Thursday, September 15, 2016

1975 - A Night at the Opera

I first heard "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the back seat of my parent's 1969 Ford Falcon driving through Pittsburgh, PA. I'd never heard anything like it. My mother changed the station, pushed one of the buttons that were set for L.A., and it was nothing but static. I yelled, frantically, "Put it back. Put it back." She fiddled with the dial and Freddie sang "Mama, oo-ooo-00." And life was never the same. We stopped at The Original Hot Dog Shop and Freddie sang, "Nothing really matters." Best hot dog ever. "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the most iconic rock song on the planet, in fact, this summer my teen-aged children and I sang it in its entirety coming down from the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park, and there wasn't a verse  or a lick that we didn't know.

And yet, without "Bohemian Rhapsody," this would be but a shorter album. Simpler, less profound, yet still mesmerizing. (What more is there to say about "Bohemian Rhapsody"? Sick of it? Come on, then change the radio dial, turn on some other ga ga, but here's the remedy: stop listening to the song out of context, out of the album realm.) Night at the Opera is an opus unto itself, not a collection of songs. (Oh how I miss album days.)

Anyway, "Death on Two Legs (Dedicated To...)," BAM! There's a great song, "Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon," BAM! There's a great song, "I'm in Love with My Car," BAM! There's a really great song, "You're My Best Friend," BAM! There's a great song, "'39," BAM! There's a great song, "Sweet Lady," BAM! There's a good song, "Seaside Rendezvous," BAM! There's a great song, "The Prophet's Song," BAM! There's a great song, "Love of My Life," BAM! There's a great song, "Good Company," BAM! There's a great song, "Bohemian Rhapsody," BAM! There's a great song, "God Save the Queen," BAM! There's an okay instrumental. Almost perfect.

Pompus? Yes. Pretentious? Of course. Over the top? Undoubtedly. "Bohemian Rhapsody?" No, actually I meant Peter O'Toole's performance in Lawrence of Arabia. O'Toole was one of the greatest movie actors of his time because he could be all those things and make it work. Brilliantly. Queen was the Peter O'Toole of rock, pushing the envelope in every direction, and (mostly) pulling it off. Unfortunately, A Night At The Opera suffers from an issue similiar to that of Bowie's Hunky Dory or Lennon's Imagine: A Night At The Opera is so much more than "The Album With 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'" It's an epic, beautifully composed rock LP, with all the pieces - including "Rhapsody" - in the right places, a tour de force that happens to encompass the most famous song in the world! One track logically leads to another, and even "silly" tunes like "Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon" or "Seaside Rendezvous." fit perfectly in the larger framework of the album. 

In a year when we had Blood on the Tracks, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Wish You Were Here and a myriad of essentials, Night at the Opera distances the pack. Only the incredible lyricism of Born to Run compares.

No Synthesizers!