Tim tells us about the band’s special cover version
To celebrate its 40th birthday, BBC Radio 1 are releasing a compilation featuring forty contemporary artists each covering a track from between 1967 and 2006. Keane were given 1981 and chose to cover ‘Under Pressure’ by Queen and David Bowie, a Number One hit in November of that year. The band’s cover will be premiered on Jo Whiley’s show on Tuesday September 25th, with the compilation album released the following Monday, October 1st. We called up Tim to get the lowdown on the track.
Hi Tim. How did you come to cover ‘Under Pressure’?
After Radio 1 gave us 1981, we basically compiled a huge list of songs from that year. We had all the weekly Top 10s, plus a fascinating list of what the overall best sellers from the year were. Two were by Shakin Stevens, two were by Adam and the Ants and then there were novelty tracks like ‘The Birdie Song’ by the Tweets and ‘Shaddup You Face’ by Joe Dolce.
Not a particularly rich saem to chose from then?
Well, there were some pretty shocking songs, but there were some great tracks that year too. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ was one of the biggest sellers, because he died at the end of 1980, and ‘Woman’ was in there too. Actually, Richard says that his first memory was hearing that this guy called John Lennon had been shot. Then there were big songs from bands like the Police, Blondie, XTC and Ultravox. Plus, of course, an awful lot of shit that we’d never heard of.
But eventually you plumped for Queen.
Yeah. We’re all big Queen fans and spent a lot of our childhoods listening to them. I remember Tom used to do impressions of Freddie Mercury. In fact, Tom’s the biggest Queen fan in the band and when we were told we had 1981, he suggested ‘Under Pressure’ pretty much immediately. So then we spent ages looking at the list of tracks, weighing up the options and eventually came back to that one. It was just the one that we were most desperate to get our teeth into. And once we started playing it, we really started to realise what an amazing song it is. I think you get a very different appreciation of a song when you play it than when you listen to it.
The original track featured two vocalists – Freddie Mercury and David Bowie. How did you deal with that on the cover?
The original idea was actually to get someone else in to do Bowie’s part. But then when we were in North America in May, we started recording it. We did two sessions, in Toronto and Philadelphia, and we ended up with all three of us singing on it. We were huddled around a microphone, doing the handclaps and finger clicks too. We had so much fun with it. And when we finished, we realised we were happy with it like that, with just our vocals on it.
Should we be able to hear all three of you distinctly?
I certainly can. But then we also went for like a massed backing vocal effect too. The end result sounds really big.
Does Tom sound like Freddie?
Actually, he does a really good impression of him and we kept having to tell him to tone it down and sing like himself! He’s such a huge Queen fan, it really was a dream assignment for him.
So are you pleased with the finished cover?
Yeah, really pleased. We reocrded it very quickly, but we had loads of fun doing it. It was a real collaboration between the three of us and there was so much energy and excitement in the studio. To be honest, I think it has eally inspired us for future recordings. And I think the song’s turned out great. I’m really quite proud of it.