A Night at the Opera
1975/1991: Hollywood HR-61065-2
I acquired this album strictly to have Bohemian Rhapsody, and probably Ive listened to the other tracks maybe once, aside from Youre My Best Friend, which really is a beaut. The rest left me nonplussed at best.
But Bohemian Rhapsody THAT I remember as being the first track I ever heard on headphones that woke me up to what stereophonic sound could deliver. I apologize for the antiquated terminology there, but thats what was involved: a shift from just stereo sound (left/right channels) to the capacity for the medium to exploit a much larger spectrum within that zone.
The occasion for that enlightenment was, as I recall, some high school in Yakima where our Walla Walla-based debate team was preparing for some event. Someone handed me a pair of headphones (which, I hasten to add, werent alien to me) and hit Play on their cassette player, and THAT started playing. I know Id heard Bohemian Rhapsody play on the radio or elsewhere before, so I didnt find it utterly new and bewildering, but what was new was the intense stereophonic craft inherent in it.
It started off coaxingly enough, with the multitracked vocals and whiffs of stereo, but then it unfurled into an overblown glam-rock ballad which didnt interest me. Blah-blah-blah, drama, killed-a-man, mama, whatever.
And then the tiresome guitar solo stopped abruptly, and I sat upright and started paying attention.
I had never encountered anything like that stuff before (Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?), and it was simultanously fascinating, dazzling, totally over the top, and engaging. The pinnacle of my reaction, however, was probably the build of Mercurys never, never, never, never let me go, followed by the cascading chord reprising the magnifico from just 20 seconds earlier. Sure, it sounds like nothing when I mention it in text form all these years later, but when you hear it in such a startling context (and at ample volume, which is important) its pretty amazing especially back when it was so bizarre and new and intense, with no contemporary works one could compare it to.
Hell, whom am I kiddingit still has no peers. Bohemian Rhapsody deservedly is unique and incomparable. What its all about does seem to fade into irrelevance, by contrast, if the drama of the track washes over you.
Comments © 2015 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.