'Bohemian Rhapsody' is celebrating its 40th birthday. This month, four decades ago, it sat at the top of the charts for an impressive nine weeks, chalking up a million sales by the end of January 1976, and confounding those critics who, Brian May revealed recently, warned his band Queen it was a likely flop that should never have seen the light of day.
Now, to mark the 40th anniversary, the song originally penned by late frontman Freddie Mercury has been interpreted in three completely unique ways by the English National Ballet, the Royal Academy of Music and the Trinity Boys Choir.
Watch their three different arrangements above - which one do you think is Freddie's natural heir?
James Streeter of the English National Ballet says of his troupe's offering: “As time has passed, Queen and Freddie still live on so strongly in all of us. At the start of the dance, as we stare at what looks like the silhouette of Freddie's statue, a female appears and as she begins dancing around him, with every touch and the endless desire for Freddie, he is slowly brought back to life.”
'Bohemian Rhapsody' was the first song to get to the top of the charts twice, with an unchanged version
Meanwhile, Charlie Piper, a Royal Academy of Music composition alumnus, composed an arrangement of the song for a string quartet featuring final year students comprising the Behn Quartet. Lydia Abell on the viola says: "We initially found the challenge of performing a string quartet arrangement of Bohemian Rhapsody quite daunting; it is such an iconic song and so initially it was difficult to know how to approach it, particularly coming from a classical background.
"But the moment we got in the practice room it was clear that the music had such a universal message and intensity that we could really tap into, and we could hear Freddie Mercury's voice in our heads as we were playing. We've loved every minute of recording Bohemian Rhapsody and being part of such a great project celebrating its legacy."
Finally, Trinity Boys Choir Director, David Swinson, created a choral vocal arrangement with 40 boys from the choir taking part in the recording. “We felt hugely privileged to be invited to present our version of this rock classic but we also felt a weight of responsibility” said David. “It is impossible to improve on the original so our intention was to demonstrate our love for the song with our enthusiasm. The lyrics are extraordinarily powerful and thoughtful and we also hope that by having them sung by young voices, they will be heard afresh by audiences.”
Bohemian Rhapsody' was Queen's first ever #1 single and the 1975 UK Christmas #1, holding the top position for nine weeks. It is the first song ever to get to #1 in the UK twice with the same version, and is also the only single to have been Christmas #1 twice with the same version. The second was upon its re-release (as a double A-side single with ‘These Are the Days of Our Lives’) in 1991 following Freddie Mercury's death, staying at number one for five weeks, eventually becoming the UK's third best-selling single of all time.
Freddie wrote the whole song – including the composite harmonies – on telephone books and scraps of paper. Today, it is still one of the world’s most well known and well loved songs, continuing to top ‘favourite song’ opinion polls and be discovered by new generations of music fans over and over again.
Shown on TV last week and currently available on BBCiPlayer is a new Queen documentary, 'From Rags to Rhapsody', which tells the story of the band's early years, with unearthed rushes of Queen's first ever video and out-takes from the recording sessions of the timeless song itself.