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Posted: 11 Apr 11, 06:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thought I'd share this. I have access to it through an e-book facility. Some interesting analysis of Bo Rap as a "queer" song.

SHEILA WHITELEY, "Popular Music and the Dynamics of Desire" in Queering the Popular Pitch. Eds. Sheila Whiteley and Jennifer Rycenga (Routledge, 2006) pp.
249-262

p.251
My first case study, of the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” by
the band Queen, explores the relationships among reality, fantasy, and
desire and the ways in which they provide a particular insight into gay
identity in the mid-1970s.
Characteristic of many glam rock acts, Queen lead singer Freddie
Mercury’s camp theatrics stood in sharp contrast to the vigorous heterosexuality
of traditional rock. The use of Zandra Rhodes silks, nail
varnish, and makeup all contributed to a sense of “otherness,” but Fleet
Street’s obsession with sexuality—“Who do you sleep with Freddie?” and
his bantering response, “Girls, boys, and cats”— kept his performances
salacious but his private life at arm’s length. While this is, as they say, no
big revelation, it is salutary to remember why Janis Joplin kept her bisexuality
hidden from the public gaze,7 and why Dusty Springfield fled to
Los Angeles to escape the scrutiny of an always zealous press.8 The U.K.’s
Homosexual Reform Act (1967) may have seemed a step in the right
direction, but the current climate was unforgiving of outed homosexuals
and lesbians alike. The tremors surrounding Jeremy Thorpe, former
leader of the British Liberal Party, shook the walls of the establishment
in 1975. Accused of having a homosexual relationship with Norman
Scott, who claimed to have been threatened by Thorpe after the end of
their affair, he was subsequently one of four defendants in a court case,
but was acquitted of attempted murder. The ensuing scandal ruined his
Parliamentary career, and the animosity and hysteria directed at him by
the media was a timely reminder that it was better to stay in the closet.
p.252
The paradox of legality/persecution is reflected in “Bohemian
Rhapsody,” a signature track from Queen’s 1975 album A Night at the
Opera that provides an intriguing insight into Mercury’s private life at
the time; the song’s three separate acts reflect three separate turmoils—
all, it seems, underpinned by Catholic guilt.9 The title draws strongly
on contemporary rock ideology, the emphasis on creativity legitimizing
the individualism of the bohemian artists’ world, with rhapsody affirming
the romantic ideals of art rock,10 as an epic narrative related to the
heroic, with ecstatic or emotional overtones. Like all good stories, the
opening starts with a sense of tension and enigma.
The multitracked voices are unusually situated at the opening of
the piece, the rhythm following the natural inflection of the words, the
block chords and lack of foreground melody creating an underlying
ambiguity—who is speaking, who is the promised epic hero? This sense
of uncertainty is heightened by the harmonic change from Bb (6) to C7
in bars 1 and 2; the boundaries between “the real life” and “fantasy”
are marked by instability, and “caught in a landslide,” the octave unison
at the end of bar 3, propels the listener into the next phrase. Here “no
escape from reality” provides a clue to the underlying turmoil, but the
piano arpeggios in bars 5–6 and the stabilizing effect of the harmonic
progression, anchored this time by the root of the chords, shift the mode
of address: “Open your eyes.”
The introduction of the central character is marked by a restatement
of the rhythmic motif in its realigned position in the lead vocal
and piano. Underpinned by the vocal harmonies there is a sense of pathos
that is interrupted by a chromatic movement in the first inversion
block chords of the voices and piano (bars 10–11, “Easy come, easy go”)
before the confessional of “Mama, just killed a man.”
Here, the effected warmth of the vocal and the underlying arpeggios
on piano suggest an intimate scenario. It is both confessional and
affirmative of the nurturant and life-giving force of the feminine and the
need for absolution. The emotional quality is given a particular resonance
in bars 21–24. Framed by a lingering “Mama,” the melody opens
out, the vocal rising to a falsetto register only to fall dramatically downward
at the end of bar 23. Underpinned by chromatic movement in the
bass, there is an underlying mood of desperation (“If I’m not back again
tomorrow”), which is opened out in bars 25–31 as the melodic phrases
fragment, “carry on . . . as if nothing really matters.”
The year 1975 was somewhat of a turning point in Freddie Mercury’s
personal life. He had been living with Mary Austin, manager for the London
boutique Biba, for seven years, but had just embarked on his first gay love
affair with David Minns. Aware of the constant surveillance by Fleet
p.253
Street, Mary accompanied him when dining out with his new boyfriend.
It was apparently a very romantic affair, one that lasted until 1978, but
the tugs between security (Mary), escape (David), and an acknowledgment
of Mercury’s sexuality are there. The confessional of “Bohemian
Rhapsody” and its intimate address to “Mama” provide an initial insight
into Mercury’s emotional state at the time: living with Mary (“Mama”),
wanting to break away (“Mama mia, let me go” in bars 88–89). Bars
80–85, in particular, provide an emotional setting for the dialectic interplay
between the masculine and feminine voices. The heavy timbres
of the lower voices, underpinned by the phallic backbeat of the drums
and tonic pedal, traditionally connote the masculine (“We will not let
you go”) while the shrill, higher voices in first inversion chords imply
the feminine “other” (“Let me go”).11 They signal entrapment and the
plea for release.
The heightened sense of urgency seems to resonate with Mercury’s
inner turmoil, leaving the security of Mary Austin (who, in fact, remained
a close friend throughout his life), coming to terms with gay
life (“Easy come, easy go”), and living with a man (“So you think you
can stone me and spit in my eye”). Mary was, however, more perceptive
than the song implies. At the time, Freddie had asked her if she thought
he was bisexual. Her reply—“I don’t think you’re bisexual. I think you’re
gay”12—provides an insight into their relationship and her continuing
support. Even so, the “just gotta get out” supplies a metaphor for desperation
as it moves toward the climax, the guitar supported by an aggressive
drumbeat, before the emergence of the piano at bar 120. The return
to the opening tempo thus suggests a release of tension, the outbursts
are over and the final “Nothing really matters to me,” where the voice
is cradled by light piano arpeggios, suggests both resignation (minor
tonalities) and a new sense of freedom in the wide vocal span.13
“Bohemian Rhapsody” dominated the 1975 U.K. Christmas charts
and remained at number 1 for nine weeks, its popularity reinforced by
an elaborate and highly innovative video production. While Queen’s
popularity can be related to the ascendancy of glam and glitter in the
early to mid-1970s, it is apparent that the flirtation with androgyny and
bisexuality that characterized many of its prominent performers (not
least David Bowie and Gary Glitter) was not accompanied by an acceptance
of gay sexuality by the general public. As mentioned previously,
the tremors surrounding the “outing” of Jeremy Thorpe were
already shaking the walls of the establishment in 1975, and the animosity
and hysteria directed at him by the media provoke comparison with
Oscar Wilde, who had been found guilty of homosexual offenses and
sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labor in 1895. Both were


"With a population of 1.75 million, Northern Ireland should really be a footballing minnow. Instead, they could be better described as the piranhas of the international game" (FIFA.com)
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Posted: 11 Apr 11, 06:07 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

p.254
at odds with society; both subverted the “wholesome, manly, simple ideals
of English life;”14 both relate to the “outsider”—the “misfit” repressed
and oppressed because of nonconforming individuality and sexuality.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” thus provides a particular insight into the tensions
surrounding gay identity in 1970s Britain, and Mercury’s performance
can be interpreted as challenging social, cultural, and musical
structures in its invocation of gay male desire. In effect, its operatic camp
revealed the “queer” imaginary that underpinned Queen’s musical output,
the “innuendo” that was not fully acknowledged until 1991 when
Mercury confirmed publicly that he had AIDS.15 He died from bronchial
pneumonia a day later (November 24), and “Bohemian Rhapsody”
was rereleased on December 9, with royalties from sales being donated
to an HIV and AIDS charity, the Terence Higgins Trust.
p.258
At this point, I would like to return briefly to the implications of the
Stonewall Rebellion and how the “toughness” of the riot was reflected in
the butch image that was to influence both Freddie Mercury of Queen
and later Rob Halford of the metal band Judas Priest. The leather wear
and the mustache (aptly dubbed the “flavor saver”) were, as Thor P. P.
Arnold (Mercury’s lover at the time) aptly commented, an overt body
language, “screaming out for steaming man sex,”25 and were quickly
adopted by Mercury and by Halford (although the latter without the
mustache). Black leather jackets; heavy studded leather belts; chains,
thongs, and straps; heavy boots; and black leather jeans or chaps that
exposed the flesh eroticized the body, drawing into association both
bikers and sadomasochism.


"With a population of 1.75 million, Northern Ireland should really be a footballing minnow. Instead, they could be better described as the piranhas of the international game" (FIFA.com)
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Posted: 11 Apr 11, 12:01 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I'm still of the opinion that "Bohemian Rhapsody" isn't as autobiographical as everyone wants to believe. I've read so many articles and seen so many documentaries which all try to 'solve' it, but I'll stick with Freddie direct statements that he didn't know what it's about.

At best, it was an experiment in different styles and the lyrics are vaguely dramatic and evocative. They stir the imagination, but naturally we try to make sense of things, so people put meaning to what may be meaningless (in any deep or personal sense) in order to neatly organize the world.

My advice, let the song maintain its mystery and continue to fire not only our imaginations, but those of future generations. We'll all take some meaning from it in a greater way than by putting a label or category to the song.

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Posted: 11 Apr 11, 13:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Personally, I'll alaways see the song as a character coming out

That said, not knowing is one of the those things that makes the song better. Sometimes, certian things are best left unsolved and open to the imagination.

See Pulp Fiction or Lost in Tranlation for examples

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Posted: 11 Apr 11, 22:12 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Only the mystery of ''TRUE ART'', can stir up these kinds of conversations of origins and meanings, that were never meant to be discovered.

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Posted: 12 Apr 11, 03:01 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Only the mystery of ''TRUE ART'', can stir up these kinds of conversations of origins and meanings, that were never meant to be discovered.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Well said, good lyrics leave a lot of room for many people to read most different things into it. And usually people try to find their own life in those lyrics....

What I do not really understand is the fascination of many people about Freddies sexual orientation. What is so exciting about it? I mean most of those people never met him or knew him personally. So in the end it doesn't matter whether he does this or that.....or was a vegetarian or not.....

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Posted: 12 Apr 11, 14:15 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I cant believe anybody went to the trouble of writing this never mind analysing it all

Absolute PISH (as we say in Scotland)

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Posted: 13 Apr 11, 00:36 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Freddie would hate all this analysis of his songs, especially for Bohemian Rhapsody. It is just a great record, with some rather obscure lyrics, there is nothing more to it.
Music is there for pleasure, to be listened to and enjoyed, not scrutinised and trying to fathom the writers inner feelings.
If you want to hear about his gay sexual feelings in his songs, listen to the Mr. Bad Guy album, it's quite blatant.

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Posted: 13 Apr 11, 02:36 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Freddie said in an interview once that he hated trying to analyise what a song means whenever he is asked the question, songs are just there for listening pleasure

Im sure some songs do have meanings but i guess its upto the individual to work it out

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Posted: 13 Apr 11, 04:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

GT wrote: Freddie would hate all this analysis of his songs, especially for Bohemian Rhapsody. It is just a great record, with some rather obscure lyrics, there is nothing more to it.
Music is there for pleasure, to be listened to and enjoyed, not scrutinised and trying to fathom the writers inner feelings.
If you want to hear about his gay sexual feelings in his songs, listen to the Mr. Bad Guy album, it's quite blatant.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Artists lose control of their art when they put it into the public realm. In addition, what they set out to do may not be what they actually achieve. Also, art can subconsciously reflect personal things about the artist, even if the artist explicitly denies it.

And what a boring world it would be if that wasn't the case.


"With a population of 1.75 million, Northern Ireland should really be a footballing minnow. Instead, they could be better described as the piranhas of the international game" (FIFA.com)
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Posted: 13 Apr 11, 15:57 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The analysis was interesting, but I'm not sure about some of the premises and conclusions.

She doesn't seem to be trying to prove Bo Rhap is about Freddie's personal life, or even meaningfully argue it, which makes it hard to argue back even if one was so inclined.  She seems to be presenting it as a first principle, and then describing the context into which it all fits. Her analysis is not much different from any of the other scholarly ones we've seen in the broad strokes. She bookends her thoughts with references to entrenched social intolerance of homosexuality, and references lyrics and mood in much the same way we've heard before.

I'll give her "Catholic guilt" as an entirely new one (I think) which she accidentally or on purpose goes on to underscore by later using the words 'confessional' (twice) and 'absolution'. She seems to offer no support for this (unless there was something in that footnote) and it seems to me to have little relevance.  'Catholic guilt' is typically understood to mean excessive, abnormal or pervasive guilt, often stemming directly from engaging in acts or thoughts proscribed by Church dogma.  Even if one accepts the gay interpretation of  Bo Rhap, I don't see how it meaningfully applies.   He could be assumed to be troubled by uncertainty, the insecurity of the unknown, turning Mary's life upside down after so many years, the need to protect family and friends and bandmates given the social climate, other things.  All that qualifies as normal, expected emotion any reasonably moral human being might feel in such a situation.  So I fail to see what she was getting at outside of getting cute with the 'confessional' aspects of the song. 

Later, she says "Bohemian Rhapsody thus provides a particular insight into the tensions surrounding gay identity in 1970s Britain, and Mercury’s performance can be interpreted as challenging social, cultural, and musical structures in its invocation of gay male desire. In effect, its operatic camp revealed the “queer” imaginary that underpinned Queen’s musical output, the “innuendo” that was not fully acknowledged until 1991 when Mercury confirmed publicly that he had AIDS." Okay, but again, only because she says so and even then only in retrospect.    We can't even agree all these years later that the song relates to homosexuality, so any subliminal challenge to social or cultural mores at the time had to be vanishingly small relative to the other forces shaping these attitudes at the time. Or maybe she's trying to say something else all together.  It's difficult to know where this excerpt is supposed to fit in whatever the larger narrative is supposed to be.

Anyway, I've got to go home and cook things now but I've got a couple more thoughts for later.  There have been some interesting replies.

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Posted: 14 Apr 11, 22:52 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Guess what everybody?  Her analysis just won a Nobel Prize!   

No - just poking fun.  She lost me long before she went down the lane of "phallic drums" ?????????
But seriously ....why do people feel compelled to take this on to the point of becoming extremely academic and clinical about it and writing their dissertations on it?   All this "hang wringing and gnashing of teeth"over (gasp!) THE meaning of the song (at Freddie's expense). It's repellant in a way - just enjoy it.  

Why oh why can't it just be a simple explanation, a simple story?  After all, Freddie wanted to make a key feature of it an Opera section ... so what is Opera? Well, it's tragedy - that's Opera in a nut shell. Heck, the whole album was named A Night at the Opera ... so how about this .... an only son commits a terrible crime, disappoints his immigrant parents - feels real remorse, but it's too late and almost gets stoned to death.  Tragedy? Check.

I think "analysts" have to be watchful and honest with themselves that perhaps they have "pre-formed" their conclusion (the "coming out" song) and then arranged any available evidence laying about to support that conclusion until it seems convincing. I hope most people can see through these contrived attempts.  I say let's gather up all the analysis papers and have a shredding party! Let us take back Bohemian Rhapsody on behalf of Freddie and true fans who care about Queen and their legacy past, present and future. 

Phallic drums????


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Posted: 14 Apr 11, 23:36 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

queenUSA wrote: Guess what everybody?  Her analysis just won a Nobel Prize!   

No - just poking fun.  She lost me long before she went down the lane of "phallic drums" ?????????
But seriously ....why do people feel compelled to take this on to the point of becoming extremely academic and clinical about it and writing their dissertations on it?   All this "hang wringing and gnashing of teeth"over (gasp!) THE meaning of the song (at Freddie's expense). It's repellant in a way - just enjoy it.  

......

Phallic drums????
=================

In this case I suspect from the title of the work that maybe diving into the meaning of the song was more about support for the idea that gay artists and/or sensibilities shape the culture and/or popular music, and Fred's song just happened to get run over by that bus.  I have to read it again tomorrow, but what I was struck by on the first go was how tenuous and arbitrary it seemed.   Then again I'm not really accustomed to reading this kind of material and may be failing to understand something about the goals and typical structure of this type of analysis.

I don't think she's wrong in her basic conclusions as I really do think the song was about that time in Freddie's life, but that will have to wait because I'm falling asleep typing.

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Posted: 15 Apr 11, 01:44 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The song has a meaning, but it's probably more ambiguous than people would like to think when they're writing their long analyses about it.


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Posted: 15 Apr 11, 03:32 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Zebonka12 wrote: The song has a meaning, but it's probably more ambiguous than people would like to think when they're writing their long analyses about it.

Everything has a meaning. I read an 2000 word essay on how the sweat on Marlon Brando's face in the film Julius Caesar (1953) is a signified of battle and war.

The fact is that, your right, this song proberly has more to it than anyone can argue. Cause what kind of analysis of this song has been done...? 

1. Theres the idea (character) killed a person
2. (character) has come out the closet 
3. Religon and Culture
4. ...

if anyone else knows any other topics or analyisis thats been made on the song, please state.

I aint sure if anyone has wrote an analysis on this song using:
Sigmund Freud and pyshco-analyisis
Roland Barthe (Saussure, Peirce etc) and semiotics 

Then again, theres always theatre and cinema approaches to the song.

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Posted: 15 Apr 11, 04:53 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

queenUSA wrote: Guess what everybody?  Her analysis just won a Nobel Prize!   

No - just poking fun.  She lost me long before she went down the lane of "phallic drums" ?????????
But seriously ....why do people feel compelled to take this on to the point of becoming extremely academic and clinical about it and writing their dissertations on it?   All this "hang wringing and gnashing of teeth"over (gasp!) THE meaning of the song (at Freddie's expense). It's repellant in a way - just enjoy it.  

Why oh why can't it just be a simple explanation, a simple story?  After all, Freddie wanted to make a key feature of it an Opera section ... so what is Opera? Well, it's tragedy - that's Opera in a nut shell. Heck, the whole album was named A Night at the Opera ... so how about this .... an only son commits a terrible crime, disappoints his immigrant parents - feels real remorse, but it's too late and almost gets stoned to death.  Tragedy? Check.

I think "analysts" have to be watchful and honest with themselves that perhaps they have "pre-formed" their conclusion (the "coming out" song) and then arranged any available evidence laying about to support that conclusion until it seems convincing. I hope most people can see through these contrived attempts.  I say let's gather up all the analysis papers and have a shredding party! Let us take back Bohemian Rhapsody on behalf of Freddie and true fans who care about Queen and their legacy past, present and future. 

Phallic drums???? ===========================================================================

I agree with you -- a bit. The amount of crappy academic writing I've come across would make you weep.  However, there's a simple rule to life that it's best to follow -- thinking is better than non-thinking, and even a failed attempt at analysis or interpretation (if that's what this is) is better than not thinking about it at all. You've lost me though with your comment "Let us take back Bohemian Rhapsody on behalf of Freddie and true fans who care about Queen and their legacy past, present and future." I've no idea what that means.


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Posted: 15 Apr 11, 07:08 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

What it means is that I grow weary, annoyed and frustrated when I try to enjoy listening to the song for what it is and someone invariably pops up and says "oh isn't that the song that really means that Freddie is .... X, Y, Z?"  Why do I have to address that?  I don't want to go there - not just for Freddie, but also for Brian, Roger and John.  It's their private lives, their private worlds. I respect that it's sacred to them and does not need to be dissected by me, by anyone.  Most comments on you tube videos and performances are positive but you can always depend on "those" voices, like clockwork , to pop up and bring on the sexuality thing again and again.  And then the defending begins and you see the back & forth and the ugliness of it all. Perhaps it would be fascinating to write about that behavior instead.


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Posted: 15 Apr 11, 08:15 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

queenUSA wrote: What it means is that I grow weary, annoyed and frustrated when I try to enjoy listening to the song for what it is and someone invariably pops up and says "oh isn't that the song that really means that Freddie is .... X, Y, Z?"  Why do I have to address that?  I don't want to go there - not just for Freddie, but also for Brian, Roger and John.  It's their private lives, their private worlds. I respect that it's sacred to them and does not need to be dissected by me, by anyone.  Most comments on you tube videos and performances are positive but you can always depend on "those" voices, like clockwork , to pop up and bring on the sexuality thing again and again.  And then the defending begins and you see the back & forth and the ugliness of it all. Perhaps it would be fascinating to write about that behavior instead.
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Is your view of "what it is" the only one you ever want to hear?

It's not their private words and lives, since they published them all, for the world to see, in a very successful song.

YouTube is full of morons. What do you expect from a pig but a grunt. However, there is nothing insulting about the analysis I posted. It's the author's views, some of which are interesting (Mary Austin being mama) and some a bit of a stretch (phallic drums).


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Posted: 15 Apr 11, 10:21 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

As Roger once stated '...well, i think it's pretty obvious what the song is about.'

(does that help? :p)


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Posted: 15 Apr 11, 10:35 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Another search for deeper meaning where's no deeper meaning.

I heard that one critic claims that David Lynch's masterpiece "Blue Velvet" is about the Oedipus complex. But someone's subjective (and wrong) view can't change my own opinion because I can think too.

As well as "Blue Velvet" isn't about Oedipus complex, "Bohemian Rhapsody" ain't about coming out. This is about what you can hear in lyrics, about young killer who will die soon. No need in all these mad interpretations!


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