Rebel Rebel (3:09)

Cover of The Best Of David Bowie 1969-74

From The Best Of David Bowie 1969-74 and 55 other releases

“Rebel Rebel” is a song by David Bowie, released in 1974 as a single and on the album Diamond Dogs. A different version was recorded for US single release, featuring a funkier backing and looped backing vocals. Cited as his most-covered track, it was effectively Bowie’s farewell to the glam movement that had made him a star.

Music and lyrics

Originally written for a mooted Ziggy Stardust musical in late 1973, “Rebel Rebel” was Bowie’s last single in the glam rock style that had been his trademark. It was also his first hit since 1969 not to feature lead guitarist Mick Ronson; Bowie himself played guitar on this and almost all other tracks from Diamond Dogs, producing what NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray called “a rocking dirty noise that owed as much to Keith Richards as it did to the departed Ronno”.

The song is notable for its gender-bending lyrics (“You got your mother in a whirl / She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl”) as well as its distinctive riff, which rock journalist Kris Needs has described as “a classic stick-in-the-head like the Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’”. Bowie himself later said, “It’s a fabulous riff! Just fabulous! When I stumbled onto it, it was ‘Oh, thank you!’”

Transsexual rock artist and former Bowie associate Jayne County claims that “Rebel Rebel” was based in part on County’s own song “Queenage Baby”, which was recorded in January of 1974 by Bowie’s Mainman Records, but not released at the time. The song later surfaced on the independent 2006 release Wayne County at the Trucks, and some critics, upon hearing the track, echoed County’s claims.

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  • zmatster

    dat riff!

    23 Oct 8:19pm Reply
  • riverliffey

    I never realized until now, how much this reminds me of the Stones!

    17 Oct 4:32pm Reply
  • Gauchowater

    Hot tramp , I love you so <3 [2]

    27 Aug 3:01am Reply
  • theironictea

    Reality version's better? Or am I going mad?

    10 Jul 8:12pm Reply
  • Alex_Darkness

    Version from "Reality" is so clock-work and drive

    9 Jul 7:00pm Reply
  • YoQueSe666

    This simple, but spirited glam anthem features Ziggy Stardust on guitar instead of his usual lead axe man, Mick Ronson. The end result is a dirty rockin’ good time built around an inescapable riff. With an almost earworm-like quality, the song’s guitar parts drive the melody along. As his goodbye to the glam rock movement, it’s also known for its lyrics, which are as sexually ambiguous as Bowie himself. -- watchmojo

    3 Jul 3:40pm Reply
  • malecool

    How good do you want it ? Bowie genius.

    13 May 8:50pm Reply
  • Ingenuity

    best riff ever?

    13 May 4:18am Reply
  • Dashmag

    Hot tramp , I love you so <3

    29 Mar 8:01pm Reply
  • silversurfer250

    This song is about a boy who rebels against his parents by wearing makeup and tacky women's clothes. It was a defining song of the "Glam Rock" era. Characterized by feminine clothes and outrageous stage shows, Glam was big in England in the early '70s. Bowie had the most mainstream success of the Glam Rockers. http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1726

    15 Mar 2:11pm Reply
  • kiteo

    Easy mistake to make...

    20 Dec 2013 Reply
  • Lesbearto

    A riff even Neil Young could bow down to.

    19 Dec 2013 Reply
  • ericshep

    I knew a girl named rebel, she was a little bitch! this song however is great!

    25 Oct 2013 Reply
  • Taiteki

    <3 I can't help wanting that rebel girl.

    17 Sep 2013 Reply
  • Nochek

    lOve.

    15 Aug 2013 Reply
  • yagood

    dat riff

    24 Jul 2013 Reply
  • Tom_Pullings

    What Khryxtina said. One great track too!

    19 Jun 2013 Reply
  • phoenixdbp

    classic bowie

    27 Apr 2013 Reply
  • brunocanales

    fucking awesome

    23 Mar 2013 Reply
  • XDRory

    FUCKING TUNE.

    22 Mar 2013 Reply
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