Bohemian Rhapsody, a film about the life of rock legend Freddie Mercury, and his band, Queen, hits theaters soon. Before you see that eye-opener about the group’s impact on music, check out these unbelievable but true facts about Mercury and Queen.
In 1978, Queen released the hit single “Bicycle Race” and filmed a video for the song at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium in London. The main image of that video: 65 female models, hired for the day, riding bicycles around the stadium’s track, in the nude. The biggest expense for Queen, apart from renting the arena, was all those bikes. A bike company agreed to loan out 65 two-wheelers, but when it found out they’d be used by naked people, it made Queen purchase and provide their own bicycle seats.
On Halloween 1975, Queen released what would go on to become its most famous and enduring song: the operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Mercury helped layer more than 180 different vocal tracks onto the recording. When it was finally done(after many arduous days of recording), the band’s guitarist, Brian May held up the master tape to a light and discovered that it was so worn out that it had grown transparent.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” topped the charts in the U.K. and reached the top 10 in the U.S., but it almost inexplicably became a bigger hit in 1992. It was the centerpiece of a scene in the hit comedy Wayne’s World, in which metalheads Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) headbang to the song in a car. It hit #2 in the U.S. that time, and to think that it almost didn’t make it into the movie. Myers co-wrote the movie, and was so devoted to having “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the scene he wanted it in, that he threatened to quit the movie if producers had their way, and replaced the tune with a Guns n’ Roses song.
Will you do the Fandango?
Still, it’s a weird, cryptic song with lines like “Bismillah, no! We will not let you go!” and “Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango?” Not until 2000 (years after Mercury’s death) was the song explained. It’s about a murderer who sells his soul to the devil.
Memorable bass line
Another of Queen’s most songs is “Under Pressure,” its 1981 collaboration with David Bowie. It’s driven by a simple but memorable bass line courtesy of the group’s bassist, John Deacon. He was messing around on his instrument in the studio one day and came up with it, but then after the band went out for pizza and returned…he’d forgotten the riff entirely. A few hours of experimentation later, and Queen drummer Roger Taylor pieced the riff back together from memory.
Freddie Mercury loved cats. He owned as many as 10 in the mid-‘80s, to which he dedicated his first solo album, Mr. Bad Guy (1985). In the liner notes he called out “my cat Jerry, also Tom, Oscar, and Tiffany, and all the cat lovers across the universe.”