Queen’s Brian May Admits He “Never Liked” the Final Mix of His Band’s David Bowie Collab “Under Pressure”

If Queen guitarist Brian May had had his way, his band’s classic duet with David Bowie, “Under Pressure,” probably would’ve sounded quite different than it does. In a new Total Guitar interview, May admitted that he “never liked” the final mix of the 1981 hit, explaining that he preferred an earlier version of the track, which featured much heavier guitars that he compared favorably to The Who.

Videos by American Songwriter

Unfortunately for May, Bowie didn’t agree.

[RELATED: Watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi Jam with Queen’s Brian May on the Classic Sabbath Tune “Paranoid”]

“It was all done spontaneously in the studio very late at night after we had a meal and a lot of drinks,” May told Total Guitar, sharing his recollection of the session. “And it was a pretty heavy backing track. When it gets to ‘Why can’t we give love,’ we were all working on it together, and it sounded like The Who. It sounded massively chord-driven.”

May noted that he was a fan of The Who, and he thought the recording sounded great, but when he mentioned to Bowie that he liked that it reminded him of the famous band, he was surprised by Bowie’s response.

“He says, ‘Yeah, well it’s not going to sound like The Who by the time I’ve finished with it!’ You know, in a joking kind of way,” May recalled. “But he didn’t want it to be that way.”

The 76-year-old Rock & Roll Hall of Famer added “It was very difficult… because we all had different ideas of how it should be mixed.”

Decided Not to Argue with Bowie About the Mix

May said that, in a rare occasion for him, he decided not to argue about how he thought a track should be mixed.

“I think it’s probably the only time in my career I bowed out, because I knew it was going to be a fight,” he admitted. “So basically, it was [Queen singer] Freddie [Mercury] and David fighting it out in the studio with the mix. And what happened in the mix was that most of that heavy guitar was lost.”

Regarding the conflict with Bowie, May pointed out, “David was an awesome creative force. But you can’t have too many awesome creative forces in the same room. It starts to get very difficult! Something has to give.”

May Still Thinks “Under Pressure” Mix Was “Done Very Well”

Although May noted that he never liked the final mix of “Under Pressure,” he told Total Guitar he recognizes that “it works.”

“It’s a point of view, and it’s done very well,” May said. “And people love it.”

About “Under Pressure”

Released in the fall of 1981, “Under Pressure” topped the U.K. singles chart for two weeks, and reached No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100.

How Queen Performs the Song Today

Meanwhile, May explained that when Queen performs “Under Pressure” in concert nowadays, with singer Adam Lambert fronting the band, it sounds more like how he’d originally envisioned it musically.

“[A]s you probably noticed, it is a lot heavier and I think it benefits from it,” he said.

Queen’s Current Tour

Queen and Lambert currently are on tour in Japan. The trek, which kicked off February 4, will wrap up with a February 13-14 stand in Tokyo. The band continues to play “Under Pressure” at all of its shows.

Photo by Cole Bennetts/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Killer Mike accepts the Best Rap Song award at the 66th annual GRAMMYs Feb. 4.

Killer Mike Feeling “Grateful” After GRAMMYs Arrest