REO Speedwagon keyboardist Neal Doughty was among the film fans who helped Bohemian Rhapsody to its No. 1 $50 million box office gross during its first weekend in the U.S. And he and his wife got a bit of a surprise when REO was name-checked in the film.
It occurs during the scene when Queen is considering an invitation to perform at Live Aid during 1985. “They’re talking to Queen about playing Live Aid, and our name gets mentioned!” Doughty, REO’s sole remaining founding member, tells Billboard. “They’re going, ‘Paul McCartney’s gonna be there and Elton John and the Who and REO Speedwagon.’ I had no idea we were mentioned in the movie. I’m going, ‘Boy, they sure put us in some good company with that — Paul McCartney, Elton John, REO Speedwagon…’ We’ve been in some bad movies, but never one that was No. 1 like this.”
REO performed as part of the Philadelphia Live Aid show, while Queen, of course, was among the highlights at London’s’ Wembley Stadium. For Doughty, the inclusion was a reminder of just how popular REO was at that time, riding the multi-platinum success of its Hi Infidelity, Good Trouble and Wheels Are Turnin’ albums. “It reminds me we really made a name for ourselves back in the ’80s, and that stuck with people,” Doughty explains. “It’s like we’re part of the landscape now, and those are the years that allowed us to be. We can do this as long as we’re breathing, which seems like it’ll be awhile yet ’cause we’re all very healthy. As long as people keep showing up, we’ll keep doing it.”
Doughty says he and his wife, both fans of Rami Malek from TV’s Mr. Robot, were impressed with his portrayal of the late Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. “He just does an amazing job, the movements and the posture and everything,” Doughty notes. “He really has Freddie Mercury down.” The keyboardist also praises the film for what he considers a true portrayal of inter-band dynamics.
“I thought it was accurate from the standpoint of the way band members interact with each other,” Doughty says. “I remember arguing over whose song was gonna be the single and whose song was even gonna be on the records. Those interactions are the kinds of things that can sometimes break up a band, and I thought that part of it was pretty accurate.” And Doughty didn’t object to the numerous liberties the Queen-sanctioned film takes with historical facts.
“That happens in every movie or biopic like that; There’s things they change to make the audience more broad,” Doughty says. “I don’t know enough about Queen to spot the flaws in the movie. I was a pretty casual fan. I went to a theater with state of the art sound, and the music just sounded so good. I was probably better off not to know quite as much about (Queen) as the very hardcore fans.”