Credited to Queen and David Bowie, ‘Under Pressure’ was issued on 26 October 1981, and was David Bowie’s only release that year. The song became Queen’s second UK number one single.
The song was written from the ground up on the night I visited their studio. I believe the riff had already been written by Freddie and the others so then we jointly put together the different chord sections to make it a cohesive piece of music. Then Freddie and I came up with our individual top line melodies. So when you hear Freddie sing, that’s what he wrote and when you hear me sing, that was mine. Then we worked on the lyrics together. I still cannot believe that we had the whole thing written and recorded in one evening flat. Quite a feat for what is actually a fairly complicated song.
The single was released by EMI, Queen’s label, with another song by the band, ‘Soul Brother’, on the b-side.
‘Under Pressure’ entered the UK charts at number 8. The following week it displaced the Police’s ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ at the top of the chart, where it remained for two weeks.
It fared less well in the US, as so often with Bowie singles. ‘Under Pressure’ peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 – still Bowie’s highest chart placing since ‘Golden Years’.
In addition to the UK, ‘Under Pressure’ topped the charts in Canada, the Netherlands, and Argentina. It was a top ten hit in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland.
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