Friday, April 15, 2011

"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen

As per usual, I shall begin with the background information.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” was written by Queen’s frontman, Freddie Mercury. I’m not going to do much of a biography on Freddie Mercury, just the things that relate to this story. After all, Freddie Mercury was notorious for his privacy.
Freddie Mercury was a man who loved music. If you have ever listened to a full Queen album straight through, you might notice how many of the songs are nearly different genres than the others; “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and it’s Rockabilly style versus “We Are The Champions” and it’s Progressive Rock style. For a long while Freddie was with a woman named Mary Austin. The relationship ended when he admitted to her that he was indeed gay and had an astonishing long list of boyfriends. Freddie and Mary remained best friends until his death. Freddie was born in Zanzibar, and his family practiced in the Zoroastrian religion, which strongly opposed homosexuality. His family disapproved of his homosexuality very much. After his death, a close family friend named Rusi Dalal said: ‘They were very unhappy about his homosexuality. Being gay is not accepted in the Zoroastrian religion. We also have very few believers and the religion can only be passed on through the Father to his children, Obviously a gay man will have no children and this deeply upset the Bulsara family.’
Freddie Mercury died of broncho-pneumonia as a result of AIDS. Throughout the better part of his music career his friends and former lovers had been dying of AIDS.
Shortly before his death Mercury and his family made peace. His family was very proud of his accomplishments and he loved his family very much.
Now, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has never been explained in detail by Mercury or the band Queen. As a matter of fact, they claimed it had no meaning at all, just randomness put together to make a good song. On the other hand, both Mercury and the rest of the band have confirmed that the song was Freddie’s big project. He wanted this to be the song that he was remembered for. Everyone in the creation process has agreed that Freddie Mercury poured a lot of himself into the song; including Freddie Mercury. However, a real meaning behind “Bohemian Rhapsody” has never been officially released and remains a secret; if anyone other than Mercury himself even know.
With that being said, I am now officially stating that everything you will hear from here-on-out is my own insight and conclusion and has never been confirmed by anyone with the authority to do so. Basically, this blog entry could be as far from the truth as James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces.” I’m also warning you that my analysis will probably be unorganized, confusing, and boring. Sorry ’bout that folks.
Begin: Analysis of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, as analyzed by Sam DeCross.
The song starts out with Mercury’s vocals. (This remains a feat in the recording industry, they used numerous recordings of his voice bounced down to one for the effect. It was so complex that Mercury couldn’t pull it off during live performances and instead started the song with the vocals from”Mustapha” or the piano intro from “Death On Two Legs.”) The lyrics are “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.” These opening words seem to refer to the mindblowing AIDS epidemic at the time. AIDS was sweeping the nation and left many people in the medical field baffled. It just didn’t seem real. Next, the piano kicks in. The next lyrics with piano accompiniment are,
“Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see
I’m just a poor boy (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.”
This has a couple different possible meanings to me. First, it could be taken as words from a narrator symbolizing all the people affected by AIDS. There are so many people that they really have lost their individuality and respect and instead have become a statistic. Second, it could be a direct narration from Mercury describing his own childhood in poverty. Mercury wasn’t diagnosed with AIDS but he was afraid he could have had the virus from the early 70′s due to the amount of sexual partners he had and the amount of former sexual partners that had fallen to the virus. A mixture of the two possibilities would suggest that Mercury was giving a first person narration as himself and saying that as a man with AIDS who used to be poor and unknown, he was just a poor boy looking into the sky and awaiting his death. In that scenario, it really wouldn’t matter what happened because he was going to die soon either way. “Either way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me.” This apathy toward his demise would also speak for the lack of knowledge and cure for AIDS at the time. No matter what, there was still no way of curing it or stopping it.
The next part introduces the bass, as well as the next chapter of Mercury’s lyrical story. The next lyrics are:
“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”
The drums enter after “Now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.” I interpret this as Mercury’s way of acknowledging regret for his lifestyle. Not his homosexuality, but his “party” attitude and numerous sexual partners. It seems he felt guilty and blamed himself for his friends dying of AIDS as if he had given them the virus. It seems he is using the metaphor of putting a gun to someone’s head and pulling the trigger for passing the AIDS virus. He ends with “If I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on as if nothing really matters,” as if he’s a fugitive on the run for murder. He knows that with AIDS he is just as likely to die as anyone else. But it seems like he sees it as karma. He gave the virus to someone, now it’s going to get him to. He sees this as fair, so if it happens, just carry on as if it didn’t. Next:
“Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Body’s aching all the time
Goodbye, everybody
I’ve got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, oooooooh (Anyway the wind blows)
I don’t want to die
Sometimes wish I’d never been born at all”
Again, it seems he is describing the systems of an illness along with AIDS. Shiver, aches, etc. He is acknowledging that his time is running out and he’ll be leaving soon. Still, he sees this as punishment for a crime he has committed. He doesn’t want to die, as he pleads to his mother, and again we catch a hint of guilt as he admits that he wishes hhe had never been born.
Here’s where it gets interesting! There is the guitar solo, and then the opera takes over. Lyrics for the opera:
“I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me
(Galileo) Galileo (Galileo) Galileo, Galileo Figaro
I’m just a poor boy 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) (Never, never, never, never)
Let me go, o, o, o, o
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
(Oh mama mia, mama mia) Mama Mia, let me go
Beelzebub has the devil put aside for me, for me, for me!”
This is my favorite part to pick apart. To me, it seems that this opera part has two sections. The first is after the death when he’s in heaven. He sees a silhouette of a man who ends up being the judge who determines his entrance into heaven. Instead of a formal judgement based on sin and acts during his life, the judge, (God, St. Peter, whoever it may be,) says “scaramouch, will you do the fandango?” Scaramouch in theatre is a dimwitted but proud character, and the fandango is an old dance. Basically, his admittance to heaven is based on a silly song and dance. “Magnifico!” says the Judge. The main character thinks this is rediculous since he was planning on being fairly judged on the things he had done for peace of mind. He asks to be let go, and a choir of angels partakes in the sing-song. He asks once more if he can go. This turns into a comical bickering between him, the judge, and the angels. “Bismillah” is an Islam phrase that loosely translates to “In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate”. So when the character asks if he can be released and the judge replies “Bismillah, we will not let you go” he is actually saying “In the name of God, we will not let you go.” The character, or Freddie Mercury, is now by the decree of God being punished for what he has done. The lyrics end by illustrating that what he has done is so evil that he has replaced the devil.
Next in lyrics:
“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”
These lyrics are accompanied by heavy guitar. This is interesting. The tables have done a complete 180. Now instead of being the assailant and paying for his crime, the character sees himself as the victim. Sure, he may have given the AIDS virus to someone. But who gave it to him? Has that person paid the way the character is paying? Now it just isn’t fair. He doesn’t belong in purgatory for what he has done, he needs to get out.
Guitar solo. Next lyrics are accompanied by soft piano.
“Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters
Nothing really matters to me”
Again, he’s in that mindset where he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. No matter what happens, he still has to face the same fate and nothing can change it.
“Any way the wind blows…”
No matter what happens between then and the future, he still knows that he can’t change the past and the future still holds the same fate. Any way the wind blows, he still did what he did and the consequences are still the same.
*Song fades out.*
Like I said, probably not even close. But hey, I haven’t heard a better explanation yet. Have you?

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