Diamond Dogs is the eighth studio album by the English musician David Bowie, released on 24 May 1974 by RCA Records. Thematically, it was a marriage of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and Bowie's own glam-tinged vision of a post-apocalyptic world. Bowie had wanted to make a theatrical production of Orwell's book and began writing material after completing sessions for his 1973 album Pin Ups, but the author's estate denied the rights. The songs wound up on the second half of Diamond Dogs instead where, as the titles indicated, the Nineteen Eighty-Four theme was prominent. The album is ranked number 995 in All-Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd. edition, 2000) and number 447 in NME's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Though the album was recorded and released after the 'retirement' of Ziggy Stardust in mid-1973, and featured its own lead character in Halloween Jack ("a real cool cat" who lives in the decaying "Hunger City"), Ziggy was seen to be still very much alive in Diamond Dogs, as evident from Bowie's haircut on the cover and the glam-trash style of the first single "Rebel Rebel". As was the case with some songs on Aladdin Sane, the influence of the Rolling Stones was also evident, particularly in the chugging title-track. Elsewhere, however, Bowie had moved on from his earlier work with the epic song suite, "Sweet Thing"/"Candidate"/"Sweet Thing (Reprise)", whilst "Rock 'n' Roll with Me" and the Shaft-inspired wah-wah guitar style of "1984" provided a foretaste of Bowie's next, 'plastic soul', phase. The original vinyl album ended with a juddering refrain Bruh/bruh/bruh/bruh/bruh, the first syllable of "(Big) Brother", repeats incessantly. "Sweet Thing" was Bowie's first try at William S. Burroughs' cut-up style of writing, which Bowie would continue to use for the next 25 years.
Although Diamond Dogs was the first Bowie album since 1969 to not feature any of the Spiders from Mars, the backing band made famous by Ziggy Stardust, many of the arrangements were already worked out and played on tour with Mick Ronson prior to the studio recordings, including "1984" and "Rebel Rebel". In the studio, however, Herbie Flowers played bass with drums being shared between Aynsley Dunbar and Tony Newman. In a move that surprised some commentators, Bowie himself took on the lead guitar role previously held by Ronson, producing what NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray described as a "scratchy, raucous, semi-amateurish sound that gave the album much of its characteristic flavour". Diamond Dogs was also a milestone in Bowie's career as it reunited him with Tony Visconti, who provided string arrangements and helped mix the album at his own studio in London. Visconti would go on to co-produce much of Bowie's work for the rest of the decade.
The cover artwork features Bowie as a striking half-man, half-dog grotesque painted by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert, based on photographs of Bowie by Terry O'Neill. It was controversial as the full image on the gatefold cover showed the hybrid's genitalia. Very few copies of this original cover made their way into circulation at the time of the album's release. According to the record-collector publication Goldmine price guides, these albums have been among the most expensive record collectibles of all time, as high as thousands of US dollars for a single copy. The genitalia were airbrushed out from the 1974 LP's sleeve on most releases, although the original image was included on the Rykodisc/EMI rerelease of the album in 1990, and subsequent reissues have included the uncensored artwork (the 1990 packaging also resurrected a rejected inner gatefold image featuring Bowie in a sombrero cordobés holding onto a ravenous dog; like the cover, this artwork was a Guy Peellaert image based on a photograph captured by Terry O'Neill).
The record was Bowie's glam swan song; according to author David Buckley, "In the sort of move which would come to define his career, Bowie jumped the glam-rock ship just in time, before it drifted into a blank parody of itself". At the time of its release Bowie described Diamond Dogs as "a very political album. My protest … more me than anything I've done previously". Disc magazine compared the album to The Man Who Sold the World (1970), while Rock and Sounds both described it as his "most impressive work … since Ziggy Stardust". It made No. 1 in the UK charts and No. 5 in the US (where the song "Rebel Rebel" proved popular), Bowie's highest stateside placing to that date. In Canada, it was able to repeat its British chart-topping success, hitting No. 1 on the RPM 100 national albums chart in July 1974 and holding it for two weeks.
Diamond Dogs' raw guitar style and visions of urban chaos, scavenging children and nihilistic lovers ("We'll buy some drugs and watch a band / Then jump in a river holding hands") have been credited with anticipating the punk revolution that would take place in the following years. Bowie himself described the Diamond Dogs, introduced in the title song, as: "all little Johnny Rottens and Sid Viciouses really. And, in my mind, there was no means of transport, so they were all rolling around on these roller-skates with huge wheels on them, and they squeaked because they hadn't been oiled properly. So there were these gangs of squeaking, roller-skating, vicious hoods, with Bowie knives and furs on, and they were all skinny because they hadn't eaten enough, and they all had funny-coloured hair. In a way it was a precursor to the punk thing."
Bowie played all of the album's songs except "We Are the Dead" on his Diamond Dogs Tour, recorded and released in two albums, David Live in 1974, and Cracked Actor in 2017. "Rebel Rebel" featured on almost every Bowie tour afterward, "Diamond Dogs" was performed for the Isolar, Outside and A Reality Tours, and "Big Brother/Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" was resurrected in 1987 for the Glass Spider Tour.
Diamond Dogs was first released on CD by RCA in 1985 with censored cover art. The German (for the European market) and Japanese (for the US market) masters were sourced from different tapes and are not identical for each region.
Dr. Toby Mountain at Northeastern Digital, Southborough, Massachusetts, remastered Diamond Dogs from the original master tapes for Rykodisc in 1990 with two bonus tracks and the original, uncensored, artwork. "Future Legend" stops at 1:01 and "Diamond Dogs" runs 6:04 in this version.
The album was remastered by Peter Mew at Abbey Road Studios, and released without bonus material.
The third in a series of 30th Anniversary 2CD Editions, this release included a remastered version of Diamond Dogs on the first disc. The second disc contains eight tracks, five of which had been previously released on the Sound + Vision box set in 1989 or as bonus tracks on the 1990–92 Rykodisc/EMI reissues.
Bonus CD (2004 EMI/Virgin)
In 2016, the album was remastered for the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) box set. It was released in CD, vinyl, and digital formats, both as part of this compilation and separately.
David Bowie – lead and background vocals; guitars; saxophones; Moog synthesizer; Mellotron
Mike Garson – keyboards
Herbie Flowers – bass guitar
Tony Newman – drums
Aynsley Dunbar – drums
Alan Parker – guitar on "1984"
David Bowie – producer; mixing
Tony Visconti – strings; mixing
Keith Harwood – engineer; mixing
The Serbian and former Yugoslav band Kozmetika in its initial period was named after the album, Dijamantski Psi, meaning Diamond Dogs in Serbian language.
An organization in the video game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was named after the album. Director Hideo Kojima originally wanted to open the game with the eponymous song, but his team voted against the idea, with Kojima eventually choosing a cover of "The Man Who Sold the World".
The songwriter John Vanderslice covered the album in its entirety, releasing his version in 2013 as Vanderslice Plays Diamond Dogs.
In Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film Moulin Rouge! the performers in the eponymous cabaret are referred to as "Diamond Dogs", in reference to the album and song. The film is highly referential to popular music, including a pivotal medley that includes the song "Heroes".
The Last Shadow Puppets mentioned a "Diamond Dog" in their single "Everything You've Come to Expect" off the album with the same name.
In The Venture Bros., the Diamond Dogs are a pack of robotic dog-monsters created by the Guild of Calamitous Intent.
In Con Air (1997), the character played by Ving Rhames holds the moniker of "Diamond Dog". He was the general in a black supremacist military group known as the Black Guerillas and was found guilty of blowing up a meeting of National Rifle Association members, claiming "they represented the basest negativity of the white race." During his incarceration he wrote a book titled "Reflections in a Diamond Eye", which was reviewed by the New York Times as "a wake-up call for the black community."
English gothic rock band Skeletal Family is named after the song "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family".
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