Inside the Rhapsody: A Short Documentary on the Making of Queen’s Classic Song, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (2002)

“Bohemi­an Rhap­sody” by Queen is one of the most auda­cious pop songs ever made. Part bal­lad, part opera, part heavy met­al orgasm, the song has six dis­tinct sec­tions and took over a month to record.  At just under six min­utes, “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody” was con­sid­ered too long for pop radio. “The record com­pa­ny, in their infi­nite igno­rance, of course imme­di­ate­ly sug­gest­ed that we cut it down,” said Queen drum­mer Roger Tay­lor, who stood by his band­mates and refused to let the song be cut. “It real­ly was hit or miss. It was either going to be mas­sive or it was going to be noth­ing.”

“Bohemi­an Rhap­sody,” of course, went on to become one of the most pop­u­lar songs in music his­to­ry. It spent nine weeks at num­ber one in the UK fol­low­ing its release in the fall of 1975, and went back to num­ber one after the death of singer Fred­die Mer­cury in 1991. In Amer­i­ca the song peaked at num­ber nine in 1976 and re-entered the charts at num­ber two in 1992, when it was fea­tured in the movie Wayne’s World. Last year, an ITV poll in Great Britain list­ed “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody” as “The Nation’s Favorite Num­ber One” song in 60 years of music.

Above, in the 3‑part mini doc­u­men­tary Inside the Rhap­sody, Queen takes you inside the mak­ing of the song. And, along the way, gui­tarist Bri­an May goes back to the mix­ing board to explain the com­plex­i­ty of lay­ers that went into real­iz­ing Mer­cury’s vision for the song. The orig­i­nal 24-track ana­logue record­ing sys­tem was far too lim­it­ed, so the band used the ping-pong tech­nique to “bounce” lit­er­al­ly hun­dreds of over­dubs into the mix. May explains how the oper­at­ic vocal lay­ers were inspired by the “cas­cad­ing strings” effect made famous by Annun­zio Pao­lo Man­to­vani, a tech­nique May first tried out in 1974 with the gui­tar solo on “Killer Queen.”

For more on the mak­ing of “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody,” please see our post, “Lis­ten to Fred­die Mer­cury’s Won­drous Piano and Vocal Tracks for ‘Bohemi­an Rhap­sody’ (1975).” And for a reminder of how it all came togeth­er, here’s the offi­cial video:

Inside the Rhap­sody has been added to our col­lec­tion, 285 Free Doc­u­men­taries Online.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Fred­die Mer­cury at Live Aid

Queen Doc­u­men­tary Pays Trib­ute to the Rock Band That Con­quered the World

Lis­ten to Fred­die Mer­cury and David Bowie on the Iso­lat­ed Vocal Track for the Queen Hit ‘Under Pres­sure,’ 1981

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