Elton John thought Bohemian Rhapsody was “absolutely ridiculous” when he first heard it

20 October 2019, 19:00 | Updated: 20 October 2019, 19:01

Elton John and Freddie Mercury performing live in 1975
Elton John and Freddie Mercury performing live in 1975. Picture: Chris Foster/Ian Dickson/Shutterstock

The superstar claims that he thought the Queen classic would be a flop back in 1975.

Elton John has described the first time he ever heard Queen’s classic single Bohemian Rhapsody, claiming he thought the song was “absolutely ridiculous” and “the campest thing I’ve ever heard”.

In his new official autobiography, Me, the superstar revealed that his manager John Reid had played him a test pressing of the single before it was released in October 1975.

Elton John and John Reid, 7th September 1976
Elton John and John Reid, 7th September 1976. Picture: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Reid - who had managed Elton from 1970 and was the singer’s partner for five years - had recently signed Queen to his management company and was keen to get the musician’s opinion on their ambitious six-minute long epic.

“We listened to the song and I shook my head, incredulous,” Elton writes. “‘You’re not actually going to release that, are you?’”

When asked what the problem with the song was, Elton replied: “For one thing, it's about three hours long. For another, it's the campest thing I've ever heard in my life. And the title’s absolutely ridiculous as well.”

Reid was unconcerned by Elton’s criticism, claiming that Bohemian Rhapsody was going to be “one of the biggest records of all time”.

And he was right - Bohemian Rhapsody was Number 1 for nine weeks across Christmas 1975 and had the unusual distinction of hitting the top spot for a second time, following Queen singer Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991.

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Queen performing live in 1974: John Deacon, Roger Taylor, Freddie Mercury and Brian May
Queen performing live in 1974: John Deacon, Roger Taylor, Freddie Mercury and Brian May. Picture: Ian Dickson/Shutterstock

Elton remembers Freddie fondly - while he didn’t “get” Bo Rhap, he got” the singer straight away. He recalls: “From the minute I met him, I loved him. He was just magnificent. Incredibly smart and adventurous. Kind and generous and thoughtful, but outrageously funny.”

Elton John’s official autobiography, Me, is out now, published by Pan Macmillan.

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