Feb 09

QUEEN AND DAVID BOWIE – “Under Pressure”

FT + Popular91 comments • 9,145 views

#489, 21st November 1981

Here’s a type of record which really came into its own in the 80s: rock or pop songs which were terrifically likeable despite having little or no emotional grip. “Under Pressure” is a good example of this because there’s a colossal gap between what the song is notionally about – “People on streets”, as the working title had it – and the actual sensation of listening to it. The video – a badly-synched montage of collapse, depression and hardship – adds to the disconnect. “Under Pressure” simply has nothing whatsoever to do with its purported subject: all you really need to know is in the artist credit, not the title. This is a tag-team bout between two of Britain’s stagiest acts, who go for broke in an attempt to outdo one another. Who wins? (Aside from us.)

Actually, the wrestling metaphor doesn’t quite cut it – this is more like a two-legged home-and-away football tie. The first half of the song – nervy, slick white funk built on that remarkable bassline – is on Bowie territory and it’s the Dame who steals the show and gets the best line (“It’s the terror of knowing…”): Freddie Mercury’s contributions here are a bit niminy-piminy, sketches around the edge of the song.

In the second half though, when “Under Pressure” rocks out, Queen are playing with home advantage, and the handover from Bowie’s “under pressure we’re cracking” to Sir Fred’s mighty “Why can’t we give ourselves one more chance?” is the song’s most ridiculous, glorious moment: a stunning strike from the Queen frontman whose over-the-top goal celebration (“why can’t we give love, give love, give love”) just prolongs the joy. But wait! Bowie responds, matching Queen’s style of play with the kind of hollow, high-flown declamatory singing that would become a feature of his 80s work: “Love’s such an old-fashioned thing….” Here it works, because for the first time the song feels like a duet rather than a collection of entertaining parts: two icons vibing off one another in a way that big-name collaborators rarely do. A Bowie victory, then, but this is an exhibition match, and the crowd go home satisfied whoever they supported.

“Under Pressure” is both behind its times and ahead of them – it’s two giants of the theatrical 70s making a record full of chest-thumping pomp that ought by rights to seem sluggish next to New Pop and downright insulting next to “Ghost Town”. But it’s also the first (and possibly best) stadium rock number one – a sign that the decade would be one in which bombast and the grand gesture would play significant roles. So would terrific basslines, which is probably why “Under Pressure” gets away with it, even while it ends up being a record about nothing more than the stylistic licks its makers trade.



  1. 1
    Kat but logged out innit on 4 Feb 2009 #

    Blimey that sleeve is appropriately depressing innit?

  2. 2
    Brian on 4 Feb 2009 #

    This is one of those songs where if I hear it on the radio at the beginning, I’ll change the station, but if I hear more than about 15 or 20 seconds of it, I’ll always let it finish. I think that first sentence captures it perfectly – I have no emotional attachment to it, but I enjoy hearing it every time.

  3. 3
    Pete Baran on 4 Feb 2009 #

    I was a little surprised by the mark on this when I tortured Tom out of his mark last week, but I think he justifies much of it with his write up. Because yes, its an impressive and enjoyable song but unlike most (most?) songs on Popular, I can’t imagine it being anyone favourite song. Obviously the awesome bassline and interplay between Bowie and Mercury works but there is just something plain odd about Queen doing a duet with David Bowie that has made this seem a curio to me. Why, I used to wonder as a kid, would a band with four songwriters (and for that matter at least two creditable singers) need to rope in Bowie at all.

    I would give it a six, merely because it has never sat well as a concept in my bonce. That and this dragging in of stadium rock plus the fact that I can’t remember if Queen ever used to do it live and how they did it if they did. (I am pretty certain Bowie never does it live). An oddity.

  4. 4
    Tom on 4 Feb 2009 #

    According to Wikipedia, Queen used to do it live all the time (with Roger “Nazis” Taylor taking the Dazza parts). Bowie never touched it until Freddie died, whereupon it became a fixture in his live set with Gail Ann Dorsey doing the Fred parts.

  5. 5
    mike on 4 Feb 2009 #

    “Under Pressure” is both behind its times and ahead of them.

    That’s a great observation, Tom. Back in the day, it most certainly felt behind its times, my overriding reaction being “Why is GREAT ARTIST David Bowie SULLYING HIMSELF by association with these POMPOUS OLD FARTS?” And it’s a prejudice which I’ve never quite conquered – although DB certainly did a terrific live version with Gail Ann Dorsey at the Birmingham NEC about 5 or 6 years ago.

  6. 6
    Erithian on 4 Feb 2009 #

    As I recall, the NME end-of-year poll was quite telling on this subject: in the Biggest Disappointment of the Year category, the absence of a Queen/Bowie video on TOTP (the video you might have seen since was a rushed afterthought, which is maybe why it’s badly synched) rated second, the Queen/Bowie single itself rated third. I’m sure those members of the comments crew who never threw out their copies can tell us what rated first!

    The record apparently emerged from Bowie happening to drop in on a recording session in Montreux for what was to become the fairly poorly received album “Hot Space”. Bowie and Mercury each wrote (or maybe improvised) their own lines. It never really worked for me, being a sprawling kind of thing that never gets any real meaning or direction – the component parts sound impressive, but it feels like much ado about nothing by the end. There are a lot of Queen (and quite a few Bowie) songs I’m emotionally attached to, but this certainly isn’t one of them.

    And yet in that Radio 1 “25 Years of Pop” montage I mentioned in the Ghost Town thread, it worked spectacularly well. Behind the words of Darcus Howe talking about the New Cross fire where 13 black teenagers were killed in what was believed to be an arson attack – “and everywhere I go black people are saying to me that it could happen to them tomorrow” – the “people on streets” section of the song builds and explodes. Probably some way from what the writers had in mind, but certainly applicable.

  7. 7
    pink champale on 4 Feb 2009 #

    yes! tom has it spot on. you forget it’s just a bunch of tax exiles pissing about in switzerland. david giving it his best campy seriousness and freddie scatting away because he can’t be bothered to write any lyrics*. nothing is at stake, yet it’s somehow incredibly exciting. that bit where freddie goes off like an air raid siren while david starts shouting no no no (or is it love love love?) is among the most thrilling moments in all pop. a glorious plastic apocalypse

    you do wonder what was in it for bowie though. he was surely about the coolest he had ever been and was suddenly a big commercial star again too. whereas queen were, well, *queen*. to eight year old me it was all perfectly simple of course. queen were the greatest band in the history of the world and david bowie was the greatest singer in the history of the world and it was therefore only natural that they would get together and make the best record in the history of the world.

    *though it’s a testament to the effectiveness of it all that this had never occured to me until today.

  8. 8
    Tom on 4 Feb 2009 #

    This is also the start of Bowie going on that weird brand-extension rampage between Scary Monsters and an album the bunny prevents me naming: this, Christiane F, Baal – and the release of the Bing Crosby thing.

  9. 9
    Billy Smart on 4 Feb 2009 #

    I can’t say that I care for this at all – its like a comic book team-up between superheoes that only dilutes the specialness of either party – an exercise in expanding pop franchises. The only emotion that I hear is showboating bragging, and I can’t detect any sort of song at all. There’s a fine line between visionary pop silliness and the sort of thing that makes you think “Oh SHUT UP, you overindulged fools” and I’m afraid that this stupid thing crosses it for me.

    And I didn’t like it when I was nine either.

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 4 Feb 2009 #

    Re #8. The original version of ‘Cat People’ was about this time, and would have made a much more worthy chartbusting hit.

  11. 11
    pink champale on 4 Feb 2009 #

    #8 didn’t the bing thing date from the seventies though? i’d always assumed its release in the early eighties wasn’t officially sanctioned as thhe great new bowie single. though perhaps it was – it was never altogether clear why the thin white duke got out of his nazi staff car, pulled on a nice jumper and started trading stilted festive banter with the doddery crooner in the first place. except that, for all his rep as a champion of the cutting edge (all hail the screaming blue messiahs!) he’s manged to slip in a fair few a-list duets – bing, lennon, the one we won’t mention yet. but yes, he was popping up all over the place at this time – the snowman!

  12. 12
    Billy Smart on 4 Feb 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Obviously Queen & Bowie were never going to come to the studio, “The official video for ‘Under Pressure’ was banned” (it says here), but as the #1 single they had to show something. So what did they do?

    This created an excellent opportunity to showcase the talents of Zoo, the short-lived unisex replacements for Legs & Co. So a special sequence was devised for the 19th od November 1981, recorded in the catalogue as ‘Top Of The Pops Ballet’ and shown in black and white for added classiness and sophistication.

    Also in the studio that week were; Modern Romance, The Pretenders, Trevor Walters and The Fun Boy 3. Steve Wright was the host.

  13. 13
    Tom on 4 Feb 2009 #

    It wasn’t officially sanctioned by Bowie as a release, and dates from several years before, but it’s emergence at the end of 82 kind of caps the WTF trajectory of the man’s career at this point.

  14. 14
    SteveM on 4 Feb 2009 #

    I have a good memory of this being played (possibly as the last track of the night) at one of the Popular club nights a couple of years back and it did go down well. It’s feelgood anthemic qualities carry it through basically.

    How worried were these two acts at the time about becoming irrelevant? Not sure this song offers any clues there and with hindsight obviously neither should’ve worried anyway but at the time I wonder if many haters were predicting, before Live Aid and before Bowie stole Byrne’s baggy suit, they wouldn’t survive the 80s. How disappointed they must’ve felt ten years later..!

  15. 15
    Erithian on 4 Feb 2009 #

    As odd duets go, the Bowie and Bing collaboration is excellent, the greatly differing voices complementing each other rather than battling. Recorded for Bing’s Christmas show in 1977, and of course the other half of that scary coincidence when he appeared on both Bolan and Bing’s last TV shows in the space of a few weeks.

    Right with you on “Cat People” Billy – up there with his best. Bowie meets Moroder!

    And a further brand extension was “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence”, which he filmed during the interim period Tom mentions but which wasn’t released until after the bunny-embargoed album.

  16. 16
    johnny on 4 Feb 2009 #

    too bad it wasn’t freddie dropping in on david and the ‘scary monsters’ band. a fripp/mercury collaboration could’ve been mind-blowing…

  17. 17
    lonepilgrim on 4 Feb 2009 #

    it sounds like a studio jam to me with dummy lyrics polished into pious cliches which offer no insight or substance – U2 may have taken note – still, if I don’t think too much it can still suck me in – and it’s a groovy bassline.

    as for DB live performances I recalled a version with him and Annie Lennox which after googling I discivered was at the Freddie tribute in 92. She was a perfect match for those lyrics…

  18. 18
    Tom on 4 Feb 2009 #

    I think U2 are a good comparison point in some ways – nobody could sing pious cliches as archly and entertainingly as Bowie and Freddie: unlike with Bono, you never get the feeling disagreeing is a dealbreaker.

  19. 19
    henry s on 4 Feb 2009 #

    why couldn’t Bowie have just included the original version of “Cat People” on the “Let’s Dance” LP?…legal issues?

  20. 20
    lonepilgrim on 4 Feb 2009 #

    re # 17 & 18 – thinking about this some more – what’s missing from this new model for ‘stadium rock’ is the sense of licentiousness and/or aggression that you get with the Stones and the Who (although Pete Townshend has his pious moments). UP sounds so neutered and ‘sincere’ which seems ironic in the case of dave & freddie, who were neither – not so with U2, whose current single is excruciatingly embarrassing – bono crowing about ‘sexy boots’ makes my stomach turn

  21. 21
    Doctor Casino on 4 Feb 2009 #

    I’m of an age where I was introduced to this quite late as “this is the song that Vanilla Ice sampled on ‘Ice Ice Baby.'” Perhaps because of this, I’m always annoyed when the canonized, beloved “Under Pressure” comes on the radio and it doesn’t turn out to the maligned rap-pop hit. I’ll take the Iceman’s version, which is not as ridiculous as his image and behavior might lead one to believe. He shares my sense that the only thing really great about “Under Pressure” is the bassline, and what it desperately lacks is any kind of structure. Just give me some verses and choruses, guys – I’m a simple man.

    (I like both Bowie and Queen, the former a little more, but something about “Under Pressure” just sounds incredibly fake and phony. Like, if you’d told me it was cut in 1995 as a big coming-out-of-retirement song or something, I’d totally believe you.)

  22. 22
    wichita lineman on 4 Feb 2009 #

    The week this hit no.1 I remember playing football in my lunch hour, tuning in to the chart rundown, and thinking “Pffft. People have only put it at number one because of who it’s by.” It had no structure, no chorus (“it’s the terror…” gets repeated, but it’s hardly a chorus), and it was by one group I despised and an artist I was ambivalent about.

    Two things. Queen had only scored one number one before this, and Bowie was at the start of his wilderness years (this, Wild Is The Wind, Baal’s Hymn, Cat People, Little Drummer Boy, what a weird run of 45s) between Scary Monsters and his ’83 Thatcherite makeover album. So it was hardly a guaranteed mega hit. Especially with such a bleak lyric and no chorus.

    Secondly, I now love it and was fairly convinced it would be a 10. The dueling is exhilarating, the lyric (surely not about “people on the streets” but some Bowie-as-philosopher, post-Berlin existentialist dread) apt for ’81, the “love love love” vs “waaaahhhh!!!” climax one of the most untamed since River Deep Mountain High: Pink C nails it as “among the most thrilling moments in all pop, a glorious plastic apocalypse”.

    And the bassline, as noted, is beautiful.

    Yes – what was Bowie thinking? “Brand extension” is too harsh, I think he was directionless, and this was putting out the fire with Sun City gasoline. Queen, mean time, had just put out their urban-friendly/rock-unfriendly album Hot Space, their own McCartney II. I don’t think the two acts working together at any other point in their careers would have produced something as unwieldy, strange, and totally unpredictable.

    Re 10: Cat People fans – it was a no.1 in Norway!

  23. 23
    Doctor Casino on 5 Feb 2009 #

    Oh! How’d I fail to mention? I was born while this was #1! So if Vanilla Ice appreciation doesn’t date me, that surely will.

  24. 24
    peter goodlaws on 5 Feb 2009 #

    I never really regarded this as a cod bitch fight between Bowie and Freddie but rather a concerted mercenary raid by two of Rock’s giants which worked in spades. After reading Tom’s piece, however, I can see that I might after all these years have been wrong. One of the recent tributes to Mowtown’s 50th saw a clip showing a “contest” between The Four Tops and The Temptations, which saw first one then the other perform whilst their “opponents” stood to one side nodding sagely. Inevitably it ended with the two groups setting aside their “differences” and doing a number together. “Under Pressure” isn’t quite like that but to say that it is anything other than contrived does not have an adequate defence. Having said that, it is an impressive piece of work and was not likely to have been something that either of them were likely to regret in the future. A good record, this.

    # 6 – The New Cross fire was indeed arson but despite Darcus Howe (and the usual plague of white Guardianista) trying their hardest to lay the blame for this vile crime on the equally vile National Front and whoever else, it ultimately transpired that the fire probably begun inside the house and was started when one of the guests set fire to a couch during an arguement. Many survivors have substantiated this. Naturally this theory could never suit the shit-stirring political opportunists and it is still insisted by them that a firebomb thrown by a dememnted racist into the house from the street was to blame, despite the absence of any firm evidence. It is, however, certainly true that the police reaction at the time to this appalling crime showed a lack of concern to say the least.

  25. 25
    wichita lineman on 5 Feb 2009 #

    Re 24: Gawd, haven’t we had enough threads go down this path? How about another anniversary? Altrincham thrashed Sheffield United 3-0 in the first round of the FA Cup the day this hit number one. A few months later Ricky Villa danced around the Man City penalty area and became a legend.

    Bowie trying to outdo Fred – I don’t buy it, even though Tom’s case is persuasive. There was no precedent, no matter how grim that 1985 duet was, and it didn’t suit his image/style in ’81. His performance makes sense after the primal scream Berlin stuff to me, so I don’t hear it as any having less emotional grip than, say, Lodger.

  26. 26
    Tom on 5 Feb 2009 #

    Don’t you think that in trying to outdo Fred he might be also *setting* the precedent, discovering his 80s style (for good or ill)? It certainly doesn’t sound/feel anything like Lodger!

    I think it’s fascinating how polarising this record’s been – even the hataz seem to hate it for different reasons: phony on the one hand, ham-fisted sincerity on the other.

  27. 27
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 5 Feb 2009 #

    (possible contentious) way to read the title: bowie in fact feeling ‘under pressure’ primarily from those of his followers who were now entering the pop fray: his sense that they were not only encoraching on his (semi-experimental) territory, but doin it better than he felt able to… in contrast to queen, who — never having been music-press darlings (they were relentlessly teated even in the metal and prog press) — remained serenely unbothered by punk and post-punk, and shifted gear accordingly

    the other point worth making, i think, is that bowie remained a 60s sentimentalist re pop — which is to say, despite his various forays into blue-eye soul, motorik krautpunk and blah, he really did believe in (lennonist) trans-audience chart-utopianism, where the challenge was fuse massive sales and “non-chart” ideas; indie-ism (to give it a slightly anbachronistic label) would be seen by this kind of 60s pan-audience utopianism as a mark of the avant-garde’s failure, to gets its innovations and values across to the world, rather than a mark of its integrity or rigour

  28. 28
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 5 Feb 2009 #

    relentlessly teated?

  29. 29
    thevisitor on 5 Feb 2009 #

    “Terrifically likeable despite having little or no emotional grip” absolutely nails it for me. The way Freddie and David sing, “People on streets” evokes two people straining every compassion muscle in their bodies just to empathise with, um, those people on streets (and, ultimately, failing).

    It’s as though, having viewed the real world for several years only from smoked, chauffeur-driven windows, the mere fact that some of us have to get from A to B using our own bodies, on streets, strikes Freddie and David a some sort of emergency in itself.

    Consequently, as a person who frequently finds himself on a street, every time I hear Under Pressure, I feel compelled to say, “Actually, it’s not that bad here. On streets.”

  30. 30
    lonepilgrim on 5 Feb 2009 #

    i like the sound of being relentlessly teated – would it involve wendy o williams?

  31. 31
    peter goodlaws on 5 Feb 2009 #

    Tom # 26 – Indeed yes. Such an eclectic sweep of comments is unlikely to be replicated with the next numere uno…

  32. 32
    Conrad on 5 Feb 2009 #

    I’m confused about this one. At the time, it rather washed over me.

    Now – I dunno. I can’t really get into it but admire some of its elements, particularly the bass-line, the finger clicking fade and Bowie’s trademark detached vocal delivery (he’s the man on the moon/he plays golf at Troon, oh yeah – oh yeah).

    #27, I do think “Hot Space” indicates a momentary confusion in Queen’s ranks as to which direction to go in. It almost completely abandons rock/bombast in favour of a more pared-down dance-oriented approach, would proved unpopular with their legions of fans.

    I also read somewhere (Mojo?) that at least two members of Queen (May and Taylor most likely) hated the new minimal dance direction and couldn’t care less for “Under Pressure” either.

    A sitting squarely on the fence 6 for me.

  33. 33
    lonepilgrim on 5 Feb 2009 #

    re 27 I wonder whether Bowie got tired of the weight of expectation from his fans for him to provide startling insights and opted to duck out of the responsibility – a bit like Dylan going Country or the Stones singing ‘It’s only rock and roll’ – and recognised in Freddie a singer who was happy to be ‘just’ an entertainer.

  34. 34
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 5 Feb 2009 #

    33 = yes, i agree, except i think subliminal artistic nervousness was as much the spur as boredness: fans can doubtless always get tiresome, even artistically ambitious ones, but the dylan comparison’s misleading, in the BD was never NOT happy f*ckin with his audience’s expectation, and i honestly don’t think this is exactly DB’s relationship to his audience

  35. 35
    Erithian on 5 Feb 2009 #

    #25 – I was going to say that was an unusually confrontational post from you Wichita, complaining about people talking about anniversaries, then re-read it and realised you were talking about the racism/PC debate, which I can understand a bit more. Although in this case I’d referred to the New Cross fire in the context of a radio documentary which used “Under Pressure” as an effective part of a montage, so Peter, who evidently knew more about the case than I did, made a useful and relevant addition. Radio 1 were using a song which goes on about “people on streets” to accompany a news story which was one factor in that summer’s riots, so it’s meaningful if we’re going to talk about the context of the year’s number ones.

    Incidentally – and we all do this at times – you’re a year out with Ricky Villa, it was ’81 not ’82. I know ‘cos I Was There!

  36. 36
    Martin Skidmore on 5 Feb 2009 #

    I not only felt no emotional connection to this, I can barely remember anything beyond the bassline, one of the greatest ever.

  37. 37
    peter goodlaws on 5 Feb 2009 #

    Erithian #35 – As a United fan, were you supporting City at that ’81 Final or your fellow Londoners, Spurs?

  38. 38
    H. on 5 Feb 2009 #

    Wasn’t the three year gap between Scary Monsters and Let’s D***e more to do with contractual problems? He didn’t want to re-sign with RCA, and on top of that his former manager had a percentage of his earnings until 1983. I think that’s the story. RCA wanted the Baal material to be stretched out into an album, but he wouldn’t do it.

  39. 39
    Conrad on 5 Feb 2009 #

    #35 Erithian, an easy mistake to make, due in no small part to Spurs reaching the final in 81 and 82 and Chas & blimmin Dave rolling out commemorative singles each year….

  40. 40
    wichita lineman on 5 Feb 2009 #

    I’m surprised how often I’m miles away from the consensus on some of these entries. Tom, you’re right, this does set a precedent, but it doesn’t have the coked-up gloss of L**’* D**** or Tonight, which definitely don’t make emotional connection with me (whereas Under Pressure and the Berlin trilogy do – I didn’t mean to suggest UP sounds like Lodger).

    Like Bowie’s wilderness years (contractual wranglings or not, Baal was a weird single), Queen were in the middle of their (kinda) experimental phase too (Another One Bites The Dust/Flash/Hot Space*). Was there anything between this era and Radio Gaga/I Want To Break Free stadium consolidation?

    *which was ’82, I should’ve checked. ’81 was the year of their all-consuming Greatest Hits.

    Re 35/39: Yes of course. I’m betraying my weak pub quiz credentials! ’81 being a better C&D song and a better final, too. Lucky you, Erithian, presuming you were at the replay!

    Didn’t want to make the New Cross fire seem insignificant, obviously, but I thought the PC debate was a bit played out – maybe we can start it again on a certain ’92 number one.

  41. 41
    Erithian on 5 Feb 2009 #

    Peter #37 – none of this “fellow Londoners” stuff. At the time I was at London University although my college was out near Windsor – I never lived in London itself until ’86.

    Wichita – yes it was the replay, with Steve Mackenzie’s goal overshadowed by Villa’s. I was with my dad, a lifelong Blue, and rooting for City for his sake – I was never so much an ABC (Anyone But City) as an ABL… and more recently an ABA. It was the last match I ever went to with my dad – remember fondly how he in his City scarf chatted amiably with an entire tubeload of Spurs fans on the way back into town.

    I see your point re the PC debate – bet you it’ll resurface before ’92 though!

  42. 42
    Erithian on 5 Feb 2009 #

    And of course Chas and Dave were back for a third Spurs Cup Final song in 1987. I was in the company of a bunch of Coventry fans a few weeks later and enjoyed their version:
    “Seven times you won the Cup/and number eight you f—ed it up/you’re Hot Shot Tottenham”.
    And not forgetting the Coventry blokes’ other favourite song:
    “When Gough, went up, to lift the FA Cup, it was gone, it was gone…”

    Sorry, we’ve moved a long way from Bowie and Queen. Maybe I could move on to dissing Beckenham Town instead.

  43. 43
    lonepilgrim on 5 Feb 2009 #

    re 34 I couldn’t agree more re Dylan f*ckin with his audience. The Dylan site I frequent is abuzz with controversy at the moment over his decision to make an ad for pepsi with some crying judas and others tying themselves in knots to justify him.

  44. 44
    Billy Smart on 5 Feb 2009 #

    Re #42: And, of course, who could forget the fourth Chas ‘n’ Dave Cup final single, 1991’s peerless ‘Spurs Always Win When The Year Ends In One’? (unless you’re talking about 2001)

  45. 45
    Crimson Cheeked King on 5 Feb 2009 #

    Isn’t it amazing how little we know about this record?

    Nowadays it’d come accompanied with a mini-documentary all of its own, after weeks of rumour and build-up. But back in 1981, this just popped out. Whether they recorded this at the same time, in the same studio, or piecemeal, never meeting, who wrote what, who wore what – who even knows? Bowie came in with the bass riff for all we know.

    [EDIT. Oops respect to post #6 – but I still think we knew nothing of this at the time]

    There’s not even a video! Not really, just a OGWT type collection of old stock clips.

  46. 46
    LondonLee on 6 Feb 2009 #

    I figure this as being Bowie’s first step toward 80s stadium rock royalty after he’d spent the 70s being all weird. Live Aid was to come as was the album that must not be mentioned. I think yer average male rock fan was a little leery of our David because he was, you know, a bit arty and queer, but hooking up with monster rockers Queen gave him a bit of rockist respectability.

    I’d tried to bunk into see him at Earl’s Court in 1977 and outside was a swarm of the most incredible and colorful punk/glam peacocks imaginable. I finally saw him live on the Serious Moonlight Tour and was shocked at how ordinary the audience for the latter was in comparison, they might as well have been a Dire Straits audience there was so much denim and white trainers.

    All said though, a cracking record. As someone said at the time only Bowie was hip enough to make a record with both Queen and Bing Crosby and keep his credibility.

  47. 47
    wichita lineman on 6 Feb 2009 #

    Re 45: never seen the OGWT style vid, but I’m guessing that’s why there are posts relating to this being about “people on streets”. It isn’t, surely, any more than Trampled Under Foot is about Krazy Kat.

    Re 27: Yr dead right. There was a Rebellious Jukebox in Melody Maker circa 1990 where Gary Numan picked his dozen favourite songs, almost all of which had some unintentionally sad story attached. He recalled how, when he was on the same tv show as Bowie around 79/80, he’d sneaked in to the studio to watch his hero rehearse. Bowie saw Numan, stopped his band, and said “we don’t play on until that man leaves the room.”

    And in the 15 months or so after Under Pressure, having thought long and hard on how to outwit his imitators, DB changed his chameleon exterior by borrowing Mike Smith’s jacket with the rolled-up sleeves. Baal the album… if only! I think if Bowie had been killed by someone who “kicked his brains around the floor” at this point, his catalogue would be almost entirely unblemished (Popular passim).

  48. 48
    peter goodlaws on 6 Feb 2009 #

    Erithian # 41 – My jokey comment about Londoners was not so much aimed at you personally as United fans per ce. Naturally I would expect you to refute this, so I shall gracefully withdraw. You would, I am sure, be similarly vexed at the well known terms ABU (Anyone But United) and particularly with the one referring to the catchment area of Man Utd’s support: ABM (Anywhere But Manchester).

    Yes, I know. MEOW!

  49. 49
    wichita lineman on 6 Feb 2009 #

    Good year for ABC to return, isn’t it?

  50. 50
    Erithian on 6 Feb 2009 #

    Peter #48 – very well aware of the ABM business, and of course it’s mostly Bitter Blue propaganda. I didn’t know whether you realised I’m Manchester born and bred and haven’t changed allegiance since moving to London (except for close involvement with a Kent League club and a soft spot for Charlton Athletic). We can discuss this more fully in another place if you wish – ask Waldo.

    Billy #44 – of course in 2001 Spurs found that the year had to start with a 1 as well, which is bad news for them. In 2004 a hopeful Spurs fan put forward the theory that Spurs did well when the first figure of the year was the square root of the last figure, and that didn’t work either.

    CCK #45 – good point about the lack of pre-publicity for “Under Pressure” – what it needed was MTV really, wasn’t it?

  51. 51
    Mark G on 6 Feb 2009 #

    I think, even then, there was that sort of preamble and build-up that would have been applied to this. But they didn’t.

  52. 52
    peter goodlaws on 6 Feb 2009 #

    Erithian #48 – Thanks, I will. Btw, Waldo has been unable to access his e-mail recently for various reasons. So if (any of) you have sent him texts, he’s not being rude, he just hasn’t been able to pick up. He hopes to soon.

  53. 53
    Matt C. on 6 Feb 2009 #

    Actually, while I know you are much smarter than I about tropes and positioning and labelry, I have always gotten an emotional charge from this song, kind of a feeling-sorry-for-myself o-yess-too-much-pressure-in-this-modern-world feeling; always been happy to be manipulated by the quiet/loud/quiet/loud/repeat pattern, and always been happy to have mi vida loca condemned by two of the musical icons that made me the way I am. IF I AM UNDER PRESSURE THEN WASN’T IT ‘BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY’ AND ‘PANIC IN DETROIT’ WHAT DID IT etc.

  54. 54
    Billy Smart on 14 May 2009 #

    NMEWatch: 31st October 1981, Chris Bohn;

    “From this ill-conceived collaboration it’s difficult to work out which side is prostituting itself and for what. Does Bowie really need or want a piece of Queen’s camp macho rock action and how will Queen take to Bowie’s frail, frivolous night people?

    ‘Under Pressure’ doesn’t really make you care either way. The initially intriguing premise wears off once you suss it has the hallmarks of true co-operation and consequently the promises that go with give and take. Apparently a relocation of West Side Story’s street strut choreography in a contemporary apocalyptic London disco, ‘Under Pressure’ smacks of self-willed exiles meeting by the swimming pool and discussing the horror from afar, hoping to syphon off its tension and energy to invogorate the combined product of jaded minds.

    Queen’s performance is surprisingly good, down to their between riffs finger clicks – it’s Bowie and Mercury’s vocals and words that let the whole thing down. A wasted opportunity, as both factions appear too tentative to assert themselves fully and why Bowie has allowed Queen equal billing when they too would’ve been better off letting him work their trash flash into one of his musical fantasies is ultimately the only point worth discussing about the record.”

    Bohn awarded a joint single of the week to ‘Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn’ by Die Krupps and ‘Sweat In Bullet’ by Simple Minds. Also reviewed that week;

    Soft Cell – Bedsitter
    The Comsat Angels – Do The Empty House
    Genesis – Keep It Dark
    Tears For Fears – Suffer The Children
    Aswad – Ways Of The Lord
    Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Liars A To E
    Yello – Bostic

  55. 55
    intothefireuk on 14 May 2009 #

    As mentioned earlier this was essentially a Queen song which was being rehearsed in a studio in Montreux which Bowie also happened to be rehearsing in. Largely improvised (I have heard a demo version which coroborates this) with Mercury scatting through it and off the cuff lyrics which don’t actually add up to anything. To me it sounds a mess (the demo actually sounds better with May’s guitar more prominent) and I have never taken to it despite my being a huge Bowie fan. Alabama Song, Baal, Cat People were fine – this wasn’t (apart from the ok bassline). Of course Bauhaus were doing Bowie far better than Bowie could at this stage of the game. It did seem with this effort Bowie was beginning an expansion of his commercial viability which would see a huge decline in quality during the 80s.

  56. 56
    Billy Smart on 15 May 2009 #

    Bohn’s review seems quite acute to me – I’d never thought of this single in relation to either West Side Story or the 1981 riots before, but you can see how both could form part of the thinking behind it, even if not consciously.

  57. 57
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 15 May 2009 #

    bohn (disclaimer: i’ve known him for years and he’s a genuinely lovely person who i am enormously fond of) is and was a very acute critic indeed, even if his tastes (and stance)* have often pushed him off into slightly cartoony anti-pop territory: he wrote a big thinkpiece in NME somewhere round now on bauhaus and ziggy and “ideas of bowie”

    *cf die krupps as joint single of the week above (haha this may of course have been the most brilliant single of the decade but i doubt anyone tracked it down then, and i haven’t the slightest idea what it sounds like now)

  58. 58
    MikeMCSG on 16 Jul 2009 #

    Erithian – yes I remember the lack of a video featured highly in Record Mirror’s year end poll too. I remember thinking , with unemployment at 3 million and the world seemingly on the brink of nuclear holocaust who would vote the absence of a video the worst thing about 1981 ? But I suppose at 17 I had developed a dreaded sense of perspective by then !

  59. 59
    thefatgit on 12 Feb 2010 #

    Hoping against hope that this isn’t double bunnied. God, the hair’s the same and everything!

  60. 60
    Tom on 12 Feb 2010 #

    No worries I suspect, but only because the worst recording of the 10s is going to beat it.

  61. 61
    Andrew Goulding on 7 Dec 2010 #

    What a fabulous – if a little soccer orientated – review of Under Pressure! When I read it, I was so excited at the imagery e.g.

    “a stunning strike from the Queen frontman whose over-the-top goal celebration (“why can’t we give love, give love, give love”) just prolongs the joy.”

    that I raced through reading it.

    After reading the comments, I re-read the review and was struck by how like the song it was. Grand, sweeping, epic – and I mean this in a good way – ultimately inconsequential, as pop music so often is.

    I’ll be back, for sure.

  62. 62
    punctum on 7 Dec 2010 #

    Here’s another way to look at “Under Pressure”; as the “Hey Jude” equivalent for the Bolan generation, a belated farewell to the seventies and to the glam promise, offered by the movement’s two least scathed survivors. The marketing of the record was deliberately very low-key – no picture sleeve, no video – but this does seem to have been a genuine collaboration between Bowie and Queen rather than a ‘phoned-in cut-and-paste job. Indeed, its genuine quality may be evinced from the fact that for much of the record they appear to be making it up as they go along – lots of absent-minded scat singing from Mercury and sudden exclamations of “People on the streets!” from Bowie to cover the huge gaps where really the lyric should have gone.

    Yet, bizarrely, it does work. They wave goodbye to the assumed warmth of the seventies and dread the forthcoming cold rationalism of the eighties – or is this necessarily renewed with every decade as a result of rosy retrospection? The singers spit out disjointed memes – “Burns a building down,” “Splits a family in two,” “Watching some good friends screaming let me out!,” all as indelibly 1981 as “Ghost Town” in its slightly reserved penthouse way – but the group work hard to maintain musical tension and release, and thereby provoke by far the most passionate of Bowie’s four number one vocal performances. He is straight, Freddie the foil, though really they are two barely differing degrees of camp; but Queen’s inherent monolithic tendencies fit Bowie nearly perfectly, and in turn he uses their tricks to his advantage, builds them up and makes them seem even bigger, and perhaps slightly meaningful.

    Thus in the hushed, hymn-like bridge, Bowie conspires with Freddie in the corner to stammer out: “Turn away from it all like a blind man” before Bowie forces Mercury’s face to face the camera, their listeners, ourselves, with his agonised “Keep coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn.” Mercury immediately responds with his tripartite “WHY?” wail, and as Roger Taylor’s drums thunder behind both of him, Bowie screams “Insanity laughs, under pressure we’re BREAKING!”

    Then the major key sun bursts in to flood the room as Freddie regally rides the rainbow with his “Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?” and retreats in an echoing “give love” before both Bowie and Mercury, in low key, take the song to its final climax, building up gradually to the catharsis of “This is our last chance! This is our last dance! This is ourselves…under pressure.”

    The last line turns into the original whisper and the piano fades out to repeated finger snaps; perhaps a warning of a ticking bomb hidden in the drawer of indifference. With “Under Pressure” both Queen and Bowie resolve each other (because what they individually don’t possess, the other has in spades), lay down their warning to their generation not to let everything go…and then vanish into the corporate eighties of “Let’s Dance” and “Radio Ga Ga,” their important work largely done, their ghosts already being ground into the machine.

  63. 63
    swanstep on 7 Dec 2010 #

    Some cracking comments on this one. The only thing I have to add is how much to me this record feels of its time. The fingers snaps and tasteful/naive piano intro and outro stuff had been done early in 1981 by Dire Straits in Romeo and Juliet, only there it’s a tasteful/naive guitar and the rim-shot on the drum providing the snap. At any rate, as UP ends I’ve always found myself mentally cross-fading to the Romeo and Juliet guitars and rim-shot finger-snaps fade out. I’m not sure how closely the body of the songs match up but there’s definitely some soft-loud-soft dynamics going on in both cases.

    More generally, there was definitely a kind of a run on baroque but very major-key/diatonic pop anthems after the Buggles album, and both UP and R&J seem to me to me to be part of that.

    There was also a bit of run in 1980-1981, perhaps especially down under, of songs about people in the streets, people laughing. A band called Mi-Sex had a song in 1980 called People (you can track it down on youtube) that has this as its theme. Rupert Hine had a song that was a decent hit down under early in 1981 called Misplaced Love (also trackdownable on youtube) whose somewhat haunting chorus is something like ‘I wonder if some joker laughs when he sees us, when he sees all our misplaced love’. I don’t want to accuse Bowie and Queen of theft in any of these cases, but there was a musical climate in common that UP bears the traces of.

    Anyhow, UP is a pretty jolly nifty record – 8/10 easy from me, more on the right day. It was brilliantly used by Spike Jonze in his trailer for his movie Adaptation (possibly the best movie trailer ever made – the film itself could never live up to it. If you don’t know the trailer, go ASAP to youtube and check it out, you won’t regret it!)

  64. 64
    swanstep on 7 Dec 2010 #

    OK, that Adaptation trailer.

  65. 65
    Lazarus on 27 Mar 2011 #

    This is a song that’s lost a line over the years – the penultimate line “this is our last chance” present on the 45, no longer heard on radio which presumably opts for the album version. A pointless edit which only saves a few seconds of airtime. ‘Rat Trap’ and ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ on the other hand, have been extended – the “pus and grime ooze” line never used to get played, while the “silicon chip” lines are repeated when they weren’t on the original single.

  66. 66
    hardtogethits on 28 Mar 2011 #

    # 65; That’s an incredible spot, about this record…. and more striking for the fact that the “album version” wasn’t something that existed in the UK at the time. I wonder if the 7inch 45 version has ever made it to cd? I could be on my own here (of course) but I am now intrigued to know whether any other chart toppers have been replaced in the public consciousness with later edits, or marginally different versions. Though it wasn’t a number one, my mind turns to “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” … you never, ever hear the 7″ version of that on the radio.

    Rat Trap is similar – maybe even the same. Again it’s an incredible memory you’ve got about the “pus and grime ooze” lines, and you’re correct they were never played. But was the butchering done at radio or was the 7″ itself so much shorter? I’ve got the 7 inch, but not to hand. I’m fascinated.

    Unfortunately, I’m less sure about “I Don’t Like Mondays” – though it’s true about the competing versions, the radio version we got to know is on enough various artists compilations for the radio stations to pick up the original edit.

  67. 67
    wichita lineman on 28 Mar 2011 #

    Yes, great spot – checking Spotify, the original is on Absolute Greatest but not on the 2011 remaster of Greatest Hits II.

    One hit that springs to mind, though not a no.1, is the Four Tops’ Walk Away Renee. Radio always plays a version which I first heard on the Super Hits comp in the early 80s – it drove me nuts because there’s an intrusive piano pounding all the way through it that isn’t on the original single. Still drives me nuts! Lose that freakin piano!!

  68. 68
    swanstep on 29 Mar 2011 #

    The vid. has an extra line but it just repeats ‘This is our last dance’. Might this mean that when prepping the vid. the band had second thoughts about the ‘chance’ line, which then would have paved the way for saving a few seconds at that point for Greatest Hits purposes, etc.?

  69. 69
    Erithian on 29 Mar 2011 #

    #65-66 – strange to be talking about “Rat Trap” on this thread, but relevant in the context of cut lines! The “pus and grime” line wasn’t deleted for the single version but replaced with something more anodyne and, sadly, less intelligible, because I can’t decipher it in my mind and you’d struggle to find it on lyric sites. Something like “seven years gone down the neighbourhood sewers” but that doesn’t rhyme with “closed doors” so that can’t be it. Presumably Ensign Records thought that a lyrical reference to pus and grime was a bit too nauseating to be released into the smiling world of John and Livvy. Clearly radio isn’t as squeamish now.

    As for “Mondays”, presumably the repeat of the first verse was cut from the album version to make the single more radio-friendly in length, and these days the album version is easier for radio to get hold of.

    I had a peculiar dream last night in which I was at a Rats gig and they had a power cut just as they were about to do “Mondays” and “Rat Trap” as the encore, so everyone was slinking off grumbling just as my alarm clock went off. No doubt the strange effect of reading this site!

  70. 70
    wichita lineman on 29 Mar 2011 #

    I saw an old schoolfriend of mine just before Christmas for the first time in 30-odd years. He was just about to put on a Boomtown Rats show in the clubhouse at Whyteleafe FC. That sounds like a dream (football and pop mingling bizarrely is a recurring theme) but it’s true.

    Come on you ‘Leafe!

  71. 71
    Jimmy the Swede on 29 Mar 2011 #

    My buddy Erithian and I are in your corner here, Wichita, both also being non-league footy and pop minglers.

    Alas my heroes, poor old Eastbourne Borough, are about to fall off the coupon. No more will James Alexander Gordon concern himself with our results after the playing of the historical “Sports Report” military march. It will be a terrible day when relegation is finalised. “CAB TO BEACHY HEAD FOR THE SWEDE!”

  72. 72
    wichita lineman on 29 Mar 2011 #

    Sorry to hear that, Swede. Of course it were all Langney Sports in my day. Did you swap you affiliation from Town or United, I wonder? Borough will still be one league above my local club Hendon, mind you – almost 50 years in the Isthmian Premier without going up or down.

    I did once have a dream that Linus, the UK riot grrl act, was actually a new Man Utd winger who looked a bit like Gary Bailey.

  73. 73
    Jimmy the Swede on 29 Mar 2011 #

    Lino, I shall have to admit that I jumped unapologetically onto the glory trail when Langney Sports became Eastbourne Borough and things started happening for them. Having moved to the town in 1989, I was still a regular at Stamford Bridge back then and only popped over to the Saffrons to watch Town on the odd occasion simply because it was the closest ground. Both United and particularly Sports required transport. I ceased to be a season ticket holder at the Bridge in about 2002 although remain to this day a club member and saw them win the championship in 2005 for the first time in exactly fifty years in what was also their centenary. The last three seasons at Borough have seen them take on some top opponents, many of them late of the Football League. It’s a blow that they’re dropping out but they will always have geography against them as long they remain part time.

  74. 74
    enitharmon on 29 Mar 2011 #

    Whereas my local team seems to thrive on travel, the further the better, but seem unable to be anything but a bunch of numpties at home. (I’ve only been to see them once and that was when the Swede came to visit a couple of years ago)

  75. 75
    Cumbrian on 29 Mar 2011 #

    Difficult to talk about this without seeming patronising but…

    When Carlisle finally got relegated into the Conference (after years of trying/near misses), I think most of us quite enjoyed it. Of course, we wanted to get promoted and get back into the Football League, but it was fun going to places that we’d never been before (due to the old one up, one down system between the League and the Conference more than anything else) and the fans of the opposing teams, with one or two odd exceptions, were generally all really great – there was no real sense of animosity like you get with some in the League. To an extent, I think we all wished that the atmosphere from those away games could be replicated in the League.

    Shame for Eastbourne Borough – I’d agree that geographical location is a real inhibiting factor; even being fully pro, Carlisle can’t get some people to go up there and it’s a real bitch. Here’s hoping you bounce back in short order.

  76. 76
    Jimmy the Swede on 29 Mar 2011 #

    Kind words, Cumbrian. Thanks.

    I agree completely that the non-league scene is far more pleasant. Eastbourne Borough, as has been pointed out, is really just a sports club house with a wee footy ground next to it. The club house, of course, contains a bar whereas the ground does not. Lewes FC, our Sussex rivals, on the other hand, does have a fully-functioning drinker on site as do many other clubs. And there is not the slightest hint of trouble.

    Rosie hints on Barrow’s travelling support and it is indeed magnificent. I once saw them at Lewes for a midweek game and there were about forty of them bouncing around cheering their guys on. These bloody Bluebirds, alas, definitely have the Indian sign over Borough. But for me, the latest twatting we got from them saw the Swede and a buddy viewing this from the “Legends Bar”, a result of a Swedish win of a raffle at a previous game. Since I had provided the ticket, my mucker provided the transport and it was thus glug-glug-glug for a thirsty Swede in a delightful little box, which contained about ten patrons, SKY sports on the wall and a smily old girl behind the bar. We lost two nil but by the time I was tipped back into my bungalow, I was well on the way to not carry a flying foxtrot.

    I’ve been to Brunton Park three times with Chelsea, btw. Two draws and a defeat. On one occasion, I stayed in Dumfries overnight and I had a bit of drama persuading the local plod that I was travelling north and did not want to get bundled on the London train with all the rest of the herberts.

    Happy Days!

  77. 77
    wichita lineman on 30 Mar 2011 #

    Re 71: the magic of James Alexander Gordon reading out your club’s name – very much akin to Tom Brown/Tony Blackburn/Bruno Brooks reading out a new entry by your favourite group.

  78. 78
    Cumbrian on 30 Mar 2011 #

    #76 No worries Jimmy. Your tales of non-league football chimed with my experience of going to some places with Carlisle. Brunton Park will have changed a bit since we played Chelsea on anything like a regular basis mind. Now I live in London I don’t get to go back as much as before, but we’ve now got a nice shiny all seater stand where the away support are located (a leagacy from the Knighton years).

    Also, in local news, a quick FUCKING HELL!!! Lady Gaga is headlining the Radio One 1 Big Weekend, from Carlisle! Foo Fighters, Tinie Tempah, Plan B and Nicole Scherzinger also performing. Unfuckingbelievable. Hands down the biggest gig in the locality that I can think of, probably ever – though my memory doesn’t go back much beyond 1990.

  79. 79
    wichita lineman on 31 Mar 2011 #

    Amazing pop/football interaction on the Black Cat Bones blog – The Canon Championship! Qualifying rounds!! Go, Nilsson (the Uruguay of Group A)!!!


  80. 80
    thefatgit on 31 Mar 2011 #

    #79 a quick glance at the voting suggests there will be no Beefheart/Zappa derby in the next round :(

  81. 81
    lonepilgrim on 27 Sep 2011 #

    the writer of the Bowie blog casts his discerning ear over this one here:

  82. 82
    Ed on 29 Sep 2011 #

    @81 That’s a great post…. Some good links to cracking performances with Gail Ann Dorsey, too.

    The (rather wonderful) Uncut Bowie special has a 1983 NME interview where he says “some of it makes me cringe a bit, but he obviously came round to it.

  83. 83
    Lena on 4 Jun 2013 #

    Then Play Long has returned!: http://nobilliards.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/queen-greatest-hits.html (“Under Pressure” in Greatest Hits II however.)

  84. 84
    swanstep on 4 Jun 2013 #

    @Lena. I’ve bought this album both on cassette and on cd and it contained Under Pressure both times. Checking wiki, it sounds like tracks varied widely between territories, but UK fans got a bit of a raw deal!

  85. 85
    Colin on 22 Jun 2013 #

    IIRC, the lyrics on the sleeve show the words “This is our last dance” twice. When I first heard the song with the words only sung once, I wondered if I missed one of them. Then I heard it on one of the Channel Four Music Of the Millennium collections, and sure enough you only hear it once. I find this very jarring.

    There are many examples of original singles never being played. Blondie’s Sunday Girl never had any French words, but the Anglo-French version put together for the 1981 hits collection The Best of Blondie is what radio stations play. The original single of Oh Pretty Woman has Roy Orbison singing “come to me baby”, but now you hear “come with me, baby”. Most of the Beatles’ singles were in mono, but you only get the stereo mixes, and some of them have different or even missing vocals (eg Paul shouting “A life of ease” on Yellow Submarine). The Abba compilation The Singles – The First Ten Years had a version of Name Of The Game without the second verse, and that was subsequently on radio playlists. Try to find Barry White’s original single edit of You’re The First The Last My Everything, as the one you now hear has no spoken intro, rerecorded vocals and a remix to the link between verses.

  86. 86
    hectorthebat on 14 Oct 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1-1001
    Beats Per Minute (USA) – The Top 100 Tracks of the 1980s (2011) 64
    Blender (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Songs to Download Right Now! (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    OUT (USA) – The 25 Gayest Songs of the 1980s (2011)
    Pause & Play (USA) – Songs Inducted into a Time Capsule, One Track at Each Week
    Pitchfork (USA) – The Pitchfork 500 (2008)
    Popdose (USA) – 100 (+21) Favorite Singles of the Last 50 Years (2008) 55
    Slant (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the 1980s (2012) 21
    Treble (USA) – The Top 200 Songs of the 80s (2011) 24
    VH-1 (USA) – Nominations for the 100 Greatest 80s Songs (2006)
    VH1 (USA) – The 100 Greatest Songs from the Past 25 Years (2003) 46
    Dave Thompson (UK) – 1000 Songs that Rock Your World (2011) 457
    NME (UK) – The 100 Best Songs of the 1980s (2012) 71
    NME (UK) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2014) 184
    Q (UK) – The 1010 Songs You Must Own (2004)
    Q (UK) – The Ultimate Music Collection (2005)
    Wanadoo (UK) – The 20 Best Songs of the 80s
    Theater van het Sentiment, Radio 2 (NL) – Top 40 Songs by Year 1969-2000 (2013) 13
    Musikexpress (Germany) – The 700 Best Songs of All Time (2014) 32
    Spex (Germany) – The Best Singles of the Century (1999)
    Cameron Adams (Australia) -The Best Songs from the 100 Must Have Albums (2013)

  87. 87
    Mostro on 1 Apr 2016 #

    Just to confirm, the second “this is our last dance” definitely appeared on the original 7″ release. I can say this for sure because that’s the version I grew up with as a kid- having borrowed and taped someone’s copy of the single circa 1984!- and when I started hearing that edited version years later it always grated.

    According to the queenvault.com website, the edit was made by producer David Richards for Queen’s 1991 Greatest Hits II album. Possibly for timing… nice work, saved a whole four seconds there!

    What makes it worse isn’t just that this edit spread beyond that album (for example, it’s on a Bowie compilation I own). (#) It’s that even when I got a copy of the unedited original from Amazon my brain was so used to hearing the edit that it was mentally primed to get annoyed at that point and ruined it in advance anyway even when I knew it wasn’t coming. If anything, the dissonance and uncertainty made it worse.

    I think I’m starting to get over it.

    (#) It’s not as bad as the promo-only US radio edit of ABBA’s The Name of the Game (which hacked out the entire second verse and ended up on several compilations and even- mistakenly- the 1997 reissue of its original parent album!) One tiny line… still annoying.

  88. 88
    Paulito on 1 Apr 2016 #

    @88: Oddly enough, one of my most disliked edits is that of another Bowie #1 – “Ashes to Ashes”. The single version substantially cuts the instrumental break between the first and second verses, including those echoey ‘scary monster’ noises. Minor, I know, but it has always irked me because it’s so unnecessary and so damaging – it only saves a few seconds and yet those few seconds contribute greatly to the overall atmosphere of the song.

    However, the worst case of track-butchery I’ve ever encountered is the US single edit of Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer”. Halfway through the first verse it cuts – and I shit you not – straight to the second half of the next verse. Needless to say this utterly destroys the original’s delicate build-up of mood, tension and dynamics. It then goes on to chop about 45 seconds off the gorgeous extended coda. In sum, it cuts about 40% off the UK single (and album) version and effectively tears the band’s finest song to shreds. Even more galling is that this travesty of an edit was the version included on their Europe-released “Greatest” compilation in the late ’90s and, hence, the version usually heard on radio thereafter.

  89. 89
    Tommy Mack on 2 Apr 2016 #

    Conversely, I really like the single edit of Heroes which throws us directly from the first verse to, I think, the third, making the shift up in vocal register and volume all the more startling. Sometimes I think I like it better than the ‘proper’ version.

  90. 90
    Phil on 2 Apr 2016 #

    Haven’t checked, but I think the album version begins with “I, I will be king” – the ‘dolphins’ verse is the third. Chris O’Leary’s PAOTD entry suggests where the dolphins came from, incidentally; he’s very interesting on ‘Heroes’, and indeed on this one.

  91. 91
    Gareth Parker on 25 May 2021 #

    I agree with Tom’s 8/10 . A glorious, delightful mess of a single in my opinion.

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