Bowie and Mercury’s Isolated Vocals on ‘Under Pressure’

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Bowie Mercury FBSearching YouTube can often uncover unimagined treasures. Such is the case when discovering isolated vocals or instrumental tracks from some of our favorite classic rock songs. Such is the case with David Bowie and Freddie Mercury for their duet, “Under Pressure.”

The song came from sessions that Bowie was having with Queen in Montreux, Switzerland. In a 2008 interview with Mojo, Queen’s Brian May said: “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.”

An ad for Queen’s Greatest Hits album appeared in the Oct. 31, 1981 issue of Record World

The song was released on October 26, 1981, and included on Queen’s Greatest Hits collection released that autumn.

As Best Classic Bands has noted in our 9 Signature Rock Classics That Weren’t Hits story, the 1981 collaboration seemed like a no-brainer for the record labels involved. Two of the biggest names in the British pop-rock landscape collaborating for one song. With an unbelievably catchy bassline, finger snaps, and powerful vocals from Bowie and Mercury, the only question was how many weeks would it log at #1. Though it did top the U.K. singles chart on November 21, the song inexplicably only reached #29 on the U.S. pop chart.

Thankfully, American audiences didn’t have to rely solely on Top 40 radio programmers to enjoy it and it’s been a classic rock radio staple ever since.

When it came to producing a music video for the song, neither Queen nor Bowie were available due to touring conflicts. Director David Mallet, who had previously overseen the “Ashes to Ashes” clip for Bowie, and went on to direct his hugely successful “Let’s Dance” video, produced a video using footage largely from silent films.

First, here’s the official lyric video

And now, our Classic Video, without that catchy bassline and familiar finger snaps.

Related: Brian May has said there are unreleased Bowie-Queen recordings

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. BMac
    #1 BMac 27 October, 2023, 13:25

    I know a lot of classic rock stations have played this tune for years, but the one I worked for in the ’90s NEVER played it. Not sure why.

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