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Fake news about 'fascist' Queen

  • 01 November 2018


Bohemian Rhapsody (M). Director: Bryan Singer. Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello. 134 minutes

In 1993, at the age of 12, I begged my parents for a copy of Queen's Greatest Hits Volume 1 on cassette. I did so on the strength of three songs that I had heard — all of which turned out to be 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

Over the following two or so years I listened to nothing but Queen, acquiring each of the band's albums on CD, and VHS tapes of various concerts and music video compilations. My collection swelled to include the CD releases of every solo or side project by the band's individual members that I could lay my hands on.

All of which is to say that when it comes to Queen, I am far from a casual listener. Which, it turns out, is both an advantage and disadvantage when it comes to Bohemian Rhapsody, director Bryan Singer's flawed and exuberant biopic about the band and its singularly talented and charismatic frontman, Freddie Mercury.

With its near career-spanning soundtrack, detailed recreations of live performances and numerous nods to seminal moments in the band's history, it hits the nostalgia buttons hard, and well. At the same time, it plays fast and loose with timelines and facts, in ways that either serve the story or simply the filmmakers' hagiographic agenda (original band members Brian May and Roger Taylor executive produce).

It describes an arc that is more or less accurate. It begins with Mercury as a young arts student at Ealing, slightly gawky (Malek sports a spectacular set of fake teeth to mimic Mercury's prolific overbite) but beginning to embrace what would become a trademark flamboyance, to the chagrin of his conservative Parsee parents.

He is enamoured of a local band called Smile, with budding astrophysicist May (Lee) on guitar and dental student Roger Taylor (Hardy) on drums, alongside soon-to-depart lead singer Tim Staffell. The recreation of Smile playing 'Doing All Right' — a fabulous song that would later be recorded for the first Queen album — in a dingy university pub is one of those spine-tingling, fan-pleasing moments.


"In 1978 Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh hazarded that Queen might be 'the first truly fascist rock band'. One wonders how he feels about Bohemian Rhapsody's historical revisionism."


After Staffell quits and Mercury steps in, we get to see the famous moment where, after battling with a busted mic stand,