Remembering Freddie Mercury: ‘Under Pressure’ Isolated Track

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On this date in 1991, the music world lost Freddie Mercury from complications brought on by AIDS. The Queen’s four-octave voice was unlike anything previously heard and to display his immense talents, let’s look at a vocal track featuring Freddie and David Bowie.

Queen teamed up with Bowie for the 1981 hit single “Under Pressure.” Author Mark Blake shared remembrances of the recording session for the track starting with the thoughts of Queen guitarist Brian May:

“‘We felt our way through a backing track all together as an ensemble,’ recalled Brian May. “‘When the backing track was done, David said, ‘Okay, let’s each of us go in the vocal booth and sing how we think the melody should go–just off the top of our heads– and we’ll compile a vocal out of that.’ And that’s what we did.’ Some of these improvisations, including Mercury’s memorable introductory scatting vocal, would endure on the finished track. Bowie also insisted that he and Mercury shouldn’t hear what the other had sung, swapping verses blind, which helped give the song its cut-and-paste feel.

Open Culture dove further into the issues that almost led to “Under Pressure” being shelved, “Mercury and Bowie argued fiercely over the final mix. At one point Bowie threatened to block the release of the song, but it was issued to the public on October 26, 1981 and eventually rose to number one on the British charts.” All these years later “Under Pressure” stands as a document of the power of Mercury’s voice. Take a listen: