We had seen the movie posters hanging in the theatres when we went to see "A Star is Born" a week ago and I knew I wanted to go see this, especially with Nicole.
"Bohemian Rhapsody "was the movie. It was better than a simple bio-pic, it was about the band Queen and their approach to making music—incredible music. It was about the flamboyant Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) and the three brilliant musicians who joined him to make one of the most entertaining bands ever. EVER.
The movie begins with the wide-toothed Freddie approaching guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor about him becoming their new lead singer. Taylor laughed at him and said, “Not with those teeth, mate!” Freddie had been mocked and bullied about his teeth since childhood and he almost walked away. He turned on his heel to face the two again and belted out a glorious rendition of the song that their band had been playing only moments before.
Freddie took control and said, “I have four additional incisors. Makes my mouth wider and gives me better range. I’ll let you know my answer.”
I loved Freddie Mercury. I remember the first time I heard him. It was 1973 and I heard "Keep Yourself Alive" on the radio on WSHE in Ft. Lauderdale. I loved the Brian May’s squeaky guitar, John Deacon’s thundering Fender bass, and Roger Taylor’s powerful drumming. I was hooked from the first.
Then came "Killer Queen" from the album "Sheer Heart Attack." By this time, the production had gotten so much cleaner and it only made Freddie’s voice soar even more. Then in November of 1975, Queen released "A Night at the Opera." I was taken with the title because it was the title of a Marx Brothers movie and I loved the Marx Brothers. But this album was remarkable.
It rendered such hits as the operatic "Bohemian Rhapsody", the ridiculous "I’m in Love with My Car" and the 1920s-sounding "Lazing on A Sunday Afternoon."
I played that album over an over and (yes) over again. Ask my cousin Linda. She recently told me that she has only been able to listen to Queen, especially that album, again in the last five years. She was subjected to constant play of that album (on 8-track!) in a car trip from Florida to Detroit. All Queen, all the time.
But the greatest song on the album, for me, was "Love of My Life." It was one of the most poignant moments of the whole movie when Queen were performing in Rio de Janeiro and Freddie stopped singing and the entire audience was singing the song.
Rami Malek charmingly portrayed Freddie Mercury and he was wonderful. He had the mannerisms and the vocal patterns down-pat. The actors who played May, Taylor and Deacon looked just like the real guys, especially Gwilym Lee who played Brian May.
May and Taylor were the executive producers of the movie, so it gave the authentic nod to the honesty of the movie. The critics have hated the movie and that made my sister and I even more interested in seeing it. Critics have always hated Queen.
In one ironic twist in the movie, when the song Bohemian Rhapsody was released, the screen was filled with all the noise issued by the music critics. Rolling Stone magazine called Bohemian Rhapsody “brazen hodgepodge.” Later, of course, they would list it as one of the 500 Greatest Rock songs ever. The New York Times called them “pretentious and irrelevant.”
It was a laugh-out-loud moment to see all those words splashed across the screen and to realize that, here we are, calling each band member by name and I don’t even know the names of the critics.
While Bohemian Rhapsody is the title of the movie and indeed their most popular hit single, the real theme of the movie is wrapped up in Love of My Life. That song was about Mary Austin whom Freddie adored.
Mary was the love of Freddie’s life. Even when Freddie discovered he was gay, he didn’t want to leave Mary. He bought her a home right next to his after they had separated. He would still flick the lamp on and off to say goodnight to her.
"Who will remember
When this is blown over
And everything's all by the way
When I grow older
I will be there at your side to remind you
How I still love you - (I still love you)"
Poor Freddie. When Mary left, he was rudderless. Wonton and clinging people attached themselves to Freddie’s fame and fortune. It hurt his friendship with the band itself, tearing them apart.
Then came Live Aid, the greatest concert ever. Queen performed at the last minute and absolutely stole the show.
Despite the fact that Freddie discovered that he had contracted AIDS. In 1985, there was nothing that could be done. In the end, however, Freddie had made amends with everyone. He had made an opera album with Montserrat Caballé, the great Spanish opera star. It was wonderful.
What the movie does not show, however, was that Mary never really left Freddie alone. She stayed with him even in the last years as he was slowly dying. But he wouldn’t allow tears around him and she once had to excuse herself when they were watching a recorded concert of Queen. Freddie said, “I used to be handsome.” It caught Mary by surprise and she had to leave the room tom compose herself.
After his death in 1991, Freddie was showered with honors from the UK and abroad. He loved playing in Queen, “a band of misfits who don’t belong anywhere but together.” But his greatest honor, he said, was the have been loved by Mary Austin. I understand what he meant.
The soundtrack for the movie reached #1 a few days ago—Queen’s first #1 album in over 30 years.
Nicole and I saw the movie six days ago. It still hasn’t left me.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl