The very first “Bohemian Rhapsody” was recorded for a Top of The Pops compilation and released in December 1975, three months after the song was released to the airways. Not to be confused with the television show by the same name, Top of The Pops were budget-priced compilations that featured studio musicians and singers recreating soundalikes of chart-toppers. We’re talking everyone from the Supremes to the Sex Pistols. Found on Top of The Pops #49, the “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover was recorded at De Lane Lea Studios, next to Wembley Stadium–where, it might be noted, Queen recorded early demos for tracks like “Keep Yourself Alive.”
Recently I tracked down Tony Rivers, one of the four Top of The Pops singers who sang the first “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover. He was also the vocal arranger on the sessions, a thankless task for which he was well-prepared: Rivers’ long and varied career includes tracks from early 60s vocal groups Harmony Grass and the Castaways, recordings with Pink Floyd and INXS, and backup singing for Cliff Richard and Elton John, all of which he’s written about in a new book, I’m Nearly Famous: The Tales of a Likely Lad.
Rivers was kind enough to let me pick his brain over email about the very “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover.