Original working title of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ discovered in cache of Freddie Mercury belongings going up for auction

Unearthed drafts from Queen, set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s, reveal an original title for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and alternative lyrics to the famous “Mama, I just killed a man” verse.

bohemian rhapsody mongolian rhapsody queen

How different it could have been. One of 15 pages of drafts from the classic 1975 hit ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ shows that Queen originally called the song ‘Mongolian Rhapsody’, before the first was scribbled out and replaced by Bohemian. 

The draft also shows that instead of the lyrics going: “Mama, just killed a man / Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he’s dead”, they originally went: “Mama, There’s a war began / I’ve got to leave tonight / I’ve got to stand and fight.”

The New York Times reports that the early work on the song is among a cache of Freddie Mercury’s belongings going on sale. Other items include furniture, stage costumes and the drafts of other classic Queen songs, such as ‘Somebody to Love’ and ‘We Are the Champions’. 

bohemian rhapsody mongolian rhapsody queen

8th September 1976: British rock group Queen at Les Ambassadeurs, where they were presented with silver, gold and platinum discs for sales in excess of one million of their hit single ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. The band are, from left to right, John Deacon, Freddie Mercury (Frederick Bulsara, 1946 – 1991), Roger Taylor and Brian May. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

According to the New York Times, a number of Queen and Mercury biographers were not previously aware of the ‘Mongolian Rhapsody’ working title.

The drafts are estimated to be worth £1.2m. The Mongolian/Bohemian Rhapsody draft was written on stationery from the defunct airline British Midland, and the paper also features doodles by Mercury. 

In 1976, the Queen frontman alluded to the difficulties during the early stages of writing the song, saying: “I almost rejected it, but then it grew.”

The song went on to be the lead single from Queen’s fourth album, A Night at the Opera. It spent nine weeks at No 1 in the UK charts at the time, and returned to the top spot for a further five weeks in 1991, after Mercury’s death. 

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is the UK’s third biggest-selling single of all time and is certified four-times platinum.

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