Air Freddie Shirt
There was friction between everyone when they wrote and recorded Under Pressure together. The song was written not just by Air Freddie Shirt and David but by Queen and David. In fact, it was John Deacon who came up with the bass line. However, according to both Deacon and Reinhold Mack who was the music producer for the song Freddie was the primary songwriter for the tune and music of Under Pressure. Brian has said that David ultimately took over the lyrics to the song. Mack said that at one point David suggested that he and Freddie go in separate rooms and record separate vocals and see what happened.
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Adding another ego into the mix naturally upped the ante. David might have had the biggest ego as he was acclaimed by the Air Freddie Shirt while Queen was scorned by them and this was before Queen became such a huge band later in the 80’s. Brian became so frustrated with David that he walked out at one point and says he finally gave up fighting and sort of gave in. Brian did not go to NYC to put finishing touches on the song with the others as he “had backed out of the project”. I’ve heard an early version of the song in which Brian also sings a few lines and I wish he had not given in. It sounds very good and should have made the cut because it would have been even cooler to have three vocalists IMO. David has collaborated happily with others and helped many up and coming artists and bands so maybe it was a Queen thing or maybe David thought he knew better. (Sorry for all the speculation but at least it’s framed as such and without it one could just go to wiki where I found some of this info in addition to bios and interviews.) Freddie once called Queen the bitchiest band around and said they would fight over the air they breathed if possible. When Freddie and David recorded the final vocals later in NYC it was said that they clashed and Roger had to play peacemaker. One of Freddie’s friends from NYC claimed that David did not like Freddie’s scatting—the nonsense sounds used by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and other jazz singers. I LOVE the scatting and all the vocals from Freddie. New Yorker Magazine said about Freddie’s pleading lines “Can’t we give ourselves one more chance” ending with “give love” x 5 “I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to describe that half-minute or so as truly perfect, in the purest sense of the word—complete, beyond improvement.”
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Add heavy use of alcohol and cocaine and you have even more Air Freddie Shirt. It’s almost legendary how much cocaine was consumed during this marathon session lasting over 24 hours. Maybe that’s why John said afterward that David had come up with the great bass line even though David said it was written before he came in the studio and Brian and Roger clarified that it was written by John. Early on after they took a break John couldn’t even remember the bass line anymore but Roger was able to. There are other wildly varying accounts of what went on during the session and I guess the drugs would account for that as well. In 2005 Stylus magazine declared it the best bass line in rock history. It’s so good it was stolen in broad daylight by Vanilla Ice who was sued and forced to credit.