Freddie Mercury and David Bowie were drunk recording Queen hit song01/10/2023
Roger Taylor on working with David Bowie and Queen
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David Bowie, who died seven years ago today, famously collaborated with Freddie Mercury and Queen on Under Pressure, which became the band’s second UK No 1. But did you know the five musicians came up with the hit song while drunk in the studio and messing around? Back in 1981, Queen had bought Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland and during one recording session for what would become 1982 album Hot Space, Studio Engineer Dave Richards decided to call up the Ziggy Stardust singer himself.
According to an episode of Queen The Greatest, which you can watch below, Bowie recalled: “They were recording there and, David knew that I was in town, and phoned me up and asked me if I’d come down, if I’d like to go down and see what was happening. So I went down and these things happen, you know, suddenly you’re writing something together and it was totally spontaneous, it certainly wasn’t planned. It was peculiar!”
Roger Taylor remembered: “Well, I think the process was we were all drunk, and in the studio, and we were just for fun playing all sorts of old songs.” The Queen drummer said they played a couple of old Cream tracks and whatever else came into their heads, before Bowie suggested they start recording something new.
Bowie said: “Look, hang on a minute, why don’t we write one of our own?” Freddie remembered: “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?’”
Producer Reinhold Mack added: “Then there’s the pressure of his majesty, David, being there, and everybody wanted to look suave and quick with ideas and stuff.” Then bassist John Deacon came up with that famous riff of ding, ding, ding, de de, ding, ding, which Mack remembered he kept playing over and over again.
Roger shared: “And then we went for a pizza and he forgot it! Completely escaped his mind. We got back and I remembered it.” Brian May said: “And of course, we’re used to playing together, and now we have this other guy there, who’s also inputting, inputting, inputting.”
Roger said that it was Bowie’s idea to put all those clicks and claps into Under Pressure. And Brian remembered the Ziggy Stardust singer being “very impassioned” with a vision in his head. Brian added: “It’s quite a difficult process and somebody has to back off, and actually I did back off, which is unusual for me.”
Under Pressure was a global hit, yet touring commitments prevented Queen from making a music video, so the essence of the track was captured with archive footage. And, of course, in April 1992, Bowie and Queen performed their song at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert with Annie Lennox also on vocals.
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