Queen’s tenth studio album Hot Space was released 37 years ago this week, and while the album as a whole was predominantly pop and dance influenced, there was one monster rock track that stood out among the rest.
“Under Pressure,” the album’s lead single, remains one of the greatest duets of all time, and as important as David Bowie’s vocals are to the track, he was absolutely key in the writing of John Deacon’s now iconic bass line.
In a piece Brian May wrote for U.K.’s The Mirror shortly after Bowie’s passing, May recalls Queen and Bowie collaborating in the studio. Deacon brought the riff to the brainstorming session they were having, but shortly after, everyone when out for a bite to eat and indulged in some of the local wine offerings. What happens next is the stuff of legend:
“A couple or three hours later, we’re back in the studio. ‘What was that riff, you had, Deacy?’ says David B. “I was like this”, says John Deacon.
‘No it wasn’t, says Bowie – it was like this.’
This was a funny moment because I can just see DB going over and putting his hand on John’s fretting hand and stopping him.
It was also a tense moment because it could have gone either way.
Deacy did not take kindly to being told what to do, especially by physical interferences while he was playing!
But he was good natured, and it all went ahead.
Then we began playing around – using the riff as a starting point.”
There’s plenty more to the story of “Under Pressure,” and I highly recommend everyone read May’s account of how the song came to be, but so many things could’ve gone awry in that moment that you can’t help but wonder “What if?”
For your enjoyment, here’s the official video for “Under Pressure” as well as the incredible isolated vocal tracks of Freddie Mercury and Bowie. With both singers now gone, their vocals are as awe-inspiring as they’re bittersweet.
Erica Banas is a rock/classic rock blogger that loves the smell of old vinyl in the morning.