Mama Mia! The Continuing History of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’
In the years since "Bohemian Rhapsody"'s release in October 1975, Queen's masterpiece continues to grow in stature and cultural impact.
We've collected the best "Bohemian Rhapsody" stories – movie scenes, commercials, beer brands and musical tributes to both the song and its iconic video that range from inspired to insane. Mama Mia, indeed!
Leave it to the Muppets' house band, better known as Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, to find new wrinkles inside this classic song. On their version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," Gonzo's loneliness is laid bare as he sings – backed by a chorus of chickens, of course. It only gets better from there. Animal ends up hilariously getting stuck on "Mama," but our favorite part will always be Beaker's surprise appearance.
'Wayne's World' Without Queen? Almost!
Sometimes, artists have to fight with their financiers to keep their artistic visions intact. Such was the case with actor Mike Myers when the studio backing Wayne's World wanted to nix Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" for the film's famous opening scene in favor of a Guns N' Roses song. GNR was huge at the time, and Queen was not. But Myers put his foot down, and pop culture is now richer for it.
Brian May's World! Brian May's World!
It's a time-honored tradition among Queen fans: Completely rocking out in your car to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," as documented in the movie Wayne's World. Guitarist Brian May admitted that he and his bandmates would often listen to their own tracks in the car and "bounce energetically" to them, much like in the movie. May did say, however, that he's too old for air guitar now.
The Story Behind the Song
The sessions that produced Queen's epic "Bohemian Rhapsody" have taken on their own legendary status. What started as an ambitious idea in the head of singer Freddie Mercury became one of rock and roll's most iconic songs. But it wasn't easy. Together, Queen spent as much time arranging, re-arranging, adding, subtracting, and adding some more to “Bohemian Rhapsody” as most bands of the time spent on entire albums. The initial multi-tracked a capella choir was followed by a solo from Brian May, a minute-long opera section, a heavy metal passage and finally, a reprise of the core melody.
William Shatner Beams Up a New Take
Sci-fi actor William Shatner took "Bohemian Rhapsody" to the final frontier in 2011, covering this Queen classic for his album Seeking Major Tom. As funny as it might sound – from his first halting query ("Is this — the real life?") to the last completely weird whispers ("Any way the wind blows") – Shatner certainly was serious about his backing band. John Wetton of King Crimson and Asia fame contributed on this song, while members of Yes, Deep Purple and the Allman Brothers Band appeared elsewhere.
Elton and Axl Join In
Elton John began this emotional performance of "Bohemian Rhapsody" during 1992's Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, followed by a pre-recorded mid-section. Things catch fire, however, when Axl Rose bursts onto the stage to sing the very rocking second half. Rose's energy lends an added urgency, before he and Elton close out things arm-in-arm.
If you're interested in finding fame and adoration from millions of people, the Internet's got you covered. You just need a shtick. These three Australian ladies, known collectively as Sketchshe, found success with a cheeky, sexy update of the Wayne's World version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Kanye West Leads a 'Bohemian' Singalong
Like just about everything he touches, Kanye West's headlining appearance at the 2015 Glastonbury Festival was beset by controversy, with 130,000 people signing a petition demanding that his performance be canceled. Perhaps in an effort to extend an olive branch to the unhappy rock fans in the audience, West added an abbreviated version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" to his set. The crowd immediately took over the lion's share of the vocals. But as you'll see in the next clip, not everybody was impressed with West's half-spoken, half-just-standing-there performance...
Freddie "Responds" to Kanye
After Kanye West's half-baked 2015 cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," a fan decided to help us all imagine the reaction of late singer Freddie Mercury in a cleverly edited video. Kanye can rap, for sure. But his karaoke skills are lacking. Fear not. Even all these years later, Mr. Mercury can still show everyone how it's properly done.
May the 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Be With You
Fans of Queen and fans of Star Wars may, in fact, intersect – but never so closely as this. A 2013 mashup took some of the most familiar lines from the George Lucas films, and a few of the key scenes, then put them to the tune of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." It's all made complete with the above clip featuring in-costume characters from a galaxy far, far away. Favorite updated lyric: “Jabba / Just captured Han / Took him down without a fight / Now he’s frozen Carbonite.”
The Most Arresting Cover of 'Bohemian' Ever
An (allegedly) intoxicated man arrested somewhere in Canada got nowhere during his initial argument with the authorities in 2011 – so, what was left to do but drown his sorrows with Queen? First, he invoked the so-called “brotherhood of men on the planet Earth” in an effort to get out of jail. Then, failing that, he launched into a rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" that set the internet aflame. Our bearded friend even adds some percussion near the end for good measure.
60,000 Green Day Fans Can't Be Wrong
Many of your more elitist music snobs believe that something loses its coolness once the masses begin to enjoy it. However, 60,000 Green Day fans proved them wrong before one of the band's shows. Listen as they join in on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" at Emirates Stadium in 2013. Everyone there knew the words, and the song still remains awesome. Take that, hipsters.
Blue Oyster Cult Guitarist Does 'Bohemian' Solo
Blue Oyster Cult guitarist Richie Castellano took everything upon himself for a 2011 take on "Bohemian Rhapsody," performing all of the voices – including the multi-layered opera section – as well as all of the instruments. Castellano, who has also played bass and keyboards for Blue Oyster Cult since joining them in 2004, manages a very close match to Brian May's legendarily unique tone, too. Apparently on a very long break with his main group, he even reconstructed the Queen video's most famous scene.
A Carload of Kids Make 'Bohemian' Very Cute
A video of a father and his three children belting out Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" became a viral hit in 2012, elevating something the dad said had become a morning ritual for the family into a pop-culture phenomenon. "Depending on traffic," he said, "we can usually start the song as we pull out of the driveway, and pull into the school just as the song ends." Along the way, you'll notice the littlest one even throws up the devil horns. Magnifico!
Raise a Toast with Bohemian Lager
Rock and roll pairs well with a nice beer. Ask RnR Brew Ltd., who worked with the band to create a tasty beverage made to complement the rock opus "Bohemian Rhapsody." Called Bohemian Lager, it's made in Pilzen, within the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. Never fear, though, it's available for sale far and wide. You still have time to run to the store. We'll wait.
'Bohemian' Tryout Fails Spectacularly on 'American Idol'
Steven Thoen attempted to launch a singing career by taking on "Bohemian Rhapsody" during a 2010 tryout for American Idol. Known by the nickname "Red," he even claimed to be as good as Freddie Mercury. Thoen's ear-piercing, sometimes faltering falsetto, however, sent the judges into hysterics. Afterward, Thoen suggested that he suffered only from lack of coaching, asking judge Simon Cowell to step in. Cowell demurred, saying it would be like coaching a one-legged man to win the 100-yard sprint.
The Best 'Bohemian' Commercial Yet
At first, it was like any other advertisement for a high-end hotel. But then, slowly but surely, it became clear that the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was going to do something very cool with "Bohemian Rhapsody." The song lyrics are used as dialogue between characters in the ad, which premiered in 2012. That is, until the principal character hits a falsetto note on a key line. Then the spoken word dialogue transforms into Queen's familiar musical climax. The name of the spot? "Let Me Go," of course.
Jack Black's Destructive 'Rhapsody'
Jack Black went all out for a 2012 concert rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" with the Protomen, accidentially dismantling his microphone stand along the way. The group, inspired by the Mega Man video-game franchise, brought Black on stage for a Nashville concert not long after releasing a tribute project called Present: A Night of Queen. Black, meanwhile, has been known to cover Queen himself with his band Tenacious D.
Beyonce's Not-So-Nice 'Bohemian'
You could say Queen Bey struggled some with Queen on this night. Pop superstar Beyonce's 2011 performance at Nice, France, had no small amount of soul, but lacked a bit of lyrical consistency. She completely missed the line "Any way the wind blows," and sang "put a bullet to his head" instead of "put a gun against his head." Still, it was cool the way Beyonce weaved "Bohemian Rhapsody" into a medley with Prince's "The Beautiful Ones" and Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire."
The First Live Performance
In 1975, Queen recorded the final show of their tour in support of A Night at the Opera, the same evening where they debuted "Bohemian Rhapsody," but never released it. Fans have been passing around bootlegs of the recording ever since. Time for an upgrade: Queen have announced that A Night at the Odeon: Hammersmith 1975 – featuring the performance, along with a few extras – is now in record stores.
A Most Literal 'Rhapsody'
One fan boiled "Bohemian Rhapsody" down to its most literal level, creating a five-minute film based on the song's lyrics. Appropriately titled "Literal Bohemian Rhapsody," the short chronicles every detail frontman Freddie Mercury packed into the Queen hit as a gritty crime noir.
In honor of "Bohemian Rhapsody"'s 40th anniversary in 2015, the English National Ballet performed an interpretive dance to the Queen classic. “‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ means a lot to me. I guess it was the start of my dancing career. To be asked to choreograph it was amazing,” English National Ballet soloist James Streeter said at the time.
Panic! At the Disco
Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" played a big part of the promotional campaign for 2016's Suicide Squad, one of Warner Brothers' DC Comics adaptations. A cover of the song by Panic! At the Disco helped round out its soundtrack of pop and hip-hop tracks.
Queen Join the Suicide Squad
With all of its use in commercials, films and viral videos, it's a wonder the world isn't sick of "Bohemian Rhapsody" yet. But In early 2016, Warner Bros. set their trailer for the DC Comics adaptation Suicide Squad to Queen's classic hit, and managed to still electrify audiences with the two-and-a-half minute preview.
Scaramucci Sets Off Google-Mania
The summer of 2017 briefly had the country googling the lyrics to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" for political reasons — namely, Donald Trump's appointee for White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. The man's surname had people thinking of the word "scaramouch," and wondering if he'd do the fandango.
Siri Does the Fandango
When the Trump Administration's short-lived communications director Anthony Scaramucci was appointed, his surname reminded millions of Americans of a single word from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody": "scaramouch." So began a frenzy of people looking up the song's lyrics, which led to the discovery that Siri, the iPhone's voice-activated personal assistant, will actually chime in and "sing" the song when fed some initial lyrics. Try it!
A 2-year-old named Millie seems to be the queen of her family, dictating who can — and who cannot — sing along with her to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." The "can" list is short: no one. You can check out the one-toddler show, which takes place in a car seat.