under pressure

Looking Back At “Under Pressure” By Queen And David Bowie

80's Music Jun 06, 2022

Even though David Bowie and Freddie Mercury are no longer with us, their legendary hit song “Under Pressure” still is and will continue to be a song on millions of people’s playlists.

Besides it’s catchy tune, what’s unique about “Under Pressure” was that it was created in a way that was revolutionary for music at the time. In the current music industry, it’s not uncommon to see a collaborative effort between musicians. But in the 1980s, this form of collaboration was a rare occurrence.

One such rare collaborative effort was the popular song “Under Pressure”, which was written and performed by Queen along with David Bowie. Although it was released as a single, it was also included in Queen’s album entitled “Hot Space”.

Under Pressure

The creation of the song “Under Pressure” was a collaborative effort between David Bowie and the 4 members of the band Queen. The song itself features scat-style singing, which is a result of the improvisation that took place during the initial jam sessions. But the main authors of the song were Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, with Bowie focusing on the lyrics, and Mercury focusing on the actual musical arrangement.

The Story Behind “Under Pressure”

The recording of “Under Pressure” took place in Montreux Switzerland back in 1981. At the time, Queen was working on the album Hot Space and was having issues with a song entitled “Feel Like”. At the same time, David Bowie was also recording the title song for the film Cat People.

under pressure hot space
“Under Pressure” Was Released On Queen’s “Hot Space” Album In 1982
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During their sessions, Freddie Mercury and David Bowie ran into one another, and as a result Bowie ended up providing backup vocals for the recording of the Queen song “Cool Cat”. Although Bowie’s backup vocals were later removed, the two artists decided to collaborate on the song “Under Pressure”.

Vanilla Ice

In 1990, nearly a decade after Queen and David Bowie had released “Under Pressure”, Vanilla Ice decided that he would use the baseline from “Under Pressure” for his song “Ice Ice Baby”. When Queen and Freddie Mercury learned of this usage, they accused him of stealing their intellectual property which Vanilla Ice denied.

Rapper Vanilla Ice Was Sued By Queen For Copying The Baseline From “Under Pressure” In “Ice Ice Baby” (1990)

Later on, the rap artist would change his denial to an insinuation that he had actually modified the original baseline. Nevertheless, Vanilla Ice refused to give credit to David Bowie and the members of Queen, which resulted in a lawsuit over the publishing rights to the baseline.

The “Under Pressure Music Video

At the time that the music video was created, both Queen as well as David Bowie had prior tour commitments. As a result, neither of the bands performed in the music video directly.

The director, David Mallet, instead opted to piece together stock footage from various silent films of the 1920s. This footage included traffic jams, explosions, riots, commuter trains, and cars being crushed.

under pressure music video
The Original Music Video Was Made Of Random Stock Footage

The video itself was designed to explore the mentality of a society as a whole that is willing to fight wars against political ideology while still being able to have fun and love one another. As a result of the use of explosions, the video had to be edited in order to be shown on various music video outlets around the world.

In the end, the song worked its way to the top of the charts in just about every country in the world. It was certified 2X platinum in the US by the RIAA, as well as in the UK by the BPI. Although over the years there have been a number of covers and remixes released. the official music video has received over 206 million views on YouTube.

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