David Bowie and Freddie Mercury were both proper showmen and performed incredible music until their deaths. Famously, the pair joined together with Queen to perform their hit single Under Pressure. However, Brian May opened up about how that went down during the recording of that song, and a bust-up between the singers.
Were David Bowie and Freddie Mercury friends?
Before the pair even worked together Bowie and Mercury knew one another from around.
According to Rolling Stone, while Mercury was studying at Ealing Art College in the late 1960s, he discovered Bowie would be performing at a lunchtime show at his college, though at that point neither of the pair were well-known.
The Queen frontman was impressed and even offered to help set up the stage and carry equipment for Bowie, who at the time was almost a folk musician with only flops to his name.
Mercury was keen to become a musician and finishing college but to pay the bills had to sell second-hand clothes at Kensington Market and started his own stall with future Queen drummer Roger Taylor.
After Space Oddity had become a hit for the singer, Bowie headed to Kensington Market, having made very little money at this point, looking for boots from Alan Mair’s stall, at which Mercury was now working after his stall failed.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Mair said: “So there was Freddie Mercury, a shop assistant, giving pop star David Bowie a pair of boots he couldn’t afford to buy.”
While this was their first meeting, it was not until the Under Pressure sessions in 1981 when the pair started working together properly.
However, this was not without its bust-ups, as Brian May revealed in an interview with Mojo magazine.
He said: “Freddie and David locked horns, without a doubt. But that’s when the sparks fly and that’s why it turned out so great.
“It wasn’t easy because we were all precocious boys and David was very… forceful, yes.
“[They fought] in subtle ways, like who would arrive last at the studio. So it was sort of wonderful and terrible.”
However, it was not just Mercury who Bowie squabbled with during those sessions.
May told the Daily Mirror the Space Oddity singer also had some bust-ups with bassist John Deacon.
May said: “What was that riff, you had, Deacy?’ says David B. ‘It was like this,’ says John Deacon. But Bowie protested: ‘No it wasn’t, it was like this.’
“This was a funny moment because I can just see DB going over and putting his hand on John’s fretting hand and stopping him.
“It was also a tense moment because it could have gone either way.”
Clearly Bowie was quite the perfectionist with his music, but in the end, it turned out pretty well as the music was a major hit.
Bowie and Mercury had an interesting friendship having known each other since the early 1970s until Mercury’s death in 1991.
Before his death, Mercury confirmed the pair were still friends despite some musical disagreements, telling a talk show: “Oh, we’re speaking to each other, we’re just in different parts of the world.
“He’s alright, he’s okay. We’ve been friends a long time back.”
In his autobiography, Me, Sir Elton John even revealed how Mercury was still teasing his friend and rival Bowie on his death bed.
He said: “He was too frail to get out of bed, he was losing his sight, his body was covered in Karposi’s sarcoma lesions, and yet he was still definitely Freddie, gossiping away, completely outrageous.
“(Freddie would say) ‘Have you heard Mrs Bowie’s new record, dear? What does she think she’s doing?'”
The superstar added: “I couldn’t work out whether he didn’t realise how close to death he was or if he knew perfectly well but was determined not to let what was happening to him stop him being himself.
“Either way I thought he was incredible.”