Forums > Queen - Serious Discussion > Is this what "Bohemian Rhapsody" is really about?

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John S Stuart user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 01:51 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohemian_Rhapsody

The song has remarkable similarities or references to Albert Camus' existential novel "The Stranger". However, it is not documented that this was done purposely.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stranger_%28novel%29

"The Stranger", also translated as The Outsider, (the original French version is called L'Étranger) (1942) is a novel by Albert Camus.

(Note: Étranger in French has several meanings. One is "foreign", as in exterior to one's country, while another is used to signify a generic person who is unknown to you, similar to "stranger". It could be argued that the title would be better translated as The Foreigner, as the main character is a foreigner, which would be fitting in the context that Meursault was a man of French origins living in Algeria. However, knowing Camus' position in regards to Algeria, it may not mean "foreigner" because the character Meursault is a pied-noir, probably with several generations of family living in Algeria before him. Camus was known to advocate that pied-noirs were as much a citizen of Algeria as the Algerian population.)

The Plot
The novel tells the story of an alienated man, who eventually commits a murder and waits to be executed for it. The book uses an Algerian setting, drawn from Camus' own upbringing.

At the start of the novel, Meursault goes to his mother's funeral, where he does not express any emotions and is basically unaffected by it. The novel continues to document the next few days of his life through the first person point-of-view. In these days, he befriends one of his neighbors, Raymond Sintes. He aids Sintes in getting revenge on a woman he was involved with. Later, the two confront the woman's brother ("the Arab") on a beach and Sintes gets cut in the resulting knife fight. Meursault afterwards goes back to the beach and shoots the Arab five times.

At the trial, the prosecution focuses on the inability or unwillingness of Meursault to cry at his mother's funeral, considered suspect by the authorities. The killing of the Arab apparently is less important than whether Meursault is capable of remorse. The argument follows that if Meursault is incapable of remorse, he should be considered a dangerous misanthrope and subsequently executed to prevent him from doing it again, and by executing, make him an example to those considering murder.

The Background and Philosophy
Albert Camus, like Meursault, was a pied-noir (literally black foot) - a French colonialist who lived in the Maghreb, the northernmost crescent of the Mediterranean Sea, the heart of France's colonies.

Early Christian missionaries accused dark-skinned people of having no morals because they cannot blush, so they are 'unabashed sinners'. Meursault's unwillingness or inability to cry at his mother's funeral could have been interpreted as the societal prejudice of the 'immorality' of people of color.

Usually classed as an existential novel, The Stranger is indeed based on Camus' theory of the absurd. Many readers mistakingly believe that Meursault lives by the ideas of the existentialists. In the first half of the novel, however, Meursault is clearly an unreflecting, unapologetic individual. He is moved only by sensory experiences (recall the funeral procession, swimming at the beach, sexual intercourse with Marie etc). Camus is reinforcing his basic thesis that there is no Truth, only (relative) truths -- and, in particular, truths in science (empiricism/rationality) and religion are ultimately meaningless. Of course, Meursault himself isn't directly aware of any of this -- his awareness of the absurd is subconscious at best; it 'colors' his actions. But Camus' basic point remains: the only *real* things are those that we experience physically. Thus, Meursault kills the Arab because of his response to the glaring sun, which beats down upon him as he moves


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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 04:47 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Its about AIDS. How is that not obvious, it mentions death and Freddie died of it DUH

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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 04:56 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sorry for going off-topic slightly ...

There's another song dealing with Camus' book. It's "Killing an Arab" by "The Cure":

Standing on the beach
With a gun in my hand
Staring at the sky
Staring at the sand
Staring down the barrel
At the arab on the ground
See his open mouth
But I hear no sound

I'm alive
I'm dead
I'm a stranger
Killing an arab

I can turn
And walk away
Or I can fire the gun
Staring at the sky
Staring at the sun
Whichever I choose
It amounts to the same
Absolutely nothing

I'm alive
I'm dead
I'm a stranger
Killing an arab

I feel the silver jump
Smooth in my hand
Staring at the sea
Staring at the sand
Staring at myself
Reflected in the eyes
Of the dead man on the beach
The dead man on the beach

I'm alive
I'm dead
I'm the stranger
Killing an arab

The The Cure song has no deeper meaning, it's just a reminiscence to the story.
IMHO your theory about "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a bit vague.

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Nummer2


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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 05:28 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

thiugh nobody knows what it is about i have a theory.
i think the first section 'is this the real life' is him coming to terms with what he's done. the second part is him teling his mother what he's done. the opera section i believe is him being prosecuted by the courts and by god (beelzebub has a devil put aside for me). the rock part is about his family and freinds forgetting about him.

thats what i think anyway.


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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 05:41 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

EraserHead wrote:

Its about AIDS. How is that not obvious, it mentions death and Freddie died of it DUH

In 1975 there was no AIDS. It was first diagnostized six years later, and the just some doctors knew about it.

I think BR is just a game with words and music. There's no sense. Althougt Camus and existentialism are good points why Freddie thought about those things. At the time it was very influental: Camus, Sartre etc.

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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 05:54 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

That obviously ist the message of the lyrics. But what makes the song so special for me is the way it communicates the different mind conditions or moods (right word?), which change rapidly and in an extreme way. First ("is this the real life...") it's a state of shock, and the protagonist realizes, that he's part of a plot he can't handle – he sort of loses grip. Then he looks for help ("mama...") but sees no way out, driving him into a state of panic ("galileo..."), he's nearly losing his mind. Toward the end there's defiance and depression, resulting in surrendering (right word?) to the situation. I wonder if "gotta get right outta here" and the concluding "anyway the wind blows" could have a suicide meaning.
I don't know, where Freddie had the idea from, but he definitely created a masterpiece of mood-to-music transfer (hope you get the meaning).

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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 06:31 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote


I've read L'etranger and i think that summary was longer than the novel!





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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 07:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Oh Christ! It's NOT about AIDS!!! My interpretation? It's about Freddie finally coming to terms with his sexuality and killing off Farook Bulsara once and for all and at last becoming Freddie Mercury. In the commentary in the "Bo Rap" portion of the Greatest Hits dvd, Brian says that this was a time when Freddie was going through some personal issues meaning that his sexuality was not yet defined. As soon as he was more comfortable with who he was becoming, if you notice, that's when he started wearing the ballet outfits in the late 70's and the leather look on the 78-80 tours. Freddie had FINALLY arrived. But this topic is one of great discussion but this is my view on it. AIDS came around 1981.

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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 10:39 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

freddie mercury:
"I don't read books because they are a waste of time"

Therefore, I'm sure he must have been *really* well acquainted with Camus' work.

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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 11:07 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I actually agree with "gum" on this one, i think it has something to do with becoming freddie.

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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 11:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Freddie didnt read books and AIDS was unknown of in 1975!

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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 11:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Poltergeist & Vinny: Did you read my whole post?
"As Freddie was better read than he would have us believe (consider his plagiarism of Both Richard Dadd and Richard Browning) is it possible that the above explanation could be valid?"

Freddie mercury: "I don't read books because they are a waste of time"

I hate when people use this quote to imply our Fredo was some sort of thick, ignorant yobbo, when in truth, he was very cultured and sophisticated, and despite the above quote, was actually very well read indeed.

Consider this... the use of Robert Browning's "Pied Piper" in "My Fairy King":

http://www.indiana.edu/~librcsd/etext/piper/text.html

238 ``Of all the pleasant sights they see,
239 ``Which the Piper also promised me.
240 ``For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
241 ``Joining the town and just at hand,
242 ``Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
243 ``And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
244 ``And everything was strange and new;
245 ``The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
246 ``And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
247 ``And honey-bees had lost their stings,
248 ``And horses were born with eagles' wings;
249 ``And just as I became assured
250 ``My lame foot would be speedily cured,
251 ``The music stopped and I stood still,
252 ``And found myself outside the hill,
253 ``Left alone against my will,
254 ``To go now limping as before,
255 ``And never hear of that country more!''

There is also, when I get around to finding it, an essay on "The Fairy Feller...", which Freddie quotes from quite liberally, during the Queen version. (I will post it here when I find it). This was a standard art-school text at the time, so it is not that surprising.

In the Catholic apocrypha - Jesus is portrayed as a hunchback (that is why he refers to a physician healing oneself) and the line "Mad The Swine", is actually used to describe him.

I think these episodes demonstrate that Frddie not only read (perhaps he did not read as much in later life?), but that he had a mind like a sponge, and that he was very gifted at translating writtten "inspiration" to fit with his own musical styles. (Particularly in his earlier days).

In esssence, I consider myself well-read, but, I must confess, that I would not have known about any of the above references WITHOUT Freddie. Therefore, how could Freddie know about these - if he himself was as poorly read as he claimed to be?

By the way, I am not advancing any theory, other than perhaps I found the "Stranger" link to "Bo Rhap" very interesting - and I thought I could share it here so I would read the feedback of others!


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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 11:33 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

chewing gum bum wrote:

Oh Christ! It's NOT about AIDS!!! My interpretation? It's about Freddie finally coming to terms with his sexuality and killing off Farook Bulsara once and for all and at last becoming Freddie Mercury. In the commentary in the "Bo Rap" portion of the Greatest Hits dvd, Brian says that this was a time when Freddie was going through some personal issues meaning that his sexuality was not yet defined. As soon as he was more comfortable with who he was becoming, if you notice, that's when he started wearing the ballet outfits in the late 70's and the leather look on the 78-80 tours. Freddie had FINALLY arrived. But this topic is one of great discussion but this is my view on it. AIDS came around 1981.


Totally agree and some of Freddie's friends, I believe either Peter or Jim Hutton said so as well.

If you listen to the lyrics, almost every one preety clearly is a thinly veiled metaphor for Freddie discussing his ''self discovery'' and sexual identity,...''what would his mother say, God think,'' etc. pretty easy to dicipher.


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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 12:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Okay, I'll try a detailed interpretation (in bad English, sorry for that):

A young bohemian, instable by any means (morally, financially, ideologically...) ["easy come, easy go"..."doesn't really matter"], grows up under the protection of his mother, who is the only really stable point in his life. She's the person he can turn to ["mama ... if I'm not back again this time"] and trust when something's gone wrong [detailed cofession "just killed a man ..."]. She provides him with her mother love and protection against all evil that haunts him, in case he appeals to her compassion ["i'm just a poor boy"].

But this time the young dude has gone too far, one of his adventures (a woman? an insult?) ended with a situation that he could only get out of by shooting someone. At first it's just like the rest of his life – a game, a fantasy – but soon it rushes on him like a "landslide": he's arrested, accused, sentenced to death. At last he realizes what had happened ["no escape from reality"]. And he reacts in a different way than before when he seeked his mother's shelter: he admits his guilt and understands it as a direct effect of his lifestyle ["i need no sympathy, because ..."].

At first he sees his mother, who always was there for him, as the main victim in his case. His emotionless description of what happened shows, that the crime itself "doesn't really matter" to him, but to hurt his mother really brings him down. His advice to go on "as if nothing really matters" is a mirror of his lifestyle. He combines his confession with a last hopeless attempt to get his mother's compassion by telling her about his fears ["sends shivers down my spine"]. But this time there's no consolation. He's despaired.

And then panic rises. He's arrested in a dark cold cell, day, weeks, months, and awaits his doom. He's going mad and starts seeing things ["I see a little silhouetto..."], noise and light frighten him (maybe it's a dark cell and only once in a while the door opens when they bring food – the light is blinding then) and he has crazy dreams. I imagine him screaming out his anger and his fear, crying for compassion ["I'm just a poor boy etc. ..."] and the fact of being condemned is so big for him, that it becomes a godly verdict ["Bismillah!" ... "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me..."]. After a last uprising of some obstinate powers ["so you think you can ..."] he accepts his fate and falls to pieces. At the end he comforts himself by recalling his former bohemian attidude ["nothing really matters..."]. The gong at the end symbolizes his quiet, almost unheard death. The wind goes on blowing without him existing anymore – and nobody really cares.

IMO the lyrics are fictional and just serve as a perfect basis for the emotional changes in the music. They dont have a direct connection to Freddie himself, why should he see his sexual or emotional change so negatively and so dramatic?

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Nummer2



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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 13:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

chewing gum bum wrote:

Oh Christ! It's NOT about AIDS!!! My interpretation? It's about Freddie finally coming to terms with his sexuality and killing off Farook Bulsara once and for all and at last becoming Freddie Mercury. In the commentary in the "Bo Rap" portion of the Greatest Hits dvd, Brian says that this was a time when Freddie was going through some personal issues meaning that his sexuality was not yet defined. As soon as he was more comfortable with who he was becoming, if you notice, that's when he started wearing the ballet outfits in the late 70's and the leather look on the 78-80 tours. Freddie had FINALLY arrived. But this topic is one of great discussion but this is my view on it. AIDS came around 1981.


I also now agree with this theory, although for some time, I did go with the 'man on death row' analagy, but that somehow seems too obvious, especially now that we know that Freddie kept the true meaning a 'secret', only rumoured to have been shared with Roger. It's about Freddie's struggle with his sexuality and the religious implications of it.

I also believe that Somebody To Love was written by Freddie with much the same thoughts in mind as BR, only, by this time, he has accepted his sexuality, but is agonising over possibly never really finding true love, as a gay man. He's asking for release from his 'prison cell'. Does this mean that although he knew he was gay, he wasn't comfortable with it at that time? The fact that he clung onto his relationship with Mary, might suggest that he was never truly happy about being gay, and longed for a man / woman relationship he knew he could never truly fulfill.


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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 13:50 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

chewing gum bum wrote:

Oh Christ! It's NOT about AIDS!!! My interpretation? It's about Freddie finally coming to terms with his sexuality and killing off Farook Bulsara once and for all and at last becoming Freddie Mercury. In the commentary in the "Bo Rap" portion of the Greatest Hits dvd, Brian says that this was a time when Freddie was going through some personal issues meaning that his sexuality was not yet defined. As soon as he was more comfortable with who he was becoming, if you notice, that's when he started wearing the ballet outfits in the late 70's and the leather look on the 78-80 tours. Freddie had FINALLY arrived. But this topic is one of great discussion but this is my view on it. AIDS came around 1981.



I totally agree with you there, i always thought it was that, Brian did say that which helped me relise its more true then i was guessing, hes was becoming Freddie Mercury reinventing himself if you like, OUR SHOWMAN!


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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 14:09 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I;m torn between the theories of sexuality and the novel. The novel seems more likely, looking at the correlation.

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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 14:12 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Only Roger Taylor Knows apparently, its obvious its about Freddie coming to terms with his sexuality


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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 14:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Well. Roger said something like "it was pretty obvious, when you think about it". So that could be hinting towards sexuality, or he could just be saying "if you've read the novel, you'll notice the correlation.." lol

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Posted: 07 Sep 05, 15:01 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I also thought BoRhap is about the personality thing.

"My Fairy King" belongs into this category of songs as well, as it introduces the concept of "mother mercury" (a virtual mother that justifies the existence of protagonist Mercury) and as it also consists of quite different building blocks, musically. The song uses rather complex voices, like in an outlook on things to come.
"Don't stop me now" (Mr. Fahrenheit) indicates that personality issues have been resolved, and Queen play I quite different kind of music in the 80s.
Did FM write the song Innuendo, too? It seems to me that it takes up the personality problem topic once more (after a long introduction), but this time after the "secret" had been revealed and when the tragic hero is looking for salvation on a different level. He is more emancipated now and brings to attention bigger crimes of mankind than unapproved ego trips.

I somehow doubt that FM wanted to deliver a deeper message to the audience but I could imagine that elaborating on this personality issue was a good basis for more complex songwriting.