David Bowie’s Classic Album ‘Diamonds Dogs,’ Featuring “Rebel Rebel,” Was Released 50 Years Ago

David Bowie released his memorable studio album Diamond Dogs 50 years ago, on May 24, 1974. The 11-track collection was the glam-rock legend’s first studio effort of original tunes recorded after he disbanded his backing group The Spiders from Mars.

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Without the services of Spiders from Mars guitar whiz Mick Ronson, Bowie handled lead guitar throughout most of Diamond Dogs. Bowie’s classic song “Rebel Rebel” was issued as an advance single from the album in February 1974, and peaked at No. 5 on the U.K. chart. It only reached No. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100, though.

[RELATED: As Diamond Dogs Turns 50, the Meaning Behind “Rebel Rebel” by David Bowie]

At the time he wrote and recorded the songs for Diamond Dogs, Bowie had been planning multiple projects that didn’t come to fruition. They included a musical based on his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and an adaptation of George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Bowie had to drop his plans for a Nineteen Eighty-Four project after Orwell’s widow refused him permission to use the book.

Two news songs written for the aborted Ziggy Stardust musical, “Rebel Rebel” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll with Me,” made it onto Diamond Dogs. The tunes “1984” and “Big Brother,” which had been intended for the Orwell project, also are featured on the album.

After Bowie was denied the rights to Nineteen Eighty-Four, he decided to try to put together a concept album about an urban apocalypse based on the writings of William S. Burroughs. Although this project also wasn’t completed, it did yield the song “Diamond Dogs.”

More About the Making of the Album

Bowie produced Diamond Dogs himself, after working with Ken Scott on his previous four albums. It also marked the return of Tony Visconti, who helped mix the album and arranged the soul-inspired strings on “1984.” Visconti had last collaborated with Bowie on the 1970 album The Man Who Sold the World, which he produced. Visconti continued to work with Bowie on and off for the rest of David’s life.

The musicians who contributed to Diamond Dogs included Spiders from Mars touring piano player Mike Garson, bassist Herbie Flowers, and drummers Tony Newman and Aynsley Dunbar. Dunbar who also had played on Pin Ups, went on to join Journey and then the Jefferson Starship.

Diamond Dogs’ Chart Achievements

Diamond Dogs topped the U.K. albums chart for four weeks starting in June 1974. It was Bowie’s third consecutive album to reach No. 1 in the U.K., after Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups, both in 1973. Diamond Dogs also peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, making it Bowie’s highest-charting U.S. album at the time.

The album’s title track also was released as a single in the U.K. It reached No. 21 on the chart.

Diamond Dogs Album Cover

The album featured a striking painting by Guy Peellaert, depicting the Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie as half man, half dog. In the painting, Bowie’s lower torso is that of a Great Dane, and can be seen on the back cover. The original painting showed the dog’s genitalia, but RCA Records censored the image after only a few copies were pressed with the original version.

Diamond Dogs Signaled Bowie’s Move Away from Glam Rock

Diamond Dogs is considered a transitional album for Bowie, as he would soon move away from the glam-rock sound featured on his several most-recent albums. Bowie’s next album, Young Americans (1975), found the artist embracing American soul music.

Diamond Dogs Track List:

Side One

  1. “Future Legend”
  2. “Diamond Dogs”
  3. “Sweet Thing”
  4. “Candidate”
  5. “Sweet Thing (Reprise)”
  6. “Rebel Rebel”

Side Two

  1. “Rock ‘n’ Roll with Me”
  2. “We Are the Dead”
  3. “1984”
  4. “Big Brother”
  5. “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family”

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