Queen’s Brian May Explains Why He ‘Never Liked’ David Bowie Collab ‘Under Pressure

Queen's Brian May Explains Why He &Lsquo;Never Liked' David Bowie Collab &Lsquo;Under Pressure

In a recent with Total Guitar magazine, Queen guitarist Brian May reflects on the creation of the iconic song “Under Pressure,” a collaboration between Queen and David Bowie. May reveals that while the spontaneous and late-night studio session resulted in a heavy and chord-driven backing track that he liked, Bowie had different ideas and wanted to take it in a different direction. May ultimately stepped back and allowed Bowie and Freddie Mercury to determine the final mix, resulting in the loss of his heavy guitar and a mix that May admits he never liked. However, he recognizes the global impact of the song and performs it differently with the remaining members of Queen today, staying true to his original vision.

Background of the Collaboration

In 1981, Queen and David Bowie collaborated to create the iconic song “Under Pressure.” At the time, both artists were at the peak of their fame and were widely recognized as some of the biggest names in the music industry. The collaboration between these two powerhouses was highly anticipated and expected to be a major success.

When and why Queen and David Bowie created ‘Under Pressure'

The creation of “Under Pressure” happened during a late-night studio session after the musicians had shared a meal and drinks. According to Brian May, the guitarist of Queen, the song was written and produced spontaneously in the studio. The initial backing track had a heavy, chord-driven sound that May likened to The Who. However, David Bowie had a different vision for the song and did not want it to sound like The Who.

Their status in the music industry at the time

Both Queen and David Bowie were influential and highly successful artists in the music industry during the time of the collaboration. They had achieved widespread recognition and had a massive fan base. Queen was known for their theatrical performances and anthemic rock sound, while David Bowie was revered for his innovative and genre-bending music. The collaboration between these two iconic acts only added to their status as groundbreaking musicians.

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Challenges During the Creation Process

Brian May faced a challenge while working with both Freddie Mercury from Queen and David Bowie during the creation of “Under Pressure.” Each artist had their own ideas and musical preferences, leading to creative clashes and disagreements. The spontaneous nature of the songwriting process made it difficult for them to find a middle ground and agree on the direction of the song.

The spontaneous nature of writing and producing the song

“Under Pressure” was created spontaneously during a late-night studio session, after the artists had shared a meal and drinks. This spontaneous approach to songwriting and production added to the challenges faced by the musicians. With different ideas and musical influences, it was difficult for them to align their visions for the song.

Influence of External Factors on the Song Creation

The role of alcohol and late-night studio sessions played a significant role in the creation of “Under Pressure.” Brian May mentioned that they had a lot of drinks during the meal before the studio session. The relaxed and uninhibited atmosphere that alcohol created may have contributed to the spontaneous and free-flowing nature of the song's creation.

Brian May also noted that during the creation process, “Under Pressure” sounded heavily influenced by The Who. This may have been a result of the artists' mindset and their musical inclinations at the time. It demonstrates how external factors and influences can shape the direction of a song and contribute to its unique sound.

Brian May’s challenge working with Freddie Mercury and David Bowie

Brian May faced the challenge of reconciling the creative differences between Freddie Mercury and David Bowie. As two highly talented and influential musicians, they had their own unique visions for the song. May had to find a way to navigate the different perspectives and find a balance that would satisfy both artists.

David Bowie’s Input and Vision

David Bowie had a different vision for “Under Pressure” compared to Brian May's initial perception of the song. While May saw the heavy backing track as resembling The Who, Bowie did not want the song to sound like The Who by the time he finished with it. Bowie had his own distinct style and wanted to make the song different from what May had originally envisioned.

Bowie’s intention to make the song different from The Who

David Bowie's intention was to take the song in a different direction and ensure that it did not resemble The Who. He wanted to imprint his own unique style and musical identity onto “Under Pressure.” This creative divergence between Bowie and May added an additional layer of complexity to the collaboration process.

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Disagreements Over Mixing

The mixing process proved to be difficult and challenging due to the different ideas that each artist had for how the song should sound. With their unique perspectives and preferences, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, and Brian May had reaching a consensus on the final mix of “Under Pressure.” This contributed to disagreements and clashes during the production phase.

Why the mixing process was difficult

The mixing process was difficult because each artist had their own vision for how they wanted their instruments and vocals to sound in the final mix. Brian May's heavy guitar work, which he believed was an integral part of the song, ended up being largely lost in the mix. The conflicting ideas and preferences made it challenging to find a balance between the different elements of the song.

How their different ideas clashed

The clash of ideas arose from the artists' distinct musical backgrounds and creative visions. May's heavy guitar work clashed with Bowie's desire to create a different sound and steer away from The Who's influence. These differences in ideas and musical direction created tensions and disagreements during the mixing process.

Brian May’s Concession

Realizing that the mixing process would be a fight and recognizing the value of preserving the collaborative spirit, Brian May made the decision to step back and allow Freddie Mercury and David Bowie to take over. May acknowledged that it was the only time in his career that he bowed out, that the creative differences and clashes would likely intensify if he continued to assert his vision for the song.

How he let Mercury and Bowie take over

Brian May let Freddie Mercury and David Bowie take over the mixing process, knowing that they had a stronger vision for how they wanted the finished product to sound. He allowed them to assert their creative control and trusted their judgment in shaping the final mix of the song.

Outcome of the Collaboration

The outcome of the collaboration resulted in a mix of “Under Pressure” where many of the original elements, including Brian May's heavy guitar work and main riff, were lost. The acoustic bits, which were initially recorded as a demo, took precedence in the mix. While this outcome was not what May had envisioned, he acknowledged that the song's success and impact cannot be denied.

What parts of the original piece were lost in the mix

Brian May expressed disappointment that much of his heavy guitar work, as well as the main riff played electrically, were lost in the mix. The acoustic bits recorded during the initial demo took precedence and became the dominant elements in the final mix of “Under Pressure.” This departure from May's original vision and the omission of his prominent guitar work left him unsatisfied with the final product.

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How the mix differed from May’s original guitar work

The final mix of “Under Pressure” differed significantly from Brian May's original guitar work. The heavy guitar sound and the main riff that May had played electrically were largely removed from the mix. Instead, the acoustic bits, which were recorded first as a demo, became the prominent guitar elements in the song. This alteration in the mix deviated from May's initial intent and contributed to his dissatisfaction with the final product.

Brian May’s View on the Final Product

Despite his dissatisfaction with the way “Under Pressure” was mixed, Brian May recognized the song's success and impact. He acknowledged that although he never liked the mix, he recognized that it worked and appealed to people. May understood that his personal viewpoints did not overshadow the song's popularity and the love it received from fans.

Why May wasn’t satisfied with the final mix

Brian May's dissatisfaction with the final mix stemmed from the loss of his heavy guitar work, the deviation from his original vision, and the omission of the main riff played electrically. These changes in the mix compromised his artistic intent and left him unsatisfied with the final product.

Yet, his acknowledgment of the song’s success and impact

Despite his personal dissatisfaction, Brian May acknowledged the overwhelming success and impact of “Under Pressure.” He recognized that the song had resonated with audiences worldwide and remained a beloved and iconic piece. May appreciated the point of view that many people embraced, even though it diverged from his own.

Live Performances of ‘Under Pressure'

Live performances of “Under Pressure” by Queen, with Adam Lambert as the lead vocalist, differ from the original mix. Brian May shared that they play the song in a heavier manner, aligning more closely with his original vision for the song. The live performances allow May to showcase his heavy guitar work and deliver a rendition that he believes from a heavier sound.

How current live performances differ from the original mix

Current live performances of “Under Pressure” showcase a heavier sound, highlighting Brian May's guitar work and reflecting his original vision for the song. The live performances allow May to express his musical style and bring forth the heavy elements that were lost in the original mix.

May’s belief that the song benefits from being performed heavier

Brian May believes that “Under Pressure” benefits from being performed with a heavier sound. By accentuating the guitar elements and embracing a more powerful and energetic approach, the song is able to evoke a stronger emotional response from the audience. This demonstrates May's conviction that his guitar work is a vital part of the song's impact.

Reflection on Working with Multiple Creative Forces

Brian May reflected on the challenges of working with several creative forces during the collaboration on “Under Pressure.” He acknowledged that having multiple talented and creative individuals in the same room can be difficult. The clash of ideas and diverging perspectives added complexity to the creative process and required careful navigation to find common ground.

May’s view on the challenges of working with several creative forces

Brian May recognized that working with multiple creative forces simultaneously could be challenging. The different ideas, visions, and preferences of each artist necessitated compromise and . May understood that finding a balance between creative expression and collaboration was essential in order to create music that resonated with all parties involved.

His thoughts on David Bowie’s creativity

Brian May acknowledged David Bowie's creativity and considered him to be an awesome creative force. He recognized Bowie's unique musical style and the impact he had on the songwriting and production process of “Under Pressure.” May appreciated Bowie's artistic contributions, even though they may have clashed with his own ideas at times. He recognized the importance of having diverse creative forces in the creative process.

Source: https://www.mensjournal.com/news/brian-may-queen-reflects-why-never-liked-david-bowie-collab-under-pressure

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