On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
A brief stay in Jamaica yesterday, dear reader, and today we’re heading back on a long flight to the UK. Once landed, we’re staying in London and find ourselves in the company of a very famous rock quartet by the name of Queen. Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor emerged in the 1970s, made a comeback of sorts in the 1980s and to this day are considered one of the greats. Unsurprisingly, 1001 Songs have selected one of Queen’s biggest hits for our consideration – Bohemian Rhapsody.
Written by Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody is a suite of music incorporating a ballad, opera and hard rock in one bizarre but ingenious combination. The song opens with group vocals before switching to a piano ballad with Mercury singing to his mother and lamenting killing a man. Just when we’re taking in this sombre piece, the song gathers pace and becomes rockier before leaping into a brief guitar solo. After the guitar work we find ourselves switching to an operatic segment with the group providing the vocals together which are made up of some peculiar lyrics such as “bismillah”. One might be wondering what the hell is happening but Queen steer us through the opera singing anyway before hurling us into a piece of pure hard rock that led to some famous head banging in the 1992 film, Wayne’s World. In this part, Mercury is resilient and seemingly singing to a lover or former lover before the music quietens and we return once again to a piano ballad. Mercury closes out the song by telling us that “nothing really matters to me”. The song then dissipates into silence, a stark contrast to the sheer pandemonium we have partaken of.
In the UK you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not heard Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s great to see reaction videos on YouTube to the song and how amazed vloggers are when they first take in both the song and the innovative music video that was made for it. Lyrically, the song remains an ambiguous one but it is a formidable achievement and even more remarkable that Freddie Mercury put this one together himself with the rest of the group helping to bring his vision to life in the studio. The song topped the UK charts for 9 weeks in 1975 and would do so again 16 years in 1991 just weeks after Freddie Mercury sadly died, aged 46, from complications resulting from AIDs. His legacy lives on and Bohemian Rhapsody is but one chapter in what was an amazing career for both Mercury and for Queen.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Patti Smith Group – Piss Factory (1974)
Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us (1974)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)