Song Lyric Sunday – Duel duet: David vs Freddy.

 

Duets was the word and the inspiration of today’s post for Song Lyric Sunday. A beautiful duet with a whole story. Two great men of rock ‘n’ roll, Freddy Mercury and Queen and David Bowie. Heavenly voices Under Pressure. Please sit back and relax.

 

220px-Under_Pressure_by_Queen_and_David_Bowie_Elektra_pressing

 

Under Pressure” is a song by the British rock band Queen and singer David Bowie. Originally released as a single in October 1981, it was later included on Queen’s 1982 album Hot Space. The song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Queen’s second number-one hit in their home country (after 1975’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which topped the chart for nine weeks) and Bowie’s third (after the 1975 reissue of “Space Oddity” and “Ashes to Ashes” in 1980).

 

The song charted in the top 10 in more than ten countries around the world, and peaked at No. 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in January 1982. [1]

 

“Under Pressure” (Mercury, May, Taylor, Deacon, Bowie) – 4:08

 

Lyrics:

Pressure, pushing down on me,
pressing down on you, no man ask for.
Under pressure that burns a building down,
splits a family in two, puts people on streets.

It’s the terror of knowing what this world is about.
Watching some good friends screaming, “let me out”.
Tomorrow gets me higher.
Pressure on people, people on streets.

Chippin’ around, kick my brains around the floor.
These are the days, it never rains but it pours.

People on streets.
People on streets.

It’s the terror of knowing what this world is about.
Watching some good friends screaming, “let me out”.
Tomorrow gets me higher, higher, high!
Pressure on people, people on streets.

Turned away from it all like a blind man.
Sat on a fence, but it don’t work.
Keep comin’ up with love, but it’s so slashed and torn.
Why, why, why?

Love (love, love, love, love).
Insanity laughs, under pressure we’re cracking.

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love,
give love, give love, give love, give love, give love.
‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word,
and love dares you to care for the people on the
edge of the night, and love dares you to
change our way of caring about ourselves.
This is our last dance.
This is ourselves.

Under pressure.
Under pressure.
Pressure.

 

The story (allegedly) behind the making and recording of the song:

 

Around July 1981 Bowie (B) and Queen (Q) met up in Switzerland. Queen was there at the Mountain Studios (for photos click here) to record ‘Hot Space’ and B was there to write and record lyrics for ‘Cat People’. The five musicians met. Bowie recorded some vocals for ‘Hot Space’ but was dissatisfied and they never were put on the album (bootlegs exists if you want to search for them). From the ‘Cool Cat’ session ‘Under Pressure’ was born. First they covered each others music to get the feeling but B decided it would be better to write an original song for the both of them.

 

Roger Taylor (Q) wrote the bones of Under Pressure in the song ‘Feel Like’. Same guitar, no bassline and different lyrics.

 

 

Who came up with the famous bassline and the lyrics? That is fuel for yet another story. The musicians would have come up with a bassline before going to dinner with some or maybe a lot of wine. When coming back, B asked to play the bassline again but then played himself another version, like he remembered it. B himself said that the bassline was already there before he played it. We know that there was a dinner and a lot of wine. And suddenly a bass-line from somewhere. Around that riff the song was written with some more wine and some weed.

 

The basic track and lyrics were recorded in one fell swoop over a 24-hour time period. But the story doesn’t stop there! The rough mix was titled ‘People on the Streets’. The next day Queen had ideas for the track but B wanted to start over again. Q gave up at this point and they distanced themselves from the song. Bowie changed the focus of the lyrics to the ‘under pressure’ part and officially renamed the song ‘Under Pressure’. Not an easy artist, that Bowie guy! It didn’t stop there, B took over the vocals. According to Brain May (Q) the lyrics were created evenly between B and Mercury (M). M did the legendary scatting vocal. B proposed that both of them would record their vocals without the other one hearing the product which would increase the intensity of the song.

 

But Mr two colored eyes had a sneak hearing when he went into the studio and cheated on his own proposal! Mr M was furious at the guy mixing the song for letting B in! Well who would think!!

 

B and M locked horns over this. The tension continued when the final mix should have been done in NY. Brian May and Deacon (Q) weren’t even present there because they had enough of the song already. During the session the mixing board broke down (!) and M and B couldn’t agree on anything in regards of the final form of the song. At one point B had made some many changes to the song that he and M wanted to throw the whole session away and record it from scratch. (Poor guy mixing in the studio!)

 

Queen released the song in October 1981 and it was an instantaneous hit. The song was very good for both Q and B. Queen had a world hit with Bohemian Rhapsody (1975) but Under Pressure was released before the not so rocky and not to successful ‘Hot Space’. Under Pressure gave Q a more rock than a pop image. B wanted to block the release of Under Pressure because he was not satisfied with the lyrics. But also Bowie wasn’t happy with his record label, he was looking for a new one. Q released Under Pressure with EMI and Bowie just was able to ride on that wave and landed also with EMI. All due to that one song!

 

The video for Under Pressure doesn’t feature Mr M nor Mr Bowie due to their tour schedules.  Taking the theme of pressure, director David Mallet edited together stock footage of traffic jams, commuter trains packed with passengers, explosions, riots, cars being crushed and various pieces of footage from silent films of the 1920s, most notably Sergei Eisenstein’s influential Soviet film Battleship Potemkin, the silent Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (with beautiful music!) , a masterpiece of the German Expressionist movement. The video explores the pressure-cooker mentality of a culture willing to wage war against political machines, and at the same time love and have fun (there is also footage of crowds enjoying concerts, and lots of black and white kissing scenes). In 2003, Slant Magazine ranked “Under Pressure” number 27 among the 100 greatest music videos of all time. [1]

 

Controversy arose when Vanilla Ice sampled the bassline (!) for his 1990 single “Ice Ice Baby”. Initially he denied the accusation and then said he had modified it but did not originally pay songwriting credit or royalties to Queen and Bowie. (Maybe he was confused too about who to pay). A lawsuit resulted in Bowie and all members of Queen receiving songwriting credit for the sample. Vanilla Ice later claimed that he purchased the publishing rights to “Under Pressure”, saying that buying the song made more financial sense than paying out royalties, but a Queen spokesman clarified that Vanilla Ice’s statement was inaccurate.

 

 

What’s up with that bassline anyway?!? It’s great but it sure has a strange story. The song itself was performed live many times but never with B and Queen on the same stage, if I’m not mistaken.

 

I hope you enjoyed the song and the story. Were you aware of the commotion surrounding Under Pressure? Would the song have been so great without those tensions? The Universe works in mysterious ways. Have a great Sunday!

 

 

Resources.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_Pressure

Photo credits click here.

Lyrics click here.

16 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday – Duel duet: David vs Freddy.

  1. Again thank you for putting this together! All information I did not know 🙂 Makes sense that Vanilla ended up being a “one hit wonder” haha, what a turd

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha that made me really LOL! He is kinda Vanilla, never heard of him again, so it must have been the bass line that propelled him into his 15′ of fame. When you just listen to the first 5 seconds of both songs you must be missing ears to not hear the resemblance. I imagine Bowie going like: ‘talk to the hand boy and return to where you came from’.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I’ve always heard the resemblance, but didn’t think he could get away with stealing it. Ahhh Bowie, loved him in the movie Labrynth

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “Under Pressure” is one of my favorite songs! Possibly even more than “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s one of the songs that got me through college, and I still think about it when contemplating the state of the world today and beyond. It’s really interesting to learn the story behind it’s creation and hear the demo. The lyrics in the demo are so different from the final product!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was blown away by the demo, the song was there and not at the same time. I loved to hear how much the song has grown. The story was really fun to research because of all of the antics but we don’t know what the real truth is. I also liked the clip, it’s like it all came together and the song was more than the sum of all the components and struggles. It rose above the occasion in my opinion. Thanks for commenting and listening!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s