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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 through RCA Records. The last album of his that can be classified as Glam Rock, it is a Concept Album born from the ashes of proposed musical adaptations of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Nineteen Eighty-Four; Bowie could not get the rights to the latter.

The album is set in a post-apocalyptic environment called "Hunger City", based on the works of William S. Burroughs, where the remnants of humanity scrounge their way into as much decadence that can be enjoyed in the dying days of mankind. Keeping in line with its starting point, the album makes frequent references to George Orwell's novel, orienting its themes and plot points around Apunkalypse settings and characters. Fitting this darker direction, the album reunited Bowie with collaborator Tony Visconti, who he had last worked with on the similarly gothic The Man Who Sold the World four years prior; Visconti provided string arrangements and mixing work here. Barring the Harry Maslin-produced Station to Station, Bowie and Visconti would continue to collaborate until 1982, when they fell out again over Bowie's decision to have Let's Dance produced by Nile Rodgers without informing Visconti.

Sound-wise, the album continues the theatrical glam rock style of Bowie's prior records, but incorporates a greater amount of funk and Rhythm and Blues elements, influenced by a longtime affinity for black musical styles that extended to Bowie's childhood. As such, this album was the prelude to Bowie's abandonment of glam rock and the beginning of his "plastic soul" period, which would galvanize on Young Americans and Station to Station 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.

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.

Diamond Dogs topped the charts in the UK and Canada and peaked 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.

The album was supported by three singles: "Rebel Rebel", the Title Track, and "1984" (the latter exclusive to the US and Japan).


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 (US 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.
  • Ambiguous Gender: "Rebel Rebel"
    You got your mother in a whirl
    She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl
  • 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".
  • The Apunkalypse: Hunger City is a veritable post-apocalyptic Crapsack World littered with flashy ne'er-do-'ells.
  • Beast Man: The Diamond Dogs are man-dog hybrids.
  • Big Brother Is Watching You: The album is inspired by Nineteen Eighty-Four, 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".
  • Boléro Effect: "Candidate" grows increasingly loud, fast-paced, and frantic throughout its runtime.
  • 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 invoked leave in, and the effect was replicated in later live performances.
  • Concept Album: The album tells the story of a dystopian future influenced by the works of George Orwell and William S. Burroughs.
  • 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.
  • Digital Destruction: The original European CD release by RCA Records is unusually and noticeably bass-boosted compared to all other versions of the album, resulting in a sound often described as dark and muddy. Of note is that this is the only instance where a European RCA Bowie CD has more issues than its American counterpart; other Bowie albums in the series either have more issues on American discs, have more issues with one manufacturer than another in the same region, or are negligible in difference.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mentioned in "Candidate". Overlaps with Suicide Pact.
    We'll buy some drugs and watch a band
    And jump in the river holding hands
  • Either/Or Title: Various releases by RCA Records (mostly in the UK) add the subtitle "Bewitched" to "Future Legend", referring to the droning backing track that underscores Bowie's monologue. The Rykodisc reissue would standardize the version of the title without "Bewitched" appended to it.
  • 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. The European RCA CD and the 2008 compilation album iSelect even sequenced the three as one track.
  • 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 also hard-cuts into "Rebel Rebel", 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.
  • Glam Rock: Diamond Dogs was Bowie's last album in the genre, returning to the harder sound of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars while incorporating soul and funk influences. Bowie would ditch glam rock altogether following this album's supporting tour, barring a one-off collaboration with Queen on "Under Pressure".
  • Gratuitous French: "Candidate"
    Someone scrawled on the wall: "I smell the blood of les tricoteuses"note 
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Bowie is drawn as a half-dog, half-human on the album cover.
  • 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 Nineteen Eighty-Four. Three tracks, "We Are the Dead", "1984", and "Big Brother", refer to it directly, while "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" is an auditory rendition of the Two Minute's Hate. 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.
  • Longest Song Goes First: An "intro + longest song" variant, following up the minute-long "Future Legend" with the nearly six-minute Title Track.
  • 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
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Future Legend" (and by extent, the album) opens with Bowie howling like a dog, after which the instruments kick in.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "1984" is a catchy disco song about George Orwell's nightmarish vision of a totalitarian future.
  • 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.
  • Post-Apocalyptic Dog: Invoked in a metaphorical sense with the titular Diamond Dogs. The Title Track heavily implies that they're a group of thugs who cause mayhem throughout Hunger City, scavenging for lonely, vulnerable people that they can attack like feral dogs.
  • 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:
    • The album version of "Rebel Rebel" was remixed from the earlier single release. In turn, Bowie remixed it further for the American edition of the single, radically changing it into a fast-paced and campy Psychedelic Rock song. RCA Records quickly recalled this version, exporting the UK single version in its place, but it would become the basis for live performances on the album's supporting tour, as captured on David Live.
    • In 2003, a re-recording of "Rebel Rebel" was mashed up with "Never Get Old" from Reality, with the result being released as a single as "Rebel Never Gets Old".
  • Re-Cut:
    • 8-track releases of the album change the running order to conform to a four-program format:
      • On the UK release, the running order is changed to "Future Legend", "Diamond Dogs", "We Are the Dead", "Rock 'n' Roll With Me", "Big Brother"/"Chant of the Ever-Circling Skeletal Family", "1984", "Sweet Thing"/"Candidate"/"Sweet Thing (Reprise)", and "Rebel Rebel". "We Are the Dead", "Big Brother", and "Candidate" are also split into two parts each thanks to them overlapping with the changeover between programs.
      • On the US release, "Rebel Rebel" swaps places with "Big Brother"/"Chant of the Ever-Circling Skeletal Family", and "1984" is moved to before "Rock 'n' Roll With Me". Likewise, "Sweet Thing" and "Big Brother" are split into two parts.
    • Initial cassette releases alter the running order to even out the lengths of the two sides. On the UK release, "Sweet Thing"/"Candidate"/"Sweet Thing (Reprise)" and "Rebel Rebel" are moved to the end of side two, with the tracks after them accordingly being pushed up. The US release, meanwhile, simply swaps "Rebel Rebel" and "1984". The Rykodisc and EMI cassette releases restore the original running order.
  • 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 most releases prior to the 1990 remaster.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Halfway through "Future Legend", Rodgers & Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" can be heard. Accordingly, the track's instrumental backing is officially named "Bewitched".
    • "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 Nineteen Eighty-Four. ("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", "Candidate", and "Sweet Thing (Reprise)" all flow into each other and were performed live as a single suite. The European RCA CD and the 2008 compilation iSelect further hammer in the unity of the three by sequencing them as one 8:47 track.
    • "1984", "Big Brother", and "Chant of the Ever-Circling Skeletal Family" are thematically related and directly follow one another on the album. The latter two also flow into one another, which the European RCA CD accentuates by sequencing them as one song.
  • Stylistic Suck: The vocal part on the Title Track is intentionally manipulated to sound discomfortingly warbly, replicating the effect of a very flutter-heavy tape machine.
  • 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.)