🎵 Bohemian Rhapsody 🎵 (3) – analysis

scaramouche,_voicy_l'ornement_du_theatre_-_gallica_2010_(adjusted)

The title refers to ‘Bohemian’, (Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) which denotes an unconventional person involved in the arts, and ‘Rhapsody’, a fantasy which follows a certain operatic logic, and may be considered as a distortion of Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody”.

Its lyrics progress through the central character’s understanding of his condition.

Intro

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.

The intro section to “Bohemian Rhapsody” gives information about central character of the song. He is bewildered and cannot separate reality from fantasy. Truth seems too hard to accept, but he can’t forget it: there can be “no escape from reality”.
The narrator introduces himself as “just a poor boy” but states that he “needs no sympathy” and asserts his cool indifference and lack of concern.

Ballad

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, everybody, I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.

Mama, ooh (any way the wind blows),
I don’t wanna die,
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.

Then he confesses to his mother that he has “just killed a man,” with “a gun against his head” and, realizing this, he thinks his life has come to an end.
He also says that he didn’t want to make her cry, but he isn’t going to return home after this crime. He just begs her to carry on as if nothing happened.

According to some critics this crime, this reality that he tried to hide for so long, was his sexual orientation, and Mama could also refer to Mary Austin, his partner for over 7 years.

This “confessional” section underlines not only the shame for his action, but also his need for absolution. He bids farewell to his loved ones and prepares to face the truth admitting “I don’t want to die / I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.”
This death could be a literal punishment for the murderous crime he has committed or the fact that he will be dead to society if his homosexuality is discovered.

Opera

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning,
Very, very frightening me.
(Galileo) Galileo.
(Galileo) Galileo,
Galileo Figaro
Magnifico-o-o-o-o.

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!)
Never let you go (Never, never, never, never let me go)
Oh oh oh oh
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.

The ballad part is followed by an operatic segment, depicting the narrator’s descent into hell, with references to Scaramouche, the fandango, Galileo, Figaro, Beelzebub and Bismillah,

Scaramouche is found in Italian commedia dell’ arte tradition, which featured masked performers This character typically wears a black mask, black tights and a black cape. (Sometimes Freddie Mercury’s costume resembled this)

Fandango is a lively dance between a couple who move closely and provocatively. It originated in Spain, probably in the 18th century, and was a courtship dance in triple time.

Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer and physicist, best known for his support of heliocentrism, the theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun. For this reason, he was imprisoned by the Catholic Church and obliged to recant. Mercury may have put “Galileo” into the lyrics for the benefit of Brian May, who is an astrophysicist or for implying that the Catholic Church is against homosexuality. (Producer Roy Thomas Baker recalls Mercury coming into the recording studio proclaiming, “Oh, I’ve got a few more ‘Galileos’ dear!” as overdub after overdub piled up.)

Figaro is an allusion to Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville” or Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” (Freddie Mercury was a lifelong opera lover and in 1987 he released “Barcelona”, with operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé.)

Bismillah (بسم الله) is an Arabic phrase meaning “in the Name of God.”

Beelzebub is one of the seven princes of hell in Christian demonology. The name derives from the ancient Hebrew word, Ba’al Zvuv, meaning “Lord of the flies,” and is an alternate name for Satan. The narrator feels that Beelzebub is out to torment him for his crimes.
These lines reflect Mercury’s deep spirituality and the Zoroastrian influence of his family. The dual forces of light and darkness are struggling for possession of the speaker’s soul and the party that is holding him back is therefore saying: “In the Name of God, we will not let you go.”

Rock interlude

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.

The operatic section leads into a rock interlude, in which the singer questions his oppressor, an unspecified “you”, accusing him/her of betrayal and abuse and insisting “can’t do this to me, baby”.
The line “So you think you can love me and leave me to die?” may suggest that the song is about a breakup, and in this case the narrator is a broken hearted young man overwhelmed and confused, who represents his condition as that of a criminal on trial for murder: this impending death sentence makes him feel as if he was consigned to hell and Beelzebub had already sent out his demons to torment him.
In the last lines the singer feels caught in a trap and would like to get away from it.

Outro

(Ooooh, ooh yeah, ooh yeah)
Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.

Any way the wind blows.

By now, the narrator realizes that nothing really matters to him: his life, his choices, his wishes, his orientations. He just would like to go with the wind. The final section ends with the quiet sound of a large tam-tam that finally expels the tension built up throughout the song.

un_fandango
The most Spanish of Spanish songs and dances: the Fandango,

29 thoughts on “🎵 Bohemian Rhapsody 🎵 (3) – analysis

    1. I’m so happy that I got a full understanding of my favorite song. I suspected it was about his life, but I never knew all the words.
      I just love how you broke all of it down.
      Thank you so much

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oltre 10 anni fa la Repubblica usciva una volta al mese con un inserto XL estremamente ben fatto e minuzioso su musica cinema autori di cui ho tutta la collezione ed è proprio in uno di questi numeri che avevo letto i molti riferimenti all interno del testo di Bohemian Rhapsody.
    Grazie per il tuo graditissimo apporto.

    sherabbraccicari

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just been browsing through your past posts, I especially enjoy the music related ones but I have read some of the others and enjoy the education on Authors in particular. Some wonderful and well researched thoughts on your part and some insight on the brilliant mind of Freddie Mercury.

    Liked by 1 person

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