An auction sale of Freddie Mercury’s belongings has revealed long lost notes of Freddie Mercury writing his iconic “Bohemian Rhapsody” anthem under a different title.
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Aptly named “Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own,” the collection of items from Mercury’s estate includes historic pieces such as Mercury’s iconic crown and red cloak, a Tiffany & Co. mustache comb, and his personal guitar reportedly used to write “This Thing Called Love.” Yet the most compelling find was a 15-page portfolio of song lyrics throughout various stages of writing. The working lyrics for hits like “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “We Are the Champions,” and “Somebody to Love” have all been re-discovered, along with unused alternative lyrics. These drafts led to the fascinating realization that the anthem we know as “Bohemian Rhapsody” was first etched in 1974 as a song called “Mongolian Rhapsody.”
Written in pen on the back of an airline calendar, Mercury was clearly in a hurry to record his ideas somewhere. The words “Galileo,” “Bismillah” and “Fandango” are written randomly across the page, with other unused interjections including, “Matador” and “Belladonna.” The drafted song also contains alternative lines for the lyrics we all scream-sing. The intro was first written as, “Is this the real life? / Or is this only fantasy / Open your eyes now / and tell me what you see / Time for good-byes now, is this reality.” The introductory verse, “Mama, just killed a man,” was instead written as, “Mama, there’s a war began; I’ve got to leave tonight.”
Ultimately, it appears that Mercury crossed out “Mongolian” in favor of “Bohemian,” along with revising some initial phrasings. Yet, the centralized theme never shifted its focus away from the emotions in abandoning everyday life and seeking out a new existence. The song’s theme “Nothing really matters to me” is seen unchanged on the scrap paper, and recurs throughout each written sheet.
As for Mercury’s musical ideas, he seemed to have the contrasting drama of the song in mind consistently, as he also notated a back and forth between high and low pitches. “Galileo” anyone?
The compilation of items is set to hit auction this coming September, where the “Bohemian Rhapsody” draft is estimated to sell anywhere from $995,000 to $1.5 million on its own. Mercury’s close friend, Mary Austin, inherited the majority of his estate and his home, where all the items were found and cared for. “For many years now, I have had the joy and privilege of living surrounded by all the wonderful things that Freddie sought out and so loved,” Austin said in her public statement. “But the years have passed, and the time has come for me to take the difficult decision to close this very special chapter in my life. It was important to me to do this in a way that I felt Freddie would have loved, and there was nothing he loved more than an auction.”
Check out a digitized version of the song draft here, and don’t forget to “carry on, carry on.”