*I don’t remember hearing “BoRhap” until Freddie Mercury passed away in 1991.
I distinctly remember listening to the episode of American Top 40 or Casey’s Top 40* that eulogized Freddie. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the song used to pay tribute, and whoever the host was (I think it was Casey Kasem) spent more time than normal talking up the song’s genius before playing it. I was sufficiently blown away. When Freddie was alive, I’m pretty sure all I was familiar with from the Queen repertoire was “Another One Bites The Dust”, “We Will Rock You”, “We Are The Champions” and “Radio Ga Ga”. Their commercial heyday in the U.S. was over by the time I was in elementary school. I went on a Queen binge in the early part of 1992-ingesting and falling in love with both compilations released that year; Classic Queen (the one with the blue cover) and Greatest Hits (red cover.)
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is just a work of genius. It’s camp, it rocks, it has appeal to kids, “serious” music fans (the type who would turn their noses up to rock music) have got to respect it, too. I’ve never twiddled the knobs in a recording studio, but I’m familiar enough with technical wizardry to know that Roy Thomas Baker did an amazing job-especially when you consider that “BoRhap” was released in 1975. I work with a lot of metal artists and labels in my day job, and any one of them who does anything remotely operatic owes a massive debt of gratitude to Queen. Freddie Mercury is and should rightfully be acknowledged as one of the greatest singers this world has ever produced, and endless repetitions of that “Wayne’s World” sequence have not damaged the song’s reputation one bit.
Unrelated anecdote: I usually have Christmas Eve at my friend Lauren’s apartment with her family. One year, a bunch of the guys were playing Rock Band, and I decided to** sing “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I was probably drunk. And I crushed it. Also probably because I was drunk. I definitely can not sing that song straight through in my proper head.
*By this point, Shadoe Stevens was hosting American Top 40 (based on the Billboard singles chart) and Casey Kasem splintered off into his own chart that was based on Radio & Records’ top 40 chart. I usually listened to both.
**or got roped into; can’t remember which.