Brian May conceded to David Bowie on the making of Queen’s Under Pressure – but admits he “never liked” the mix

“What happened in the mix was that most of that heavy guitar was lost.”

Brian May

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 08: Brian May of Queen performs at Chase Center on November 08, 2023 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images)

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Brian May has said he’s “never liked” the mix of Queen’s 1981 collaboration with David Bowie, Under Pressure, after he “bowed out” to Bowie’s idea of how the final mix should sound.

In a new interview with Total Guitar, May revealed that the song was initially much more guitar-driven but was altered after “the awesome creative forces” of Freddie Mercury and Bowie clashed over how they wanted the finished product to come out.

“It was all done spontaneously in the studio very late at night after we had a meal and a lot of drinks,” says May. “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.

“And I was beaming because I liked The Who. I remember saying to David, ‘Oh, it sounds like The Who, doesn’t it?’ 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. But he didn’t want it to be that way.”

“It was very difficult… because we all had different ideas of how it should be mixed,” continues May.

“I think it’s probably the only time in my career I bowed out, because I knew it was going to be a fight. So basically it was Freddie 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.

“And even the main riff, I played that electric, pretty much in the sort of arpeggiated style which I do live now. But that never made it into the mix. What they used was the acoustic bits which were done first as a sort of demo.”

Although he dislikes the mix, May does admit he recognises “that it works”.

“It’s a point of view, and it’s done very well. And people love it,” he says. “So we play it quite a bit different live, as you probably noticed, it is a lot heavier and I think it benefits from it.

“I mean, 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.”


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