One of Queen’s most iconic songs is Bohemian Rhapsody. Mother Mercury tries to be the most authentic Queen tribute band. We play all their biggest hits live. No two ways about it; this song had to be included. It proved to be a real challenge, because of its intricate structure and the vocal parts in the middle section though. It soon became clear we had to develop an adaptation of the Bohemian Rhapsody score. Otherwise we would not be able to perform this song live with only four singers.
Writing A Classic
Freddie Mercury is the sole composer of Bohemian Rhapsody. He once told there were originaly three songs. Eventually, he put them together into one musical piece. Some parts of it go back to the end of the 1960’s. The ballad section, for instance, was first called ‘the cowboy song’. This originated from the “wild west” feel in the lyrics “mama, just killed a man”
Freddie already had the whole song in his head when he presented it to the band. According to Brian May, Freddie entered the room with a pile of papers. “He played the piano like most people would play the drums. He played us something with gaps in it. Then he shouted there would be something operatic on those spots”, May recalls.
Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded in three different sections. The beginning, middle and ending were recorded separately and then joined together in a later stage. There was a total of 180 separate tracks that were recorded and merged together.
Here’s one fun fact you didn’t read in our blog “10 Queen facts you didn’t know“. The piano used in this recording is the same instrument you hear on “Hey Jude” by The Beatles.
Bohemian Rhapsody, not an instant succes
Bohemian Rhapsody was released on October 31, 1975. This was 20 days prior to the release of the album ‘A Night At The Opera’ by EMI Records.
Roy Featherstone was working for EMI at that time. He was a massive Queen fan. Yet he thought the song was too long to become a single.
“Are you mad?! You’ll never get this on the radio!” This was Elton John’s reaction, when Queen’s manager played him the song. Also according to Elton, “the song was way too long”.
The inital succes is largely due to radio DJ Kenny Everett. He continuously played fragments of the song on his show, making people curious. Ultimately, his listeners demanded to hear the song in full.
Bohemian Rhapsod live: the real challenge
The song became a succes. But it proved a real challenge to play live. In the studio, all vocal parts were recorded separately and multiple times by Mercury, May and Taylor. Through this, you get the impression that you’re hearing a large choir. That was also the main reason it was impossible to play the ‘operatic section’ live.
At first, queen solved this by playing parts of the song in a medley. They cut the vocal intro. The ‘operatic section’ and the hardrock part were replaced with ‘Killer Queen’ and ‘The March of the Black Queen’. After these two songs, they returned to the coda of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. You can check out this version here.
The song soon became too famous. Therefore, Queen had to play a more complete version of it at live performances.
The vocal intro remained omitted and the ‘operatic section’ was played on tape. During this part, the band would leave the stage. An enormous smoke and light show took over, sometimes complemented by projections of the original video clip. The band kicked back in with the hardrock part of the song.
Mother Mercury's approach
Queen was ‘allowed’ do it like this. They had the budget to get this done and they could design their own stages.
As a tribute band, we play all sorts of stages. Subsequently, we don’t control lighting, stage setup and video projections.
In reality, it means we’d sometimes be visible, standing on the edges of a small stage. Other times there would be no light show. These prospects didn’t appeal to us.
So we took on the challenge to perform the song live in its entirety and we made our own adaption of the Bohemian Rhapsody score.
Changing the Original
Mother Mercury has four singers. The ‘operatic section’ is often comprised of many vocals. Therefore we were forced to make an adaptation of the original Bohemian Rhapsody score. The result is a reduction we can perform live using only four singers. You can listen to our version down below.