Added on 29-Jun-2012
IT'S one of the most iconic rock anthems in history and remains, to this day, one of the most elaborate recordings ever made.
When it was produced back in the 70s, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody was the most expensive single ever made and was way ahead of its time.
With almost 2.3million singles sold since its release in 1976, Bohemian Rhapsody is the UK's third biggest selling track of all time.
The song, which was written by Freddie Mercury for the band's 1975 album A Night at the Opera, had no chorus but instead consisted of six main parts, an intro, ballad, guitar solo, an operatic passage, hard rock section and outro. But these six parts were stripped down even further and were in fact recorded across 24 separate tracks.
With the modern production equipment available today, that can be done pretty easily but back then things were very different.
Music producer and Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) senior tutor, John Gallen, started his career at London's Roundhouse Recording Studios, where parts of Bohemian Rhapsody recording were made. He was just 17 when he joined the studios as an assistant engineer and one of his first projects was working with the foursome on the famous track.
"Of course then I was just starting out so I didn't really know anything about the technical side of things, I was just there to help out and run errands, like going to buy more champagne, which happened a lot," he said.
"But it was all done on a multitrack tape machine, none of the digital and computer aids you have today."
These days the producer, who has since worked with the likes of ACDC, Motorhead, Boy George and Billy Ocean, is used to top of the range high-tech equipment, like the 24 channel SSL Duality mixing desk, which was installed at ACM at the start of this academic year.
Thought to be the only mixing desk of its kind to be found within an educational establishment in the UK, the £150,000 piece of equipment is used by the academy's music production, sound design and radio broadcasting students.
At first glance the desk looks like a mass of baffling buttons and dials but John soon showed me how it is could be used to break down and remix Bohemian Rhapsody.
Once you see all the different parts of the song set out as individual tracks, you can begin to realise just how difficult it must have been to mix the track more than 30 years ago. Each aspect sounds very different played on it's own compared to how the finished product sounds on the radio.
For example, you would think the four-part harmony intro was sung by each of the band members, Freddie, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon - probably due to the fact that the video for the song has them lip-synching this part. However, it was in fact only Mercury's voice that was used and then recorded onto separate tracks.
You can also hear random voices not meant to be included in the song but were simply covered up by other louder tracks. These days they can just been eradicated digitally.
"Back then reverberation was created by recording in a barn or great hall to create echo but these days that can all be added via the touch of a button, you can add all sorts of effects from what it would sound like being played in a gymnasium to the Taj Mahal," John explained. "The amazing thing [about Bohemian Rhapsody] is that it was all Freddie's idea, no one actually knew what it was going to sound like until we got it in the studio and it was mixed together, it was all in Freddie's head."
When it was first released as a single the song became a commercial success, staying at the top of the UK Singles Chart for nine weeks and selling more than a million copies by the end of January 1976.
It reached number one again in 1991 for five weeks following Mercury's death, eventually becoming the UK's third best selling single of all time.
John added: "Just listening to the track, there's no denying that it was a masterpiece but when you strip it back and realise each bit was recorded separately and then mixed together, it's even more impressive."