Queen and David Bowie wrote 'Under Pressure' while drunk and then forgot about it
Such was the case for their hit 1981 song "Under Pressure," according to the latest episode of Queen the Greatest, a 50-week YouTube series celebrating key moments in the band's history. Using a series of recent and archival interviews with those involved, the episode tells the story of how Queen were joined in Montreux, Switzerland, by Bowie, and a night of fooling around in the recording studio resulted in a number one single.
Apparently, it all started with a phone call. "They were recording there and, David [Richards, record producer] knew that I was in town, and phoned me up and asked me if I'd come down, if I'd like to go down and see what was happening," Bowie recalled in the footage. "So I went down and these things happen, you know, suddenly you're writing something together and it was totally spontaneous, it certainly wasn't planned. It was peculiar!"
According to Queen drummer Roger Taylor that spontaneity was the result of alcohol consumption. "Well, I think the process was we were all drunk, and in the studio, and we were just for fun playing all sorts of old songs," he says bluntly. "I remember a couple of old Cream songs, and whatever came into our heads and I think David said, 'Look, hang on a minute, why don't we write one of our own?'"
From there, Queen's Brian May says it was the group's bassist John Deacon who first came up with the song's unforgettable riff, and kept playing it over and over. The problem, Taylor said, is that everyone got hungry and went for pizza, and by the time they got back to the song Deacon had forgotten what he'd come up with. Eventually, it was Taylor who remembered it, and Queen and Bowie got back to work creating the song from there. "And by that time, David was very impassioned with it and he had a vision in his head I think," May said.
When the song was released in October 1981, it gave Queen their second U.K. No. 1, and was a massive success worldwide.
For more on the inception of "Under Pressure," watch the full episode of Queen The Greatest above.