The multi award-winning song Bohemian Rhapsody is rock band Queen’s most famous hit of all time. The Guinness Book of Records in 2002 named it as the top British single of all time and even today, more than four decades after its release in 1975, it still ranks highly in lists of the best songs ever made.
Written by Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, it was one of the most ambitious songs ever penned in terms of the musical genres he included. The six-minute song has been described as containing progressive rock, hard rock, symphonic rock, pop and opera. It was the 1975 UK Christmas number one – a position it held for nine weeks.
Bohemian Rhapsody actually saved Queen’s career. The band formed on 27th June 1970, with the line-up of Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon.
However, it had been a rocky road, with limited commercial success, until they released Bohemian Rhapsody, from the album, A Night at the Opera, as a seven-inch single.
They were instantly rocketed to international superstardom, not least because of the incredible promotional video, which was credited with sparking the MTV video age. It was filmed at Elstree Studios and directed by Bruce Gowers. Amazingly, it was recorded in just four hours on 10th November 1975 and cost only £4,500 to make.
Over the years, the song’s lyrics have continually been the subject of much speculation. When it was first released, the band made no effort to explain them, allowing the song to earn a certain mystique.
A popular theory is that it’s about Galileo Galilei, the 16th century Italian scientist and philosopher, whose controversial views on modern science and evolution led to him being arrested by the Roman inquisition for heresy.
Born in 1564 in Florence, Galileo promoted heliocentrism, the modern astronomical model in which the planets revolve round the sun, the centre of the solar system. Following completion of their investigation in 1615, the inquisition found that Galileo’s heliocentrism was “absurd” and “heretical”.
As a result, he was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. He wrote one of his most famous works, Two New Sciences, while under house arrest. He died in 1642, at the age of 77.
The theory that Bohemian Rhapsody relates to his life story and theories is based on some of the lyrics.
The opening line, “Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?” is said to refer to his book written in 1632, called Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.
He promoted the reality of the heliocentric model and said the geocentric model, in which the planets revolved around the earth (as described by Greek astronomer Ptolemy) was a fantasy land.
The line, “Any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me,” is said to describe Galileo’s famous experiment when he dropped spheres of different masses off the top of the 58-metre tall Leaning Tower of Pisa, testing a theory by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle that heavier objects will fall more quickly than light objects.
Galileo said at the time, that a slight irregularity in their fall time was caused by wind resistance, but this didn’t really matter to his experiment.
Thunder and lightning
The line, “Thunderbolt and lightning – very, very frightening,” is believed to describe Galileo’s grilling by the inquisition and their threats that he would suffer the wrath of god due to his “heretic” theories.
In ancient Rome and ancient Greece, it was thought that a thunderclap or lightning bolt was caused when the gods were angry and this was a display of their wrath against humans.
Thunder and lightning was believed to be the weapon of the “sky god” and the inquisition threatened Galileo that he would be struck down for saying that the earth wasn’t the centre of the universe.
The threat of thunder and lightning is followed by the words, “Spare him his life from this monstrosity,” – the “monstrosity” in question is said to be the Catholic church that stifled Galileo’s scientific progress.
“Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead,” is said to be a metaphor – Galileo’s telescope being the gun that killed the theory of geocentrism. Galileo was 51 years old when he was placed under house arrest, so the line, “Life had just begun,” was said to refer to the fact this was an age of great scientific discovery that was just beginning.
“Now I’ve gone and thrown it all away,” meant that the scientist had thrown away his life for his beliefs and theories, as he was to remain under house arrest for the next 26 years until his death for refusing to denounce his beliefs and accept the word of the church.
Bohemian Rhapsody had sold more than one million copies by January 1976. It was revitalised by the cult film, Wayne’s World, in 1991 when it appeared on the soundtrack. As a result, it enjoyed a further five weeks at number in the UK singles charts.
A poll in the Guardian newspaper ranked the official video at number 31 on its list of the 50 most important events in the history of rock music, while a national poll run by ITV chose Bohemian Rhapsody as the best song in 60 years. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.
Its total sales worldwide since 1975 have topped more than eight million copies and it went platinum in the USA, the UK and in Italy.
Of course, more than three centuries after Galileo’s death, his scientific theories have been proven to be correct and today, everyone recognises that lightning strikes are caused by nature, rather than the wrath of the gods.
The dangers of lightning remain very real and that is why Lightning Strike Ltd is dedicated to the supply and installation of lightning defence and electrical earthing systems across the UK. Please contact us for further information on the best lightning protection solution for your property.