The Truth About Freddie Mercury And David Bowie's Friendship

The 1960s was a transformative decade for David "Davey" Jones, the London-born pop music fan with dreams of emulating his heroes -– Little Richard and Elvis Presley. Jones would eventually find fame under the name David Bowie

As revealed in an open letter written by Bowie's cousin, Kristina Amadeus, the star was a "musical child," supported in his aspirations by his music-loving father, who introduced the prodigy to some of the biggest pop stars of the late 1950s, such as Tommy Steele and Alma Cogan (via the NME). Despite this, Bowie labored in obscurity for the best part of a decade, cutting unsuccessful records under his birth name with little-known bands such as the King Bees and the Lower Third, per All Music, as well as a solo single under his Bowie monicker, titled "The Laughing Gnome," and a self-titled debut album, both of which failed to chart in the U.K.

Bowie's break would finally arrive in 1969 when the single "Space Oddity" was released to coincide with the Apollo 11 moon landing and broke into the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. The songwriter's career was about to begin after years of false starts.

But according to Rolling Stone, it was during his barren period that Bowie first met another future superstar, who, like him, had yet to find fame. That man was the Zanzibar-born Farrokh Bulsara, whom the world would later know as Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the seminal rock band Queen.

Crossed paths and a cantankerous partnership

Per Rolling Stone, in the late 1960s, Bowie was booked to perform a lunchtime gig at Ealing College, which Mercury attended. Mercury was "fascinated" by the singer, and assisted him in building a makeshift stage. Later, after the success of "Space Oddity," their paths crossed again, this time with Mercury, who worked as an assistant on a market stall, selling Bowie a pair of vintage boots.

The pair would finally become reacquainted as musical equals in 1981, the year Bowie and Queen made their joint single, "Under Pressure." According to Biography, Bowie met with Queen in Montreux, Switzerland, where the band had a studio and Bowie a nearby home. "Under Pressure" emerged from sessions the two acts undertook as "a way to get to know each other," according to what Queen guitarist Brian May wrote for the Daily Mirror. The result was a worldwide smash, reaching No. 1 in the U.S. and in the U.K.

But the atmosphere of the sessions lived up to the song's title. Per Biography, Bowie often took the lead in the collaboration, insisting on vocal improvisations and asking the band to back off from the composition when it came to writing lyrics. Bowie's approach created a lot of tension in a studio full of big personalities, especially in the case of Freddie Mercury. May told Mojo Magazine (via Biography), "Freddie and David locked horns, without a doubt ... But that's when the sparks fly and that's why it turned out so great."