‘Under Pressure’ – Queen & Bowie Mix It Up
How did the song “Under Pressure” – Queen & Bowie, come to be? Was it booze? Queen drummer, Roger Taylor says it was definitely a factor. Other accounts of the history of the song (including farout.com) are more specific listing a mix of wine and cocaine. Whatever happened in the Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland back in 1981, the results were undeniable. Out of that session came one of the world’s greatest rock songs. This recording session is one of the moments of rock that I would have loved to have seen for myself… oh, to be a fly on the wall for the making of “Under Pressure” – Queen and Bowie in the same studio? It had to have been electric.
What were Queen & Bowie Doing in Switzerland?
Recording. Queen was finishing up Hot Space in one studio and David Bowie was in another studio recording the theme and title track for the movie Cat People. Within hours of Queen arriving, David swung by. The initial thought was that he’d sing backup vocals on Queen’s “Cool Cats.” As the story goes, they were all just having fun and jamming on covers from bands like Cream. Roger Taylor tells the story in Mark Blake’s book Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Freddie Mercury and Queen saying, “In the end, David said, ‘This is stupid, why don’t we just write one?’” So they did.
The Writing Process of ‘Under Pressure’ – Queen & Bowie
Guitarist Brian May of Queen has alluded on more than one occasion that the writing process was strained. In a 2008 interview with Mojo Brian said, “It was hard because you had four very precocious boys and David, who was precocious enough for all of us. David took over the song lyrically. Looking back, it’s a great song but it should have been mixed differently. Freddie and David had a fierce battle over that.”
To be clear… you read that right. Brian May said “Under Pressure” should have been “mixed differently.” I wish Brian May would mix it as he saw fit. I’d love to hear it. I think the song is already amazing. I’d love to know his vision for it.
It was Queen’s bassist, John Deacon who came up with the signature sound of the song, those two bass notes were a game-changer. According to the documentary, Queen – Days of Our Lives, John Deacon forgot the bassline. Roger Taylor recounted the events saying that Deacon came up with the bassline, left for pizza, and when he came back, he’d forgotten his own idea. Roger helped remind him and, obviously, it did work out.
Bowie and Mercury Met 12 Years Before They Recorded “Under Pressure”
It’s crazy but true. Freddie fit David for a pair of boots. Radiox.co.uk tells the complete story. The nutshell version: Freddie Mercury was working in a boot shop to make ends meet when David Bowie came in to buy a pair of boots he couldn’t afford. They were both struggling musicians at the time.
Freddie Mercury exuded charisma. When he was on (or off) stage, it seemed like all eyes were on Freddie. Here are some pics… tell me I’m wrong.
Freddie Mercury: Photos On Stage and Behind-The-Scenes