Queen’s monumental smash “Bohemian Rhapsody” has surpassed two billion streams on Spotify. Other rock acts who’ve achieved at least one billion streams of a single song on Spotify include Nirvana (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”), Journey (“Don’t Stop Believin’”), Guns N’ Roses (“Sweet Child O’ Mine”), and Linkin Park (“In the End,” “Numb”).
“Bohemian Rhapsody” began life sometime in the late 60s, when Freddie Mercury was a student at Ealing Art College, starting out as a few ideas for a song scribbled on scraps of paper.
Queen guitarist Brian May remembers the brilliant singer and songwriter giving them the first glimpse in the early 70s of the masterpiece he had at one time called “The Cowboy Song,” perhaps because of the line “Mama… just killed a man.”
“I remember Freddie coming in with loads of bits of paper from his dad’s work, like Post-it notes, and pounding on the piano,” May said in 2008. “He played the piano like most people play the drums. And this song he had was full of gaps where he explained that something operatic would happen here and so on. He’d worked out the harmonies in his head.”
Mercury told bandmates that he believed he had enough material for about three songs but was thinking about blending all the lyrics into one long extravaganza. The final six-minute iconic mini rock opera became the band’s defining song, and eventually provided the title of the hit 2019 biopic starring Rami Malek as Mercury.
Queen first properly rehearsed “Bohemian Rhapsody” at Ridge Farm Studio, in Surrey, in mid-1975, and then spent three weeks honing the song at Penrhos Court in Herefordshire. By the summer they were ready to record it; taping began on August 24, 1975 at the famous Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales. It was a moment that May described as “just the biggest thrill.”