So what have we learned?
It was the worst-reviewed Golden Globe winner in 33 years:
Not that I needed Rotten Tomatoes to tell me this, I’ve been tracking it all along. Excoriated in the press, I’ve yet to find one person who didn’t absolutely adore it.
This movie should have been a nonstarter. Aged rock band’s surviving members shepherd a biopic to the screen. The story is too old, not intriguing enough, and everybody will tell you you don’t want the subjects involved, they can never agree on anything and they want a whitewash.
But “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the highest grossing biopic of all time, with a $743,677,266 gross, with $193,644,966 of that in the U.S.
Furthermore, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the song, was not that big of a phenomenon when it was released back in ’75. “A Night At The Opera” was a breakthrough for a band who famously listed “No Synthesizers” in the credits. Their debut, back in ’73, came out on Elektra in the U.S., the home of another band that resurfaced decades later, the Doors. It was Columbia and Warner Brothers who could push this stuff, not Elektra.
But the second album got more traction and the third established a true beachhead, primarily “Killer Queen.”
But the amazing thing about “A Night At The Opera” was its breadth, its different styles. To tell you the truth, “I’m In Love With My Car” and “39” and “You’re My Best Friend” resonated with me more than “Bohemian Rhapsody.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” was not “Stairway To Heaven,” it was not “Free Bird,” it did not sit atop the annual Memorial 500, it was just another arty track in a healthy, diverse scene.
One can argue quite strongly that the subsequent “We Will Rock You”/”We Are The Champions” had greater impact two years later, but neither “A Day At The Races” nor “News Of The World” were as consistent as “A Night At The Opera,” the band’s apotheosis. And after the relatively hitless “Jazz,” which did contain “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Bicycle Race,” the band came back with “The Game” and the infectious “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites The Dust” and then Queen was done, they switched labels in the U.S. and never had another hit, and in the rest of the world the situation was not a whole lot better.
But now they’re LEGENDS? SUPERSTARS? How did this HAPPEN?
That’s right, we had not only Zeppelin, but the Eagles, and before they died, Skynyrd. The truth was, there was a plethora of great acts in the seventies, an era where there was 24 track recording and enough money to get the sound down and the bands could play live and the PA’s could support them.
Credit “Wayne’s World.” It’s just that simple, Wayne and Garth made “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a nearly-forgotten classic rock track, a national staple.
Just like “The Sopranos” gave credibility to Journey and made Steve Perry a legend.
The question is…WHO ELSE CAN BE BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD?
It seems we’re just a placement away from bringing old acts back. But it can’t be manipulated, it’s got to be serendipitous, which makes it so hard to accomplish.
And everyone knows Freddie Mercury died of AIDS.
BUT THEY WENT TO SEE THE MOVIE ANYWAY!
And like I said, the critics savaged the film. Proving their worth in the internet world.
And speaking of the internet world, it’s the endless repeats of “Wayne’s World” on cable and streaming that kept the legend of “Bohemian Rhapsody” alive.
So what is resonating with the public? Which knows the story and the song?
The classic rock narrative is irresistible. People with nothing do hard work and ultimately succeed doing it their way.
This is radically different from today’s music paradigm.
Then again, wasn’t this the story of N.W.A. and “Straight Outta Compton”?
Act too dangerous, too out there for the business, plays by its own rules and resonates with the public.
In other words, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is “Behind The Music” on steroids.
But that formula became long in the tooth. And most acts are not as charismatic as Queen and Mercury.
Now I’m not sure movie studios should rush to do biopics, they usually fail. But “Bohemian Rhapsody” tapped into something.
The power of music.
The power of rock and the roll.
The power of outsiders.
The power of doing it your way.
We’re looking for dominance, for a beacon, something to believe in, and Freddie Mercury and Queen fit the bill.
In a country that’s divided, that doesn’t resemble the seventies whatsoever, the public hungers for something better, a time where music was more important than politics, when a musician was richer than a banker, when the rock star life was truly lived by rock stars.
I doubt “Bohemian Rhapsody” will win Best Picture at the Oscars.
But that doesn’t matter. Because it will play ad infinitum on cable and streaming services. Funny, oftentimes film outlives the music it is based upon.
In other words, the remaining members of Queen achieved their goal beyond their wildest dreams. Queen is now forever, watch those ticket counts soar.
But if Freddie Mercury were still here he’d be laughing.
You see it was not like today, you didn’t make music for mainstream attention, to be a member of the group, you reveled in your role as an outsider, the world came to YOU!
Shows sold out, you were rich, and your lifestyle…let’s just say that smartphone cameras have killed the road, at least sexually.
You were the other, you not only won the game, you defined it.
You didn’t study hard in school, you didn’t take a traditional path, you created your career out of whole cloth, you gave the middle finger to the establishment.
And your audience couldn’t get enough of you.
It’s this ethos the public is hungry for.
We don’t want brands, we want personalities. Who can’t manage perfume companies and the rest of the mercenary penumbra in today’s world.
We want people who can say no. People others are begging to perform, be involved with.
We want leaders, beacons, people who take hold of the system, shake it up, and made it work for them instead of vice versa.
That was Queen.
But it was so many more.
Queen was not the Beatles, they weren’t even the Eagles when it comes to hits and ticket counts. But now they’re the biggest band in the world, decades later.
When you get it right, you get it right for all time.
Take risks, do it your way, the public will clamor for you.
But that’s not today’s paradigm, not really.
But people don’t change, that’s still what we’re looking for.