Under Pressure (1981) – Queen (feat. David Bowie) – Song Story…

Summer 1981. Queen were recording their new album "Hot Space"...

History of the song “Under Pressure” – Queen feat. David Bowie (1981)

Where was the album "Hot Space" recorded?

The city of Montreux in Switzerland has become a springboard for many hits written by famous bands. Among them were Queen and David Bowie. Summer 1981. Queen were recording their new album, Hot Space, at Mountain Studios. At the same time, David was also recording in the same studio. He worked on a composition for the film "Cat People", by the way, the song was called the same. They constantly saw each other and crossed paths ...

Cover of the album Queen "Hot Space"
Cover of the album Queen "Hot Space"

Recording a song

And then one day, Queen was writing "Cool Cat", they were jamming, improvising and just messing around as usual. Bowie came to visit them that evening, and they talked him into joining. As a result, the guys recorded his vocals, however, David was dissatisfied with the result, he said that it turned out stupid, and asked to remove it. In the end, he offered to record a separate composition, a complete collaboration.

David Bowie
David Bowie

They started with the arrangement. Bassist John Deacon came up with the theme, while Bowie and Freddie worked on the vocals and composition. Moreover, David offered to split into cabins with Freddie, so that everyone recorded their part independently of each other, and then they would unite and mix it all together. So they did.

The work was not easy, passions were running high, and here's why ... Everyone was already a fairly mature musician, everyone had their own opinion. Bowie, of course, was more mature, and he imposed his point on Queen, but the guys were also not a mistake, and defended their own. And it was considered a Bowie song, even though he only came up with the vocals. He tried to manage the process, and it was funny. Brian May was not allowed to speak at all, as there were already enough opinions. The tension grew.

Brian will later tell that at the moment when they were divided into cabins, David was peeping at the work of Mercury. He caught Freddie's motive, and it became easier for him to come up with his own. However, David and Freddie also started to get along badly towards the end. Bowie even wanted to ban the release of the song!

David Bowie and Freddy Mercury
David Bowie and Freddy Mercury

Release of the song "Under Pressure"

Luckily they recorded the song and it was released! "Under Pressure" was released in October '81. She immediately took the lead in the UK charts, and also entered the golden collection of the best songs of the 80s according to VH1.

The song was released by both Queen and Bowie. Queen had it on their Hot Space album. Bowie has it on the Best of Bowie CD. There is no official video for this song. For what reasons it is not clear, however, director David Mallet edited a video sequence from various frames taken from films of that time. It turned out well!

Interesting Facts

  • The song's original title was "People on Streets", but Bowie changed it to "Under Pressure". He urged Queen that it better captured the essence of the song. Yes, it did.
  • Queen played "Under Pressure" in their concerts until 1986. Bowie, on the contrary, did not perform it ... And only after the death of Freddie, in memory of a friend, did he perform it. And since the mid-90s, he has included it in his permanent repertoire at his concerts.
  • Mercury never performed the song live with Bowie. I think Bowie regretted it later. However, fans edited the live performances of both and got this:

  • When the Freddie tribute concert took place, Bowie, along with Annie Lennox, performed "Under Pressure" with the musicians of Queen.

  • The song has become so popular that it is almost the most common movie soundtrack of the 90s and 00s.
  • Vanilla Ice borrowed the riff from "Under Pressure" for their song "Ice Ice Baby". There was even a lawsuit, but the borrowing is so obvious that the band just decided to buy the rights to the song. They thought it was more profitable than paying royalties.

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