When Queen defiantly released their high camp / hard rock magnum opus in 1976 they broke the mould. At 5:55 seconds, with opera sequences and a groundbreaking video clip the British band went against every rule in the book.
Freddie Mercury’s song still sits at the top of critics’ lists and audience favourites, and yet there is no clear unison on what the song is about. This documentary, with Richard E. Grant as narrator, dissects the history, content and appreciation of the song with loving enthusiasm. It has gone to great pains to uncover the people behind the song, making it a ‘must-see’ for any fan of the hit.
Brian May and Roger Taylor return to the makeshift recording studios outside London where they recorded the song. In a farmhouse-turned studio they reminisce in the very buildings that gave birth to the album, A Night At The Opera, some thirty years after the event. May and Taylor can’t resist a jam session in the tiny studio that was home to Bohemian Rhapsody, and Taylor tells us a tale about watching the Marx Brothers film, A Night at the Opera, after a long day’s recording. It was here they settled on the album’s title.
The documentary also chats to band manager John Reid (well-known to Aussie TV viewers as a judge on The X Factor) about Freddie composing the song in his London flat. Mercury’s elderly mother, and sister, reflect on the success of the band with their first number one. And there is recognition of the support from Kenny Everett, then a DJ, who played the song incessantly on his radio show -despite the staggering 5:55min length.
Record producer Roy Thomas Baker plays some of the song’s master track, allowing us to hear individual vocals and instruments. The doco also sees the director of the acclaimed video clip and cameraman reunited and reconstructing the famous silhouette image with a Queen tribute band. Director Bruce Gowers (now a director of American Idol) explains how shooting a camera at a monitor achieved a ‘video feedback’ effect, and there was a special ‘honeycomb’ lens used to create multi-Queen choruses.
We also hear from the director of Wayne’s World about shooting the famous car-scene that gave the song true US success. Finally they have even asked academics to analyse the song’s lyrics. What do they all mean!
May and Taylor add much to this special, while bass guitarist John Deacon remains a recluse to Queen’s contemporary popularity. May also tells of the song’s re-release after the death of Mercury. It went back to #1.
In its original release the song was only knocked from the charts by another Mamma Mia from Abba -a song that Molly Meldrum insisted the band release for Countdown. Both songs now form the basis of two huge stage musicals.
This is a wonderful, meticulous documentary of a stunning piece of art. Don’t miss it.
Note: The author remains unapologetic in this blatant adoration of his most favourite band!