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Under Pressure by Queen

Album: Hot SpaceReleased: 1981Charted:
29
1
  • A collaboration with David Bowie, this is credited to "Queen with David Bowie" because the B-side of the single is Queen's "Soul Brother." It was recorded at an impromptu session in Montreaux, Switzerland.
  • According to Queen bass player John Deacon, Freddie Mercury did most of the songwriting on this, although everyone contributed. The lyrics deal with how pressure can destroy lives, but love can be the answer. The lyrics are characteristic of Mercury's songwriting.

    Deacon however did come up with the iconic two-note bass riff, although it came very close to vanishing: according to Roger Taylor in the Days of our Lives documentary, Deacon came up with the riff, then the band went for pizza before coming back to continue rehearsals. Upon returning, Deacon had completely forgotten his idea! Luckily, Taylor eventually remembered how the bassline went.
  • Brian May recalled to Mojo magazine October 2008. "It was hard, because 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."

    May adds to this feeling of the sessions being fairly strained in a further interview for the Days of our Lives documentary, where he notes that "suddenly you've got this other person inputting, inputting, inputting... he (David) had a vision in his head, and it's quite a difficult process and someone has to back off... and eventually I did back off, which is unusual for me."
  • In the US, this was on Queen's Greatest Hits album and released as a single at the same time. It was not released on a UK album until 6 months later, when it was included on Hot Space.
  • This was only the second UK #1 hit for Queen. They hit #2 with "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "We Are The Champions," "Somebody To Love," and "Killer Queen," but their only previous #1 in England was "Bohemian Rhapsody."
  • In the early '80s, it was popular for 2 superstars to get together and release a hit single. Other notable combinations include Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder on "Ebony And Ivory," Diana Ross and Lionel Richie on "Endless Love," and Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton on "Islands in the Stream." This was the first time Queen collaborated with another artist.
  • David Bowie performed this with Annie Lennox at the 1992 "Concert For Life" in Wembley Stadium, London. The show was a tribute to Freddie Mercury, with proceeds going to AIDS causes.
  • Vanilla Ice sampled this on "Ice Ice Baby," which was a huge hit in 1990. Details are fudgy, but it appears that the sample was never cleared and a settlement was reached with Queen and Bowie long after Vanilla's song hit it big.
  • This song has been used in a number of movies, including 2002's 40 Days And 40 Nights and 2004's The Girl Next Door. It is also included in the hugely successful Queen tribute show We Will Rock You. (thanks, Jeffrey - Victoria, Canada)
  • During the Taste Of Chaos tour, the singers from My Chemical Romance and The Used would come out and perform this song at the end of the show. (thanks, Kyle - Montreal, Canada)
  • Joss Stone covered this for the 2005 Queen tribute album Killer Queen. (thanks, Rachel - South Point, OH)
  • Producer Mack told an amusing story about the vocal recording for "Under Pressure," where one of the two singers would record their improvised vocals with the other being locked out so they couldn't hear what the other was doing.

    Said Mack: "Freddie is doing all his bits and pieces and I see out of the corner of my eye David sticking his head in and listening. Then Fred came down and David went up, and Fred was quite impressed how David was counterpointing to what he (Freddie) had done before. Fred said 'what do you make of this?' and I said 'Well, it's kinda easy if you stand in the doorway and listen!'"

    At which point Freddie apparently had some choice words for David!
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Comments: 81

"What does "Turned away from it all like a blind man. Sat on a fence but it don't work." mean?
- judie, joppa, MD"

Judie, I think it means that he's turned a blind eye from peoples' suffering. "Sat on a fence" would mean just staying neutral. When someone's sitting on the fence, it means they're undecided on something. Hope that helps! :)
Susan - Airdrie, Ab
I love Queen... I don't know how many Latinos are on this but back in 1997 many of the great rock bands from Latin America did a wonderful tribute album to Queen. the best translations where "Presionados" (Under Pressure) done by Mexican band Fobia and "Juegale, Apuestale" (Play The Game) done By Colombian Rockers Aterciopelado.Adrian - Anaheim, Ca
C'mon ANY cover is a compliment...you know 'the sincerest form of flattery' kinda thing...Robin - Columbus , Oh
Under Pressure is a reference to carbonation since it is the only cure for people of the streets infected with bacteria.John - Detroit, Mi
It's amazing how popular this song is today, becuase I remember when it first came out, many Queen fans hated it and accused the band of "selling out". Beginning with 1982's Hot Space, Queen's record sales seriously declined in the USA, and the band never could regain the popularity they had in the 1970s until the media coverage of Freddie Mercury's death.Steve - Torrance, Ca
What does "Turned away from it all like a blind man. Sat on a fence but it don't work." mean?Judie - Joppa, Md
This is a really good song. And as for MCR and The Used covering it, you can all calm down, it was for tribute to Katrina and I'm sure the members of the bands are really big fans of Queen and David Bowie.Chrisi - Btown, Fl
This song was sung/played in "It's Kind of a Funny Story"(2010) by the characters who are in the psychiatric ward of as hospital, as part of music therapy. The lead character goes into a sort of fugue while doing vocals and the whole room takes on a full concert look & feelCyberpope - Richmond, Canada
The original working title was "People On Streets".Steve - Hockessin, , De
Folks, besides it being a wonderful combination of incredible talent, the fact is that there are too many hamsters in the cage. The song is about how our compressed live are leading us in the wrong direction. It is worth heading.J - Eat Me, Al
If you listen to the "Feel Like" demo on youtube, you can hear that the song is based around the same D-A-G-A chord progression and shares a very similar guitar figure (the one that plays through the intro and verse of Under Pressure) and the general tempo and feel of the song is similar too. But the melody is completely different and the bridge isn't there. To my ears you can hear a lot of Bowie in Under Pressure's melody - the bridge in particular (the part that goes - "it's the terror of knowing what this world is about... etc") sounds like a Bowie song from the "Let's Dance" album - which was only a couple of years later. So I don't think it was as simple as "it was already written when I turned up" as Bowie has claimed in the past.David - Newcastle, United Kingdom
this song was also used in the movie Cheaper By The Dozen 2Matt - Glenolden, Pa
You can tell by the charts that the UK had more respect for Queen's music than the Americans. One look at this great song tells it all...USA chart 29, UK chart 1. Same with One Vision, 67 on the USA chart and 7 on the UK chart.John - Grand Island, Ny
Amazing song! Well what QUeen song can bad?? Freddie mercury is a legend. I can understand how people want to do covers but why attempt the best? 4 Octave range! There will Never be another freddie and i hate all the negative comments people give because he was gay. Under Pressure will forever be a legendary song sung by 2 amazing men!Melissa - Montreal, Qc
See the documentary "Maxed Out"!
It's about the consumer credit (read credit card) crisis in the American Economy. By the time you've seen what banks have done, with the help of the politicians to whom they contribute money...the song Under Pressure takes on extra, deeper meaning.
John - Akron, Ok
It's been noted that Vanilla Ice sampled the song for 'Ice Ice Baby'; Queen, in turn, sampled 'Ice Ice Baby' for the "Rah Mix" of 'Under Pressure' they released in 2002 on 'Greatest Hits III'

When Queen would play this song live, Roger wound up taking the Freddie vocal part, while Freddie sang Bowie's vocal.

It wasn't until after Freddie's death, and the subsequent 'Concert for Life' that Bowie would preform this song live in concert, or include it on a greatest hits album of his own.
Ryan - Eaton, In
i thought this song was about drugs or something.Fatima - Norfolk, Va
This comment is for Jared, Tarzana, CA.

The original version of this song IS NOT 'Feel Like'
Under Pressure IS the original.

Feel Like was a song in it's own right, Under Pressure was created around it, because the melody was very simmilar.
(P.S. Don't u think they should av released 'Feel Like' as a song of it's own? - I do)
Dave - Glasgow, United Kingdom
i like how they adressed the peer pressure we are subject to for giving[love].that we feel guilty for loving and helping, we allow it to keep us from loving. that is the most cowardest thing i could ever amagine.'im not going to help my brother because the other kids will laugh'.maybee some in society need their ass beatZac - Fenton, Mi
Great song.
I just love watching john deacon plays his bass guitar whenever i watch QUEEN concerts on videos.

Cheers!
Ched - - La Union, Philippines
Queen for life!Caitlin - Upper Township, Nj
We play this song in the band at school! We have guitars too! Keep rockin'Rachel - Cleveland, Al
Okay, just one thing to say about rap music.
My daughter said this to me when she was 9 yrs old.
"Mom the biggest flaw in RAP music is that they forgot the first letter......they forgot the C.
It's CRAP.
Freddie was a genius. Won't see another like him for a long time and it WON'T be some pierced, tattooed freak that screams. Freddie had talent and woe to us to lose him. But he was honest and for that we should be grateful. RIP Freddie-Bear
Moosi - Phoenix, Az
The original version of this song was called Feel Like, written by Freddie Mercury. Samples are available on Youtube.Jared - Tarzana, Ca
great song, used on an episode of scrubsJeff - Sothington, Ct
I simply L.O.V.E this song!!!!!! Freddie Mecury has the most amzing high-pitched voice and makes noises that are incredible to hear. David Bowie on the other hand is also amazing.He has a lovely voice that's very deep sounding and I'm used to hear him sounding like he does on songs like Starman. The song it's self is beautifully created by using noises and different meldoidoes going on.Under Pressure is a all time favorites of mine and I''m disapointed that most kids in my middle school have never heard of Freddie or David.Chloe - Agoura Hills, Ca
MY FAVORITE SONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Freddy Mercury is the coolest guy ever! His voice and Bowie's go great together in this song. Queen is amazing and I love them.
June - San Jose, Ca
I agree George, David Bowie does an amazing job with this song, proablly because he origianlly did it with Queen. Annie Lennox is also great, but these artist are in a class all their own as opposed to my chemical romance who should never ever do this song or any other great song again.Dave - Walden, Ny
Freddie Mercury and Queen were the real deal and I agree, no one should ever cover this song, especially the likes of The Used or My Chemical Romance. Who cares if it was for some stupid charity concert, they took an amazing song and made it sound like crap. If someone is going to do it besides Queen make sure their acctually good, unlike the used or my chemical romance.
-Dave, NY
Dave - Walden, Ny
Queen made the song great and its just not a song to copy!!!!!!!Stephen - Claymont , De
My Chemical Romance and the Used douche bags should find their own music to suck up the stage with.. & Vanilla Ice, up yoursCody - Janesville , Wi
Vanilla Ice, The Used and My Chemical Romance can go die...Vanilla Ice should've never took the beat of the song and made Ice Ice Baby which is a horrible song by the way. And The Used And My Chemical Romance should never have attempted to match Queen. Freddy Mercury's vocals are unmatchable and Queen is just too good of a band. It's too bad that there are bands out there that would butcher great classics like this. But anyhows this song is definitly one of the top 25 songs ever.Tim - Philadelphia, Pa
i cant get enough of this song!Paul Marlo - Perth
I LUV THE COVER BY THE USED AND MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE!!!!!!!!!! I AM IN LIVE WITH GERARD WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HE'S SO HOT!!!!!!!!!Faxmachine - Nyc, Nd
This is THE GREATEST song ever written. I love Queen, and nobody else shoulld even try to cover this, because I am yet to find somebody who can do a descent Freddy Mercury. I am officially boycotting the Used because of this outragous attempt. pathetic. Only person who should be singing this now days is Bowie. Only because he co-wrote.Ryan - Grand Rapids, Mn
One day in 1992 when I was still in college, the campus radio station played this song and afterward the DJ said "That was Queen and David Bowie with 'Under Pressure' - whatever happened to Vanilla Ice, anyway?" I laughed my @$$ off at that comment (this was just two years after "Ice Ice Baby" and already VI was a has-been) and still get a chuckle out of it each time I hear this song and am reminded of that moment.Joshua - Twin Cities, Mn
Mercury wrote most of the lyrics with some help from Bowie. Deacon has always credited the bass parts to Bowie, who denies his involvement in the development, saying it was there before he arrived. Queen performed this song like many times, but Bowie seemed hesitant to do it in concert for a long time. Anyway, killer song.Jonathon - Clermont, Fl
great song love just like all of queens other songs queen rocksTonya - Murry, Ky
I have to say that it is great that such a wonderful song is being brought to the younger generations through some popular groups, however due to the fact that I really do NOT like The Used or My Chemical Romance I am not exactly smitten with this cover no matter what the cause and if the song is about drugs and similar problems, what does that have to do with tsunami relief? They could have picked a different song to screw up.Amanda - Las Vegas, Nv
i have read that the lyrics are about friends on drugs who are suffering, perhaps with added regret that the writers need to do more to help themAlasdair - Newdigate, England
Actually, Joss Stone does a really good job covering this song on the Queen Tribute album. She gives it a little R&B, soul feel. It sounds beautiful.Winston - Potomac, Md
And at least most rappers are proud enough to admit that they covered a riff taken already... the fact that Vanilla Ice claimed that he had come up with John Deacon's base riff blows my mind.Winston - Potomac, Md
Vanilla Ice blows. Some rappers take base riffs from classic songs and rap over them really well (like Tupac in 'Changes' and P.Diddy in 'Come With Me'). But, 'Ice, Ice, Baby'? Come on.Winston - Potomac, Md
The "edge of the night/light" always sounds different to me. But I looked up the lyrics on several different sites, and they all say night. So, perhaps they're wrong, but most likely not.

I love Freddy's voice, but David Bowie's really works for this song.

The Vanilla Ice version annoys me.
Alison - Escondido, Ca
I'm pretty sure the lyrics are "edge of the light," and that would make more sense because love does dare us to care for the people who are not necessarily good people, or who are in danger of doing something stupid, etc. They're "on the edge of the light."

This song rocks!! I was completely shocked the other day when someone asked my class (a bunch of teenage girls) who sings this song and they didn't say "Vanilla Ice," they ACTUALLY knew! :)
Katie - Somewhere, Nj
PLEASE..can anyone here make an interpretation of the lyrics?? concerning to the used's cover, i actually like it..obviously, there's no comparison with the original one, which happens with any queen song..no one can equal or compare himself with them nor try to..they r one of the best bands ever..their songs r so complete..so magnificent, as tom said..so ELABORATED..so they involve lots of elements no one will ever be able to arrange the same way they didAriana - Lima, Peru
While the original was really great. . . I like the new version better.
I would have really loved for Freedy to do the vocals, not David. I'm not a big fan of his voice.
But, yes,Chris W does make a great point. The USed does not have the best vocals. They are not a very hard band to copy. But I admire how the remade the song without destroying, to me, what the song truly is.
<3
Nicole - Fairfield, Oh
never mind she decided she loves it now...well in the long run thats good...but that also means i'll have to hear it...great...and sean i think its edge of the light.Jeanette - Irvine, Ca
Actually, Vanilla Ice did get sued for this, to the best of my knowledge.Sandy - Newburgh, In
"Edge of the night" or "Edge of the light"? Really sounds like the latter rather than the former. Any thoughts?

Sean
Sean - New Brunswick, Nj
don't worry kenny i've seen enough of my friends obsessive my chemical romance music videos she watches daily...i'll be okay. and even SHE admits that she doesn't like it. but then she insists that she wouldn't like the original...i don't think she's even heard it...and rick i think it's chippin around.Jeanette - Irvine, Ca
is it "chippin around" or "she's been around"? These lyrics confuse me, but what an awesome song!!!!Rick - Humboldt, Ia
Jeanette, stay away from that version. It is God-awful.Kenny - Ubly, Mi
I don't think any band, no jmatter how good they are could cover a queen song. That's because... well... it's queen.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Haha, I just checked out Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice baby (Yes, I've never actually heard it) it is SO the same! It's the highhat riff with the do doddododododo thing, hah. Queen rocks. This song rocks. Cheers.Richie - Horsham, Pa
chase: haha...queen is a giddy band i guess. i'm more sane on the led zeppelin ones...and the pink floyd ones.Jeanette - Irvine, Ca
A great song! David Bowie and Queen did a wonderful job with this song. See, no band can be quite as good as Queen. Queen had a certain something that made them work together so well. Their music talents just shine! And Freddie wasn't one that would settle for less than perfect. Thats why they were so great. As Freddie said, All the band members have Strong Characters. In my opinion when they all collide it makes a masterpeice. Thats what makes Queen. I find it weird listening to some other band sing a Queen song. I'm so use to hearing Freddie's voice and the band members play the way they play. I wouldn't bash them for doing it. No matter who tries performing Queen songs will never sound as good as Queen, no matter how hard they tried. Because that lack that certain thing that Queen had.Alicia - Tamaqua, Pa
Jeanette, you are so giddy on every single songfact this website has. Why is that?Chase - Pasadena, Ca
this song is so good! when i feel bad this song makes me feel better! i love this song!Jeanette - Irvine, Ca
Seriously I hate it when NEW bands try to recreate older songs but only embarrass their lives with everyone elses because they... SUCK AT MUSIC IN GENERAL...Paul - Arlington, Tx
The used and my chemical romance suck... this songs right up there with others like stairway to heaven and bohemian rhapsody in my book.Josh - Las Vegas, Nv
This song's intro was on ESPN's Commmercials for the latest spelling bee. It played while they ran clips of kids saying different letters of "pressure". And, by the way, Vanilla Ice, you ain't foolin' anyone.Collin - Texas, Tx
I actually thought MY chemical romane's cover of this wasnt too bad...nowhere near the awesomeness of the original, but a servicebale cover. It's miles better than Ice Ice baby (the song that set white people like myself back 50 years).Matt - Millbrae, Ca
to mary
did u notice he said almost every band destory the older songs... im not to fond of the used version of under pressure. and i do think they kinda ruined it for the people who liaten to queen a lot because they rn't queen.... if that made sense
Jared - North Bend, Wa
This song has got to be one of the most epic songs ever created. Everything about it is just done so well, and it's so powerful. It's funny how good Queen is at doing that...songs like Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, and We Are the Champions will always be remembered by millions of people worldwide.

As for that comment on The Used...well...i'm not going to put down their music because we all have our tastes, but the Used is a punk band, and as such isn't extremely good at the guitar, piano or vocally. Let's just say that a band with a screaming vocalist and a half-decent guitarist has no business playing one of the most epic rock songs of all time.

And yes, I realize The Used have done a lot of shows for charity, but let's not confuse music with band ethics...The Used are a bunch of caring guys, but musically speaking, many people can sing better, and anyone who just picked up the guitar can play their stuff.
Chris - Windsor, Canada
OMG I CANNOT GELIEVE YOU JUST INSULTED THE USED LIKE THAT... U SHOULD BE MURDURED!! THE USED JOINED UP WITH MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE AS A CHARITY BENIFIT FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE TSUNAMISITS WAS A BLOW-OUT NIGHT IN WHICH THEY MADE $9,000+ WITH ONLY CHARGING TWO BUCKS A PERSON... NEXT TIME U FEEL LIKE INSULTING THEM LIKE THAT...OR EVEN SAY THAT THEY DESTROYED A SONG... THINK TWICE AND ACTUALLY GIVE THEM A FRIGGIN CHANCEMary - Ramona, Ca
Used in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank when John Cusack has his epiphany with the baby at the reunion. Under Pressure is an endlessly enjoyable song, and its lyrics remain true all these years later.Craig - Madison, Wi
i can't believe that "the used" tried to play play this song. i hate it when new bands try to remake awesome old songs, they almost always destroy them.Nick - Sarasota, Fl
Actually, this went to number one in America as well...Leon - Waterbury, Ct
The place is called "Montreux" and not "Montreaux". But i don't blame you... even Billy Preston got it wrong when he was playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival on Saturday.Ben - Schwyz, Switzerland
I am amazed Vanilla Ice didn't get sued/have to pay royalties for this.Eric - Cincinnati, Oh
The song also featured David Sanborn on sax.Donna - Portland, Or
A magnificent song which just highlights the quality of the lyrics incorporated into the song. a lot of time an effort must have gone into this well constructed song, asi it is very moving and pulsating. it is 1 of my favourites of all timeTom - Horncastle, England
The song very nearly didnt happen. While in the recording studio, David Bowie got so annoyed by the constant jokes played on him by the Queen road crew - he almost stormed out.Ste - Wolverhampton, England
This is one of my all time favorite songs. I dont listen to it as much as i should but when i do I just get that feeling you get like when you listen to Stairway to Heaven after a few weeks. Great tune.Will - Roswell, Ga
This song is used in the movie 40 Days and 40 Nights. Great song, Bowie and Queen both rock!Shana - Pembroke, Canada
Probably one of the greatest songs ever recorded. It's so enormously powerful, both lyrically and musically. I was so pissed off when the Vanilla Ass version came out that to this day, I have successfully avoided hearing the song in its' entirety.Ash - Charleston, Wv
Even to this day, Vanilla Ice continues to try and convince people that he never sampled the bass and piano on "Ice Ice Baby" in 1990, and that the similarity was entirely coincidental. No idea why, because he never fooled anyone...Dave - Cardiff, Wales
David Bowie originally wanted to call the song "People on Streets".The Lorena - Miami, Fl
they were too busy to make a video which is why the video is just archive footage of cities and stuffLouis - London, England
This song was written when Queen and David Bowie were jammin' in a studio one day.Kalena - Bc, Canada