“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,
A little high, little low,
Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me,
– to me –
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, ooo –
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, ooo – (anyway the wind blows)
I don’t want to die,
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all –
I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouch, Scaramouch will you do the Fandango –
Thunderbolt and lightning – very very frightening me –
Gallileo Figaro – Magnifico –
But I’m just a poor boy and 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 him go
Will not let you go – let me go
Will not let you go – let me go
No, no, no, no, no, no, no –
Mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go –
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me –
for me –
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 –
Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters –, nothing really matters to me,
Anyway the wind blows…”
Nice French cover:
Brian May says of Bohemian Rhapsody: “Bohemian Rhapsody started off really in Freddie’s head … It developed a little bit longer way, but basically that’s Freddie’s dream or Freddie’s nightmare and it still lives on.”
With “Bohemian Rhapsody” came fame and wealth and recognition. The “A Night at the Opera” album on which it was featured was considered as one of the most expensive ever recorded when released in November 1975; it was a colossal hit, giving Queen their first platinum album, established them as a leading band of the era and turned them subsequently into one of the most popular bands in pop and rock history. The single stayed at number one for nine weeks. No other song in Queen’s catalogue has achieved such a legendary status and was voted the greatest single of all time by the Guinness Book Of records in 2000. The video for the single, directed by Bruce Gowers and using ideas from the band, started the music video craze. Queen was on top of the world. Everywhere they went they were superstars; for his monumental song, Mercury was even awarded his second prestigious Ivor Novello Award for songwriting.
Freddie Mercury explained it ‘only’ as “a personal song about relationships” (which is also meaningful…), but when looking closer on its lyrics it is the most complex/multifaceted song ever written by Mercury, capable of thousands of different interpretations.
It has caused endless speculation about the possible meanings behind its evocative lyrics: some say the song is about a trial or about a suicide; there are also interpretations that “Bohemian Rhapsody” could be a song “in which a Faust-like character commits a sin, sells his soul and ultimately redeems himself”.
Brian May, however, confirms suggestions that the song contained veiled references to Mercury’s personal inner life. “Freddie was a very complex person […] he never explained the lyrics, but I think he put a lot of himself into that song.” He says of Freddie’s typically obscure writing style: “Freddie’s stuff was so heavily cloaked, lyrically. But you could find out, just from little insights that a lot of his private thoughts were in there, although a lot of the more meaningful stuff was not very accessible.”
Freddie Mercury: “’Bohemian Rhapsody’ didn’t just come out of thin air. I did a bit of research, although it was tongue in cheek and it was mock opera. Why not? I certainly wasn’t saying I was an opera fanatic and I knew everything about it … A lot of people slammed ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, but who can you compare that to?”
“It’s one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about it. I think that people should just listen to it, think about it and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them.”
My personal view…
I would like to start with my personal relation to Bohemian Rhapsody. I hope, someone of you will understand me – you know and probably have noticed, that there are people like ‘Faust’ or ‘Werther’ living on earth, searching for ‘the Truth’ and seeking for spiritual growth... I think I’m even a little bit wrong here – because maybe not only these ‘Faust like characters’/ ‘artists’ are suffering and searching for a higher truth but really everyone of us to a certain extent...
In the process of trying to find these universal truths and values, you are confronted with many different positions, philosophies, ‘worldviews’ – sometimes there is really a battle going on inside of you so that in the end it’s a long way of finding out of what you think is true and what is a lie/ or what is ‘wrong’ and immoral and what is important or not...
Personally, I too had some phases when I was just desperate with questions of the sort: “is there any universal truth? (i.e. God or something that CONNECTS us ALL...), or is this world meaningless – plain ‘fact’? – so that meanings like ‘good’ or ‘evil’ mean nothing and/or are relative, only reactions of the brain or whatever...
Now, I feel and I am very sure that there is God/ ‘God’, something universal – as is love – it is only a long process and lifetime task of recognizing these universal values and finding your own way/ maybe even your own relationship to God...
… now to Bohemian Rhapsody.: why do I think that this song is so connected with my previous thoughts? I think that this song is exactly written in this atmosphere, with this pain in the heart, of hoping to find God and to see something good in our world (and even if already believing in God and love to actually find this love in reality), to find your place in this world... as well as trying to FIGHT the ‘evil’ and the NIHILISM, which propagates that everything is hope- and meaningless…
Well, I hope I could express what I personally think of Freddie’s masterpiece – I hope so much that someday the entire world – everyone of us – will recognize the beautiful side of life; peace and love to you allJ! (And back to my philosophical researchesJ)
© DARIA KOKOZEJ
(© copyright: Daria Kokozej, I wrote this interpretation for my A-Levels school project in 2006)
Lyrically, the song appears to focus on a young man who seems to be at a trial confessing that he has shot another man, and the emotional pain that he endures as he faces the consequences of his actions. The song then continues with an operatic section, where the fate of the young man appears to be decided, and in the final, climactic rock section, the young man expresses his rebelliousness against his fate before finally resigning himself to it.
To ‘gain access’ into the song’s deeper meaning, it is necessary to look behind its surface, to think in metaphors, but also to keep in mind Freddie’s multifaceted interests and life.
When listening to the music, “Bohemian Rhapsody” sounds very emotional, as Freddie has put his whole heart into it. I sweeps form sweetly harmonised confusion, through melodramatic upheavals as fleeing death, horror, persecution, betrayal, to a final acceptance of all doubts and fears, resigned but sorted.
At the beginning the protagonist seems questioning life, appearing confused about the matter if his life or situation is real or not. He comes to the conclusion that there is no escape from life; we cannot close our eyes, there is no return from the consequences of our decisions or actions – or also from our fate…
The phrase ‘open your eyes, look up to the skies’ can mean on one hand: ‘live with your conscience, see the possibilities of life, there is always a solution’, but from another point of view the listener is told to look at a speaker in the sky; so our attention is directed towards the sky when the speaker starts to talk. Probably the reason why the speaker is in the sky is, because he is ‘dead’, but in a metaphoric sense.
After that we hear the boy introducing himself; initially Mercury has written “I’m just a poor boy in need of sympathy” (click HERE for source – at ‘28th Dec’) instead of the actual lyrics. He has changed the lyrics to express that nobody really understands and loves the real him, because he is ‘easy come, easy go, a little high, little low’, i.e. practically living between two extremes like “Faust” by Goethe; the one side of him is ‘high above the skies’, seeking for the truth, trying to understand his ‘real’ self, extrovert and could be on the artist side while the other side lives ‘on the ground’, beset with earthly complexes and fears. ‘Anyway the wind blows’, anyhow he is feeling now, nothing seems to matter him because he is ‘dead’/has changed or ‘cursed’ in some way.
Subsequently he confesses that he has shot a man. An interesting fact is that he is a boy who has shot a man – somehow a ‘transformation’ is going on… We assume he has committed suicide, but not a real suicide: he has killed his own old self and become someone different; with the death of his old self he is beginning a new life, namely – in the case of Freddie – becoming an artist (or ‘artist’).
We can suppose that the central character leads a monologue and that his mother is alone as we don’t hear his mother’s reply. We just know that she is crying (The symbol of the ‘mother’ in general can represent all people close to you). The boy then tells her that should she choose to turn her back on him he will understand, and that she and his family and all people dear to him must continue their lives because his destiny is an absolutely different one. It is ‘too late’, there is no turning back, because he already has decided to become an artist (or better: his fate was to be one) and leaves everyone. But somehow he is not feeling good; he feels that the artists’ life itself for which he is predestined is difficult, takes a lot of responsibility and you must make certain sacrifices – so in the same time he has fears and doubts about such a lifestyle. Somehow he has a bad feeling and there is obviously an emotional struggle going on inside his head. The most likely reason why he feels uncomfortable is that he feels his fate will going to have a tragic outcome; maybe he will be sort of condemned…
Then he tells the listener that doesn’t want to die, what means that he doesn’t want to fail in his life and he doesn’t want his tragic destiny to be decided.
The middle section of the song has a very obscure meaning. ‘Fandango’ is the name of a Spanish dance, but also has an offshoot meaning which refers to a futile or hopeless action. ‘Bismillah’ is Arabic and means ‘In the name of God’.
The speaker tells us that he see a silhouette, but we don’t know whom it belongs; maybe it is his own silhouette so that he can see himself literally from the side and understand what is going on with him and in that way it is symbolizing the protagonist’s fate. The ‘silhouetto’ is calling him a Scaramouch whose life resembles a fandango. A Scaramouch is a character from the Italian Commedia dell’arte. The typical aspect of this character is that it makes people happy while being sad in its heart. Mercury himself lived like a Scaramouch; he entertained people and gave joy to them privately and with his music, but deep inside he was lonely and rather unfortunate in his relationships.
The protagonist is afraid from the prophecy of his fate that plays a bad joke with him. He cannot understand why his destiny will be ill-fated, because he is just a boy and has no guilt – he is the victim of his circumstances, of all misunderstandings etc…; but the destiny is sarcastic and merciless: ‘He’s just a poor boy from a poor family, spare him his life from this monstrosity’.
The song continues with a sort of struggle, which could be a struggle in the boy’s conscience or a struggle in which his fate will be decided. The central character asks his fate for pity, because he doesn’t want to have a tragic life and he asks to let him go, release from the spell, but he concludes that ‘Beelzebub has a devil put aside for him’; so, obviously his destiny will have a tragic outcome.
In the next section of the song the boy revolts against his fate, which rather does resemble a doom that ‘spits in his eye’ and which is responsible for the reality that beloved people are turning away from him because they don’t ‘understand’ him; subsequently he wants to impede his destiny, but he is not able to do it. Finally, he resigns to fate, he sadly has to make this tragic and paradox sacrifice for being an artist and at the same time he is still partly afraid of it and senses that he will be living like a victim of his fate, i.e. ‘condemned’ by it – but he accepts it.
The highly complex thoughts in “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Freddie’s opus, prove that behind the surface of his showmanship and extravagant stage personality there was an intelligent and emotional person.
The song portrays important and complex topics such as life, personal existence, fate and personal worth. It is called “Bohemian Rhapsody” because it depicts the life of a ‘bohemian’, whose original meaning is ‘artist’ while ‘Rhapsody’ is a fantasy (literally, it could play in his head) or a vision; within this song Freddie Mercury foresees his life in a symbolic way.
Freddie Mercury has created an oeuvre which is open to all sorts of interpretations and in that way universal.
+++ Wonderful statement by www.fmspiritoffire.com which I really like – read also his brilliant study of Freddie’s life +++
“Freddie’s music is an entity in itself: the lyrics, the rhythm, the structure, the music and the way it is played all join together to create the song. Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t about the lyrics, it is about the song in toto. In this case, it is a blend of different forms of music, of different cultures it rises high and sinks low, it weaves about the mind of the listener and the protagonist, taking both on a journey through the song. The music, like all his music, is a personal statement, but one which simply says: ‘I am me and I know who I am and where I am and I don’t give a hang about what may come.’ This is the theme of Freddie that is in his music: a man who exists and lives for the moment, a man who is passionate, yet gentle, caring, yet dominating. Bohemian Rhapsody works because it doesn’t tell us anything about Freddie in its lyrics, but it is Freddie and it is his soul talking to us through the music.”
+++ I found a very interesting interpretation of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the web (at Songmeanings.net, but in reality it is an extract from Ahundova’s book about Freddie Mercury – see ‘books’ section), which I think is worth to read, enjoy! +++
The famous Bohemian Rhapsody (A Night at the Opera) is spiritual too. It’s the one of the most popular Queen songs in 25 years, it’s often aired on TV and radio all around the world. This little Mercury’s masterpiece, combining classical and rock music, made a revolution in its time, caused many parodies, imitations and remixes, and the mini film that accompanied it became the first video clip in history. But, while everyone loves the song, nobody explained what’s it about. Mercury was elusively saying that he doesn’t even know himself, or calling it “the song about human relations”. The critics were calling the song nonsense, heavy, pretentious, absurd.
The ones who hated Mercury the most were saying that he’s telling to do various mad things, or calling the song a drug addict’s raving. There was even an opinion that the author didn’t make any sense of the lyrics at all – he just took the words that fitted the rhythm. The similar fruitless discussions are still continuing. But, if you’d look at Bohemian Rhapsody as a spiritual song, its meaning is more than clear.
In the beginning of the video clip, Queen appears in the same prayer pose as on Queen II cover. Then the text begins.
Is this the real life - or is it just fantasy
Caught in a landslide - no escape from reality
Open your eyes, look up to the sky and see...
”Is this the real life or is it just fantasy” – is a question concerning the ideologies of Christianity (the monotheistic “Western” religion), from one side, and of Buddhism, Hinduism and Daoism (the pantheistic, “Eastern” religions), from another. In the “Eastern” religion, the world is just a fantasy, an illusion, somebody’s dream - and nobody is responsible for their actions: it’s all a fantasy! What’s the matter, if nothing really matters?
The roots of escapism are in this ideology - escape from the reality, enter the illusory world.
“No escape from reality. Open your eyes, look up to the sky and see” – that’s how Queen and Freddie answer this question. Life is real, and no matter what illusions do you invent for yourself, you can’t escape from it. Everything that’s happening isn’t a fantasy – it’s real, whether do you like it or not. Freddie tells us to “open our eyes” – to admit the reality of this world. Looking at the world with open eyes is one of the most significant differences between Christian and Buddhist/Hindus philosophies – the latter tells to close yourself from the world and get into nirvana. While in Christian art, the saints are pictured with wide open eyes, in Buddhist art the saint’s eyes are always closed, and their faces look estranged.
To awaken yourself to the fact that life is real, you have to “look up to the skies” – in other words, believe in God. That’s why there is said, “and see” – because faith has an answer for every question.
Then, the character of the song appears. We don’t know who he is, where he is from, his name:
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...
This guy is a typical modern escapist, the embodied indifference and non-responsibility. He doesn’t care what’s going on around. He’s like a piece of sand in the world.
Then, we learn that he killed a man:
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,
Gonna leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooh (anyway the wind blows)
I don’t wanna die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all...
The boy just killed a man – just for something to do or under a dose. He wasn’t fully aware that if you’d shot a man, he dies from it, for him, it was just a fun. He even doesn’t understand himself how it happened – he pulled the trigger, as he’s seen in movies many times, and the man is dead, really dead. The veil fell from his eyes, and now he’s facing his crime in the real world. The boy is horrified by what’s happened, all is gone for him. Now he’s going to commit suicide – that’s why he says goodbye to everybody. He’s very scared; he doesn’t want to die and in the same time he regrets that he was born. He’s got shivers down his spine, and body is aching (it’s a very accurate description of fear of death), but he’s not able to stay alive after all that’s happened and hold response for his action. Having already committed one crime, now he’s going to commit one more senseless sin – suicide.
And then, the most complicated and strange culmination part follows, featuring a choir of many voices:
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 Magnifico –
But 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!
We’ll not let you go, never, never, never – let me go!
No, no, no, no, no, no, no!
Mama Mia, Mama Mia, Mama Mia, let me go –
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me...
This so-called “nonsense” is a great battle for the soul of this poor guy, in which the heavenly hosts and the Hell’s demons participate. That’s why one choir demands to let him go, while other choir says – we will not let him go. He isn’t let go by the ones who made the boy escape from the reality, kill a man, and now they’re making him to commit suicide to get his soul forever. It’s demons, one of which has been sent by Beelzebub to overwhelm the soul of a poor boy. The boy is in a terrible trap – he wants to get out of this nightmare, but he can’t. And, like a last hope, the choir calls: “Galileo figaro magnifico”. It’s the key phrase, which reveals the entire meaning of the song, and usually it isn’t translated by the researchers. And, if they DO translate it, they translate it from Italian, getting “Galileo is a great barber”.
What Galileo? What has barber to do with that?
Yes, it’s a nonsense. But don’t make Freddie an idiot. Actually, it’s a slightly corrupted Latin phrase, “Galileo figuro Magnifico” – translated as “Magnify the Galilean's image”. “Galileo”, repeated five times, translated from Latin as “Jesus Christ” – that was His name in the ancient
In his despair the guy appeal to God:
So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
According to Eastern custom, the sinners were beaten with stones and the crowd spitted to their faces. Such custom is described also in the Bible. So, it is as if the guy says – and you dare condemn me – which has something in common with the well-known words of Christ: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” The second line is a polemic with the Christian doctrine of the salvation of soul and, in the same time, a dispute with God: how dare you say that you love me, and then let me die, without helping me? Here we have an association with the last words of Christ: “Lord, why did You leave me?” He doesn’t understand that the help was already offered to him – but he refused it. And he accuses God of having left him, of not helping him, of having condemned him…
Completely hopeless of everything, the boy finally decides to commit suicide – “Just gotta get right outta here”. The sad music sounds, lamenting the boy’s destiny, and the words: “Nothing really matters to me... anyway the wind blows”.
And finally, the gong beat sounds, imitating the shot. Everything is ended. The boy shot himself.
The mysterious Bohemian Rhapsody is just a story of a bohemian boy who was taken away with the Eastern occultism, which drove him firstly to killing, and then to suicide. Since from the “human values” point of view this
song is a monstrous heresy, it had to be declared “nonsense”.
Mercury wasn’t angry at all the parodies of Rhapsody for nothing.
The case isn’t in his ambitions – as we know, he had a perfect sense of humour and liked to laugh at himself. He was irritated by the fact that the mass culture vulgarized his song and never understood anything. And he wasn’t into casting pearls before the swine…