|Single by Queen and David Bowie|
|from the album Hot Space|
|Released||26 October 1981 (UK)
27 October 1981 (US)
|Format||7" vinyl / 12" / CD single|
|Recorded||Mountain Studios, Montreux, July 1981|
|Writer(s)||Queen and David Bowie|
|Producer(s)||Queen and David Bowie|
|Queen singles chronology|
"Under Pressure" is a 1981 song originally recorded by Queen and David Bowie, and later included on Queen's 1982 album Hot Space. The song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the group'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 UK number-one. It was also number 31 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the '80s.
The song was played live at every Queen concert from 1981 until the end of Queen's touring career in 1986. It is recorded on the live albums Queen Rock Montreal and Queen at Wembley. The song was included on some editions of Queen's first Greatest Hits compilations, such as the original 1981 Elektra release in the US. It is included on the band's compilation albums Greatest Hits II, Classic Queen, and Absolute Greatest as well as Bowie compilations such as Best of Bowie (2002) and Nothing Has Changed (2014).
- 1 Creation
- 2 Music video
- 3 Track listing
- 4 Personnel
- 5 Reception
- 6 Live performances
- 7 Remixes & Other Releases
- 8 Chart positions
- 9 Certifications
- 10 Cover versions
- 11 Other cover versions
- 12 Live cover performances
- 13 Sampling
- 14 Other uses
- 15 Controversy
- 16 Rock Band music gaming platform
- 17 References
- 18 External links
Queen had been working on the song under the title "Feel Like" but were not yet satisfied with the result. David Bowie had originally come to Mountain Studios to sing backing vocals on another Queen song, "Cool Cat", although his vocals were removed from the final song as he was not satisfied with his performance. Once he got there, they worked together for a while and wrote the song. The final version that became "Under Pressure" evolved from a jam session that Bowie had with the band at Queen's studio in Montreux, Switzerland; therefore it was credited as co-written by the five musicians. The scat singing that dominates much of the song is evidence of the jam-beginnings as improvisation. According to Queen bassist John Deacon (as quoted in a French magazine in 1984), however, the song's primary or main musical songwriter was Freddie Mercury — though all contributed to the arrangement. Brian May recalled to Mojo magazine in October 2008 that, "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. It's a significant song because of David and its lyrical content." The earlier, embryonic version of the song without Bowie, "Feel Like", is widely available in bootleg form, and was written by Queen drummer Roger Taylor.
There has been some confusion about who created the song's bassline. John Deacon said (in Japanese magazine Musiclife in 1982, and in the previously mentioned French magazine) that David Bowie had created it. In more recent interviews, Brian May and Roger Taylor have credited the bass riff to Deacon. Bowie, on his website, said that the bassline was already written before he became involved. Roger Taylor, in an interview for the BBC documentary Queen: the Days of Our Lives, stated that Deacon had indeed created the bassline, stating that all through the sessions in the studio he had been playing the riff over and over; he also claims that when the band returned from dinner Deacon had, amusingly, forgotten the riff, but fortunately Taylor was still able to remember it.
The lyrics reference the society effects of the conservative Thatcher Government policies, which "Splits a family in two Puts people on streets" Bowie describes the shocking effect of seeing homeless on London Streets, a situation unknown since the thirties, and often mentioned by Britons returning after extended stays abroad. Michael Caine references it in his autobiography, Elephant to Hollywood.
The video for the song features neither Queen nor David Bowie due to touring commitments. 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 starring John Barrymore, and F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, 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).
- "Under Pressure" (Mercury, May, Taylor, Deacon, Bowie) – 4:08
- "Soul Brother" (Mercury, May, Taylor, Deacon) – 3:38
EMI released a 3-inch CD version of the single in 1988 with "Body Language" as an additional B-side.
Musicians on original version:
- Freddie Mercury - lead and backing vocals, piano, hammond organ
- Brian May - electric guitar
- Roger Taylor - drums and backing vocals
- John Deacon - bass guitar
- David Bowie - lead and backing vocals, hand claps, finger snaps, synthesizer
The September 2005 edition of online music magazine Stylus singled out the bassline as the best in popular music history. In November 2004, Stylus music critic Anthony Miccio commented that "Under Pressure" "is the best song of all time" and described it as Queen's "opus". In 2012, Slant Magazine listed "Under Pressure" as the 21st best single of the 1980s.
Although very much a joint project, only Queen incorporated the song into their live shows at the time. Bowie chose not to perform the song before an audience until the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, when he and Annie Lennox sang it as a duet (backed by the surviving Queen members). However, since Mercury's death and the Outside tour in 1995, Bowie has performed the song at virtually every one of his live shows, with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey taking Mercury's vocal part. The song also appeared in setlists from A Reality Tour mounted by Bowie in 2004, when he frequently would dedicate it to Freddie Mercury. Queen + Paul Rodgers have recently performed the song; and in summer of 2012, Queen + Adam Lambert toured, including a performance of the song by Lambert and Roger Taylor in each show. While David Bowie was never present for a live performance of the song with Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor instead filled for backing vocals usually in unison with Mercury, as Mercury took over all of Bowie's parts.
- Queen first recorded a live version of the song at The Montreal Forum in Canada on 24 November 1981. This was included in the concert films We Will Rock You and Queen Rock Montreal. Incidentally it is one of the few times in concert where Mercury used falsetto in the song on the line "these are the days it never rains but it pours".
- A second live version of the song was recorded at Milton Keynes, England, in 1982. This was released in 2004 on the live album/DVD Queen on Fire - Live at the Bowl. Prior to the concert, rumours circulated that Bowie would appear with Queen to sing his parts onstage, but it is probable that he did not even attend the concert.
- Later, Queen recorded a third live version of the song at Wembley Stadium, London, in 1986. This was released on the live album/DVD Live at Wembley Stadium. Another rendition from this same tour (from Queen's concert in Budapest) appeared in edited form on the album Live Magic in 1986. A recording taken from Queen's last gig in Knebworth Park in 1986, appears, albeit in remixed form, as a B-side from second CD single of "Rah Mix" version of this song, released in 1999. (See below)
- During the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, the surviving members of Queen along with Bowie and Annie Lennox (filling in for Mercury) performed the song. The concert was later released on DVD in 2002 for the 10th anniversary.
- A version recorded by David Bowie's live band in 1995 was released on the bonus disc included with some versions of Outside – Version 2. This live version was also released on the single "Hallo Spaceboy" in 1996.
- Bowie's DVD A Reality Tour (2004) and album A Reality Tour (2010) include a November 2003 live version from the A Reality Tour, recorded in Dublin, with Bowie's bassist Gail Ann Dorsey singing Mercury's parts.
- The 2006 VH1 Rock Honors at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, featured Queen + Paul Rodgers performing "Under Pressure" along with "The Show Must Go On", "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions" as a live broadcast.
Remixes & Other Releases
|"Under Pressure (Rah Mix)"|
|Single by Queen and David Bowie|
|from the album Greatest Hits III|
|Released||6 December 1999|
|Format||CD single, digital download|
|Length||Album Version and Single Version 4:08, video version 4:27|
|Writer(s)||Queen and David Bowie|
|Producer(s)||Queen and David Bowie|
|Queen singles chronology|
A remixed version (called the "Rah Mix") was issued in December 1999 to promote Queen's Greatest Hits III compilation, reaching No. 14 on the UK Singles Chart. The video for the Rah Mix was directed by DoRo and features footage of Freddie Mercury from the Wembley concert on 12 July 1986 and David Bowie at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert also at Wembley on 20 April 1992 spliced together using digital technology (and with Annie Lennox carefully edited out) and features on the Greatest Flix III compilation, the Rah Mix CD single (as an Enhanced CD video) and the 2011 iTunes LP edition of Hot Space.
Two CD singles (one multimedia enhanced) released 6 December 1999 and 7" picture disc released 13 December 1999. As Bohemian Rhapsody wins The Song of The Millennium award, this released as b-side under the title "The Song of The Millenium – Bohemian Rhapsody"
- CDS No. 1
- CDS No. 2
- Under Pressure (Rah Mix – Radio Edit)
- Under Pressure (Mike Spencer Mix)
- Under Pressure (Knebworth Mix)
- Enhanced section
- Under Pressure (Rah Mix)
- The Song of the Millennium – Bohemian Rhapsody
- Was initially released in US on the Elektra Records US and Canadian versions of Queen's Greatest Hits as a new track.
- Was released in UK on Queen's (1991) Greatest Hits II (which would later be included in The Platinum Collection (2000 and 2002)) removing the second time David Bowie sings, "This is our last dance."
- The song was released as a bonus track on the Virgin Records reissue of Bowie's Let's Dance in 1995.
- Hollywood Records remixed the song for their 1992 release, Classic Queen. This version features improved sound quality, but removes Mercury's interjection "that's okay!" at about 0:53.
- It also appeared on the Bowie compilation Bowie: The Singles 1969-1993 (1993).
- The original single version appears on disc three of Bowie's The Platinum Collection (2005). This disc was later released separately as The Best of David Bowie 1980/1987 (2007).
- An instrumental version appears in the DVD menu for the Hot Space section of Greatest Video Hits 2.
- Has also been performed, but without the lyrics, by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
- Was featured nearly in its entirety in the 2010 film It's Kind of a Funny Story, initially as a 'cover' by the patients in a music therapy class at a New York City psychiatric ward, which the film transformed into the authentic song 'performed' by the patients, dressed in glam, in a near music-video style imaginary sequence (with David Bowie and Queen's original vocals and instrumentation).
- The song appears on Nothing Has Changed (2014).
Mr. Mixx Remix. Mr Mixx of 2 Live Crew produced a hip-hop remix intended for inclusion as the fourth track on the cancelled 1992 Hollywood Records compilation BASIC Queen Bootlegs.
Juno Ray Club Mix. This trance influenced, Nu-House remix was featured on a notable, multi-genre music blog called TheMusicNinja.com on March 27, 2014. Not much is known about the origin of this remix, however the sound of it is reminiscent of earlier work by Trance/Nu-House artist, Kaskade.
Lazy Kiss Edit. Released in October 2013 by Brazilian Electro-House duo, Lazy Kiss. This edit/mashup gained exposure through blog filter site, HypeMachine and the Italian music blog, Frequenze Indipendenti.
Under Pressure (1981):
Under Pressure – Rah Mix (1999):
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver|
My Chemical Romance and The Used version
|Single by My Chemical Romance and The Used|
|from the album In Love and Death|
|Released||12 April 2005|
|Writer(s)||David Bowie, John Deacon, Brian May, Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor|
|My Chemical Romance singles chronology|
The song was covered in 2005 by American alternative rock bands The Used and My Chemical Romance for tsunami relief. The cover was originally released as an Internet download track but has subsequently been featured as a bonus track on the 2005 re-release of The Used's second studio album In Love and Death, and received wide airplay in 2005.
|Chart (2005)||Country||Chart Peak|
|Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks||United States||28|
|Billboard Pop 100||United States||28|
|Billboard Hot 100||United States||41|
Other cover versions
- In 1982, British orchestra Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded a classical cover of the song for an album, The Queen Collection, dedicated to the band.
- In 1994, London Symphony Orchestra recorded an album Plays the Music of Queen, which contains classical covers of the Queen's hit singles, including "Under Pressure" and "The Show Must Go On".
- In 1996, Culture Beat, a German Eurodance project, covered "Under Pressure" for a compilation album, Queen Dance Traxx I.
- In 1997, Fobia, a Mexican rock band, covered "Under Pressure" for a compilation album, Tributo a Queen: los grandes del rock en español.
- The American bands Small Brown Bike (from Marshall, Michigan) and The Casket Lottery (from Kansas City, Missouri) recorded a cover for a split EP.
- In 2002, Crooked Fingers released their Reservoir Songs EP of covers, which included a cover of the song.
- In 2005, English soul singer-songwriter Joss Stone sang the song on the tribute album Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen.
- Stone played the song at the Concert for Diana on 1 July 2007.
- In 2007, English band Keane released their "Under Pressure" version for the Radio 1. Established 1967 compilation. In Mexico, it was released as an A-side from "The Night Sky".
- In 2007, Chicago-based band Kill Hannah covered the song for the movie soundtrack of The Invisible.
- In 2008, Finnish ensemble Rajaton and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra performed an a cappella version of "Under Pressure" on Rajaton sings Queen with Lahti Symphony Orchestra.
- Group Xiu Xiu covered the song, featuring Michael Gira, for their album Women as Lovers (2008).
- In 2009, Ben Harper played the song as his Like A Version cover for Australian radio station triple j.
- In 2010, Irish pop duo Jedward released a mashup of "Under Pressure" and Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" as their debut single, titled "Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)" (on which Vanilla Ice is featured), from their debut album Planet Jedward.
- In 2011, the song, mashed up together with Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby", was used as one of the featured songs in the reality show The Glee Project.
- The 2011 film Happy Feet Two has all the characters singing the song at the climax as they dance and pound on the ice to free the Emperor Penguins trapped inside.
- In 2012, The Protomen covered this song in their album Present: A Night of Queen.
- In 2013, the song was covered by the cast of the NBC show Smash in the series finale. The performers included Megan Hilty, Katharine McPhee, Jeremy Jordan, Krysta Rodriguez, Christian Borle, Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston and Jack Davenport and Leslie Odom Jr. features on the cast album SMASH - The Complete Season Two.
Live cover performances
- In 1994, rock band The Flaming Lips live recorded their cover version, for the 23rd volume of Warner Brothers Recordings promo series Soil X Samples, which released the following year.
- In 2002, post-hardcore band The Blood Brothers live covered "Under Pressure" for the 31G Queen tribute album Dynamite With a Laser Beam: Queen as Heard Through the Meat Grinder of Three One G.
- Musician Keller Williams released his version on his live album Stage (2004).
- Ben Harper and Relentless7 performed this song on several occasions including a performance with Eddie Vedder at David Lynch's benefit concert, Change Begins Within, at the Radio City Music Hall on 4 April 2009 and with Jack Black on The Jay Leno Show 8 October 2009.
- In 2011, Wakefield trio The Cribs, who have expressed an interest in having latter-day Queen producer David Richards helm their fifth studio album, covered the song live in a session for the Brazilian website Popload.
- On 28 June 2011, The Voice coaches Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton performed a live rendition to open that night's show.
- On 5 December 2014 Foo Fighters performed the song live in New York City during a performance which was broadcast on the SiriusXM AltNation channel. On September 5, 2015 at National Bowl in Milton Keynes, on what would have been Mercury's 69th birthday, the Foo Fighters played the song with Queen drummer Roger Taylor on drums and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones on keyboards.
- In 1990, Florida-based rapper Vanilla Ice sampled the song's bass line and signature piano chords for his hit "Ice Ice Baby". The opening riffs of the two songs are virtually identical.
- In 1999, rapper Charli Baltimore recorded a song called "Ice" (featuring rapper Mase) for her album Cold As Ice, which uses samples from "Under Pressure". However, it wasn't included as sample clearance could not be secured.
- Scottish group Tigerstyle released a mash-up, called "Nachna Onda Nei", of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and "Under Pressure".
- DJ Earworm used "Under Pressure" in a mashup with Psy's "Gangnam Style", Nicki Minaj's "Starships", and Florence + The Machine's "Spectrum (Say My Name)" for the 2012 Champions League Twenty20 cricketing tournament. It has never been released publicly from Earworm, but versions can be found on YouTube.
- In Aug 2015 Platinum Doug released 'Play with Me' EP that contains a track of the same name, which uses samples from "Under Pressure". 
- The song was featured prominently in the climax of the Robin Williams film World's Greatest Dad.
- The song is used in promos for the NHL Stanley Cup Finals on NBC Sports Network, in either its original form, or as an a cappella.
- "Under Pressure" is used in a 2012 TV commercial for Google Plus which features The Muppets.
- It was featured in the trailer for the Academy Award Winning film from 2002, Adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze.
- It was also featured in the trailer for the 2004 movie Jersey Girl, directed by Kevin Smith.
- The song is also covered (instrumental) in the 2013 Target back-to-school ad campaign.
- The song was used prominently in a scene in the 2010 film It's Kind of a Funny Story
- It is featured in the 1997 movie Grosse Pointe Blank.
- The song was featured in the 2004 film The Girl Next Door.
- The song was also featured in the first trailer of the 2015 film, Minions.
- It is featured in the HBO's Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao pre-fight programming, Mayweather/Pacquiao: At Last.
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, and did not originally pay songwriting credit or royalties to Queen and Bowie. A lawsuit resulted in Bowie and all the members of Queen being given songwriting credit for the sample. Vanilla Ice later claimed to have purchased the publishing rights to "Under Pressure". Vanilla Ice said buying the song made more financial sense than paying out royalties.
Rock Band music gaming platform
The song was made available to download on 7 December 2010 for use in the Rock Band 3 music gaming platform in both Basic rhythm, and PRO mode which allows use of a real guitar / bass guitar, and MIDI compatible electronic drum kits / keyboards in addition to up to three-part harmony or backup vocals.
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...the lawsuit worked out in my favor, cause I ended up buying their song. It was four million dollars and it was one of my best investments.
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The great thing is, is I bought back all my royalties and I bought that song, too. So it kind of comes back around, kind of like Michael Jackson both The Beatles. [...] I can do whatever I want with it, because I own it.
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- Lyrics of Rah Mix at Queen official website (from Greatest Hits III)
"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police
|UK number-one single
21 November 1981 – 28 November 1981
"Begin The Beguine" by Julio Iglesias