The guitar riff that punctuates the song was written on the piano, guitarist Brian May told the BBC.
"The heavy bit was a great opportunity for us to be at full pelt as a rock band. But that big, heavy riff came from Freddie, not me," May told the BBC. "That was something he played with his left hand in octaves on the piano. So I had that as a guide—and that's very hard to do, because Freddie's piano playing was exceptional, although he didn't think so."
The piano Mercury used to record the riff was the same one used by Paul McCartney when the Beatles recorded “Hey Jude.”
The song has several distinctive sections, opening as a ballad, stepping up the tempo with an operatic passage that crashes into hard rock. The song then slows down into a ballad-like coda.
The song has several terms that have been botched through the years: “Scaramouche” -- sometimes mispronounced by amateur singers as “Got a mooch” -- is a character that plays a fool in classic Italian opera. “Bismillah” -- no, not American conductor “Mitch Miller” (of “Sing Along With Mitch” fame) or even “Miss Miller” -- means “in the name of Allah.”
The video of “Bohemian Rhapsody” preceded MTV by six years and was made so the group did not have to appear on “Top of the Pops,” a hokey British music show.
"It was filmed with the express purpose of giving it to "Top of the Pops," May told the BBC. "For those of us who remember it, it wasn't a classy program.
“Top of the Pops” didn’t have a good reputation amongst musicians. Nobody liked it, really.”
The song went to the top of the pop charts for nine weeks in the United Kingdom and reached No. 9 in the United States in early 1976.
The song was long and quirky, but fans loved it. The headbanging scene in “Wayne’s World” when May’s guitar riff takes off remains a classic movie scene.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.