Monday, September 26, 2011

Bohemian Rhapsody

Queen’s epic opus is 5 minutes and 55 seconds of pure crazy-ass genius that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and remains to this day one of the most complex recordings in popular music, having been recorded over three weeks on so many overdubs the tape was nearly worn through.

You have to have an enormous, swaggering pair of cajones to think you can get away with singing it in concert if you are not Freddie Mercury; those who do and can pull it off are rewarded handsomely by a raucous crowd of happy hand waving headbangers judging every single note.

The song’s impenetrable lyrics have been subject to much speculation, ranging from the most jargon-entwisted academic intellectualizing to Mercury’s own admission that they were just “random rhyming nonsense.”  

Until now. Here, for the first time, is the culinary catalyst upon which “Bohemian Rhapsody” was surely based. To wit:  Homes and Gardens’ monstrous book Meals With A Foreign Flair’s section on “Stout German Fare.” 

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?

Behold the glory that is the Hausplatte, a veritable symphony of meat served on a wooden trencher alongside tankards of beer. It surely is a meal for someone teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown who thinks that “nothing really matters.”

MAMA just killed a man,
Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he's dead
MAMA, life had just begun,
But now I've gone and thrown it all away

We are eased in to the opening movement (in which the protagonist confesses to murder, says he doesn’t want to face the consequences, and wishes he’d never been born at all) by the Duchesse potatoes edging the platter, keeping all the meat in and providing an ever-present context for the meal’s theme. Who among us would not wish they’d never been born when faced with his dish? Who would not be driven to shoot someone in the head?

I'm just a poor boy nobody loves me
He's just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go

With a sudden change in tempo, the thudding of a lone piano introduces us to a hysterical dialogue between the protagonist and his demons, here represented by the myriad artery-bursting array of animal proteins that form the plate’s centerpiece. The sausages, as Scaramouche, appear ready to do the Fandango in one’s mouth, while the boiled beef plays the part of Galileo, trying to tell the truth about meat’s essential nature. The weinkraut in the middle are surely Bismillah, the Arabic god with whom the protagonist enters a crazed dialogue begging for and denying his freedom. Before all hell breaks loose, Beelzebub, the devil himself, appears in the form of pig’s knuckles anchoring this sordid tale at both ends.

Beelzebub!.. has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me

Once any diner has commenced engorging him or herself in this orgy of meat, the music, and heart races. One can hear it begging:

Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here

Once safely removed from the table and no longer a threat, the diner slouches in a chair, sated, greasy juice dribbling down his or her chin and soaking into the napkin tucked into a collar. Eyes rolled back, is it any wonder the song ends with this final sentiment?

Nothing really matters, Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me
Any way the wind blows.

The metallic chime of a gong — the bell that tolls for thee — finds echo in a long and gratifying burp.

Meals With A Foreign Flair, Better Homes and Gardens, 1963

Also from this book: Sweet-Sour PorkVive La Cuisine Franglais!

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