Bohemian Rhapsody. How long is it?

I recon it’s about 75 miles. Of course, it depends how you measure it.

Bohemian Rhapsody. Original Single
Bohemian Rhapsody. Original Single

Lets take the 7 Inch single for a start.

According to Wikipedia BoRhap is 5 minutes 55 seconds long. That’s 355 seconds.

I have the original 7″ single from 1975. It’s one of the first records I bought as a kid. If you measure it you find that the track starts 3 1/4 inches out from the spindle and finishes 2 1/4 inches out. That gives us an average radius of 2 3/4″. School mathematics says 2 x pi x radius gives us circumference. In this case that says our average circular groove length is 17.28″

At 45 rpm, for a 355 second record, we turn just over 266 times. That’s a total groove length of about 383 feet. To give an idea of size, that’s about the size of Centre point in  London; or a few feet short of Manchester’s CIS Tower.

On “A night  at the opera” BoRhap is the penultimate track, with average radius of 3 3/16″ running at 33 1/3 RPM. Repeating the above calculation gives 329 feet. A little shorter.

Now let’s go back to the studio. Back in the mid 70’s the usual practice in recording studios was to record to open reel tape running at 15 inches per second. 15 x 355 is 5,325″ or about 444 feet. On my Sony Reel to Reel at home that would be reduced to 7.5 ips. 222 feet. For an 8 track cartridge that would be 111 feet On cassette that is just 55 feet.

Now let’s consider it as a sound wave. Assuming a speed of sound as 1125 ft / second. in 355 seconds sound will travel 399,375 feet. There are 5,280 feet in a mile, so that’s 75.64 miles.

If Queen set up in Bournemouth and started playing Bohemian Rhapsody very loud (as they usually did); Just as the many queen fans in Brighton heard “Is this the ..”, Roger Taylor would be hitting his gong in Bournemouth. It would take the sound 5 mins 55 seconds to travel the 75 miles that separates the two.

CD is a complex technology, with lots of error correction codes and such. However, the calculations are easier than you think. CD’s are read with Constant Linear Velocity (CLV) as distinct from the Constant Angular Velocity (CAV) used by Vinyl. That just means that a CD turns faster if the laser is close to the middle. The original specification CD’s worked at a CLV of about 1.2 meters/second. So, the track length on CD can be easily calculated by  multiplication as 426 meters. We are working in feet here, so that converts to about 1398 feet.

Finally, what if we send it by light in real time? Well, it takes 500 seconds for light to reach us from the Sun, A distance of 1 Astronomical units(au). So, an optical digital stream of Bohemian Rhapsody is 0.71 au. long. Just under 3/4 of the way to the Sun.