Meaning of Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie

In the summer of 1981, Queen worked on the Hot Space album at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland. In parallel with them, David Bowie recorded the track Cat People (“Cat People”) for the film of the same name in the same place. He looked to his countrymen for a light and sang along to them in the composition Cool Cat. But David did not like the result, and he asked to remove his game.

However, their cooperation did not remain fruitless. It resulted in the composition Under Pressure, which was performed by a duet between Mercury and Bowie.

The history of creation and the meaning of the song Under Pressure

Here is what Roger Taylor said about the history of the composition:

David came over one night and we played other people’s songs for fun – that’s the kind of jam. In the end, David said, “This is stupid. Wouldn’t it be better to write your own song?”

Is This the Real Life? by Mark Blake

Taking the bass part of John Deacon as a basis (according to another version, David Bowie became its author), the musicians began to compose a new song together. All members of Queen and Bowie were involved in the creative process, but David and Freddie contributed the most. Here’s the floor for Brian May:

Together, as an ensemble, we slowly recorded an accompaniment track. When the backing track was ready, David said: “Okay, now let’s each of us go into the vocal booth and, without thinking at all, sing the way he thinks the melody should sound, and we will assemble a vocal part from this.” So we did.

“Is This the Real Life?” by Mark Blake

Brian May also spoke about that session to Mojo magazine.

It was tough because there were four precocious boys and David, who was even precocious than the rest of us. Passions ran high. It was very hard for me, because they didn’t give me almost anything to do as I wanted. But David clearly imagined everything, and he ruled everything in terms of vocals. Looking back, it’s a great song, but it should have been mixed differently. Freddie and David had a heated argument about this.

Mojo, 2008

Bowie wanted to be involved in every step of the song’s creation. He insisted on being present during the final mix, during which he harassed the sound engineer so much that he called Freddie for help. But with Mercury, they also came to an agreement very hard, and Bowie even threatened that he would ban the release of the song.

Release and achievements

Fortunately, this did not happen, and at the end of October 1981, the official release of the single Under Pressure took place. The song topped the UK Singles Chart and was named one of the best songs of the 1980s by VH1.

Under Pressure was included on the album Hot Space by the rock band Queen. Later, the track was included in several live albums and collections of the best songs of the group, as well as in the Best of Bowie disc.

Clip Under Pressure – Queen

The video clip for the song Under Pressure was never filmed. It was replaced by a cut from various feature and documentary film frames, which director David Mallet compiled, inspired by the theme of pressure.

Interesting Facts

  • The song was originally called People on Streets, but Bowie insisted on Under Pressure.
  • If Queen performed Under Pressure at all concerts until 1986, then David Bowie began to sing it only from the mid-nineties.
  • During Mercury’s lifetime, Queen never played Under Pressure on the same stage as Bowie.
  • At the April 1992 Freddie Tribute Concert, Bowie sang Under Pressure with Annie Lennox. They were accompanied by members of the Queen group.
  • The song sounds in many feature films: “40 days and 40 nights”, “Stepmother”, “Neighbor” and others.
  • Vanilla Ice used a bass riff from Under Pressure in Ice Ice Baby. He initially denied this, but after litigation, he was forced to acknowledge the borrowing and bought the rights to Queen and Bowie’s creation because it was more profitable than paying royalties.

Under Pressure Lyrics Queen/David Bowie

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!”
Pray 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

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?

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

Under Pressure – Queen & David Bowie Lyrics

They put pressure on me
They put pressure on you so that you don’t wish anyone
Under the pressure that burns houses
Breaks down families
Gets people on the streets

It’s terrible to know
What is this world
see how your friends
They shout: “Let me out!”
Pray tomorrow – it will strengthen me
Pressure on people – people on the streets

I’m falling apart, my roof is blown off
This is the time now: trouble has come – open the gate
People on the streets, people on the streets

Turned away from it all like a blind man
I decided to wait, but it doesn’t work.
There are only thoughts of love in my head, but it is cut and torn
Why? Why? Why?

Madness laughs as we crack under pressure
Why can’t we give ourselves another chance?
Why can’t we give love another chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?

‘Cause love is such an old fashioned word
And love calls you to care
About people before nightfall
And love is calling you to change the way we are
We take care of ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
It’s us ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
By pressure

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