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Diamond Dogs is a concept album by David Bowie, originally released by RCA Records in 1974. Thematically it was a marriage of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and Bowie's own glam-tinged vision of a post-apocalyptic world. Bowie had wanted to make a theatrical production of Orwell's book and began writing material after completing sessions for his 1973 album Pin Ups, but the late author’s estate denied the rights. The songs wound up on the second half of Diamond Dogs instead where, as the titles indicate, the Nineteen Eighty-Four theme was prominent.

Production and style

Though the album was recorded and released after the 'retirement' of Ziggy Stardust in mid-1973, and featured its own lead character in Halloween Jack ("a real cool cat" who lived in the decaying "Hunger City"), Ziggy was seen to be still very much alive in Diamond Dogs, as evident from Bowie's haircut on the cover and the glam-trash style of the first single "Rebel Rebel". As was the case with some songs on Aladdin Sane, the influence of The Rolling Stones was also prevalent, particularly in the chugging title track. Elsewhere, however, Bowie had moved on from his earlier work with the epic song suite, "Sweet Thing"/"Candidate"/"Sweet Thing (Reprise)", whilst "Rock 'n' Roll With Me" and the Shaft-inspired wah-wah guitar style of "1984" provided a foretaste of Bowie's next, 'plastic soul', phase. The original vinyl album ended with the juddering refrain (actually, a tape loop) Bruh/bruh/bruh/bruh/bruh, the first syllable of "(Big) Brother", repeated incessantly.

Diamond Dogs was the first Bowie album since 1969 to not feature any of the 'Spiders From Mars', the backing band made famous by Ziggy Stardust. Instead, Herbie Flowers played bass with drums being shared between Aynsley Dunbar and Tony Newman. In a move that surprised some commentators, Bowie himself took on the lead guitar role previously held by Mick Ronson, producing what NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray described as a "scratchy, raucous, semi-amateurish sound that gave the album much of its characteristic flavour". Diamond Dogs was also a milestone in Bowie's career as it reunited him with Tony Visconti, who provided string arrangements and helped mix the album at his own Good Earth Studios in London, on a Trident B-Range console. Visconti would go on to co-produce much of Bowie's work for the rest of the decade.


The cover art features Bowie as a striking half-man, half-dog grotesque painted by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert. It was controversial as the full painting clearly showed the hybrid’s genitalia. Very few copies of this original cover made their way into circulation at the time of the album's release. According to the record-collector publication Goldmine price guides, these albums have been among the most expensive record collectibles of all time, as high as thousands of US dollars for a single copy. The genitalia were quickly airbrushed out for the 1974 LP’s gatefold sleeve, although the original artwork (and another rejected cover featuring Bowie in a cordobes hat holding onto a ravenous dog, an image captured by Terry O'Neill) was included in subsequent Rykodisc/EMI re-issues.

Release and aftermath

The record was Bowie's glam swansong; according to author David Buckley, "In the sort of move which would come to define his career, Bowie jumped the glam-rock ship just in time, before it drifted into a blank parody of itself". At the time of its release Bowie described Diamond Dogs as "a very political album. My protest ... more me than anything I've done previously". Disc magazine compared the album to The Man Who Sold the World (1970), while Rock and Sounds both described it as his "most impressive work ... since Ziggy Stardust". It made #1 in the UK charts and #5 in the US (where the song "Rebel Rebel" proved popular), Bowie's highest stateside placing to that date.

Diamond Dogs' raw guitar style and visions of urban chaos, scavenging children and nihilistic lovers ("We'll buy some drugs and watch a band / And jump in the river holding hands") have been credited with anticipating the punk revolution that would take place in the following years. Bowie himself has described the Diamond Dogs, introduced in the title song, as: "all little Johnny Rottens and Sid Viciouses really. And, in my mind, there was no means of transport, so they were all rolling around on these roller-skates with huge wheels on them, and they squeaked because they hadn't been oiled properly. So there were these gangs of squeaking, roller-skating, vicious hoods, with Bowie knives and furs on, and they were all skinny because they hadn't eaten enough, and they all had funny-coloured hair. In a way it was a precursor to the punk thing."

Bowie played all of the album's songs except "We Are the Dead" on his 1974 US tour (recorded and released as David Live). "Rebel Rebel" has featured on almost every Bowie tour since, "Diamond Dogs" was performed for the 1976 Station to Station and 1995-96 Outside tours, and "Big Brother/Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" was resurrected for the 1987 Glass Spider Tour.

Track listing

All songs written by David Bowie except where noted.
  1. "Future Legend" – 1:05

    "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" (Richard Rodgers)
  2. "Diamond Dogs" – 5:56
  3. "Sweet Thing" – 3:39
  4. "Candidate" – 2:40
  5. "Sweet Thing (reprise)" – 2:31
  6. "Rebel Rebel" – 4:30
  7. "Rock 'n' Roll with Me" (lyrics by David Bowie; music by Bowie, Warren Peace) – 4:00
  8. "We Are the Dead" – 4:58
  9. "1984" – 3:27
  10. "Big Brother" – 3:21
  11. "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" – 2:00

Track listing note: On the original LP album release, side one comprised tracks 1-6; side two, tracks 7-11.

Bonus tracks (1990 Rykodisc/EMI)

All songs written by David Bowie.
  1. "Dodo" (recorded 1973, previously unreleased) – 2:53
  2. "Candidate" (demo version, recorded 1973, previously unreleased) – 5:09

Compact disc releases

Diamond Dogs was first released on CD by RCA in 1985 with censored cover art. The German (for the European market) and Japanese (for the U.S. market) masters were sourced from different tapes and are not identical for each region.

1990 Rykodisc/EMI

Dr. Toby Mountain at Northeastern Digital, Southborough, Massachusettsmarker, remastered Diamond Dogs from the original master tapes for Rykodisc in 1990 with two bonus tracks and the original, uncensored, artwork.

1999 EMI/Virgin

The album was remastered by Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studiosmarker without bonus material, with the same track listing as the 1985 CD release.

2004 EMI/Virgin

The third in a series of 30th Anniversary 2CD Editions, this release included a remastered version of the first disc. The second disc contained eight tracks, some of which had been previously released on CD as bonus tracks of the 1990-92 Rykodisc/EMI reissues.

Bonus CD (2004 EMI/Virgin)

All songs written by David Bowie except where noted.
  1. "1984/Dodo" (recorded 1973) – 5:29
  2. "Rebel Rebel" (from "Rebel Rebel" U.S. single A-Side, 1974) – 3:00
  3. "Dodo" (also known as "You Didn't Hear It from Me", recorded 1973) – 2:53
  4. "Growin' Up" (Bruce Springsteen) (recorded 1973) – 2:25
  5. "Alternative Candidate" (demo version, recorded 1974) – 5:09
  6. "Diamond Dogs" (K-Tel Best of Bowie edit, 1980) – 4:41
  7. "Candidate" (Intimacy mix, 2001) – 2:58
  8. "Rebel Rebel" (2003 mix) – 3:09




Year Chart Position
1974 UK Albums Chart 1
1974 Billboard Pop Albums 5
1974 Norwegian album chart 8
1974 Australian Kent Report album Charts 3


Year Single Chart Position
1974 "Rebel Rebel" UK Singles Chart 5
1974 "Rebel Rebel" Billboard Pop Singles 64
1974 "Rebel Rebel" Norway's single chart 9
1974 "Diamond Dogs" UK Singles Chart 21


Organization Level Date
RIAA – USA Gold July 26 1974


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