Rami Malek won a Golden Globe for his performance as Freddie Mercury this week, which has been both championed and chastised. Picture: supplied
Rami Malek won a Golden Globe for his performance as Freddie Mercury this week, which has been both championed and chastised. Picture: supplied

Bohemian Rhapsody’s Globe win is a total miss

QUEEN have successfully given their history a Hollywood makeover on Bohemian Rhapsody.

Very successfully indeed - as well being about to crack $1 billion at the box office, the biopic won the Golden Globe for Best Drama over favourites Black Panther and A Star is Born.

The movie has rebooted Queen's legacy for a new generation, as well as reconnecting the band with existing and casual fans. They currently have three albums in the ARIA Top 5 - something only Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Prince have managed to do in the last decade, but sadly all for the worst possible reason.

The Globe nod (the awards are voted by journalists) is vindication for a band (and a movie) snubbed by critics but loved by the public.

Just as Rami Malek has been praised for channelling Freddie Mercury, much has been written about some of the liberties taken with the truth in Bohemian Rhapsody.

In a nutshell - the band never broke up, and they'd actually been touring 1984's The Works (the album that's home to 'Radio Gaga' and 'I Want to Break Free') just two months before Live Aid took place in July 1985 (even playing Melbourne and Sydney in April 1985).

Freddie Mercury wasn't diagnosed HIV positive until 1987 according to partner Jim Hutton, despite the movie fast-forwarding history so he told his band ahead of Live Aid for a more dramatic Hollywood moment.

The 2011 band-sanctioned BBC documentary Days of Our Lives touched on some of the more salacious and problematic aspects of Queen's career that Bohemian Rhapsody avoids - either for timing or strategic reasons.

It delves into the band playing in South Africa's Sun City at the height of apartheid in 1984 (including nine stadium shows a few months before Live Aid) - when other musicians were boycotting playing there. The band's manager Jim Beach honestly admits they went because they were offered "a large amount of money" and drummer Roger Taylor notes "We got so much shit for it. We went for good reasons but on balance I think it was a mistake to go."

Sacha Baron Cohen, who was originally set to play Mercury, jettisoned himself from Bohemian Rhapsody due to the sanitised script and his view the band's heavy involvement in it was turning it from a Freddie Mercury movie into a Queen movie.

Baron Cohen told Howard Stern in 2016 that he initially came to the Queen movie to play out the extreme stories from Freddie Mercury's private life he'd heard about - many from ex-lovers and staff who'd sold stories after his death.

"They are a band, they want to protect their legacy as a band, they want it to be about Queen. I fully understand that," he said.

As one of the most iconic bands of all times, the story of Queen, and frontman Freddie Mercuy, was always bound to end up being told on screen. Picture: supplied
As one of the most iconic bands of all times, the story of Queen, and frontman Freddie Mercuy, was always bound to end up being told on screen. Picture: supplied

The comedian said at the first meeting an unnamed band member told him of the original plan for the film: "'It's got such an amazing thing that happens in the middle of the movie. Freddie dies … and we see how the band carries on from strength to strength'. Not one person is going to see that movie."

That movie never happened, Bohemian Rhapsody wisely leaves out the post-Mercury Queen, and there were some dank years as the band pinballed with no singer. It's a tough position, one few bands have conquered. INXS tried it (they also had a reality TV singer and did the band-sanctioned biopic) but only AC/DC have managed to make it really work.

Bassist John Deacon retired in 1997 - financially he never needs to work again as the writer of hits including 'Another One Bites the Dust', 'You're My Best Friend' and 'I Want to Break Free'.

While Brian May and Roger Taylor have now landed on their feet with Adam Lambert, there was the five years with hard rock singer Paul Rodgers from 2004 that spawned an album and tour but few saw it as the right fit.

For a while May and Taylor just seemed happy to work - May once said they were always "searching". They recorded with Robbie Williams (he was reportedly offered the job full time) on 'We Are the Champions' for A Knight's Tale, boy band 5ive on a cover of 'We Will Rock You', Fugees members Pras and Wyclef on a cover of 'Another One Bites the Dust', and even our own John Farnham. Taylor and May recorded a cover of 'We Will Rock You' in Melbourne with him for the Rugby World Cup in 2003. At the time Farnham was also rumoured to have also been offered the job fronting the band full time.

Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen through the eyes of the remaining band members, with Rami Malek winning acclaim for his portrayal of the frontman. Picture: Alex Bailey/Twentieth Century Fox
Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen through the eyes of the remaining band members, with Rami Malek winning acclaim for his portrayal of the frontman. Picture: Alex Bailey/Twentieth Century Fox

There's also the We Will Rock You musical, written by Ben Elton, which has again been a commercial success but never a critical favourite, but was a way of keeping the songs alive when the man who sang them sadly wasn't around to.

One thing Bohemian Rhapsody misses by ending so early is how Mercury was hounded by a homophobic press in the last years of his life. A prisoner in his home, the UK tabloid press were hinting at his sickness and snapping photos when he'd leave to get medical attention.

Just a few days after his death in 1991, Joe Haines in the Daily Mirror wrote a column titled 'Dark Side of Freddie', which gives you a glimpse into how the mainstream media were writing about homosexuality at the time - and perhaps an insight into why Mercury only revealed he had the disease the day before his death.

"He was sheer poison, a man bent - the apt word in the circumstances - on abnormal sexual pleasures, corrupt, corrupting and a drug taker. For his kind, AIDS is a kind of suicide. His death won't help the fight against AIDS because he gave a glamour to the lifestyle which causes it. His private life is a revolting tale of depravity, lust and downright wickedness," Haines column read.

One thing is clear. After Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen and Adam Lambert (who has his own solo career) have announced more American shows. They'd want to give Lambert a massive pay rise as if they even tap into 10 per cent of the people who've seen the movie or fallen into a Queen rabbit hole on YouTube, they could spend the next five years filling arenas and stadiums around the world, just like the old days.

Cameron Adams is a music writer for the Herald Sun.

@cameron_adams



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