Diamond Dogs

  1. Future Legend [1.05]

  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 [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]

Bonus tracks on 1990 reissue:

  • Dodo [2.55]

  • Candidate [5.05]

Bonus tracks on 2004 reissue:

  • 1984/Dodo [5.27]

  • Rebel Rebel (US Single Version) [2.58]

  • Dodo [2.53]

  • Growin' Up [3.23]

  • Alternative Candidate [5.05]

  • Diamond Dogs (K-Tel Best Of Edit) [4.37]

  • Candidate (Intimacy Mix) [2.57]

  • Rebel Rebel (2003 Version) [3.10]

Diamond Dogs

Released:

  • RCA Victor APLI 0576 - May 1974

  • RCA International INTS 5068 - May 1983

  • RCA International NL 83889 - March 1984

  • RCA BOPIC 5 - April 1984

  • EMI EMC 3584 - August 1990

  • EMI 7243 5219040 - September 1999

  • EMI 07243 577857 2 3 - June 2004 (30th Anniversary 2CD Edition)

Personnel:

  • David Bowie: Vocals, Guitar, Saxes, Moog, Mellotron

  • Mick Ronson: Keyboards

  • Alan Parker: Guitar on "1984"

  • Herbie Flowers: Bass

  • Tony Newman: Drums

  • Aynsley Dunbar: Drums

  • Tony Visconti: Strings

Recorded:

  • Olympic & Island Studios, London; Studio L Ludolf Machineweg 8-12, Hilversum

Producers:

  • David Bowie

At the Chateau d'Hérouville in the summer of 1973 Bowie had told a journalist that his next album would be "a musical in one act called Tragic Moments", but when he told others in the autumn that it would be called Revenge, or The Best Haircut I Ever Had, and that it would feature protest songs about "how bad the food in Harrods is these days", it was clear that he was just enjoying himself. "There were a lot of changes going on around that time," Mick Ronson later recalled. "David had all these little projects...[he] wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do." While Ronson begun work on his solo debut Slaughter On 10th Avenue, Bowie entered a period of transition. No longer able to brave the fans who regularly beat a path to the doors of Haddon Hall, he and Angela took the decision to leave Beckenham. They moved briefly into Diana Rigg's flat in Maida Vale, and thence to a five-storey Georgian terraced house in Chelsea's fashionable Oakley Street. "You can't really be rock-and-roll royalty without a rock-and-roll palace," explained Angela in her autobiography, and from their opulent new residence, the Bowies entertained Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood of the Faces, together with the Jaggers, Bianca and Mick.

 

In late October Bowie recorded a studio version of the "1984/Dodo" medley premiered in The 1980 Floor Show, marking his last work with producer Ken Scott, who departed to work on Supertramp's Crime Of The Century. Soon afterwards David embarked on sessions at Olympic Studios in Barnes, producing tracks for a planned album by The Astronettes, the three-piece group devised as a showcase for his new girlfriend, the eighteen-year-old American Ava Cherry. The Astronettes sessions at Olympic continued on and off into January, and Ava Cherry would record further tracks in America before the project was finally shelved. A compilation called People From Bad Homes (later reissued as The Astronettes Sessions) eventually appeared in 1995. Among the songs were early versions of numbers that would later surface on Young Americans, Scary Monsters and Tonight.

 

Further extra-curricular activities in the autumn and winter of 1973 included the completion of Lulu's single "The Man Who Sold The World" and a guest appearance on Steeleye Span's Now We Are Six. At around the same time, Bowie declined a request to play guitar for Adam Faith, and another to produce Queen's second album; their only collaboration would come eight years later. There were also plans to collaborate on Oktobriana: The Movie, a film adaptation of the Iron Curtain comic-book superheroine which would have starred another of David's new girlfriends, Amanda Lear. David is believed to have demoed a song with Lear called "Star" (no connection to the Ziggy Stardust number of the same name), but neither this nor the Oktobriana project would see completion.

 

Meanwhile, other forces were shaping David's career plans. On November 17th, at the instigation of Rolling Stone journalist Craig Copetas, David entertained the legendary beat poet William Burroughs at Oakley Street. The resulting double interview ("Beat Godfather Meets Glitter MainMan", published in Rolling Stone the following February) reveals a fascinating snapshot of David's intentions and aspirations as 1973 drew to a close. Fascinated by Burrough's working methods and impressed by his 1964 novel Nova Express, David now revealed that he was experimenting in the "cut-up" technique favoured by writers like Burroughs and Brion Gysin, marvelling at the "wonder-house of strange shapes and colours, tastes, feelings" it created. His immediate plans centred on the West End stage. First, he spoke of a full-scale rock musical telling the Ziggy Stardust story: "Forty scenes are in it and it would be nice if the characters and actors learned the scenes and we all shuffled them around in a hat the afternoon of the performance and just performed it as the scenes came out." Next, he revealed, almost as an aside, that "I'm doing Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four on television."

 

The exact origins of Bowie's interest in staging Orwell's novel remain a moot point. The idea had clearly been gestating for some time, with an unreleased version of "1984" recorded as early as the previous January. MainMan president and Bowie biographer Tony Zanetta later claimed that the impetus came from Tony Ingrassia, the director of Pork: "In September [1973] Defries had dispatched Tony Ingrassia to England to co-write and direct a musical production of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, one of David's favourite books. David loathed doing anything on assignment...They worked together for a few days, then David refused to get out of bed...Nonetheless, David's discussions with Ingrassia had stimulated his imagination." In November Bowie claimed to have written twenty new songs for Nineteen Eighty-Four, which would be "almost a kitchen-sink kind of thing. I shall look very different in it, and there's a lot of good music in the show. Some of it is as much as three years old. I kept a lot of songs back because I knew I wanted them for some kind of show."

 

Neither project came to fruition: the Ziggy Stardust show was rejected as a retrograde step, although two of its new songs, "Rebel Rebel" and "Rock 'n Roll With Me", were salvaged for use on the next album. At the end of 1973 George Orwell's widow, Sonia, withheld permission for the Nineteen Eighty-Four project. "Mrs Orwell refused to let us have the rights, point blank," Bowie told Circus a couple of years later. "For a person who married a socialist with communist leanings, she was the biggest upper-class snob I've ever met in my life. 'Good heavens, put it to music?' It really was like that." Not unusually for his mid-1970s period, David was embroidering the truth here - he had not, in fact, met Sonia Orwell in person - but he was far from alone in experiencing the bluntness with which she rejected every application to adapt or licence her late husband's work in the wake of a film and two television adaptations, all dating from the mid-1950s, which she had intensely disliked. It would not be until after her death in 1980 that further adaptations of Nineteen Eighty-Four became possible.

 

Undeterred, David relocated his new enthusiasms in a creation of his own: the urban wilderness of Hunger City, where his Orwellian compositions would form the basis of the dystopian post-apocalypse nightmare of Diamond Dogs. "It still implied the idea of the breakdown of a city," said Bowie in 1999, "a disaffected youth that no longer had home-unit situations, but lived as gangs on roofs and really had the city to themselves." For a time the album's working title was We Are The Dead - a key quotation from Nineteen Eighty-Four - but the work that finally emerged had moved beyond the margins of Orwell's novel. Both the fragmented lyrics and the portrait of urban America's sordid meltdown were clearly indebted to Burroughs, while the music was a four-way tussle between the receding sounds of glam, the rising influence of black soul, the synthesized nightmares of The Man Who Sold The World, and the ubiquitous rock 'n' roll swagger of Jagger. A significant innovation was the introduction of a brand new Bowie voice - "Sweet Thing" and "Big Brother" unveil the sonorous basso profundo that would become a key element in David's vocal armoury and a fundamental influence on the goth bands of the 1980s.

 

Diamond Dogs was also a product of material necessity. By the end of 1973, Tony Defries's MainMan organisation had become a colossus of extravagance: its American division now retained over twenty employees and had moved into palatial premises in New York's Park Avenue. Everything, from the Dom Perignon and the Bloomingdale's expense accounts to the custom-made gold-tipped MainMan matchsticks, was being paid for by Bowie's earnings. David, apparently heedless of what was being done with his money, was living on a monthly cash allowance and signing everything else to MainMan's credit accounts - which Defries deducted from his earnings. Meanwhile, MainMan's London office was besieged by creditors. In December 1973 the Chateau d'Hérouville began gathering affidavits in preparation for action over non-payment for the Pin Ups sessions. It was small wonder that Defries was anxious for the goose to deliver another golden egg at the earliest opportunity.

 

At the height of its excess MainMan unwittingly sowed one of the seeds of its own downfall. In the summer of 1973, the company's London office had taken on a young receptionist of French-American extraction, blessed with an impressive fluency in languages and a hard-nosed approach to business. She would shortly become David's personal assistant and all-purpose fixer, from which position she would play an instrumental role in extricating him from MainMan's clutches when the showdown finally came. Corinne Schwab, or Coco as she is known, remained as Bowie's personal assistant until he died.

 

Diamond Dogs presented Bowie with a daunting prospect: having disbanded The Spiders, for the first time in four years he would have no recourse to Mick Ronson's arrangements and instrumental prowess. It remains to this day the only album on which lead guitar is credited to Bowie himself. "I knew that the guitar playing had to be more than okay," he recalled in 1997. "That couple of months I spent putting that album together before I went into the studio was probably the only time in my life where I really buckled down to learn the stuff I needed to have on the album. I'd actually practice two hours a day." Bowie also produced the album alone, and in an initial burst of enthusiasm - or possibly megalomania - he declared he would play every instrument himself. In the event, despite taking the lion's share of the guitar work and all of the saxophone and synthesizer parts, he relented: Aynsley Dunbar and Mike Garson returned from the Pin Ups sessions, and Herbie Flowers, last heard on Space Oddity, was re-recruited on bass. Two fresh faces were drummer Tony Newman, formerly of the Jeff Beck Group, and Blue Mink's Alan Parker (previously hired by Flowers to play on the single version of "Holy Holy" as well as on Clive Dunn's alarming 1971 album Permission To Sing), who played guest guitar on "1984" and augmented Bowie's riff on "Rebel Rebel".

 

Recording, which began in December at Olympic Studios at around the same time as the Astronettes sessions, were overseen by Olympic's resident engineer Keith Harwood, whose previous credits included Led Zeppelin's Houses Of The Holy and numerous sessions with The Rolling Stones. Diamond Dogs was to be Harwood's first credit on a Bowie album, although the two had worked together 18 months earlier on Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes and the original version of "John, I'm Only Dancing". "I was kind of in awe of him," David recalled in 1993, "because he'd worked on three Stones albums, so he was really a professional rock 'n' roller. He was one of the first people who was like down-and-out rock 'n' roll. He had the greasy hair and the boots and the leather jacket. I'd been used to engineers and producers like Ken Scott, who goes home to his wife at night - tie and shirt and all that."

 

Recording proceeded at a frenetic pace. Even by comparison with the Ziggy Stardust sessions, David was now governing his colleagues' contributions like a full-blown control freak. "I just came in and played the parts and he explained some things," Mike Garson told the Gillmans. "It was more like being a session musician." Another player summoned to the studio at short notice was bassist Trevor Bolder, who received an unexpected telephone call one night and joined Bowie, Garson and Tony Newman to work on a slow acoustic number which would never see the light of day. "It was a nothing song," Bolder told Paul Trynka, "and it obviously got dumped later." This one-off encounter would prove to be Bolder's final studio session with Bowie. The pair would not meet again for several years, and the moment of their parting offered an unhappy illustration of Bowie's state of mind: while Bolder attempted twice to say goodbye, the singer sat with his back to him and said not a word. "He could be very dark," Ava Cherry recalled of David's temperament at the time of the sessions. "If he was working and you went into the room and started talking, he'd scream, 'Get out! Get out!'"

 

That Diamond Dogs is characterised by what David described as "a quality of obsession...desperate, almost panicked", can be put down to another significant development in his lifestyle at the time of the sessions. Although he later professed to have experimented with most psychoactive drugs while still in his teens, it was not until, in Angela Bowie's words, "the third quarter of 1973" that David embarked on a serious relationship with cocaine. At the time cocaine was something of a status symbol, an emblem of chic favoured by musicians for its ability to stimulate creativity. It was popularly reputed to be harmless and non-addictive, but anyone under such illusions needs only look at footage of David Bowie between 1974 and 1976, and observe the alarming decline in his articulacy, disposition and appearance. At the time of the Diamond Dogs sessions, the early symptoms were already beginning to manifest themselves.

 

Although most of the album was recorded at Olympic, there were brief trips to other venues, including Morgan Studios in Willesden, scene of the abortive session with Trevor Bolder. In the last week of December, an early attempt at "Rebel Rebel" saw David's final recording at Trident, the studio that had borne the majority of his work for the last five years. Trident's reputation as a state-of-the-art venue would wane during the late 1970s, and the studio eventually closed its doors, ironically enough, in 1984.

 

By January, Olympic Studios had followed the example of Chateau d'Hérouville and threatened to eject David unless MainMan started paying its fees. While Defries stonewalled, the sessions moved briefly to Ludolf Studios in Hilversum, where David is believed to have completed work on the title track.  While in Holland, David appeared on the television show Top Pop, miming to the debut single "Rebel Rebel" in an edition recorded on February 13th. "Rebel Rebel" was released in the same week, two months ahead of the album.

 

In addition to sundry Rolling Stones, also present at various stages during the Diamond Dogs sessions were Pete Townshend and Rod Stewart, although there is no evidence to support any of the several rumours of uncredited celebrity contributions on the album. It is known, however, that Ron Wood (still with The Faces) provided guitar on Bowie's Springsteen cover "Growin' Up" which, despite being latterly associated with Pin Ups, was in fact recorded during the Diamond Dogs sessions.

 

Experiencing difficulty at the mixing stage - a process with which he has never been confident - Bowie elected to complete the reconciliation with his former producer Tony Visconti, whom he called in to arrange the strings on "1984" and oversee the majority of the mix (the exceptions were "Rebel Rebel", "Rock 'n Roll With Me" and "We Are The Dead", which David had already mixed with Keith Harwood). The mixing of Diamond Dogs was Visconti's first project at his own custom-built studio in Hammersmith, which had only just been completed and was still entirely unfurnished. "I told David we hadn't even got any chairs in, but he said it didn't matter and the next day this big Habitat van arrived and they started unloading chairs, tables, the lot, all so he could complete the album at my place."

 

A four-track acetate sampler comprising "Future Legend", "Rebel Rebel", "Big Brother" and "Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family" was unearthed in 2006, and reveals an interesting oddity: here, "Future Legend" segues directly into "Rebel Rebel" in precisely the same way that it bleeds into "Diamond Dogs" on the finished album, via David's cry of "This ain't rock 'n' roll, this is genocide!" - perhaps suggesting that an early plan was to open the batting with "Rebel Rebel" rather than with the title track.

 

"This album again has a theme," David said in 1974. "It's a backward look at the sixties and seventies and a very political album. My protest. These days you have to be more subtle about protesting than before. You can't preach at people any more. You have to adopt a position of almost indifference. You have to be super cool nowadays. This album is more me than anything I've done previously." Later in the year, he explained that the cut-up technique, which he had used for "igniting anything that might be in my imagination", had resulted in his "finding out amazing things about me and what I'd done and where I was going...I suppose it's a very Western Tarot." One result was Bowie's new character: the louche, post-apocalypse lounge lizard Halloween Jack, "a real cool cat" who, according to the title track, "lives on top of Manhattan Chase" in the ravaged urban landscape that provided the album's environment.

 

Mike Garson found the album "macabre", remarking later that it had "a different vibe, it felt heavier, it was on the dark side," something he put down to David's overwork and drug use. "He didn't look good to me. I remember saying as a friend, 'You'd better watch out.' He was very thin, his face was drawn." Diamond Dogs is laden with the customary images of alienation, paranoia and play-acting that inhabit Bowie's work, but there is indeed a darker, nastier twist, suggesting that the fantasy world which was once so alluring has now become a prison. Where he once merely "felt like an actor" and was "hooked to the silver screen", by the time of Diamond Dogs Bowie is "locked in tomorrow's double-feature", playing "an all-night movie role" where "my set is amazing, it even smells like a street." As fantasy usurps reality and the apocalyptic omens of "Five Years" are fulfilled, there are violent images of brutalised sex, bodily mutilation, and "poisonous" journalists circling like vultures ("the streets are full of pressmen" in one song, "spreading rumours and lies and stories they made up" in another, while "tens of thousands found me in demand" in a third). The recurring image of scavengers "like packs of dogs" underlines a persistent, nihilistic negation of "tomorrow", a word that haunts the lyrics like a badge of despair. The only figure who offers comfort in the spiritual wasteland is the Orwellian "Big Brother" who arrives at the album's climax, reiterating Bowie's ongoing anxieties about leadership, surrender and faith.

 

Above all else the album is saturated with references to drug-taking, Bowie's earlier compositions had never shied away from the subject, but Diamond Dogs finds him lyrically fixated on cocaine, as though he might normalise the taboo by mentioning it at every opportunity. "Is it nice in your snowstorm, freezing your brain?" he enquires in "Sweet Thing", before bleakly concluding, "It's all I ever wanted, a street with a deal". The rest of the album grimly follows suit: "You'll be shooting up on anything, tomorrow's never there"; "Should we powder our noses?"; "Lord, I'd take an overdose"; and, most graphically of all, "We'll buy some drugs and watch a band, and jump in a river holding hands." Even the innocuous "Rebel Rebel" is equipped with "cue lines and a handful of ludes". It's worth noting that the lyrics David wrote for Mick Ronson's album at around the same time are stuffed with similar references.

 

In 1978 David described Diamond Dogs as a "very English, apocalyptic kind of view of our city life...it just coincided with the first economic disasters in New York. [There was] obvious inspirations from the Orwellian holocaust trip. It was pretty despondent." In 1991 he recalled that "The main thing was to make rock and roll absurd. It was to take anything that was serious and mock it...It seemed to be part of my manifesto at the time."

 

The original release came in a gatefold sleeve which opened to reveal a photo-montage of fog-shrouded skyscrapers alongside the lyrics of "Future Legend". The photography was by MainMan vice-president Leee Black Childers who, despite being employed as David's official photographer, was usually passed over in favour of bigger names. "I don't think David ever thought of me as a photographer," he said years later. "It wasn't even his idea to use me on Diamond Dogs. It was Tony Defries trying to save money." More notorious by far was the album's front sleeve. The Belgian artist Guy Peellaert, whose Rock Dreams had been published a year previously and the originals exhibited at Biba's in London, had been engaged by Mick Jagger to design a sleeve for the as yet unfinished It's Only Rock 'n' Roll. Unwisely given David's magpie tendencies, Jagger told Bowie about the commission. "I immediately rushed out and got Guy Peellaert to do my cover too. He never forgave me for that!" admitted David later. Jagger is supposed to have subsequently remarked that you should never wear a new pair of shoes in front of David.

 

Peellaert's Diamond Dogs painting of Bowie as a half-canine circus freak became a cause célebre when RCA elected to airbrush out an offending portion of its anatomy. A few untreated copies slipped through the net and are now highly prized by collectors: in March 2004 a copy of the pre-airbrushed sleeve was sold on eBay for a staggering US $8988.00. From 1990 onwards the original artwork was restored for the album's various reissues, which also included Peellaert's rejected design for the inner sleeve, featuring Bowie and a baying hound against a New York backdrop, with a copy of Walter Ross's novel The Immortal (whose protagonist is based on James Dean, a long-time Bowie icon and a key influence on his 1974 look) ostentatiously splayed at his feet. Both images were developed from studio pictures shot by photographer Terry O'Neill, who had hired a dog in order to photograph its hindquarters in a similar pose to Bowie's, the better to assist Peellaert with his painting. At the end of the session, O'Neill suggested that David pose for some shots with the dog, and he later recalled the moment when the hound unexpectedly struck its dramatic pose: "Bowie had the dog on a lead. It was lying down, so I tried to get the dog up. Then suddenly it leapt up. It was an awesome sight because the dog was bloody massive, a Great Dane or something. But David just sat there, cool as a cucumber. He didn't react to the dog at all. I guess he was posing immaculately. Most rock stars would jump a mile if that happened. He probably didn't even notice the dog. Which helped the picture, of course." The Diamond Dogs artwork, incidentally, would prove to be the very last appearance of the Ziggy Stardust hairstyle. In keeping with the convention established by Pin Ups, David was credited throughout the original album simply as "Bowie".

 

Diamond Dogs was released on May 31st 1974, boosted in America by a $400,000 advertising campaign that included deluxe press packs, giant billboards in Times Square and Sunset Boulevard, double-page magazine ads, subway posters proclaiming "The Year Of The Diamond Dogs", and even a specially filmed television commercial, one of the first of its kind for a pop album. Although Diamond Dogs failed to break the States decisively, its eventual chart peak at number 5 in the late summer established Bowie as an artist of some stature in America, where it was certified gold (marking the sale of a million copies) by August. In the UK advance sales took it straight to number 1, repeating the success of its predecessors.

 

In a grandiose stunt, Tony Defries refused to issue review copies of the album, instead inviting critics to a preview where they were packed into a hot MainMan office and allowed to listen to the record once through. Tape recorders were banned and no lyric sheets provided. Perhaps not surprisingly, some of the critics were unimpressed. "Most of the songs are obscure tangles of perversion, degradation, fear and self-pity," wrote Eric Emerson in Rolling Stone. "It's difficult to know what to make of them. Are they masturbatory fantasies, guilt-ridden projections, terrified premonitions, or is it all merely Alice Cooper exploitation? Unfortunately, the music exerts so little appeal that it's hard to care what it's about. And Diamond Dogs seems more like Bowie's last gasp than the world's." Emerson, who went on to describe David's guitar-playing as "cheesy" and the record as "Bowie's worst album in six years", was in the minority, however. Billboard noted that "A subtler, more aesthetic Bowie comes to the forefront here" on an album "which should reinforce his musical presence in the 70's". Rock magazine found it "a strong and effective album, and certainly the most impressive work Bowie's completed since Ziggy Stardust", suggesting that "where Aladdin Sane seemed like a series of Instamatic snapshots taken from weird angles, Diamond Dogs has the provoking quality of a thought-out painting that draws on all the deeper colours." In Britain the critics were equally pleased; Melody Maker considered the album "really good" and drew comparisons with Phil Spector's "wall of sound" production, noting that Bowie albums were now received "with as much awe as a release by The Beatles in the sixties." Sounds pronounced the album David's "most impressive work since Ziggy Stardust," while Disc likened it to "the greatly underrated The Man Who Sold The World. It's eerie, bleak, but compelling listening and undeniably brilliant. It contains some of the best music Bowie's ever written...very much Bowie's LP and without doubt the finest he's made so far."

 

With its manic alternations between power-charged garage rock and sophisticated, synthesizer-heavy apocalyptic ballads, Diamond Dogs is now widely accepted as one of Bowie's major works: the spectacular zenith of the paranoid horror themes of his early 1970s albums, a convincing vindication of his abilities as a guitarist, and a vigorous valediction to glam rock. In its finest moments, it circumvents the restrictions both of pop music and of the pejorative "concept album" label often applied to it. "A song has to take on character, shape, body and influence people to an extent that they use it for their own devices," David had told William Burroughs in the Rolling Stone interview. "The rock stars have assimilated all kinds of philosophies, styles, histories, writings, and they throw out what they have gleaned from that." In tracks like "We Are The Dead", "Big Brother" and the supreme "Sweet Thing/Candidate" sequence, Diamond Dogs achieves just this, throwing out some of the most sublime and remarkable sounds in the annals of rock music.