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08 May 2010 @ 12:18 am
Midnight Music Double Feature: PRESSURE  
Whenever I hear one of these songs, I think of the other.

They were both released in 1982, the year I graduated high school.

Says something about the zeitgeist, doesn't it?

Billy Joel
from the 1982 album
The Nylon Curtain

You have to learn to pace yourself
You're just like everybody else
You've only had to run so far
So good
But you will come to a place
Where the only thing you feel
Are loaded guns in your face
And you'll have to deal with

You used to call me paranoid
But even you can not avoid
You turned the tap dance into your crusade
Now here you are with your faith
And your Peter Pan advice
You have no scars on your face
And you cannot handle

All grown up and no place to go
Psych 1, Psych 2
What do you know?
All your life is Channel 13
Sesame Street
What does it mean?

Don't ask for help
You're all alone
You'll have to answer
To your own
I'm sure you'll have some cosmic rationale
But here you are in the ninth
Two men out and three men on
Nowhere to look but inside
Where we all respond to

All your life is Time Magazine
I read it too
What does it mean?
I'm sure you'll have some cosmic rationale
But here you are with your faith
And your Peter Pan advice
You have no scars on your face
And you cannot handle Pressure!

One, two, three, four

Under Pressure
David Bowie and Queen
from the 1982 album
Hot Space

Umm boom bah day
umm boom bah bay
umm bah boom bah bay day

Pressure, pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man asks for
Under Pressure
That burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

Umm bah bah bay
Umm bah bah bay
Ea day da
Ea day da
That's okay!

It's the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming, "let me out!"
Pray tomorrow takes me higher
Pressure on people
People on streets

Day day day
Umm... Buh da bah bah bah

Chippin' around
Kick my brains 'round the floor
These are the days
It never rains but it pours

Ea doe bay dup
Ea da doe bah bup
Ea doe bup
Bay lup

People on streets

Ea da dea da day

People on streets

Ea da dea da dea da dea da...

It's the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming, "let me out!"
Pray tomorrow takes me higher-higher-high...

Pressure on people
People on streets

Turned away from it all
Like a blind man
Sat on the fence but it don't work
Keep coming up with love
But it's so slashed and torn
(Why, why, whhhhhyyyy??)
Love love love love

Insanity laughs under pressure we're cracking

Can't we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can't we give love that one more chance?
Why can't we give love give love give love?
Give love give love give love give love give love

Cause love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care
For the people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way
Of caring about ourselves

This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves... under pressure
Under pressure


Joel's song is such an explosion of stress, but Bowie and Queen's, despite its similar themes, is a release. It's celebratory: yes, the world is closing in around me, but I'll see it through. It's hard to listen to it without singing along with those last few lines, as the music rises to an epiphany.

Can't we give ourselves one more chance?

I do my best ... under pressure.

I feel: optimisticoptimistic
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on May 8th, 2010 07:59 am (UTC)
I love both Pressures. The Billy Joel album, The Nylon Curtain, is amongst my favorite albums *ever*. I mean, the crazy thing about that album is that Pressure *isn't the best song on the album*. It's Billy channeling the Beatles better than the Beatles, if you ask me.

I have owned three different versions of The Nylon Curtain -- tape, CD and MP3 at this point -- and this is the first time I've seen the video. Which left me with a profound "what the fuck" feeling. It struck me as strange, given how I know every note of the song without video. It's a great song but a pretty incomprehensible video, which is sorta strange since the song is not incomprehensible.

On the other hand, Under Pressure is a fantastic song as well, albeit in a totally different vein than Billy Joel. Billy Joel is at his best when he's saying something - which means much of his work is a wasteland for me - but Queen is best when they've got no message other than, y'know, "Hey, let's have some fun with fat bottomed [insert appropriate gender here]." I do not say this to say that Joel's best is better than Queen's best. As a matter of general preference, I'd rather listen to Queen. I mean, The Nylon Curtain is a great goddamn album, but Queen's heights are really high.

I think it's interesting to compare them side by side. Joel's Pressure is a pretty dismal song about how, y'know, we've got to face this stress and strain and there's no guarantee we'll be up to it - and when we're there with guns in our face all our silly platitutes will crumble. Queen's Under Pressure is far more hopeful. So, Joel's Pressure is Daffy Duck and Queen's Under Pressure is Bugs Bunny; the first who we are, the second who we want to be.

I figure you'd like the Chuck Jones reference, to top it off. :)

For what it's worth, I suspect I'd fold right the fuck up under pressure.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on May 8th, 2010 08:04 am (UTC)
And in a video vs. video sense, I do my best work:

Your Obedient Serpent: Captain America 01athelind on May 8th, 2010 03:56 pm (UTC)
In Which The Footnotes Overwhelm the Main Body of the Comment
Wow! The Billy Joel "Pressure" video was one of the defining classics of the brief and beloved Golden Age of MTV.1 I'm glad I got to introduce you to it. It's one of the rare music videos that always comes to mind when I hear the song; the surreal, fragmented images (and the allusions to 2001: A Space Odyssey) really convey the idea that Joel's protagonist is cracking under the pressure.2

In many ways, it's much more "dreamlike" to me than works which attempt to impose a more coherent narrative on the dream process.3

I think you're dead-on about Joel being at his best when he's saying something, and Queen, when they're saying nothing. Goodness knows that "Bohemian Rhapsody"4 is six minutes of -- well, Wikipedia describes it as a "stream-of-consciousness nightmare", and that's a fair cop, I think.

That may be one reason why I always think of "Under Pressure" as a Bowie song more than a Queen song, even though it originally appeared on a Queen album. Bowie is one of those musicians who always says something, even when he's pretending to say nothing. Another reason, of course, is that Bowie's vocals totally dominate the song; the subliminal allusions to his Christmas duet with Bing Crosby may contribute to the undercurrent of redemption in "Under Pressure".

Finally ... your Daffy/Bugs allusion has just tangled up in one of our earlier conversations this week, so now I'm seeing Bugs Bunny dressed as Captain America.

1 "Hey, remember when MTV actually showed music videos?" is a joke that dates to the late '80s. All my nostalgic whining about the elusive Good Radio Station is squared or cubed about MTV's Golden Age, from '82 to '85, though MTV's biggest attraction -- background noise that could punctuate social gatherings with sporadic bouts of wonderful visuals -- is something that could be replaced by, say, a video version of Pandora.
Of course, the other thing that ended the Golden Age of Music Video was that the best music video directors moved on to direct television and movie, to the lasting benefit of those visual media.

2 Or, possibly, deconstructing himself, which can be a useful coping mechanism. If a narrative can be assembled from that video, it's that Joel's protagonist is being forced/forcing himself to review his life and his internal symbolism: it's a visualization of the inner processes of therapy. that may be why it instantly came to mind after hearing the Queen/Bowie song on the radio2.1 last night.

2.1 And that could trigger a whole post on its own, as I get metaphysical about radio's role as a synchronistic pipeline to the Collective Unconscious. Yeah, after all these years, I'm still Jung at heart.

3 Okay, so that's not all that "coherent". I just like Tom Petty as the Mad Hatter.

4 "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the defining Rock anthem for me: when it plays on the radio, you have to pull over to the side of the road and put your hand over your heart, or, at the very least, sing along, and head bang Wayne-and-Garth style during the instrumentals.

Edited at 2010-05-08 04:02 pm (UTC)
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on May 8th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)
Re: In Which The Footnotes Overwhelm the Main Body of the Comment
Yeah, it isn't real coherent, but you're right about it not coherence not being too important in a music video. It's just that I was, like, "WTF?" when I saw the video because, y'know, you listen to a song for nigh thirty years and when you see an adaptation that doesn't match what's in your head . . . well, I found it a trifle jarring. But your analysis has resonance, so it was probably just me. ;)

I wish Steve Rogers was a trifle bit more like Bugs Bunny. Civil War wouldn't have gone down like that. Cap would have been, all, "You realize, this means war." And then Iron Man would just have had to suck it.
Your Obedient Serpent: facepalmathelind on May 10th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
Re: In Which The Footnotes Overwhelm the Main Body of the Comment
I know the WTF Video Effect; you'll note I have a tendency to post live concert videos and home-grown entries that are just the songs with lyrics or album covers or nice background images. Sometimes, this is because I can't find the official video, but other times, it's because the video is completely at odds with the message I'm trying to convey.

Oh, GODS, I can't use Meat Loaf's videos at ALL.
Moral Explorernotthebuddha on May 8th, 2010 08:13 am (UTC)
thank you so much for turning me on to Gail Anne Dorsey! OMG she can sing
Your Obedient Serpent: tell it like it ISathelind on May 8th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this was my first exposure to her. I'm going to have to hunt down more of her work.
scarfman on May 8th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)

Both the same year, huh? Maybe that's why I never realized there were two till now.

M.W.Wonkasvashtar on May 8th, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
Gail Anne Dorsey does an incredible job on Freddie's part in that song. I had the pleasure of seeing Bowie and Dorsey sing this duet live three times at the Warfield.