Queen – Under Pressure

Official video of group “Queen” – “Under Pressure

“Under Pressure” is a 1981 song by the British rock band Queen which was written and recorded in collaboration with the singer David Bowie. It was included on Queen’s 1982 album Hot Space. The song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the band’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. The song only peaked at No. 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and would re-chart for one week at No. 45 in the US following Bowie’s death in January 2016. It was also number 31 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the ’80s.

Lyrics of “Under Pressure”:

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 ’round 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, higher…
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 coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn
Why, why, why?

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?..

‘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 our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure

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 Live at Wembley ’86. 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), The Platinum Collection (2005), Nothing Has Changed (2014) and Legacy (2016).

Queen had been working on a song called “Feel Like”, but was not yet satisfied with the result. David Bowie had originally come to Mountain Studios to sing back up vocals on another Queen song, “Cool Cat”, but his vocals were removed from the final song because he was not satisfied with his performance. Once he got there, they worked together for a while and wrote the song. The final version, which became “Under Pressure”, evolved from a jam session that Bowie had with the band at Queen’s studio in Montreux, Switzerland. It was credited as being co-written by the five musicians. The scat singing that dominates much of the song is evidence of the jam-beginnings as improvisation. However, according to Queen bassist John Deacon (as quoted in a French magazine in 1984), the song’s primary 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 also been some confusion about who had created the song’s bassline. John Deacon said (in Japanese magazine Musiclife in 1982) that David Bowie created it. In more recent interviews, Brian May and Roger Taylor 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 did indeed create 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, amusingly, forgot the riff, but fortunately Taylor was still able to remember it. Brian May clarified matters in a 2016 Mirror Online article, writing that it was actually Bowie, not Taylor, who had inadvertently changed the riff. The riff began as “Deacy began playing, 6 notes the same, then one note a fourth down”. After the dinner break, Bowie corrected (actually changed) Deacon’s memory of the riff to “Ding-Ding-Ding Diddle Ing-Ding”.

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).

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