America: a land where you may be sent to prison for attempting to protect civil liberties, but at least you can buy a damn uncensored Queen record and Bohemian rhapsodize in relative operatic peace. Not so in Freddy Mercury‘s ancestrally native Iran – unless you risked black-marketing a bootleg – where, for 34 years, from the inception of the band in 1970 until this day in 2004, their entire catalogue, because of Mercury’s purported homosexuality, saw a ban in the face of strict Islamic beliefs against the non-hetero set.
The catch – two glorious ones: 1.) Iranian record shops only stocked a greatest hits collection, omitting most songs dealing with love. And 2.) said collection – on a cassette tape, mind you – came with lyric explanations narrating the story of “Bohemian Rhapsody” BBC News illustrates, as one of “a young man who has accidentally killed someone and, like faust, sold his soul to the devil,” and “on the night before his execution he calls God in Arabic, ‘Bismillah’, and so regains his soul from Satan.”
Though the explanation was apparently written and approved by the band, and the album was the first of a Western rock act to ever legally drop on Iranian soil, Mercury and crew have the last laugh, as “Bohemian Rhapsody” is arguably their most popular song about love, and many theorizing that it was explicitly very much about Mercury’s first emotional understanding of homosexuality. Iranians, though, now that you’ve had nine years to legally think about it, what is it, real life or fantasy?
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality