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Music / Diamond Dogs

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"This ain't rock 'n' roll: This is genocide!"

"And in the death, as the last few corpses lay
Rotting on the slimy thoroughfare
The shutters lifted in inches
In temperance building high on poacher's hill
And red mutant eyes gaze down on hunger city
No more big wheels

Fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats
And ten thousand peoploids split into small tribes
Coveting the highest of the sterile skyscrapers
Like packs of dogs assaulting the glass fronts of love-me avenue
Ripping and re-wrapping mink and shiny silver fox, now leg-warmers
Family badge of sapphire and cracked emerald, any day now
The year of the diamond dogs"
— "Future Legend"

Diamond Dogs is the eighth studio album by David Bowie, released in 1974. The last album of his that can be classified as Glam Rock and a Concept Album born from the ashes of a proposed musical adaptation of 1984 (Bowie could not get the rights to the novel), it is set in a post-apocalyptic environment called "Hunger City", where the remnants of humanity scrounge their way into as much decadence that can be enjoyed in the dying days of mankind.

The album cover was created by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert, who also did the album art for The Rolling Stones' It's Only Rock 'N' Roll the same year and would later design the film poster for Taxi Driver.

Unlike the rapturous acclaim of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and the overall positive response towards Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs would see much more mixed reactions from critics, who argued that the album lacked the cohesiveness of its predecessors; critical response would remain as such as the decades went on, though fans tend to view the album in a much better light, ranking it as one of Bowie's best albums. Still, NME would rank the album at No. 447 on its 2012 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and enough other critics praised it over the years for Acclaimed Music to list the album at No. 1112 on the 2020 edition of its dynamic list of the 3000 most critically lauded albums.


Despite the ambivalent critical response, the album's commercial performance was quite strong, topping the charts in the UK and Canada and peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, going on to become the sixth best-selling album of 1974 in the UK and being certified gold in the UK, the US, France, and Sweden. The album's performance in America was particularly notable given the more modest sales of its predecessors, and would pave the way for Bowie's American breakthrough with Young Americans the following year.

Diamond Dogs was supported by three singles: "Rebel Rebel", the Title Track, and "1984". The album was also supported by a lengthy North American tour (designed to bolster Bowie's overseas popularity beyond "cult hit" status) filled with elaborate, theatrically-inspired stage designs, props, and even animatronics, among other things including a sequence where Bowie floats above the audience in a cherry picker while singing "Space Oddity". However, due to the tour suffering from constant technical problems, Bowie dropped the whole thing altogether after the first leg and shifted focus to a more subdued and minmalist design for the rest of the tour, bringing in additional influences from the African-American music that initially inspired him to get into rock in the first place.


In hindsight, it's generally agreed that this was the prelude to Bowie's abandonment of glam rock and the beginning of his "plastic soul" period, which would galvanize on his next two albums and have a lasting impact on the remainder of his career. Though that's not to say Bowie completely left his bombastic and theatrical glam era to rot in the gutter; he would still maintain an air of theatricality in live performances, and would use the Diamond Dogs tour as the basis for his similarly elaborate Glass Spider tour in 1987.


Side One

  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)

Side Two

  1. "Rock 'n' Roll with Me" (4:00)
  2. "We Are the Dead" (4:58)
  3. "1984" (3:27)
  4. "Big Brother" (3:21)
  5. "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" (2:00)

Tracklist (2004 Bonus Disc):

  1. "1984/Dodo"
  2. "Rebel Rebel (Single Version)"
  3. "Dodo"
  4. "Growin' Up"
  5. "Candidate (Demo)"
  6. "Diamond Dogs (Alternate Version)"
  7. "Candidate (Remix)"
  8. "Rebel Rebel (Remix)"

They call them the Diamond Tropes:

  • After the End: The album is a post-apocalyptic Concept Album.
  • Album Intro Track: Has an Opening Narration on the first track, "Future Legend", which establishes the Crapsack World setting of the album.
  • Album Title Drop:
    Young girl, they call them the Diamond Dogs.
  • Alliterative Title: "Diamond Dogs", "Rebel Rebel", "Big Brother" and "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family".
  • Alter-Ego Acting: "Halloween Jack", who is only mentioned in the title track, isn't generally regarded as a true Bowie alter ego in the vein of Ziggy Stardust or The Thin White Duke, but is frequently interpreted as being the character he played on the North American tour done to support the album.
  • Animorphism: In "Future Legend" Bowie describes "fleas the size of rats" and "rats the size of cats", and compares the humanoid inhabitants to "packs of dogs".
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Bowie is drawn as a half-dog, half-human on the album cover.
  • The Apunkalypse: Hunger City is a veritable post-apocalyptic Crapsack World.
  • Beast Man: The Diamond Dogs are man-dog hybrids.
  • Big Brother Is Watching You: The album is inspired by 1984, with "We Are the Dead", "1984", and "Big Brother" directly referencing it.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: A post-apocalyptic New York City is described. Halloween Jack, according to the title track, "lives on top of Manhattan Chase".
  • Bowdlerise: The Bowie-dog's penis on the album cover was airbrushed from the original printings.
  • Broken Record: The end of "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family", which closes out the album. It was a technical gaffe that Bowie liked enough to leave in, and the effect was replicated in later live performances.
  • Concept Album: The album tells the story of a dystopian future.
  • Contemptible Cover: The original cover had to be airbrushed around Bowie's crotch era to remove male dog genitalia.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover was designed by Belgian painter Guy Peellaert, who also did the cover of It's Only Rock 'N' Roll by The Rolling Stones around the same time.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    We'll buy some drugs and watch old bands
    And jump in the river holding hands
  • Epic Rocking:
    • The Title Track is the longest song on the album at six minutes long.
    • The "Sweet Thing"/"Candidate"/"Sweet Thing (reprise)" trifecta are often considered a single 8:50 song, and were usually performed that way live.
  • Face on the Cover: Bowie drawn as a hybrid man-dog on the album's cover art.
  • Fading into the Next Song: The "Sweet Thing"/"Candidate"/"Sweet Thing" (reprise) sequence (which actually fades into "Rebel Rebel" as well), plus "Future Legend" into "Diamond Dogs" and "Big Brother" into "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family".
  • Funk Rock: "1984" is funk-influenced, unusual given that the rest of the album is straight Glam Rock; in hindsight, the song's embrace of the genre was more or less a premonition of the sound Bowie would embrace on Young Americans and Station to Station.
  • Gender Bender: "Rebel Rebel"
    You got your mother in a whirl
    She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl
  • Gratuitous French: "Candidate"
    Someone scrawled on the wall: "I smell the blood of les tricoteusesnote 
  • Heavy Meta: "Rock 'n' Roll with Me"
    When you rock 'n' roll with me
    No one else I'd rather be
    Nobody here can do it for me
    I'm in tears again
    When you rock 'n' roll with me
  • Homage: The album was inspired by George Orwell's 1984. Three tracks, "We Are the Dead", "1984", and "Big Brother", refer to it directly. Indeed, Bowie originally intended them and other songs for a musical based on the novel, but Orwell's estate wouldn't give him the rights.
  • Last-Name Basis: The front cover just credits the album to BOWIE and the labels for the original vinyl release (and its accompanying singles) followed suit.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" ends with what sounds like a locked groove, though, even on the vinyl version, it wasn't.
  • Long Title: The title of "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" is seven words long, resulting in it having the longest title on the album.
  • Looped Lyrics: "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" is simply the below lyrics repeated six times. A seventh time is attempted, but cuts instead to Broken Record.
    Shake it up, shake it up
    Move it up, move it up
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Bowie is posed naked on the cover, though with the body of a dog.
  • Mood Whiplash: "Rebel Rebel" is much more upbeat than the other songs here, serving as a Breather Episode of sorts.
  • Musical Pastiche: "1984" is inspired by the theme from Shaft.
  • New Sound Album: The album as a whole is still in Bowie's Glam Rock style, but "1984" and "Rock 'n' Roll with Me" provide a foretaste of the R&B and soul-influenced direction Bowie would take on Young Americans. There is also some audible Progressive Rock influence on the "Sweet Thing"/"Candidate"/"Sweet Thing (reprise)" suite and the odd rhythms of the closing track, "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family".
  • One-Word Title: The title of "Candidate" consists of only a single word, with only the title of "1984" being shorter.
  • Precision F-Strike: "We Are the Dead" has a subtle one:
    "Locator for the virgin King, but I love you in your fuck-me pumps"
  • Pun-Based Title: "Rebel Rebel" sounds as if the same word is repeated twice, but it's actually meant as an order addressed to a rebel. The first "rebel" is a noun in that regard and the second a verb.
  • Rearrange the Song: In 2003, "Rebel Rebel" was remixed with "Never Get Old" from Reality and released as a single as "Rebel Never Gets Old"
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Candidate" could be considered this as it starts with the "candidate" propositioning the client and finishes with the same person claiming they can commit suicide together. His voice even starts off quite smooth and suave, becoming more high-pitched and rushed as the song progresses.
  • Sexy Packaging: The album cover shows a painting depicting a Bowie and two women, all of whom are depicted as dog/man hybrids. One provocative detail on the cover was a set of visible genitals on the dog half of Bowie, which was airbrushed out on some of the copies.
  • Shout-Out
    • Halfway through "Future Legend", Rodgers & Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" can be heard.
    • "Diamond Dogs" references Tod Browning's Freaks and Salvador Dalí:
      With your silicone hump and your ten inch stump
      Dressed like a priest you was
      Tod Browning's freak you was
      Her face is sans feature, but she wears a Dali brooch
    • "We Are the Dead", "1984", and "Big Brother" refer to 1984. ("We Are the Dead" is a direct quote from the novel, used when the Thought Police capture Winston and Julia).
    • "Candidate" mentions Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali) and Charles Manson. The demo version has a reference to the Grateful Dead.
    • "1984" references Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin':
      The times they are a-telling
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Sweet Thing", which has a reprise later on the album. "1984" and "Big Brother" are thematically related and follow right after one another on the track-list.
  • Stylistic Suck: The vocal parts on the Title Track is intentionally manipulated to sound discomforting warbly, replicating the effect of a very flutter-heavy tape machine.
  • Suicide Pact: "Candidate":
    We'll buy some drugs and watch a band
    And jump in the river holding hands!
  • Uncommon Time: "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" switches irregularly between 5/4 and 6/4 or between 2/4 and 3/4, depending upon you count it. (The pattern seems to be two bars of 5/4, one bar of 6/4, one bar of 5/4, and two bars of 6/4 before the whole cycle repeats, though it's very disorienting.)


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