Music

Why, 43 years on, 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is probably the best song ever written

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Dave Fawbert
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Happy birthday to six minutes of pure genius

So, happy 43rd birthday to Bohemian Rhapsody

We all know it, we’ve all heard it a million times, we even might think we’re a bit bored of it. 

But take this opportunity to press play on the video below and remind yourself that, objectively speaking, it’s probably the greatest song ever written. 

Why?

Here’s a list: one millisecond in, you know what it is; the vocal layering and harmonies (no autotune here guys); the use of the stereo field; the dynamics; the lyrics. And that’s just the first 55 seconds.

After that? The stark beauty of the ballad section, Brian May’s elegiac solo which follows, the utter, utter inventive craziness of the opera section, the Wayne’s World-making hard rock section and the beautiful coda.

How the hell did one man write this song? How on earth did they record it? 

Well, it took three weeks, in four different studios, with some sections having 180 overdubs. 

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Any one of its six sections could have been a hit in its own right. 

Quite simply, this is the work of a genius, performed by four incredible musicians. And people said it would never be a hit as it was too long. 

Don’t take it for granted: put it on, be reminded of its brilliance and raise a toast to Freddie and the boys.

Oh, and it also enabled one of the greatest musician tête-à-têtes in history, when The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious, upon encountering Freddie Mercury, sneered: “Still bringing ballet to the masses, Freddie?”

To which Mr Mercury replied: “Aah, Mr Ferocious. How lovely to meet you…”

It’s still played at club nights, it’s still played at weddings and no one has ever really matched it for ambition and scope within six minutes that fly by in a flurry of brilliance. Truly, a gift from the heavens: thank you Freddie.

For fans of: Pretty much every style of music

In three words: Probably the greatest

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com acting editor Dave is famous for electropop, power ballads and urban snake wrangling.

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