10 Apr 2010

Bohemian Rhapsody

Just yesterday morning, a school choir from I-forgot-the-place-but-it-has-St-Andrew's-in-it came to our school to perform a few songs in our atrium. The one that has a very tall ceiling. The one that disperses sound until its quality gets reduced significantly. The one that allows other sounds from outside(e.g. students playing, laughing) to leak in and further ruin the performance. Nevertheless, it was still a great performance. They even proved their flexibility by singing songs from different genres and styles, like Christian songs, old pop songs, barbershop etc.

One thing that was quite unique was their rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. They stuck as close as possible to the original, and the piano part was played out exactly. Then I wondered, how did such a song really get so famous? I suspect that the accompanying music just sounded nice and memorable, because the lyrics are very odd! Not that they completely don't make sense, but the lyrics are more abstract than those in most songs.

Bohemian Rhapsody was performed by Queen and written by band member Freddie Mercury, for their album A Night at the Opera, which is probably why there is an operatic segment in the song. Like the title suggests, the song's structure follows more closely to a rhapsody, so it has no chorus or recapitulation of any kind. It managed to stay at the top of the UK Singles Chart for 9 weeks, and again for another 5 weeks, right after Mercury's death! By the way, the operatic segment is made of only the band members' vocals, layered numerous times to create the choir effect. (Yes, the high part is sung by another band member, Roger Taylor!) At that time they could mix only 24 tracks at a time(I think), so no wonder it took 3 weeks to complete just that part!

Let's look at the lyrics, and maybe you'll see why I find it weird: (I got them from here)
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.
Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see,
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I'm easy come, easy go, little high, little low,
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me.

Mama, just killed a man,
Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he's dead.
Mama, life had just begun,
But now I've gone and thrown it all away.
Mama, ooh, didn't mean to make you cry,
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.

Too late, my time has come,
Sends shivers down my spine, body's aching all the time.
Goodbye, ev'rybody, I've got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.
Mama, ooh, I don't want to die,
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all.

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango.
Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright'ning me.
(Galileo.) Galileo. (Galileo.) Galileo, Galileo figaro
Magnifico. I'm just a poor boy and nobody loves me.
He's just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity.
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go.
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go.
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go.
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go.
(Let me go.) Will not let you go.
(Let me go.) Will not let you go. (Let me go.) Ah.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
(Oh mama mia, mama mia.) Mama mia, let me go.
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye.
So you think you can love me and leave me to die.
Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.

Nothing really matters, anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.

Any way the wind blows.
I'm sure you've seen some words that look like nonsense, but "Scaramouche" is originally a name of a fictitious character invented by a 17th-century Italian actor, and now can also mean "a stock character that appears as a boastful coward." The Fandango is a lively folk and flamenco couple dance, "Bismillah" is an Arabic word and is usually translated to "In the name of Allah", and "Beelzebub" is one of the seven princes of Hell, whose name literally translates to Lord of the Flies. Names like Galileo and Figaro were probably just thrown into the mix for fun, but we'll never be sure since the band doesn't want to reveal anything!

Still, the best way for you to judge the song is to listen to it yourself, and maybe find out why it managed to become such a successful song!


...and the Muppet Version! :D (Link)