Queen perform Bohemian Rhapsody at Live Aid in 1985
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It’s bonkers and brilliant and utterly unforgettable. After all, how many pop classics feature casual references to the Italian theatrical tradition of commedia dell’arte? That’s the character Scaramouche, by the way. Since 1979, millions of us have screamed along to Bohemian Rhapsody in front of our mirrors and headbanging in cars. We’ve stumbled over words like Bismillah but few of us are aware that we usually get one of the most powerful and emotional lines wrong.
Think you know the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody perfectly? So did we and it turns out we were wrong. Which is actually the correct line out of the following two, admittedly very similar, popular versions?
You know the line, it comes at the climax of the song, straight after the operatic middle section and Brian May’s extraordinary guitar solo.
Is it: So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye?
Or: So you think you can stomp me and spit in my eye?
We had always thought it was “stop” and were startled to know many are convinced that it is “stomp.”
In fact, the correct answer is neither is correct.
The line according to the official lyrics on the Queen Youtube page is: “So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?”
It is certainly even more dramatic and fits with Freddie’s pseudo-Biblical and classical themes.
The Queen frontman himself opened up about his struggles with writing lyrics and wished he had someone like Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics to all of Elton John’s songs.
He said: “As far as lyrics go, they’re very difficult. I find them quite a task. My strongest point is melody content. I concentrate on that first, then the song structure, then the words come after.
Freddie added: “The structure of the melody comes easy to me, it’s the lyrical content that I find difficult. I have to work on that part of it. I sometimes feel that my melodies are so much stronger than my lyrics, that the lyrics bring them down.
“I think my melodies are superior to the lyrics quite often. I hate writing lyrics. I wish somebody else could do it. I wish I had a Bernie Taupin. Mind you, I like to do it all myself. I’m a greedy bitch.”
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Even many years after his death, people still want to know what meaning lies behind Freddie’s iconic song.
Brian May said: “What’s it about? None of us know. Freddie never talked about it to my knowledge and didn’t want to and that’s the way it should. He had something in his mind and he loved to spin these little pieces of magic. A little bit of reality and little bit of fantasy.”
Roger Taylor added: “What does it mean? I get asked that all the time and I have no answer.”
Freddie himself was also asked directly to try and explain what he was trying to say in the six-minute epic.
Freddie said: “People still ask me what Bohemian Rhapsody is all about, and I say I don’t know.
“I think it loses the myth and ruins a kind of mystique that people have built up. Rhapsody is one of those songs that has a fantasy feel about it. I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then decide for themselves what it means to them.”
He added: “I hate trying to analyse my songs to the full. You should never ask me about my lyrics. People ask, ‘Why did you write such and such a lyric and what does it mean?’
“I don’t like to explain what I was thinking when I wrote a song. I think that’s awful. That’s not what it’s all about. I don’t like to analyse it. I prefer people to put their own interpretation upon it – to read into it what they like. I just sing the songs. I write them and I record and produce them, and it is up to the buyer to interpret it the way that he or she feels.
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