We’ve all had this moment. You’re in a car with your friends, the radio is blasting, and the opening line kicks in…“Is this the real life, is this just fantasy…” Time to re-enact one of the best opening scenes in a movie (yes, I’m serious). I was in 4th grade when Wayne’s World came out, and it was my introduction to Bohemian Rhapsody. The song is staggering. It’s one of the most complex recordings done (peep this making-of with Brian May and one of the engineers here). It was the most expensive single recorded at the time. It’s nearly 6 minutes long. It has no chorus, and key changes galore (for you non-music types, it has a weird song structure). Yet in spite of its weirdness, it was (and still is) incredibly popular. I submit that it’s as close to a “perfect” song as you’ll find (go ahead, try to find a part in the song where you think “you know, they should’ve done it this way”). It was Bohemian Rhapsody that solidified my idolization of Freddy Mercury. Dude was a genius, pure and simple. Though clearly straight, I’d be putty in the hands of Freddy (crazy teeth and all).
Because of my love of Bohemian Rhapsody, I’ve had many a Wayne’s World re-enactments (as my friends will attest). By far and away, though, my favorite experience was at my best friend Charles’ bachelor party. We were 12 “completely sober gentlemen” leaving “a round-table debate on the impact of global exports on local economies” in the “thriving metropolis” of Myrtle Beach, when the gods old and new (I can’t wait for GOT) smiled upon our group and delivered us the gift of Bohemian Rhapsody on the radio. What commenced was joy in its purest form: A group of friends singing at the top of their lungs, arm in arm, in celebration of their friend’s new chapter in his life. It is a moment I cherish, but the full Bohemian Rhapsody memory was just beginning.
After the rehearsal dinner, the wedding party unanimously decided that we should take the fun times to a bar for some drinks. Now, this being a small town in NC, options are limited, and we end up at The Brewer’s Lounge, a local haunt that’s attached to a steakhouse. As it turns out, it’s karaoke night at the bar, and the bar is half-full (‘cause I’m an optimist!) with locals, some of whom are doing semi-decent renditions of Willie Nelson songs. We’re hanging out, when some of the groomsmen approach me and say “we’re thinking of recreating the singalong in the limo at the bachelor party. You down to go up there?” Of course I am. Not only am I a fan of karaoke, and clearly love the song, give me a stage to perform on and I’m down (this “never gets me into trouble”). When our name is called, I walk to the karaoke area and see one or two guys follow. I start singing, and the bar takes note. The attention is a little bit surprising, but alright, they want a show, I’ll give ‘em a show. Then at one point I turn around, and instead of the couple of guys who I saw walking up with me, nearly the whole wedding party is behind me. Shit goes epic. For the “scattamoosh” parts we get the bar involved trading lines back and forth. Locals I don’t know are filming us. Everyone is into it. As the song ends the bar erupts. People are high-fiving and hugging, and we all agree that what happened was a magical moment. Bohemian Rhapsody, you have treated me well yet again. Oh but you were not done with me. Not at all.
At the wedding reception the next day everyone’s having a good time, when some of the groomsmen approach me (again). They want to do the song like last night. I don’t know, I say, lightning already struck twice, and now we’re trying to make it happen again? It never works. They persist. I accept on the condition that we check with the newly-married couple, as this is their rodeo and I’m not trying to lasso their bull (I don’t know how rodeo analogies work). Charles and his new wife Sarah are almost insulted they were asked.
We tell the DJ, and while he doesn’t have the karaoke version, he does have the original, some mics, and he’s down. When the current song ends he announces that some of the groomsmen have something special planned, and could everyone clear some space around him. This is more than I was expecting. I thought at some point as the night’s wrapping we’ll gather around and sing. This is much more legit. I ask the folks from the rehearsal dinner to come up to the front as the song starts, and everyone is ready for it. We give a rousing rendition, complete with face-melting air-guitar solo by one of the fellas. This being a crowd of supporters (as opposed to rando bar flies), the crowd participation is even greater.
As we reach the end of the song and sing “Any way the wind bloooooooooows….,” I have my arm around Charles, and we sing together into the mic as the reception erupts in cheers. To this day, I can think of no greater gift I could have given my best friend on the day he married his one and only someone than the gift of Bohemian Rhapsody (and friendship, of course. But mostly the song). And that is its magic. Bohemian Rhapsody is perfect for a raucous car singalong, an epic karaoke finishing move (come at me with any other song and see what happens), inspiration for upping your songwriting game, and celebrating the union of two folks in love. It can dominate all. Any way the wind blows.