Queen pondered on the lesson of life's insanity in a cruel world and cried for a love gone stale with the dynamic drama of this fandango magnifico. After a headlining world tour supporting their 'Sheer Heart Attack' album, the band severed ties with Neptune Productions and Trident Studios, eventually signing with Elton John's manager, John Reid. Brian May expressed at the time: "It affects your morale. Your capacity for working. It dries you up completely when you're worrying about business things. We couldn't write at all in that three months. We came back from Japan thinking, 'Great, we're going to finish the writing and then record it,' but the whole thing with Trident blew up at that point, and we spent the next three months being businessmen, which is the last thing we wanted to be. But now it's all sorted out -- all the emotions came out in a big flood -- and I think it's going to be really good...It's more extreme. It's varied, but it goes further in its various directions. It has a couple of the heaviest things we've ever done and probably some of the lightest things as well. It's probably closer to 'Sheer Heart Attack' than the others in that it does dart around and create lots of different moods, but we worked on it in the same way we worked on 'Queen II'. A lot of it is very intense and very ... layered."
Deacon relates: "Everybody goes off to their separate homes to get their stuff together," Taylor says, "and then we all sort of get together somewhere else for about two weeks and pool all of the material we have - play around with it, pull it to pieces, throw some out, change bits, and get a sort of rough idea, as good an idea as we can, of what shape the album's going to take. It's a very soul-destroying time...I'm very sort of finicky, you know. I get something written and then I listen to it the next day and I throw it away out of hand. Probably too finicky, but I don't know, I get sort of fussy and go off my own ideas very quickly. The others usually never get to hear them even."
'A Night at the Opera' was produced with Roy Thomas Baker (who had helmed their first three) in London at Lansdowne Recording Studios, Olympic Sound Studios, Roundhouse Recording Studios, and Scorpio Sound Studios; as well as at Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire, Wales. Queen co-produced the sessions that featured Freddie Mercury on lead vocals, backing vocals, piano, jangle piano, and woodwind vocalizations; Brian May on guitars, ukulele, backing vocals, harp, orchestral backdrops, toy koto, and lead vocals on "'39" and "Good Company"; Roger Taylor on drums, percussion, brass vocalizations, backing vocals, and lead vocals on "I'm in Love with My Car"; and John Deacon on bass guitar, double-bass, and Wurlitzer electric piano. At the time, it was one of the most expensive albums ever made with studio costs of reputedly forty thousand pounds.
Mercury would muse: "I do enjoy the studio, yes. It's the most strenuous part of my career. It's so exhausting, mentally and physically. It drains you dry. I sometimes ask myself why I do it. After Sheer Heart Attack we were insane and said never again. And then look what happens!...I think that is the basis of Queen actually. We were very, very meticulous. That has now become an obsession in a funny way, for want of a better word. It's subconscious now, but we feel that we have to better that past standard we've created. Otherwise they'll say, God, look at what they did on Sheer Heart Attack and look at what they're churning out now. And you have to supercede it for your own satisfaction...But I did discipline myself... Take vocals, because they're my forté - especially harmonies and those kind of things. On Queen II we've gone berserk. But on this album I consciously restricted myself. That's brought the songwriting side of it across, and I think those are some of the strongest songs we've ever written."
'A Night at the Opera' took the world by storm, going to number sixteen in France; ten in Sweden; nine in Austria and Japan; five in Germany; four in Norway and the US; and number one in Australia, the Netherlands, and the UK. It has sold over twelve million copies worldwide.
"Bohemian Rhapsody" became a worldwide smash hit, spending nine weeks on the top of the British charts, where it is the third biggest selling single of all time. In the US, it went to number nine. In 1992, it was re-released after it was featured in the film 'Wayne's World', sending it up the charts to peak at number two.
Mercury: "It was just one of those pieces I wrote for the album: just writing my batch of songs. In its early stages I almost rejected it, but then it grew. We started deciding on a single about halfway through. There were a few contenders - we were thinking of 'The Prophet's Song' at one point - but then 'Bohemian Rhapsody' seemed the one. There was a time when the others wanted to chop it around a bit, but I refused. If it was going to be released, it would be in its entirety. We knew it was very risky, but we had so much confidence in that song - I did anyway. I felt, underneath it all, that if it was successful it would earn a lot of respect...People were all going, You're joking, they'll never play it, you'll only hear the first few bars and then they'll fade it out. We had numerous rows. EMI were shocked - A six-minute single? You must be joking! The same in America - Oh, you just got away with it in Britain."
Deacon: "When we finished the album, the Night at the Opera album, that was the track on it that we thought we were gonna release as a single in England first. And when we released it in England we didn't necessarily think it'd be released in America, cause we know even over here, you know, the AM tastes are even more (hesitates) stricter. Anyway we did have thoughts about even in England, perhaps editing it down at all, but we listened to it over and over again and there was no way we could edit it. We tried a few ideas, but if you edited it, you always lost some part of the song, so we had to leave it all in. And luckily it took off anyway."
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality
Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy
Because I'm easy come, easy go, little high, little low
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me
Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I've gone and thrown it all away
Mama, ooh, didn't mean to make you cry
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters
Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine, body's aching all the time
Goodbye, everybody, I've got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooh, I don't want to die
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all
I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright'ning me
(Galileo.) Galileo. (Galileo.) Galileo. Galileo figaro magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
He's just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go
(Let me go.) Will not let you go
(Let me go.) Will not let you go. (Let me go.) Ah
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
(Oh mamma mia, mamma mia) Mama mia, let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me!
So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?
So you think you can love me and leave me to die?
Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby!
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here!
Nothing really matters, anyone can see
Nothing really matters
Nothing really matters to me
Any way the wind blows
"You're My Best Friend" was a worldwide hit.
'A Night at the Opera'
1. "Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...)" Freddie Mercury 3:43
2. "Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon" Mercury 1:08
3. "I'm in Love with My Car" Roger Taylor 3:05
4. "You're My Best Friend" John Deacon 2:50
5. "'39" Brian May 3:25
6. "Sweet Lady" May 4:01
7. "Seaside Rendezvous" Mercury 2:13
8. "The Prophet's Song" May 8:17
9. "Love of My Life" Mercury 3:38
10. "Good Company" May 3:26
11. "Bohemian Rhapsody" Mercury 5:55
12. "God Save the Queen" (Instrumental) Traditional, arr. May 1:11