Song of the Day: Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie

Sleepless Night by syuka-taupe

Under Pressure” is a 1981 song originally recorded by Queen and David Bowie, and later included on Queen’s 1982 album Hot Space.


Mm ba ba de
Um bum ba de
Um bu bu bum da de
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure that brings a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets
Um ba ba be
Um ba ba be
De day da
Ee day da – that’s okay
It’s the terror of knowing
What the world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming ‘Let me out’
Pray tomorrow gets me higher
Pressure on people people on streets
Day day de mm hm
Da da da ba ba
Chippin’ around – kick my brains around the floor
These are the days it never rains but it pours
Ee do ba be
Ee da ba ba ba
Um bo bo
Be lap
People on streets – ee da de da de
People on streets – ee da de da de da de da
It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming ‘Let me out’
Pray tomorrow – gets me higher higher high
Pressure on people people on streets
Turned away from it all like a blind man
Sat on a fence but it don’t work
Keep coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn
Why – why – why?
Love love love love love
Insanity laughs under pressure we’re breaking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance
Why can’t we give love that one more chance
Why can’t we give love give love give love give love
Give love give love give love give love give love
‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night
And loves (People on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure


The song reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart. It was also number 31 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the ’80s.

The song was played live at every Queen concert from 1981 until the end of Queen’s touring career in 1986. It is recorded on the live albums Queen Rock Montreal and Queen at Wembley. The song was included on some editions of Queen’s firstGreatest Hits compilations, such as the original 1981 Elektra release in the US. It is included on the band’s compilation albums Greatest Hits II, Classic Queen, and Absolute Greatest as well as the compilation Best of Bowie.


Queen had been working on the song under the title “Feel Like” but were not yet satisfied with the result. David Bowie had originally come to Mountain Studios in order to sing backing vocals on another Queen song, “Cool Cat”, which would end up being edited out since he was not satisfied with it. Once he got there, they worked together for a while and wrote the song. The final version that became “Under Pressure” evolved from a jam session that Bowie had with the band at Queen’s studio in Montreux, Switzerland; therefore it was credited as co-written by the five musicians. The scat singing that dominates much of the song is evidence of the jam-beginnings as improvisation. According to Queen bassist John Deacon (as quoted in a French magazine in 1984), however, the song’s primary or main musical songwriter was Freddie Mercury — though all contributed to the arrangement. Brian May recalled to Mojo magazine in October 2008 that, “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. It’s a significant song because of David and its lyrical content.” The earlier, embryonic version of the song without Bowie, “Feel Like”, is widely available in bootleg form, and was written by Queen drummer Roger Taylor.

There has been some confusion about who created the song’s bassline. John Deacon said (in Japanese magazine Musiclife in 1982, and in the previously mentioned French magazine) that David Bowie had created it. In more recent interviews, Brian May and Roger Taylor have credited the bass riff to Deacon. Bowie, on his website, said that the bassline was already written before he became involved. Roger Taylor, in an interview for the BBC documentary Queen: the Days of Our Lives, stated that Deacon had indeed created the bassline, stating that all through the sessions in the studio he had been playing the riff over and over; he also claims that when the band returned from dinner Deacon had, amusingly, forgotten the riff, but fortunately Taylor was still able to remember it.

Music video

The video for the song features neither Queen nor David Bowie due to touring commitments. Taking the theme of pressure, director David Mallet edited together stock footage of traffic jams, commuter trains packed with passengers, explosions, riots, cars being crushed and various pieces of footage from silent films of the 1920s, most notably Sergei Eisenstein’s influential Soviet film Battleship Potemkin, the silent Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring John Barrymore, and F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, a master work of the German Expressionist movement. The video celebrates the pressure-cooker mentality of a culture willing to wage war against political machines, and at the same time love and have fun (there is also footage of crowds enjoying concerts, and lots of black and white kissing scenes).


The September 2005 edition of online music magazine Stylus singled out the bassline as the best in popular music history. In November 2004, Stylus music critic Anthony Miccio commented that “Under Pressure” “is the best song of all time” and described it as Queen’s “opus”. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed “Under Pressure” as the 21st best single of the 1980s.

Cover versions

  • In 1982, British orchestra Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded a classical cover of the song for an album, The Queen Collection, dedicated to the band.
  • In 1994, London Symphony Orchestra recorded an album Plays the Music of Queen, which contains classical covers of the Queen’s hit singles, including “Under Pressure” and “The Show Must Go On”.
  • In 1996, Culture Beat, a German Eurodance project, covered “Under Pressure” for a compilation album, Queen Dance Traxx I.
  • In 1997, Fobia, a Mexican rock band, covered “Under Pressure” for a compilation album, Tributo a Queen: los grandes del rock en español.
  • The song was covered in 2005 by American Alternative rock bands The Used and My Chemical Romance for tsunami relief.
  • The American bands Small Brown Bike (from Marshall, Michigan) and The Casket Lottery (from Kansas City, Missouri) recorded a cover for a split EP.
  • In 2005, English soul singer-songwriter Joss Stone sang the song on the tribute album Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen.
    • Stone played the song at the Concert for Diana on 1 July 2007.
  • In 2007, English band Keane released their “Under Pressure” version for the Radio 1. Established 1967 compilation. In Mexico, it was released as an A-side from “The Night Sky”.
  • In 2007, Chicago-based band Kill Hannah covered the song for the movie soundtrack of The Invisible.
  • In 2008, Finnish ensemble Rajaton and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra performed an a cappella version of “Under Pressure” on Rajaton sings Queen with Lahti Symphony Orchestra.
  • Group Xiu Xiu covered the song, featuring Michael Gira, for their album Women as Lovers (2008).
  • In 2009, Ben Harper played the song as his Like A Version cover for Australian radio station triple j.
  • In 2010, Irish pop duo Jedward released a mashup of “Under Pressure” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” as their debut single, titled “Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)” (on which Vanilla Ice is featured), from their debut album Planet Jedward.
  • In 2011, the song, mashed up together with Vanilla Ice’ “Ice Ice Baby”, was used as one of the featured songs in the reality show The Glee Project.
  • The 2011 film Happy Feet Two has all the characters singing the song at the climax as they dance and pound on the ice to free the Emperor Penguins trapped inside.
  • In 2012, The Protomen covered this song in their album Present: A Night of Queen.
  • In 2013, the song was covered by the cast of the NBC show Smash in the series finale. The performers included Megan Hilty, Katharine McPhee, Jeremy Jordan, Krysta Rodriguez, Christian Borle, Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston and Jack Davenport and Leslie Odom Jr. features on the cast album SMASH – The Complete Season Two.


  • In 1990, Florida-based rapper Vanilla Ice sampled the song’s bass line and signature piano chords for his hit “Ice Ice Baby”. The opening riffs of the two songs are virtually identical.
  • In 1999, rapper Charli Baltimore recorded a song called “Ice” (featuring rapper Mase) for her album Cold As Ice, which uses samples from “Under Pressure”. However, it wasn’t included as sample clearance could not be secured.
  • Scottish group Tigerstyle released a mash-up, called “Nachna Onda Nei”, of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and “Under Pressure”.
    • In May 2008, dance act Signature used Tigerstyle’s version in Britain’s Got Talent in their audition and again in their performance in the final.
  • DJ Earworm used “Under Pressure” in a mashup with Psy’s “Gangnam Style”, Nicki Minaj’s “Starships”, and Florence + The Machine’s “Spectrum (Say My Name)” for the 2012Champions League Twenty20 cricketing tournament. It has never been released publicly from Earworm, but versions can be found on YouTube.


  • The song was featured prominently in the climax of the Robin Williams film World’s Greatest Dad.
  • The song is used in promos for the NHL Stanley Cup Finals on NBC Sports Network.
  • “Under Pressure” is used in a 2012 TV commercial for Google Plus which features The Muppets.
  • It was also featured in the trailer for the 2004 movie Jersey Girl, directed by Kevin Smith.
  • The song is also covered (instrumental) in the 2013 Target back-to-school ad campaign.
  • The song was used prominently in a scene in the 2010 film It’s Kind of a Funny Story
  • It is featured in the 1997 movie Grosse Pointe Blank.
  • The song was featured in the 2004 film The Girl Next Door.


Origin London, England, United Kingdom
Genres Rock
Years active 1970–present
Labels Capitol, Parlophone, EMI, Hollywood,Island, Elektra
Associated acts Smile, The Cross, Queen + Paul Rodgers, David Bowie, Adam Lambert
Members Brian May
Roger Taylor
Past members Freddie Mercury
John Deacon
See also: Early members

David Bowie

Born David Robert Jones
8 January 1947 (age 67)
Brixton, London, England
Nationality British
Occupation Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer, actor
Years active 1962–present
Spouse(s) Angie Bowie (m. 1970–1980,
Iman (m. 1992)
Children Duncan Jones (born 1971)
Alexandria “Lexi” Zahra Jones (born 2000)
Musical career
Genres Rock, glam rock, art rock, pop
Instruments Vocals, guitar, keyboards, harmonica, stylophone, saxophone, viola, cello, koto, drums, percussions, mouth-harp, piano, kalimba, organ
Labels Deram, RCA, Virgin, EMI, ISO,Columbia, BMG, Pye, Vocalion
Associated acts The Riot Squad, Arnold Corns,Tin Machine, the Hype, the Lower Third, the Konrads, the Buzz, Manish Boys

image by syuka-taupe

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2 Responses to Song of the Day: Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie

  1. ellodolly says:

    Reblogged this on ellodolly.

  2. oolung says:

    Cool drawing, and I love musical inspiration 🙂

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