Rebel Rebel (3:09)

Cover of The Best of David Bowie 1969-74

From The Best of David Bowie 1969-74 and 63 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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Albums featuring this track (64)

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  • coanta

    i like this!

    Yesterday 4:41am Reply
  • theironictea

    Absolutely legendary riff!

    19 May 7:34pm Reply
  • CidaDuarteF

    Great! Thanks Mihail!!!!!!!!

    19 May 1:42pm Reply
  • marjo47


    31 Mar 2:04pm Reply
  • Konijn22

    Hot tramp , I love you so <3 [3] You're torn your dress!

    22 Mar 12:13am Reply
  • HayleighRayment

    i know a person who wears girls coki

    10 Jan 7:59pm Reply
  • Angel_Blue-

    "Reality version's better? Or am I going mad?" I think you're fine, I love that version too xD

    16 Dec 2014 Reply
  • radio_face


    6 Nov 2014 Reply
  • zmatster

    dat riff!

    23 Oct 2014 Reply
  • riverliffey

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

    17 Oct 2014 Reply
  • Gauchowater

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

    27 Aug 2014 Reply
  • theironictea

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

    10 Jul 2014 Reply
  • Alex_Darkness

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

    9 Jul 2014 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 2014 Reply
  • malecool

    How good do you want it ? Bowie genius.

    13 May 2014 Reply
  • Ingenuity

    best riff ever?

    13 May 2014 Reply
  • Dashmag

    Hot tramp , I love you so <3

    29 Mar 2014 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.

    15 Mar 2014 Reply
  • kiteo

    Easy mistake to make...

    20 Dec 2013 Reply
  • Lesbearto

    A riff even Neil Young could bow down to.

    19 Dec 2013 Reply
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