According to my research, Queen Elizabeth II was 49 years old when Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” came out.
That’s how old I am now.
This terrifies me because the Queen has always seemed like an old lady to me. Part of what makes it feel so weird is that BoRhap — like the Queen — has never really gone away. It (not she) is constantly reprised (or should I say “revived”) on “rock” radio stations and on American Idol, so it doesn’t seem all that dated. Unlike, for example, any given Elvis song, which would invariably sound like it came from 1000 years ago.
But here’s the kicker — I’ve always hated “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I was a young teenager when it came out, all wrapped up in big-haired guitar music from Kiss, BTO, and the less subtle strains of Led Zeppelin. I couldn’t understand how the kind of highfalutin orchestration we hear in BoRhap was supposed to be cool. To my angry and unrefined ears it sounded like a cross between a Broadway show tune and the snooty music that tea-sipping ladies enjoyed — with a bit of unmelodious guitar banging thrown in at the end for good measure.
The worst part was the dancing. You cannot dance to Bohemian Rhapsody. At least you couldn’t according to the strict dancing codes we adhered to in the time and place of my youth. (In brief, you shuffled around, more or less in time with the music, being careful not to appear very good at it or to be having much fun, lest the banner of “fag” descend upon you.) Regardless, girls loved BoRhap. They’d want to dance to it so badly they’d even grab me — surly me, crunched up in a corner conspicuously despising everything — and drag me to the dance floor. I had no choice but to comply or my odds of necking with one of them would be reduced from a high of 1% to absolute zero.
So there I’d be, stumbling through the first part of BoRhap, which is too slow and theatrical to dance to. I’d awkwardly rock from side to side while the girl ignored me and twittered (in the old fashioned sense) with her friends who in turn were subjecting various other males to this torture. Then the tempo would pick up. In our current age — that of So You Think You Can Dance and its variations and offshoots — kids would start busting moves left and right. But back then all you could do was flail around a bit more, hoping she wasn’t really looking.
On it went, for what seemed like hours. When it was finally ending I’d pray for some kind of pop song, something that I would obviously despise but at least I could pick up a beat and maybe redeem myself just a little. There was no point in hoping for a slow dance, even though nothing could have been finer than for my virginal hands to encircle the body (the body!) of a nubile classmate of the female persuasion, and to actually touch (touch!) the fabric of her blouse and to smell the faint aroma of Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo from her hair. No, BoRhap got the girls too revved up for slow dancing so no DJ would make that kind of segue.
I’d invariably get my damned pop song, but then the girl would run off to giggle with her gaggle and I’d be left there, both tortured and humiliated.
Thanks a lot, Queen.