Lazy Luddite Log

30.1.06

Bohemian Rhapsody versus the Evie Trilogy

Now is the time for some controversy on this weblog. Nobody has been provoked by my political postings so now I will take it to a much more volatile topic – music – with the brave assertion that the Evie Trilogy is better than Bohemian Rhapsody!

Why compare these two tracks in particular? Well they both are classics of the same era (1974 and 1975 respectively) and both can be described as three-songs-in-one (in the case of the Evie Trilogy cut across three separate tracks).

Why is it controversial to say that the Evie Trilogy is better than Bohemian Rhapsody? Bohemian Rhapsody is universally lauded as one of the all-time greatest songs while there are many who will say “Evie who?” It helps to be Australian to know the Evie Trilogy – it was originally done by Stevie Wright (a big figure in Aussie popular music at the time) and was recently redone (very faithfully) by a hastily constructed band – ‘The Wrights’ – comprising musicians from major Australian bands of this time. In the rest of the world many will never have come across this track. The surprising thing is that I am saying it and am known among friends as a big Queen fan. I am. I have even been a groupy (only in the sense of regularly seeing shows of a local Queen cover band). I think Queen is the best band ever but I can still say that Bohemian Rhapsody is far from the best song ever (one definitely gets over-exposed to it).

So why is the Evie Trilogy better than Bohemian Rhapsody? I find the mix and sequence of musical forms explored in Evie more satisfying than those in Bohemian Rhapsody. Also Evie tells a coherent story anyone can comprehend while Bohemian Rhapsody is - well - who knows what.

The Queen track starts with a piano ballad then changes into mock operetta and concludes with some hard rock. So it starts slow and soppy then gets quick and silly (honestly who is into operetta these days – turn off your Gilbert & Sullivan CD while I’m writing at you!) then finally gets hard and fast. I suspect that most fans of the song are really just into the last bit so they can head bang like in Wayne's World and are prepared to sway loyally through the rest of it.

In contrast the Stevie Wright track starts with hard rock (Part 1) then changes to a piano ballad (Part 2) then concludes with something I am tempted to call soul (Part 3) with the vocals and electric organ in particular giving it a righteous feel. So it starts energetic (Part 1) then gives you a bit of a rest (musically) while elevating the emotional content (Part 2) and finally brings back the musical energy while intensifying the emotion even further (Part 3).

My comments on emotional content need elaborating. Evie tells a story in three parts. Part 1 is the story of a teen date sung by the boy saying how hot his girl is and imploring her to come have some fun on the town. It is raunchy and exuberant. In Part 2 we discover they are still together - it is a love song declaring how much for the better Evie has changed the life of the singer and making reference to the fact that they are expecting. It is soppy and sentimental. Part 3 then brings on the 'shock horror' part of the story - Evie dies in childbirth leaving the singer anguished and shattered. It all fits together and takes the listener on a vicarious ride into a whirlwind tale of life and love and death.

Compare this with Bohemian Rhapsody. What is it all about? What thematically brings it all together? Who can tell? Who even cares? We all just mechanically chant 'Galileo Galileo' for the sheer heck of it.

So that is why I think the Evie Trilogy is better than Bohemian Rhapsody. Anyone care to comment?

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7 Comments:

  • I'd love to comment, but though I know I've heard all of Evie on Rage, alas, all I can remember is "Evie / Evie / Evie let your hair hang down", nothing else!

    The storyline of either song is unimportant to me though - voice is just another instrument to me, except in rare cases.

    By Anonymous David Golding, At 30 January, 2006  

  • I must go listen to the full Evie again...

    My music teacher of year 9 thought that BR was the best song in the universe. An entire class was once spent listening to the track and discussing what it was about.

    We came to the common conclusion that is about a man who goes crazy. He has (or believes) he has killed someone. The middle part is deliberately meaningless because it conveys his going crazy. Being in an opera style also helps to get the point across as operas are typically tradegies. Probably rubbish and definitely pointless.

    I, like Dave, rarely care about the lyrical content. Evie could be heartbreaking in it's content but if it isn't musically or melodically interesting I'll be bored by half way.

    BH is interesting historically because it was so popular. It was a long song, it had unusual elements for a pop song, and it mixed a large number of styles. Something not usually popular on the charts. It brought about change.

    I read recently that A Night At The Opera was the "last chance" for Queen as their last 3? albums had all bombed. They spent "large amounts" of money going crazy on production for "A Night...". I also read Brian May recently said that BH was a joke. A deliberately silly and over the top song that had little meaning.

    Luckily it paid off.

    By Anonymous andrew bowie, At 30 January, 2006  

  • Traitor. For your punishment, I sentence you to listen to this on repeat. :)

    By Anonymous korny, At 31 January, 2006  

  • I was unaware that there was more to 'Evie' than the first song that Dave cites.

    If you'd prefer BR with a storyline, try looking at:
    http://www.engr.mun.ca/
    ~whitt/humor/dilithium.html
    (I snapped the url in half to make it fit in, Sorry.)

    By Anonymous Jac, At 31 January, 2006  

  • I'll have to grab Evie off you and listen to it properly.
    I think you're underestimating the qualityof Bohemian Rhapsody, as Dave says ignore the content of the lyrics, and listen to the music. That pastiche Korny has linked to highlights how good BR really is. BR has great style, and seamless changes between different types of music. The vocals show great range, and the harmonies are superb.

    You can get me for this if you like, but your BR objections remind me of some Whovians suddenly deciding in the late 80's and early 90's that Tom Baker was completely overrated and that Colin Baker was the one true Doctor :-P.

    By Blogger Polly, At 31 January, 2006  

  • Listened to it last night!

    BoRap is better!

    Longer comment at my weblog.

    By Anonymous David Golding, At 01 February, 2006  

  • Well it looks like I was right that music is more provocative than politics!

    To Bowie

    I agree to some extent on the importance of the musical aspects of a track. I definately am drawn to a song by its music long before I ever know the words. Likewise I am into instrumentals. But I would say that lyrics are still important - just less important than music. Some lyrics (particularly if well combined with the music) are fantastic and add a lot to the experience. Consider the following (Queen) lyrics:

    I've fallen in love
    I've fallen in love for the first time
    And this time I know it's for real

    Or these from the Whitlams:

    She was one in a million
    So there's five more just in New South Wales...

    Bohemian Rhapsody was a pathfinder in terms of what DJs were prepared to play on radio. That they insisted on releasing it as one track at full duration is important.

    In contrast Evie is three tracks and too often DJs only play Part 1. Mind you MMM lately have been playing all three parts of the recent cover version.

    To Korny

    For the enormity of my crimes you have sentenced me to listening to that amazing collage of snippets of Bohemian Rhapsody covers. Cudos to whoever put it together - what amazing skill and patience! And as Polly says - yes - listening to it gives me a fresh perspective on just how good the song is in terms of melody and harmony. But then there are lots of Queen songs that are good like that... and every time Bohemian Rhapsody is played some other Queen song is neglected.

    To Jac

    Thanks for that link to some scary Next Gen filk Jac. You think you are a fan of something till you see some of the stuff on the Internet! I am into songs telling tales but this may be taking it a bit far.

    Incidentally - just out of curiosity - who are you Jac? Feel free to respond by posting a comment or alternately send a message to: d_s_berk at yahoo.com.au

    To Polly

    Hmmm... I think Colin Baker was a decent Doctor but the Colin Baker era was kinda shoddy.

    I do think there are other Queen tracks that could get more of a go and...

    To Dave

    ... The Prophet Song is one of them! Even if I were to agree that it can do with some cutting I would definately cut a different bit of it than you would Dave!

    Thanks for the extended discussion on your blog Dave. I suppose I think the separate parts of Evie are all a bit better than what you say (definately better than many other songs of the same kind of that era) but I also think they are even better once taken as a whole. But hey its all subjective.

    And as for The Real Thing - now that is an awesome track. It sounds like it was made exactly when it was made (1969) and yet it also sounds like something that could have been playing at a rave in the 90s. Wicked.

    By Blogger Daniel, At 03 February, 2006  

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