Queen Blue Bohemian Rhapsody 7″
Bohemian Rhapsody/I’m In Love With My Car
UK EMI 2375.Special issue in Blue Vinyl.
Numbered to 200 with PS (1979).
In Record Collector N. 167 there was an article dedicated to Bohemian Rhapsody. They said that the blue vinyl was strictly pressed in 200 copies. but unnumbered copies exists without PS.
Infact in RC 168 (# after) there was a letter from a collector who said to own an unnumbered copy. This is the transcription of the letter and the reply.
“Dear sir,with reference to your article on Queen’s blue vinyl. you may be interested to learn that I have an unnumbered copy, which came without the original sleeve.It was sent to me after a request to EMI board member Lord Delfont in July 1979. Could this be an even rarer copy than three versions you detailed in the article?” -Jeff B.,UK
Reply from editor: “We’ve had other reports of sleeveless,unnumbered blue vinyl copies since the feature was published.Despite factory manager John Tagg’s detailed recollections about the single,he didn’t actually specify that all copies were numbered. Altough he seemed adamant that only 200 escaped the factory ,it seems that some copies remained ‘in stock’ and were left unnumbered.Altough your copy may be technically rarer than the ‘standard’ editions,in effect you’re only getting half a the deal, as the sleeve and the hand-written number give the record the official seal of approval.Queen fan looking for a blue vinyl copy of “Bohemian Rhapsody” are unlikely to fork out for an incomplete copy, so a maximum value of £300 would seem realistic”
Lately unnumbered copies have make their appereance on ebay they sell aroung 500-600 UKP
A copy od the Bohemian Rhapsody blue edition without number
Record Collector’s article about BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY – Published on June 93 (#166)
QUEEN’S BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
ANDY DAVIS DOES THE FANDANGO TO QUEEN’S GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT AND REVEALS THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THEIR RAREST SINGLE
Additional Research by Jamie Davis
By 1975, Queen were already a fairly successful, if relatively unremarkable, rock group, with an impressive string of hit singles to their name-“Seven Seas Of Rhye”, “Killer Queen” and “Now I’m Here”. But in October that year, thanks to their grandiose and flamboyant “Bohemian Rhapsody”, they were sud-denly catapulted into the superstar league. With the concept of the 7′ single more than 20 years old, the pop world must have thought it had seen it all. But nothing in its brief history could have prepared popular music for “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
As a slice of pure, unashamed burlesque, the single had everything. For nearly six minutes, it masqueraded as a ballad, a mini-opera, and an out-and-out rocker, until it finally climaxed with an almighty, thunder- ing coda. One critic quipped that it had “out Beatled the Beatles”, and Brian May later referred to “A Night At The Opera”, the album from which the song was taken, as “our ‘Sgt. Pepper’ “.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” has since become Queen’s signature tune. It won its author, Freddie Mercury, his second Ivor Novello Award (his first was for “Killer Queen”), and in 1977 the BPI voted it ‘The Best Single Of The Last 25 Years’.
If that wasn’t enough, the single has achieved the rare distinction of being No. 1 twice, with a total chart reign of over three months at the top. And of course, by virtue of its low-budget promo clip, “Bohemian Rhapsody” unwittingly opened the floodgates to the rock video age. Furthermore, in 1991, the song re-awakened American interest in Queen, and created a huge new market for the band’s back catalogue, by virtue of its appearance in the ‘Wayne’s World’ comedy.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” – known affectionately to fans as “Bo Rhap” was recorded in the summer of 1975, as part of the “A Night At The Opera” sessions. Upon its release in November, that album, Queen’s fourth, was extravagantly billed as “the most expensive ever made”. It had been obvious from the outset that Queen were doing nothing by halves. After lengthy rehearsals, the four month recording sessions took place at no fewer than six studios – Sarm, Roundhouse Olympic, Rockfield, Scorpio and Lansdowne.
“We had all the freedom we wanted,” said Freddie Mercury, “and we’ve been able to go to greater extremes. We wanted to experiment with sound. Sometimes we used three studios simultaneously.”
Experiment they certainly did. “A Night At The Opera” featured a huge variety of styles, from the cutting heavy rock of “Death On Two Legs” and “I’m In Love With My Car”, to the nostalgic whimsy of “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon” and “Seaside Rendezvous”, and the multi-layered complexity of “The Prophet Song”. But despite all this dazzling brilliance, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was clearly streets ahead, sweeping aside all contenders.
Although the song was, according to Brian May, “really Freddie’s baby from the begin-ning”, it couldn’t have been realised without Roy Thomas Baker, Queen’s producer. Baker was the man who brought Mercury’s ostenta-tious and outlandish ideas to life. Even the basic backing track- piano, bass and drums -took two days to complete. “It wasn’t all recorded in one go,” said Baker. “We did the whole of the first section, then the rock section, and for the middle part we just hit some drums now and again, after which it was just basically edits.”
Already a veteran of the band’s first three albums, Baker was well versed in Queen’s theatrics, but even he wasn’t quite prepared for the audacity of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. “Freddie was sitting in his apartment, and he had an idea for the song,” remembered Baker. “He didn’t have it all quite worked out, but the basic framework was there. Then he stopped and said, ‘Now dears, this is where the opera section comes in!’ And I thought, ‘Oh my God!’ ”
According to Baker, the song’s operatic section was originally intended only to be a brief interlude. But as he recalled, Freddie saw it somewhat differently. “He’d walk in and say, ‘We’ll just stick some ‘Galileos’ in here’! It got longer and longer, and we kept adding blank tape. Every day we’d think we were done, and then Freddie would come in say ‘I’ve added a few more ‘Galileos’ here, dear’!”
Freddie Mercury himself later admitted that ” ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ took bloody ages to record”. In fact, sessions for the song lasted nearly three weeks; with the opera section alone taking seven days to complete. Queen sang their ‘Galileos’ continually for ten to twelve hours each day, producing a staggering 180 vocal overdubs. Far from pompous, the atmosphere in the studio was often close to hysterical, with Freddie, Brian, John and Roger all revelling in the song’s camp appeal.
After further sessions for Brian May’s guitar overdubs, the tapes required an additional two days’ mixing. When it was complete, Queen felt “Bohemian Rhapsody” rested firmly on the right side of the ludicrous. “We’re not into over-the-top productions for the sake of it,” said Brian May later, “but because it highlights the music. That’s the object in our eyes.”
Over-the-top or not, EMI weren’t initially impressed with “Bo Rhap”. Although unable to deny its musical inventiveness, the label warned that many radio producers would be reluctant to play a six-minute single, thus depriving the group of precious airplay. EMI suggested a light editing job. Not surprisingly, Queen refused. “We were adamant that it could become a hit in its entirety,” said Freddie. “We have been forced to make compromises, but cutting up a song will never be one of them.”
Even Queen’s then-manager, John Reid, was wary about the commercial potential of the song, but “Bohemian Rhapsody” found an ally in DJ Kenny Everett, who despite promising not to broadcast his exclusive preview copy of the single, played it a reported fourteen times during his two weekend shows on Capital Radio. The following Monday morning, EMI were inundated with enquiries.
On 31st October 1975, “Bohemian Rhapsody” became Queen’s fifth single, and their first to sport a U.K. picture sleeve. Reviews were mixed, although the general consensus was that the song was overproduced, if not a teensy bit pretentious. One critic described it as “one of the most peculiar singles of the year”, while another- coming nearer to the mark than he imagined-called it “pure nonsense”. The record-buying public thought otherwise, of course, and immediately took “Bo Rhap” to their hearts. Freddie predicted that the single would reach No. 3 in the charts. On 8th November, it entered the U.K. Iisting at No. 47, and three weeks later was at No. 1, where it stayed for an astonishing nine weeks, winning the band its first platinum award.
Almost as soon as “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released, fans began wondering what inspiration lay behind this lofty and bizarre Freddie Mercury creation. In 1976, author Larry Pryce said that Mercury preferred to leave such questions unanswered. “It’s one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about it,” said Freddie. “I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them”.
The singer later elaborated, but only a little: ” ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ didn’t just come out of thin air. I did a bit of research although it was tongue-in-cheek and mock opera. Why not? A lot of people slammed it. But who can you compare that to? Name one group who’ve done an operatic single.”
That aside, Freddie never revealed the origins of the song, hinting only that its roots lay in personal relationships. Although the other band members would happily discuss the meanings behind their compositions, Freddie was loathe to disclose his sources as Queen’s official biographer, Jim Jenkins confirms: The only song which Freddie ever explained was ‘Bicycle Race’. When the group were in France in 1978 recording ‘Jazz’, the Tour De France was on. All the blokes on the bikes got Freddie going, and that inspired him to write! But as far as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was concerned, he’d never tell us.”
So Jim Jenkins is as puzzled as the rest of us. “I’ve looked at the Iyrics,” he says, “and it’s ‘Goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go’. AIDS wasn’t around when Freddie wrote that. If ‘Bo Rhap’ had been on the last Queen album, ‘Innuendo’, we’d all know what it was about. But it was written so long ago…”
Too much analysis can often obscure reality, though. Another long- term friend of Freddie’s was Kenny Everett. When asked recently if Freddie had ever divulged the song’s meaning to him, the Capital Gold DJ revealed the stark truth: “Freddie once told me that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was just ‘random, rhyming nonsense’!”
Having already challenged pop’s well established, three-minute rule by releasing a single nearly twice the normal length, Queen went on, albeit unintentionally, to set another precedent with the film clip used to promote it. The video was directed by Bruce Gowers- who’d previously shot Queen’s 1974 film, ‘Live At The Rainbow’-although much of the creative input came from the band themselves. The opening sequence featured the “Queen II” album cover coming to life (an idea re-worked ten years later for the “One Vision” video), but as with the record itself, it was the opera section which garnered most interest. Using the latest (now rather quaint-looking) special effects, Gowers manipulated the image of Queen’s faces in much the same way Roy Thomas Baker had done with their vocals. The results were startling, and for 1975 -when the few existing British promo clips featured little more than abstract images of artists-revolutionary.
The medium was important, too. “People used to have clips before,” said John Deacon in 1975, “but they were all shot on film. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was shot on video-in about four hours.” Brian May added, “Everyone thought the film was a huge production. But it was really easy to do, and since then we’ve spent a lot of time on films which probably aren’t as good, and certainly didn’t get the exposure.” The film became a major talking point, and after a showing on ‘Top Of The Pops’ (where Queen couldn’t appear due to touring commitments), few were surprised to see the single shoot to No. 1.
On stage, though, “Bohemian Rhapsody” presented Queen with a problem. The middle section couldn’t be reproduced live. Similar dilemmas with “Sgt. Pepper” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” had prompted the Beatles to give up touring altogether, but for Queen, technology was available to lend a hand. When “Bo Rhap” was performed on the “A Night At The Opera” tour, pre-recorded tapes were played during the operatic interlude (and were also used as the band’s introduction), while the band vacated the stage, later to return with a bang for the song’s rocking finale.
On 18th October 1977, just days before the release of Queen’s seventh album, “News Of The World”, “Bohemian Rhapsody” earned an impressive accolade. At a ceremony at the Wembley Conference Centre, the British Phonographic Industry bestowed upon it the Britannia Award for ‘The Best British Pop Single Of The Last 25 Years’ (actually a joint award with Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”). All four of the band appeared on stage to receive the award from presenter Michael Aspel.
And the “Bohemian Rhapsody” bandwagon rolled on into 1979, too, when Freddie Mercury lived out one of his cherished fantasies by performing “Bo Rhap” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, live with the Royal Ballet at a charity gala at London’s Coliseum. But the event which elevated “Bo Rhap” into truly legendary status (in the eyes of ‘Record Collector’ readers, at least!), took place a year earlier. In 1978, EMI won the Queen’s Award To Industry For Export Achievement. To commemorate the occasion, EMI pressed a blue vinyl edition of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, limited to just 200 copies. This has since become the band’s most sought after and valuable rarity which is currently commanding around £1,000.
The Queen’s Award To Industry For Export Achievement is one of the most coveted distinctions for British manufacturers. But it’s an award which Her Majesty doesn’t just hand out on a velvet cushion; it has to be earned-and applied for. In the summer of 1978, EMI’s International Division entered the running with thousands of other hopeful companies. Ironically fuelled by the British economic crisis of the early and mid 70s, a weak pound, and low U.K. prices, EMI had witnessed a massive increase in their exports of records by British artists. With millions in the export coffers, the company was in a position to scoop the award. – The company’s International Sales Manager at the time, Norman Bates, explains the situation: “The award was for EMI’s records and pressing fees – effectively overseas licencing – with some importance towards Queen, who were getting bigger and bigger at the time. What it meant, particularly, was that groups like Queen were being shipped to prime markets throughout the world where there were no manufacturing facilities. So from Iceland to Zanzibar we were selling records, where we previously hadn’t”
EMI spent around six weeks preparing a large, 15 page document, which revealed the finer details of the company’s overseas trading. “One had to list all of the territories one had been exporting to over the previous ten years,” remembers Bates, “along with any new territories. Also the turnovers, and how much they’d increased.” The completed portfolio was submitted to the Department Of Trade And Industry, and then, says Bates, “the men from the ministry turned up, and did an audit for two or three hours. They sent people round to double check that we were telling the truth!”
EMI were telling the truth, of course, and it’s now a matter of record that the company became Her Majesty’s choice for 1978. “It was really a coveted award,” Bates recalls. “We were over the moon to receive it. One ended up going to Buckingham Palace, and all that sort of thing.”
With Queen as a flagship act for the export drive, Paul Watts, then General Manager of EMI’s International Division, decided the best way to commemorate the Award was to issue a special Queen single. “The award represented the way in which Queen were so much a part of the fabric of the company,” he recalls. “They were central to what EMI was doing.
” ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was the natural choice because it was such a milestone record. It had been No. 1 for so long and was the catalyst which took Queen into the next dimension in the international market. It encapsulated EMI’s whole international achievement.”
After a series of discussions, Watts and his team decided that a coloured vinyl edition of the record seemed the most attractive-if not the most practical-way to celebrate EMI’s current royal favour. “We came up with the band’s original colours-purple and gold, as on the ‘Queen I’ cover,” Watts remembers. “These colours signified Queen in a way. We decided upon a maroon and gold sleeve-and a single in purple vinyl.” Purple vinyl? “Yes, purple.”
As the interest surrounding the Award grew, more and more EMI staff became involved, and the occasion mushroomed into a corporate event, with EMI Records Ltd, as opposed to just EMI the label, beginning to call the shots. Well aware of how easily plans can go wrong, Paul Watts was wary about outside involvement in his Queen project: “I was told, ‘Don’t you worry yourself, we’ll take this over. This is corporate stuff now’.” Reluctantly, Watts agreed to let the team upstairs design the record. “We wanted it to be special so there would only be 200 copies,” he remembers. “And I said, ‘Just make sure you do it right!’.”
But as Watts had feared, the unexpected happened. “Lo and behold,” he says, “when the record came back from the factory, it wasn’t purple at all, but blue! ‘Do me a favour!’ I said. But all they could say was, ‘Hmm, looks alright to me.’ But it was a cockup. The blue vinyl was a cock-up! And as we only had 200, it wasn’t worth changing it.”
Down at EMI’s pressing plant in Hayes Middlesex, production controller John Tagg had no idea that the commemorative issue of “Bohemian Rhapsody” should have been purple. Acting on those corporate directives, he went ahead and ordered the required colour- blue. “We made a number of records in various colours, but they were all run of the mill stuff,” he remembers. “The blue granules were specially formulated for this project.”
Whatever the colour, with such a low run (when 1000 or 1500 copies was the usual minimum), the blue vinyl “Bo Rhap” presented John Tagg with a few problems. “It was tremendously different from pressing an ordinary record,” he recalls. “The plant was fully automated, with a material mix system that fed air-conveyed black vinyl material through a maze of silos, rotary valves and pipes. To suddenly decide to use a different colour was something of a nightmare.
“It meant that a press had to be isolated from the rest of the system and thoroughly cleaned out. In fact, it all had to be stripped down and cleaned before we could even attempt to manually fill a hopper with the blue granules. Then we had to extrude about 20 or 30 pounds in weight of the blue material from that particular press before we got a pure strain. It took quite a while to prepare, and quite a while to produce.”
In 1978, under normal conditions, EMI could manufacture a seven inch record in just 22 seconds. By comparison, the 200 blue vinyl Queen singles took John Tagg and his staff about 3 days. It was also an expensive process. Standard seven inchers rolled out of EMI at around 50p each, but John Tagg recalls “Bohemian Rhapsody” costing around £4 or £5 per copy.
To finish off the record, full-colour “A Night At The Opera” crest labels were specially printed, and each disc was hand-numbered on the A- side, and on the back of the purple and gold title sleeve. The sleeve lettering was borrowed from the typeface style of “News Of The World”, Queen’s latest album. And if collectors needed such an assurance, John Tagg confirms the small numbers of the blue “Bohemian Rhapsody” in existence. “The record was very much a limited edition,” he says. “I kept it absolutely strictly to 200 copies, and destroyed all the materials associated with it afterwards.”
EMI’s International Division was formally presented with the Queen’s Award To Industry For Export Achievement at a three-hour luncheon on Wednesday 26 July 1978, in the Cotswold Suite at London’s Selfridge Hotel. The directors and management of EMI were in attendance, but there was no sign of either Queen (the group) or the Queen (Her Majesty). The monarch had sent her representative, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant Of Greater London, Admiral Sir Charles Madden, to do the honours, while Freddie and the boys were living it up at one of their notoriously extravagant parties in Montreux in Switzerland (where Queen were in the process of recording “Jazz”), this one to mark Roger Taylor’s 29th birthday.
The initial handful of “Bohemian Rhapsody” blue vinyls were framed and reserved for the members of Queen and EMI top brass. Some were distributed among participating EMI staff, while press kit copies were packaged in an outer ‘EMI International Division’ purple carrying- envelope (complete with card handles), and sent out with the luncheon’s two invites. The remaining copies were presented to luncheon guests along with a pair of tall, etched champagne glasses, and a commemorative EMI silk scarf, both featuring the official ‘E’ export logo. EMI’s Norman Bates remembers the giveaway clearly, “They were just shoved in a plastic bag and handed out. You didn’t really know what you had until you got back to the office. Most people got either the record, or the glasses and the scarf. But I managed to get all three!”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” remains one of rock’s most enduring singles. Since 1975, it has appeared in various forms on no less than 18 U.K. Queen releases. After Freddie Mercury’s untimely death in 1991, it was reissued as a double A-side with “These Are The Days Of Our Lives”, and again reached No. 1, this time staying the course for an impressive five weeks. Second time around, “Bo Rhap” earned itself another entry in the record books-the only title to be No. 1 twice over the Christmas period. It also became the U.K.’s fastest selling single ever, eclipsing even Band Aid’s legendary statistics. Freddie couldn’t have wished for a better epitaph.
Thanks to all those who helped with information and illustrations for this feature. In alphabetical order: Norman Bates, Paul Bird, Barbara Byng, Jamie Davis, Julian Thomas at Esprit, Keith Foster, Jacky Gunn at Queen Productions, Andy Halstead at Discovery, Mike Heatley at EMI, Colin Humphreys, Jim Jenkins, Mike Read, John Stuart, John Tagg, Greg Vandike and Paul Watts.
IS THIS THE REAL LIFE?
Over the years, there have been many rumours surrounding the rare blue vinyl edition of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Ironically, in light of Paul Watts’ recollections many fans have been under the impression that the single exists on purple vinyl as well as blue-albeit without a picture sleeve and the “A Night At The Opera” crest label. If this edition does exist, then it’s most likely an overseas issue. But whatever its origin, it has nothing to do with the Queen’s Award To Industry For Export Achievement.
Fans forking out four-figure sums for original U.K. copies should make sure they are paying for the genuine article. The blue vinyl has been counterfeited and the apparent tell-tale signs lie in the vinyl itself. The original is pressed in a translucent royal blue colour, while fakes are of a deeper, duller hue. The number on the back sleeve should be handwritten (as on the A-side of the label); typewritten numbers are counterfeits. (There is no number on the B-side label of the original, incidentally.)
A blue BoRhap with black swirled. N. 37. First time I see it… don’t know if there are other copies in this way. Probably a residue of black vinyl in the mother stamper?? or maybe problem in conservation.
thanks to James Williams for this image
check the rare test pressing white label of the blue vinyl