The intro with the bassline in ‘Under Pressure’ is one of the most iconic intros in the rock music world. The two big names in British rock music came together and created the most recognizable song in the world. The song is a 1981 release written by Queen and co-written by David Bowie. The song was the creative inspiration between the two stars.
The origin of the song starts in Switzerland. In July 1981, Queen was recording their tenth studio album ‘Hot Space’ in Montreux, Switzerland. That’s when David Bowie dropped by to watch the band at work. And looks like Bowie arrived with a vast amount of cocaine. According to Queen’s Drummer, Roger Taylor remembered, “We were all drunk.”
And that’s when Bowie suggested they write something new. David was also at the same studio for recording the theme track for the upcoming film Cat People. According to various sources, the initial plan was that Davie would provide backup vocals on the song ‘Cool Cat’.
The history of ‘Under Pressure’ goes back to an unreleased Queen song called ‘Feel Like’. The song had great elements of the finished song but the memorable bassline was missing. The bass was later on found and it came from John Deacon. That’s when the song balanced itself out.
With the band members, the version with came out was slightly different. The thing about this song was, firstly it was not sure. But after a long night of jamming, they finally decided to write their own material.
Freddie Mercury said, “We were fooling around and then just sort of jamming with tracks and suddenly we said ‘why don’t we just see what we can do on the spur of the moment?’”
Back in 2008, in an interview with Mojo Magazine, Brian May admitted that collaboration was not an easy job. He said, “It was hard, because you had four 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.”
Brian also told in the documentary Days of our Lives, “suddenly you’ve got this other person inputting, inputting, inputting… he [Bowie] had a vision in his head, and it’s quite a difficult process and someone has to back off… and eventually I did back off, which is unusual for me.”
It was a creative difference between the two of them. The thing didn’t stop there as Bowie imposed his artistic will on most of the decisions. The song was originally known as ‘People on the Streets’ but then Bowie wanted to change it to ‘Under Pressure’. He even tried to block the song’s original release.
However, it all worked out. The song reached No. 1 in the UK singles chart. It was Queen’s second No.1 single, and Bowie’s third. It is one of the greatest collaborations of all time. According to one critic “[It’s] an incredibly powerful and poignant pop song that we will likely not see matched in our lifetimes.”
Even with all that antipathy, voice battles, and cocaine the song came out to be perfect. This is an incredibly powerful pop song that has created a big scene. It gave the perfect mix of the hymn and human sentiments to the listeners.
David Bowie and Freddie Mercury really created an epic recording. The tragic death of Mercury due to AIDS in 1991 and Bowie due to liver cancer in 2016 was a big price. But ‘Under Pressure’ which was created as a baseless enthusiasm remains a legacy of two talented artists.