Brian May Recalls Queen’s Battle With The Record Company Over Their Biggest Hit
The first song that comes to mind when most music lovers think of Queen is certainly their best-seller ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ from ‘A Night at the Opera.’ The classic song has become one of the most iconic tunes in rock music with its extraordinary arrangement, perfect melody, and intriguing lyrics. Yet, those were not enough for the band to play the single on the radio in the first place, as Brian May recently told the Guardian.
“‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was clearly a very important song for Freddie about transformation,” May said, referring to the song’s significance to the late Queen singer. The musician reflected, “It wasn’t unusual for him to come in with various sections of something he’d been working on and tinkle on the piano. When we put it all together, the record company said, ‘We can’t get a six-minute single on the radio.’”
So, even though the record company wasn’t in favor of releasing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in its original form, Queen rejected removing any parts. Brian May explained, “We refused to edit it. We had a sort of launch before it was mixed. Kenny Everett stole a rough cut and played it on the radio, and it turned out it was radio-friendly because it got everyone’s attention.”
The guitarist continued, “We hadn’t liked doing Top of The Pops because they made you mime on podiums, so in three hours, we made the video which became a huge talking point. We’d just reached number 2 with Killer Queen, so took the chance that if Bohemian got to number 1, they’d have to show it.”
“The single spent nine weeks at number 1, and there was such a celebratory feeling our manager made us lovely gold plaques. After Freddie’s passing, it was the Christmas number 1 for a second time, raising £1m for the Terence Higgins Trust,” added May, referring to the 1991 rerelease of their biggest hit. The guitarist noted, “Young people think it’s always been there, like Beethoven or [Elgar’s] Pomp and Circumstance. Freddie would have loved that.”
Besides its catching melody, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ has also stood out with its mysterious lyrics, which are pretty open to different interpretations. Yet, Freddie Mercury, the creator of the classic piece, never disclosed the real meaning behind the song since he wanted listeners to derive their own meanings from it.