybe Rossini.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 09 Oct 09, 15:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Can we say absolutely that it wasn't longer than 5.55 originally?

Although the leaked master tapes contain only the length version we know, this is only the final recorded parts, and there could easily be earlier demos in the vaults with longer versions.  Freddie could also have originally written it longer, but it got cut down in band discussions even before recording demos started.

I'm not saying that it was longer than the version we know - in fact I don't think it ever was - but I am just playing devil's advocate and querying if, as you state, we can definitively state as fact that it was never longer.

Cheers

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Posted: 09 Oct 09, 15:39 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Yes, of course. Even without additional (discarded) sections, the mere possibility of a working version in a slower tempo could easily result in a 7-minute length and so on.

But the legend of a 7-minute version which they had to cut to 5:55 is definitely false. Same as with the jigsaw puzzle theory (which is true for other songs though) or the horizontal expansion legend.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 09 Oct 09, 15:46 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I don't know if the top B-flat would be a "soprano B-flat". Written on paper the tenor range (for example) is assumed to be one octave lower than what a female (Soprano) would sing.





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Posted: 09 Oct 09, 16:07 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

That Bb is two semitones below soprano C (i.e. two octaves above middle C), which is why I kept the nomenclature. But of course, there are many ways to look at it.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 02:44 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

How about a transparent tape? Brian said it was true (as I can remember).

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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 04:16 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I have always wondered at the 100-200 voice quotes by the band.  They OUGHT to know the real number, so is it just hyperbole or what?

Any of us who've sat down with the leaked multitrack can hear for ourselves that there isn't that many voices heard at one time, so where the hell did this get started?


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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 06:05 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Zebonka12 wrote:

I have always wondered at the 100-200 voice quotes by the band.  They OUGHT to know the real number, so is it just hyperbole or what?

Any of us who've sat down with the leaked multitrack can hear for ourselves that there isn't that many voices heard at one time, so where the hell did this get started?


This is just a guess, but I reckon that it was someone in the band who started that rumour that there was that many voices on the recording as that would explain why they couldnt (or didnt want to) do the opera part live on stage.

or

There is also the (vague) possibility that there is multiple voices on the recording made up of multiple versions of a single tracked vocal bounced to the one track. Its all just guess work though.






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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 07:51 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Zebonka12 wrote:

I have always wondered at the 100-200 voice quotes by the band.  They OUGHT to know the real number, so is it just hyperbole or what?

Any of us who've sat down with the leaked multitrack can hear for ourselves that there isn't that many voices heard at one time, so where the hell did this get started?

Here's how such legends begin:

1. A tongue-in-cheek or figurative comment that's not meant to be taken literally, made in an innocent or equally tongue-in-cheek manner during an interview or something (e.g. '160 to 200 voices').

2. An imbecile journalist taking it to heart. There are loads of intelligent journalists, but loads of papers or TV networks only hire those who aren't.

3. Next thing you know you've got documentaries, printed articles and some alleged experts claiming Bo Rhap's got 180 voices (basic maths: 200+160, and the result's divided by two).

4. Add more stupid journalists, a gullible public and 30 years for the legend to be further spread.

5. New generations see that 'everybody says it's got 180 voices'. Thus, it MUST be true because the human being CAN'T lie.

6. Voila: You've got dozens of millions of people thinking the legend's true.

Next time, we could take Freddie's 'I dress to kill' comment literally and create a legend that he confessed being a murderer but never got caught.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 09:12 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It was inspired by Mozart's and Beethoven's unfinished work. The first one - mostly Requiem as there is one section which -speaking of the theory- is identically to the galileo section, I think that it is "dies irea". Regarding the latter - I have no idea but I have heard the rumours that it is Beethoven's 10th unfinished symphony which parts are on the web and you can find it easily.


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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 13:56 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Sebastian wrote:

2. An imbecile journalist taking it to heart. There are loads of intelligent journalists, but loads of papers or TV networks only hire those who aren't.

4. Add more stupid journalists, a gullible public and 30 years for the legend to be further spread.




True enough, though I think it'd be more a case of people taking things at face value and not really caring much how many voices exactly are on the record ... gullibility yeah, but not exactly stupidity - not everyone is as analytical as a serious Queen fan, hehe.

Having said that - technological limitations aside - would it REALLY have sounded much bigger if Queen had stacked 200 voices together?  In my most ambitious overdubs, I've hit a point where it really doesn't seem to make much of a difference how many sounds are on there - usually once there's 25 to 30 I can't even tell anymore.  That's guitar of course, which might be different but I don't see how.


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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 15:10 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It's quite easy to see that the 160-200 voices statement is false. Take any recording from some choral opus (Beethoven's 9th, Requiem, Carmina Burana) which have a full choir: the sound is massive and much more complex than BoRhap and there are no more than 50-70 throats singing at a time. 180 voices are totally overboard, even for Freddie's standards of excess.


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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 16:03 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

"why they couldnt (or didnt want to) do the opera part live on stage."

One of the most intelligent things Queen ever did was not be tempted to do this on stage. It would have sounded utter shit. Talk about pissing on a picasso.... even if its picasso doing the pissing..

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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 16:05 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Zebonka12 wrote:







Sebastian wrote:



2. An imbecile journalist taking it to heart. There are loads of intelligent journalists, but loads of papers or TV networks only hire those who aren't.



4. Add more stupid journalists, a gullible public and 30 years for the legend to be further spread.











True enough, though I think it'd be more a case of people taking things at face value and not really caring much how many voices exactly are on the record ... gullibility yeah, but not exactly stupidity


Yes of course, I don't mean everybody who thought it's 138, 160, 180 or 200 is stupid. But they're at least naïve (i.e. gullible).



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 16:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I reckon there is no more than 21 voices at once


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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 16:12 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I think there is more than 21. 22, to be exact.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 16:16 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

There is definitely between 22 and 24


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Posted: 10 Oct 09, 18:10 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



mooghead wrote:

"why they couldnt (or didnt want to) do the opera part live on stage."

One of the most intelligent things Queen ever did was not be tempted to do this on stage. It would have sounded utter shit. Talk about pissing on a picasso.... even if its picasso doing the pissing..



Now that I definetely dont disagree with you. I once heard an act where I used to work years ago do that section of Bo Rhap live and it was piss. And you are right, for Queen to attempt this part live would have been folly in my opinion too.






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Posted: 12 Oct 09, 16:27 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

This isn't music related, but there's another urban legend (I haven't seen another band immerse in so many urban legends as Queen) which claims that Bohemian Rhapsody was the first video ever. Apparently the person who said this didn't know that The Beatles were already doing video clips ten years before!
Must say BoRhap's video isn't THAT much of a videoclip (it's just the band on stage -a trademark for any band those days- and some goofy effects in the middle section), yet this myth can be found even in important Queen-related sources.




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Posted: 12 Oct 09, 18:39 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



vadenuez wrote:

This isn't music related, but there's another urban legend (I haven't seen another band immerse in so many urban legends as Queen) which claims that Bohemian Rhapsody was the first video ever. Apparently the person who said this didn't know that The Beatles were already doing video clips ten years before!
Must say BoRhap's video isn't THAT much of a videoclip (it's just the band on stage -a trademark for any band those days- and some goofy effects in the middle section), yet this myth can be found even in important Queen-related sources.




Not quite right. They did make a video for Bohemian Rhapsody purely because they couldnt do shows like Top Of The Pops, etc, and to help sell the single. Yes the Beatles did do video before Queen, but that was in order to fulfill the demands of various TV shows around the world






"Normally i can't dance to save my life.

But as soon as I step in dog shit, I can moonwalk better than Michael Jackson."