Released: 26 October 1981
David Bowie: vocals, synthesizer, handclaps, finger snaps
Freddie Mercury: vocals, piano, Hammond organ, handclaps, finger snaps
Brian May: guitar, handclaps, finger snaps
John Deacon: bass guitar, handclaps, finger snaps
Roger Taylor: drums, vocals, handclaps, finger snaps
David Richards: piano
Credited to Queen and David Bowie, ‘Under Pressure’ was recorded and released in 1981. It was David Bowie’s only release that year, and became Queen’s second UK number one single.
‘Under Pressure’ came about by pure chance, my dears. David came in to see us one day in the recording studios we owned at the time, in Montreux, where we were working. We began to dabble on something together, and it happened very spontaneously and very quickly indeed.
Freddie Mercury: His Life In His Own Words, Greg Brooks and Simon Lupton
The song was included on Queen’s 1982 album Hot Space, and was performed at each of their concerts between that year and their final show in 1986.
I didn’t know Queen very well. I knew Roger the drummer quite well, but I didn’t really know Freddie. But he was in the neighbourhood where I lived in Switzerland, and they owned the studio down the mountain. And they were in over a week’s period and I just popped in one day, and somehow or other we ended up writing this thing together, as usually happens when musicians get together.
I’m very pleased I did it. It was nice to be part of that little bit of history.
Top Of The Pops 2, 1999
The recording took place at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland, which was owned by Queen. Bowie had recorded the 1979 album Lodger there, and was working with Giorgio Moroder on the ‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ single when Queen were in the adjacent studio working on Hot Space.
One of Queen’s new tracks, ‘Cool Cat’, was a co-composition by Freddie Mercury and bass guitarist John Deacon. It was recorded with Mercury on vocals, Deacon playing all other instruments, with Bowie scheduled to perform backing vocals.
Bowie’s part was recorded in July 1981; an unused mix of ‘Cool Cat’ featuring his vocals was included in some early promotional copies of Hot Space, although prior to the album’s release he reportedly requested that they be removed from the final version.
The ‘Cool Cat’ session turned into an impromptu jam session, from which ‘Under Pressure’ emerged.
The music rights organisation BMI lists three further songs registered to David Bowie and Queen, for which no further information is known. The titles are ‘Ali’, ‘It’s Alright’, and ‘Knowledge’.