At the recent Q Magazine Awards in London, Queen was presented with the Classic Song Award, marking the 40th anniversary of “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was originally released Oct. 31, 1975.
To mark the occasion for Black Friday Record Store Day, the song will be re-released as a 12" limited edition vinyl record, with the original B-side “I’m In Love With My Car,” on Nov. 27.
A week before, on November 20, the band will release Queen: A Night at the Odeon, Live at Hammersmith '75 in CD, 2LP and Super Deluxe Box Set formats on Hollywood Records and on DVD, SD Blu-Ray through Eagle Rock Entertainment.
This show was the culmination of the 26-date Queen Invite You To A Night At The Opera UK tour, the first tour in which the band had ever performed “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Spirits were high within the band for the gig. “Bohemian Rhapsody” - universally hailed as one of the most ground-breaking ‘pop’ songs ever released – was in the middle of its record-breaking nine week run at #1 in the UK charts. Their fourth album, A Night At The Opera (the most expensive record ever made to that point) was climbing the album charts on its way to number one, which it achieved three days after this concert.
With over 100 million streams globally on Spotify, over 171 million video views, and 6.5 million copies sold worldwide, “Bohemian Rhapsody" is one of the world’s most well-known and well-loved songs. To this day, it continues to top ‘favorite song’ opinion polls and be discovered by new generations of music fans over and over again. Freddie wrote the whole song – including the composite harmonies – on telephone books and scraps of paper.
“That was a great moment, but the biggest thrill for us was actually creating the music in the first place," Brian May has recalled about recording “Bohemian Rhapsody."
"I remember Freddie coming in with loads of bits of paper from his dad's work, like Post-it notes, and pounding on the piano. He played the piano like most people play the drums. And this song he had was full of gaps where he explained that something operatic would happen here and so on. He'd worked out the harmonies in his head."
Queen spent days overdubbing the vocals in the studio using a 24 track tape machine. By the time they were done, about 120 vocal tracks were layered together. The opera parts alone took longer than 70 hours to complete.
At the time, it was the most expensive single ever made and upon presenting it to their record label, they were told by various executives that 5 minutes 55 seconds was too long and the song would never be a hit. But after the song was played 14 times in two days by DJ and friend of Freddie’s, Kenny Everett, it was destined to be a hit. Hordes of fans attempted to buy the single only to be told by record stores that it had not yet been released. Here in the US, it was the same. American radio RKO managed to get a copy of the tape and started to play it across their stations, which forced the hand of Queen's US label to release the song in its entirety.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” was Queen's first ever #1 single and the 1975 UK Christmas #1, holding the top position for nine weeks. It is the first song ever to get to number one in the UK twice with the same version. The second was upon its re-release (as a double A-side single with “These Are the Days of Our Lives”) in 1991 following Mercury's death, staying at number one for five weeks, eventually becoming the UK's third best-selling single of all time. In the U.S., in 1976, the song hit #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, and in 1992 it hit #2 on the same chart.
The single has been covered by Kanye West, Axl Rose, Elton John, Pink, The Flaming Lips and others. It was forever immortalized again by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in the hit 1990 film Wayne's World.