Queen and David Bowie Wrote ‘Under Pressure’ While Drunk

  • The surviving members of Queen shared a new episode of their YouTube series, “Queen The Greatest.”
  • The band discussed collaborating with David Bowie on the song “Under Pressure” in 1981.
  • The band revealed that they accidentally forgot the song after getting drunk and buying pizza. 

Queen and David Bowie wrote the rock classic “Under Pressure” while drunk in Switzerland, but accidentally forgot the song’s iconic riff. 

During the latest episode of “Queen the Greatest,” the band’s three surviving members and producer Reinhold Mack sat down to reveal how they created “Under Pressure.” The YouTube series included archive footage of the late David Bowie and late Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury. 

In 1981, Bowie arrived at Queen’s studio in Montreux after getting a phone call from a producer named Dave Richards. 

“They were recording there and, David 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 recalled in the footage. “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!”

david bowie

AP Photo

Queen drummer Roger Taylor said in the video that the collaboration process was sparked by alcohol.

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

Guitarist Brian May, 74, said that bassist John Deacon, 70, came up with the famous riff for “Under Pressure” and repeatedly played it while in the studio.

The group later left to buy pizza, but Deacon forgot the song’s riff by the time they returned.

“It completely escaped his mind,” Taylor said. “And I remembered it.”


Steve Jennings/WireImage/Gett

Queen and Bowie continued to fine tune the song, with Taylor noting it was Bowie’s idea to include “clicks and claps” into the tune. 

“And by that time, David was very impassioned with it, and he had a vision in his head, I think,” May said.

“Under Pressure” was released in October 1981 and became an international hit. Billboard reported that the song spent 16 weeks on the chart. 

Eleven years later, Mercury died in November 1991 at age 45 from complications with Aids. Bowie died at 69-years-old in 2016 after a battle with cancer.

Queen recently celebrated its 50th anniversary in March. 

Leave a Comment