Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury, arr. Philip Sparke)

Bohemian Rhapsody has often been referred to as the most important song in the history of rock. It was written by Freddie Mercury for Queen’s 1975 album A Night at the Opera, but released as a single (on 31st October 1975) before the album was completed. It stayed at the top of the charts in the UK for nine weeks, despite the fact that record company executives believed the song was too long (at nearly six minutes) for radio stations to be interested and would never be a commercial success.

The song defied all convention in terms of form and has no ‘chorus’; it consists of six sections: an introduction, ballad, guitar solo, opera, hard rock and coda. Perhaps the most mystifying thing about the song are its lyrics, which are commonly thought to be autobiographical, although members of the band have never explained them fully.

The track took a full three weeks to record and was fully-composed by Mercury, in contrast to most of Queen’s songs, which tended to be put together in the recording studio. It remains the most expensive song ever recorded, having some 180 overdubs, mostly vocal, at a time in recording history when only 24 tracks were available at any one time.

The elaborate video that was made to promote the single has been credited as being the catalyst for the growth of the now ubiquitous pop video.


In this version for concert band, Philip Sparke has tried to remain as faithful as possible to the original and added material only when it was impossible to adequately recreate the drama of the original. The timpani part has been expanded, but otherwise the percussion is purely drum kit plus bell tree and tam-tam. Bands who would like to involve larger percussion sections should feel free to add to this. Lyrics have been notated in the score and parts where it was felt this would help phrasing reflect the original vocal lines.