Off with Her Head? The Initially Mixed Reaction to Queen’s Iconic Song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Ewbank, Tim. "A first-class hit." Daily Mail, 4 Dec. 1975, p. 19. Daily Mail Historical Archive, 1896-2004

│ by Lily Deans, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham │

Over the past year, the cinematic world has produced numerous biopics which share the stories of stars many of us have grown up with, love and admire. The most memorable one for me was the double BAFTA-winning Bohemian Rhapsody which portrayed the fantastic story of the most talented (in my opinion!) band of the past century: Queen. The film highlighted not only the unparalleled talent of this eclectic band but also the dedication and effort that went into producing the songs we all now know and love. Interestingly, however, one section of the film focused on the release of the now classic song Bohemian Rhapsody in October 1975 and highlighted the initially negative reception of the song (from some critics). This surprised me, as I have come to know Bohemian Rhapsody as a song that passes through generations with adoration and unyielding success. Thus, when I was introduced to Gale Primary Sources, I thought it would be interesting to research the critical reviews of Bohemian Rhapsody in Gale’s online archive, to see first-hand the opinions and negative comments that were made at the time of the song’s release – and to reflect on how questionable they are in retrospect!

Read moreOff with Her Head? The Initially Mixed Reaction to Queen’s Iconic Song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Putting Rugby Icon Gareth Thomas’ Story in Context with Gale Primary Sources

Rugby player Gareth Thomas (left) with David Cameron at an LGTB reception at No.10 to launch a new campaign to kick homophobia and transphobia out of sport. 21 June 2011.

│ By Harry Walker, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham │

Today the Rugby World Cup comes to a close, and it’s fair to say it’s been a somewhat turbulent journey. Controversial refereeing decisions, shock defeats, unlikely Japanese heroes, the smell of lager at nine in the morning and, of course, that devastating typhoon. Within this thrilling pandemonium, a constant has been the high standard of rugby that always seems to justify that 3pm hangover. Off the pitch, a less noticeable but equally heroic constant has been the dignity with which ITV pundit Gareth Thomas has conducted himself, despite his shock revelation prior to the tournament.

Read morePutting Rugby Icon Gareth Thomas’ Story in Context with Gale Primary Sources

“We tread enchanted ground” Celebrating Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon through the years

By Karen Harker, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham
Karen is a Gale Student Ambassador and PhD student at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute. Her work focuses on digitally reconstructing and reconsidering the role of incidental music used in nineteenth-century Shakespeare productions, a project which is rooted in archival research and utilises many of Gale’s digital resources. Other research interests include operatic adaptations of Shakespeare, digital humanities, tableaux vivant, and Shakespeare performances during times of war. Karen also enjoys hiking, yoga, singing, and spending time with her cat, Monkey.

Around the 23rd of April every year, Stratford-upon-Avon becomes a different place. Flooded with tens of thousands of tourists from across the world, this small Warwickshire town pauses to pay homage to the most recognisable name, and for some, the greatest writer in all of English drama: William Shakespeare. The tradition of celebrating the life and work of Shakespeare has arguably placed Stratford-upon-Avon on the map. Even on a typical day, it is not uncommon to see throngs of school children touring Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Henley Street; patrons heading to see a show at one of the Royal Shakespeare Company theatres; or groups of visitors making their way to Holy Trinity Church to get a look at Shakespeare’s grave. For folks (such as myself) who call Stratford home, seeing Shakespeare remembered in this way, witnessing the twenty-first century style pilgrimage taken by millions of people each year, is a part of our daily life.

Read more“We tread enchanted ground” Celebrating Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon through the years

A Male Contraceptive Pill – could this bring greater gender equality?

By Lily Cratchley, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham
I am a second-year student currently completing my joint honours degree in English Literature and American and Canadian Studies. This multidisciplinary course allows me to study varying aspects of modern American literature, history and culture as well as old English writing, including poetry by Wyatt and plays by Shakespeare. In term-time I love to keep myself busy by volunteering for a society that helps local, disadvantaged children, preparing for a year abroad in North America, visiting the attractions that England’s second city has to offer with friends, and, of course, working as an Ambassador for Gale.

International Women’s Day was celebrated on Friday 8th March this year, and, as always, it provided an opportunity for us to reflect on the ongoing female fight for universal suffrage, freedom and equality. Several defining moments stand out in women’s history, having shaped our ability to lead the lives we do today, including: gaining the right to vote in 1918, the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1970 and, of course, the legalisation of the oral contraceptive pill in 1961, enabling women to finally have a say over their reproductive rights.

Read moreA Male Contraceptive Pill – could this bring greater gender equality?

‘Political Extremism and Radicalism in the Twentieth Century’ – a new archive packed with EXTREMELY useful sources which can RADICALLY change your thinking!

By Lily Cratchley, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham
I am a second-year student at the University of Birmingham currently completing a joint honours degree in English Literature and American and Canadian Studies. This multidisciplinary course allows me to study varying aspects of modern American literature, history and culture as well as old English writing, including poetry by Wyatt and plays by Shakespeare. In term-time I love to keep myself busy by volunteering for a society that helps local, disadvantaged children, preparing for a year abroad in North America, visiting the attractions that England’s second city has to offer with friends, and, of course, working as a Gale Ambassador.

Are you a budding politician or historian, intrigued with all things politically radical and extreme? Or perhaps you’re just faced with the need to write a lengthy dissertation, and are worried by your seemingly limited quantity of primary sources? Either way, Gale’s new archive, Political Extremism and Radicalism in the Twentieth Century, may be of extreme (pardon the pun!) interest to you.

Read more‘Political Extremism and Radicalism in the Twentieth Century’ – a new archive packed with EXTREMELY useful sources which can RADICALLY change your thinking!

Unwrapping the Beauty of Bournville

Beautiful Bournville

By Lily Cratchley, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham
I am a second-year student at the University of Birmingham currently completing my joint honours degree in English Literature and American and Canadian Studies. This multidisciplinary course allows me to study varying aspects of modern American literature, history and culture as well as old English writing, including poetry by Wyatt and plays by Shakespeare.  In term-time I love to keep myself busy by volunteering for a society that helps local, disadvantaged children, preparing for a year abroad in North America, visiting the attractions that England’s second city has to offer with friends, and, of course, working as a Gale Ambassador.

Located just a ten-minute walk from Birmingham’s most populous student housing area, Selly Oak, the village of Bournville – one of the first model villages in England – stands as a rare chunk of living history within the bustling city. Efforts to preserve the charm and wellbeing of the village are organised by volunteers, while the old chocolate factory has been transformed into a tourist attraction named after the man who envisioned and created the beauty of Bournville, ‘Cadbury World’.

Read moreUnwrapping the Beauty of Bournville

Leading Ladies: The actresses who fought for women’s suffrage

By Karen Harker, Gale Ambassador at the University of Birmingham
Karen is a Gale Student Ambassador and PhD student at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute. Her work focuses on digitally reconstructing and reconsidering the role of incidental music used in nineteenth-century Shakespeare productions, a project which is rooted in archival research and utilises many of Gale’s digital resources. Other research interests include operatic adaptations of Shakespeare, digital humanities, tableaux vivant, and Shakespeare performances during times of war. Karen also enjoys hiking, yoga, singing, and spending time with her cat, Monkey.

“There was a young Lady called Vera
As a Speaker all crowded to hear her
She caused a sensation
Throughout the whole Nation
Such as never was seen in our ERA.”

So begins an anonymous limerick written about Vera “Jack” Holme – Edwardian actress, political activist, and militant suffragette. Found in the Archives of Sexuality & Gender, a collection within Gale Primary Sources, this poem is one of thousands of papers, manuscripts, photos and news articles related to the eccentric, multifaceted life of one of Britain’s most devoted advocates for women’s voting rights. Also a part of the Women’s Volunteer Reserve during WWI and Britain’s first female chauffeur, Holme broke the patriarchal boundaries that had surrounded women for centuries through her constant vigilance and dedication to the causes of women’s suffrage and equality.

Read moreLeading Ladies: The actresses who fought for women’s suffrage