Friday, January 19, 2007

Queen & David Bowie

Under Pressure

The above video "Under Pressure" is a 1981 song by Queen and David Bowie two great musical tallents that will have their own seperate enteries here at the big 80's. It marked Queen's first released collaboration with another recording artist, and is featured on their 1982 album Hot Space. The song was a hit at the time, reaching #1 in the UK singles chart.

Bowie had originally come to the studios in order to sing backing vocals in another Queen song, "Cool Cat", which would end up being edited out since he wasn't satisfied with them. Once he got there, they jammed for a while and wrote the song.

There has been some confusion about who created the song's famous 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, Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor have credited the bass riff to Deacon; Bowie also said on his website that the bassline was already written before he became involved. The bassline may have an even earlier source- it bears striking resemblance to the first theme of the third movement of Sibelius' first symphony of 1898. In any case, the September 2005 edition of online music magazine Stylus singled out the bassline as the best in popular music history.
The first title found for this song was "People on Streets". It then became "Under Pressure".

Track listing of the single
"Under Pressure" (Mercury, Taylor, Deacon, May, Bowie) - 4:02
"Soul Brother" (Mercury, Taylor, Deacon, May) - 3:38
EMI released a 3-inch CD version of the single in 1988 with "Body Language" as an additional B-side.

Live performances
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 as well. While Bowie was never present for a live performance of the song with Mercury, Roger Taylor instead filled for back-up vocals usually in unison with Mercury as Mercury would take over most of Bowie's parts. This showcased the talent of Mercury as a vocalist as he could powerfully deliver the song as a heavy rock song rather than a ballad. Another difference from the studio cut and a live peformance was at the ending of the song they would repeat "This is our last dance" twice rather than only once.

Notable live recordings
Queen first recorded a live version of the song at The Montreal Forum in Canada on November 24, 1981. This was included in the concert film We Will Rock You. 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 (possibly from Queen's last concert with Mercury at Knebworth) appeared in edited form on the album Live Magic in 1986.

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.

A performance was once done in Budapest where Queen played the song a half note higher than usual.

Other releases
Was initially released in US on the Elektra Records US and Canadian versions of Queen's Greatest Hits as a new track.
The song was released as a bonus track on the Virgin Records reissue of Bowie's Let's Dance in 1995.

A remixed version (the "Rah Mix") was issued in December 1999 to promote Queen's Greatest Hits III compilation, reaching #14 in the UK singles chart.
Hollywood Records remixed the song for their 1992 release, Classic Queen. This version features an improvement in sound quality, yet removes Mercury's interjection "that's okay!"

It also appeared on some Bowie compilations, most of which used the Hollywood Records remix:
Bowie: The Singles 1969-1993 (1993)
The Singles Collection (1993)
Best of Bowie (2002)

An instrumental version appears in the DVD menu for the Hot Space section of Greatest Video Hits 2, and on the Greatest Karaoke Hits release.
Was released in UK on Queen's Greatest Hits II (which would later be included in The Platinum Collection (2003)) removing the second time David Bowie sings, "This is our last dance."
Was remixed with 50 cent's "High All the Time" on The Silence Xperiment's mash-up project Q-Unit.

In pop culture
Played in the ad campaign for Saved.
Played in the very first episode of Judging Amy.
Played in an episode of Ally McBeal
Played in an episode of Clueless (TV series)
Played in an episode of Scrubs. (S02E09)
Played in an episode of Eyes.
Played in an episode of the second season of Cold Case.
Played in an episode of Everybody Hates Chris (S02E03)
Played in the pilot episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
Played in the pilot episode of In Case of Emergency.
Played in the 1988 movie A New Life.
Played in the 1997 movie Grosse Pointe Blank.
Played in the 1998 skate movie The End.
Played in the 1998 movie The Players Club.
Played in the 1998 movie Stepmom.
Played in the 2002 movie 40 Days and 40 Nights.
Played in the 2004 movie The Girl Next Door.
Played in the VH1 documentary The Drug Years.
Played in the trailer of Adaptation.
Played in a commercial for Zales Jewelry.
Played for a PGA promo.
Played in the 2005 movie Cheaper by the Dozen 2.
Played in a commercial for Saved!.
Included in Karaoke Revolution Volume 3 for the PS2
Played on FOX before Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS
Played on ESPN during their coverage of the 2006 NFL Draft
Main theme to Pro Evolution Soccer 6.
Played in 2007 on Newsnight on the BBC
Played as bumper music for Coast to Coast AM, a U.S. Late Night radio program.
Cover versions
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - The Queen Collection (1982)
Rapper Vanilla Ice sampled this song without permission for his biggest hit, the commercially successful Ice Ice Baby. His response to criticism relied upon the addition of one note not present in the original.
The song was also covered by Small Brown Bike and The Casket Lottery on a split EP as well as Crooked Fingers on the Reservoir Songs EP.
London Symphony Orchestra - Plays the Music of Queen (1994)
Culture Beat - Queen Dance Traxx I (1996)
Kween - Rhapsody from Heaven (1996)
Fobia - Presionando - Tributo a Queen, Los Grandes del Rock en EspaƱol (1997)
The Flaming Lips - Live recording on the 23rd volume in Warner Brothers seven-inch vinyl promo series Soil Samples
The Blood Brothers - Live recording, and on the Three One G Queen tribute album Dynamite With A Laser Beam: Queen As Heard Through The Meat Grinder Of Three One G
The song was covered in 2005 by My Chemical Romance and The Used for tsunami relief. The cover was originally released as an internet download track but has subsequently featured as a bonus track on all new reprints of The Used's In Love and Death, and received wide airplay in 2005.
Joss Stone - Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen (2005)
Bobby Flynn - Australian Idol 4 (2006)
The Used and My Chemical Romance - Single (2005)
The song was mashed up with the 50 Cent song "High All the Time" on the bootlegged studio album, Q-Unit by The Silence Xperiment

On the morning of December 14 2006, Under Pressure was played at the International Space Station. It was used as a wake-up call for the crew of Space Shuttle flight STS-116. It was especially chosen for crew-member and mission specialist Curbeam.

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