Freddie Mercury loved to playfully tease friends, colleagues and even journalists in public and in private – but he also loved to pick a fight. His PA and close friend Peter Freestone told Express Online that the star actually used to enrage people on purpose: “Freddie would provoke fights because that gave him the impetus to work, it got his juices flowing.” There are fabulous tales of him sparring with David Bowie, who is back on TV today in Labyrinth. Queen legend Brian May described how they locked horns in a “wonderful and terrible” running battle during their collaboration on Under Pressure – but the real clash came over a completely different recording.
Freddie described the original Queen sessions with Bowie in Switzerland in a 1983 interview.
He said: “We were friends from a long time back. We were in Montreux in Switzerland, we own a studio there, and he lives there and he kept coming to the studio and listening to our tracks and we were jamming to some of his old songs..
“One night were having dinner and after that, we going back into the studio…and it just happened and he said, ‘Why don’t we start fooling around and see what happens?’ We started playing around on the piano and the rest of the band were there and Under Pressure started to build.”
May also revealed that there are still unreleased tracks from those recording sessions that never saw the light of day because Bowie blocked their release.
However, it was during another recording session that Bowie would genuinely upset Freddie.
In a 1983 interview (which you can watch above) Freddie was asked about the rumoured clashes with Bowie during Under Pressure and let spill details about another fight.
He said: “No. That was something else. He did backing vocals on one of my songs that was on the album, that wasn’t Under Pressure, that was another one.”
The members of Queen have frequently admitted they were all perfectionists but Bowie controlling nature took it to another level and, yet again, he put a spanner in the works, which infuriated Freddie.
Freddie added: “When it came to being released he didn’t like what he did. I was like, ‘a**hole, he tells me right the tail end when the thing is just about to come out!'”
Freddie was asked how he dealt with the problem. He laughed and said: “That’s just artistic licence. ‘Fine,’ I said, ‘it’s quite easy, I just erase his vocal’ – and out it came… It was just background vocals.”
Probed if he thought Bowie had gone too far and if it spoiled their friendship, he added: “Whatever. I think it was unnecessary (what he did). We’re speaking, we’re just in different parts of the world. I’m not one of those bitchy queens, no, no, no… He’s alright, he’s OK.”
Poignantly, following the Queen legend’s death, Bowie would perform Under Pressure with Annie Lennox at the Freddie Mercury memorial Concert For Life in 1992.