‘Bohemian Rhapsody’: 40 Years On, Do You Know These Facts? What Is A ‘Scaramouche’?

“Bohemian Rhapsody” – the name of the song takes us back forty years to a time when this song defined pop culture like no other song before it. Queen’s six-minute hit not only defied the norm forty years ago; it still does today, as new generations listen to and enjoy it. In case you have forgotten the glory of the song (although really, who could?), you can catch the video here.

There is no doubt “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a unique song by any generation’s standards. It seems nearly everyone at one time or another has made use of “Bohemian Rhapsody” throughout the years. According to Mashable, everyone from William Shatner to the Muppets, from Weird Al to Kayne West, and from Glee to the Ten Tenors have done their own versions of it. It is even the source of perhaps the most memorable scene from the movie Wayne’s World, starring Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey.

When “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released, was it an instant hit? Not really. It did well in the U.K. right off the mark, sitting at the top of the charts for nine weeks before being bumped by ABBA’s “Mamma Mia,” but it took more than ten years to reach close to the top of the charts in the U.S. Time talked about the song on its anniversary and revealed they originally reported it was nothing special.

“A six-minute cut that mingles introspection with Gilbert and Sullivan operatics.”

Time also talked about the New York Times review in which they made it clear “Bohemian Rhapsody” was not worthy of praise.

“Lyrically, Queen’s songs manage to be pretentious and irrelevant. Musically, for all the virtuosity — though it was cheating a bit to turn over the complex middle portion of their ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ to a taped version, with empty stage and flashing lights — the songs still sound mostly pretty empty, all flash and calculation.”

Apparently, they were all wrong, but it took until the early 1990s, when it was re-released after Freddie Mercury’s death and used in Wayne’s World for a new generation of fans to raise “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the level of fame it truly deserved.

What else about “Bohemian Rhapsody” is not well known? PBS has a list of juicy tidbits. It was originally called “Cowboy Song” and BBC did a special on the song, in which they reveal that Freddie Mercury never explained the meaning of the song to his bandmates.

PBS also revealed that Freddie Mercury wanted “Bohemian Rhapsody” to affect people much like a painting, allowing them to find their own meaning in the music.

The word “scaramouche” is a real word, depicting a 17th century character, known to be dressed in black, and who creates and gets out of tough situations. Also, band member John Deacon never sang on the single. Another gem of information is that it took longer to film the “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene in Wayne’s World than it took to make the original video.

Perhaps one of the most shocking things about the song is that we almost didn’t get to hear it in all its glory, simply because John Reid, manager of EMI, thought the song was too long. He wanted the band to cut the song down. Thank goodness they didn’t do it. Can you imagine “Bohemian Rhapsody” as anything other than what it is?

What did band members have to say about “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Performing Songwriter reports guitarist Brian May said the song was always Freddie’s baby.

“It was really Freddie’s baby from the beginning. He came in and knew exactly what he wanted.”

Hopefully, Freddie would be happy to know “Bohemian Rhapsody” is as popular today as it ever was.

[Photo by Keystone/Getty Images]