Doing the Fandango

Copyright EMI

This was my JFK assassination moment.

I know exactly where I was.

It was the first time I’d heard Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which is today (31 Oct) celebrating its 40th birthday.

As BBC Online so aptly says: “How many songs become so ingrained in popular culture that they get their own nickname? Not many – but Bo Rap is one of them.

“A sprawling, six-minute rock opera, it has been Christmas number one twice, sound tracked a pivotal scene in Wayne’s World, and sold 2.44 million copies in the UK alone.

“Not bad for a song the record company said would never be played on the radio.”

Queen made the song’s ‘video’ (also somewhat ahead of its time) for Top of the Pops (TOTP). The band, according to Brian May, hated the show and didn’t want to perform on it.

And that’s where I first experienced it. No, not from the studio floor cutting awkward gangling teenage moves but sat on mum and dad’s bed, age nine, eating my tea on a tray.

(Living room was being decorated hence our black and white telly was upstairs.)

TOTP was on early that day – before the Six O’Clock News. I can’t remember why. It was usually shown earlier if something big like Eurovision had pinched its slot.

Either way I was miffed because it meant I couldn’t blag staying up later until after TOTP had finished (usually the heady heights of post 8pm).

And I didn’t like my tea; ham sandwiches but not enough Battenberg cake (fussy and greedy little cow).

Then Bohemian Rhapsody came on.

Time slowed and hovered for six minutes. Dad came in to say something and I pointed to the screen. Even he sat down and watched it.

Nine-year-old me liked it for completely different reasons to now. Four decades of listening gives you a layered and ingrained appreciation.

Back then I liked the operatic bits, and the way the band’s faces fanned out. Wow, such high tech visual effects! And how sad the story was.

Now it’s that plus the vocals, the overall orchestration, empathy and emotion, good old guitar banging bits, and its sheer brilliance.

What hasn’t changed is the energy the nine-year-old and her middle-aged version head bang and prance round the room when it’s on. (Although these days tinged with clear and present danger of injury.)

Thank you Queen for 40 years of Bo Rap. Long may it reign and continue to do the Fandango.

(Image – copyright EMI)

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