Queen and David Bowie wrote and recorded 'Under Pressure' while drunk

Queen and David Bowie were smashed while creating ‘Under Pressure’

Old interviews of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury revealed that “Under Pressure” was recorded while everyone was drunk.

The 1981 hit by Queen, featuring Bowie, is one of the most iconic rock songs to exist, and it’s also a testament to the great things one can achieve when completely smashed.

In the latest episode of ‘Queen The Greatest‘, surviving Queen members and the late David Bowie talk fondly of the “peculiar” recording experience.

Photo: Richard E. Aaron/Getty Images

‘Queen The Greatest’ is an ongoing docuseries on YouTube which chronicles standout moments during Queen’s decades-spanning career.

On Friday, episode 24, Queen 1981: Under Pressure, told the story of how the rock band were joined by Bowie in the studio in Montreux, Switzerland.

According to the footage of the late Bowie, the collaboration came about from a single 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 said in a transcript from Entertainment Weekly.

“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!”

But how does alcohol fit into this? Well, Roger Taylor, Queen’s drummer, explained that drinking and a night-time jam session with the legendary musicians motivated them to write their own song:

“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,” the 72-year-old said. “I remember a couple of old Cream songs, and whatever came into our heads and I think David [Bowie] said, ‘Look, hang on a minute, why don’t we write one of our own?”

Bowie and Mercury Queen
Image: Sites at Penn State

The late Freddie Mercury elaborated further in archived footage:

“We were fooling around and then just sort of jamming with tracks and suddenly we said, ‘Why don’t we just see what we can do on the spur of the moment?'” Mercury said.

The four minute, twenty-five second video also explained how the song’s famous riff came about. It was all from the band’s bassist, John Deacon.

The now 70-year-old had continuously strummed it until the musicians left for a pizza break. Though Deacon forgot it, Taylor luckily remembered what it had sounded like: “It completely escaped his mind. We got back and I remembered it,” Taylor said.

Everyone’s enthusiasm for the song kept them working, with Bowie suggesting to add “all those clicks and claps” into it.

Under Pressure was released in October, 1981. It was an instant commercial success, reaching no. 1 in the UK (marking it as Queen’s second no. 1 song in the country) and staying on the Billboard chart for 16 weeks.