Freddie Mercury died on 24 November 1991. The remaining members of Queen and their manager (Jim Beach) soon started organising a concert to commemorate Mercury, raise money for HIV research and increase awareness about AIDS. The tickets went on sale before any performers, other than members of Queen, were announced. All 72,000 tickets for the 20 April 1992 Wembley Arena show were sold out in 3 hours. In the end, the concert opened with acts including Metallica and Guns N’ Roses.
The second half of the concert featured the three remaining members of Queen joined by a star cast of singers and guitarists. We’re talking about Elton John, Roger Daltrey, Tony Iommi, Ian Hunter, James Hetfield, George Michael, Seal, Paul Young, Robert Plant, Axl Rose, Slash, Liza Minnelli and others. Two of the celebrity singers were David Bowie and Annie Lennox who joined together to sing a superb version of Under Pressure, with Annie Lennox singing Freddie Mercury’s parts. Let’s have a look:
First off, I like the way that Annie Lennox doesn’t imitate Mercury, yet does his parts full justice. Bowie is impeccable, Lennox is beguiling, and the interactions between Bowie and Lennox are tender and charming. Also, the song is a personal highlight of post-Jazz (the 1978 album) Queen. Mark Scott comments: “I was at Wembley on this day. It was a difficult task to outshine Bowie in any duet, but Annie Lennox did it here incredibly. One of the great rock performances. Hats off to Ms Lennox”.
There’s a story behind Under Pressure. Queen were recording in the Swiss Alps. One evening, when Queen were relaxing playing covers, David Bowie dropped in. Bowie said why don’t we write a song. They worked up the backing, then Bowie suggested they should separately sing what they thought the vocal melody should be in the vocal booth, and improvise a bit. They weren’t to listen to each other’s vocals till later. Many of these vocals ended up on the song. Now, here’s a little treat for you.
Wasn’t that great! Obviously, it was the rehearsals for the Freddie Mercury Memorial concert. It’s like a time machine: Bowie smoking, George Michael singing along, Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople behind Bowie when he tells his joke about psychics, John Deacon still in Queen etc.
Just say “Thank you, Music Man” and go back and watch the videos again. Thank goodness there are now anti-retrovirals and other medications that treat HIV and AIDS. RIP Freddie Mercury and anyone else who died due to the dreadful disease.