Released: May 24, 1974
Peak: 5 US, 14 UK, 12 CN, 3 AU
Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.1 UK, 4.0 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: glam rock/classic rock
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
All songs written by David Bowie.
Total Running Time: 46:10
3.895 out of 5.00 (average of 30 ratings)
Quotable: Bowie would “never make an album that was obviously his own again.” – C.M. Crockford, punknews.org
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
Bowie’s previous album, Pin-Ups, was a collection of covers which served as sort of a stopgap. For Diamond Dogs, Bowie fully separated himself from the classic Ziggy Stardust era of 1971-73 by dismissing guitarist Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder, and drummer Mick Woodmansey. He did keep pianist Mike Garson and session drummer Aynsley Dunbar who first emerged on Pin-Ups. He also brought back Tony Visconti, who’d played bass and produced on The Man Who Sold the World, to provide string arrangements and help mix the album. Bowie took on lead guitar duties himself.
Diamond Dogs would be Bowie’s last album in the glam rock genre and has even been considered proto-punk. WK Music journalist C.M. Crockford described it as “the goofy, abrasive place where punk and art-rock meet, dance a little, and depart.” WK
However, Bowie “didn’t completely leave the Ziggy Stardust persona behind. Diamond Dogs suffers precisely because of this — he doesn't know how to move forward.” AMG “Throughout the album, there are hints that he’s tired with the Ziggy formula, particularly in the disco underpinning of Candidate and his cut-and-paste lyrics. However, it’s not enough to make Diamond Dogs a step forward, and without Mick Ronson to lead the band, the rockers are too stiff to make an impact.” AMG
Bowie originally intended to create a concept album based on George Orwell’s novel 1984. However, he was denied the rights by Orwell’s widow Sonia. He had developed the song 1984 in January 1973 during the sessions for Aladdin Sane and it survived for Diamond Dogs despite having to abandon the initial concept. We Are the Dead also reflects on the novel, specifically the characters of Winston and Julia and their love for each other. WK
He opted instead to create “an urban apocalyptic scenario based on the writings of William S. Burroughs” resulting in songs such as Future Legend and the title cut. WK The former presented the idea of an apocalypse that could happen at any time. The latter introduces Bowie’s newest persona – Halloween Jack – as the ruler of the “diamond dogs,” which are, in the words of biographer Chris O’Leary, “packs of feral kids camped on high-rise roofs, tearing around on roller skates, terrorizing the corpse-strew streets they live above.” WK
The album was preceded by “the tight, sexy Rebel Rebel,” AMG which “is based around a distinctive guitar riff reminiscent of the Rolling Stones.” WK It has been called Bowie’s “farewell to the glam era.” WK The single “doesn’t have much to do with the theme, and the ones he does throw in to further the story usually fall flat.” AMG Biographer Nicholas Pegg says “Rebel Rebel” is Bowie’s most-covered track. WK
That song and Rock ‘n’ Roll with Me were originally written for a potential Ziggy Stardust musical. WK This power ballad “explores the relationship between the audience and an actor.” WK Biographer David Buckley says the song foreshadowed the plastic soul of his next album, Young Americans. WK
The suite of Sweet Thing / Candidate / Sweet Thing (Reprise) has been described as the album’s highlight. Pegg says “Sweet Thing” paints pictures of decay with sex being a “drug-like commodity” while “Candidate” shows Bowie “consumed by the fakery of his own stage creations.” WK
As far as the overall status of the album, Rolling Stone’s Ken Emerson called it “Bowie’s worst album in six years.” WK All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine says “Diamond Dogs isn’t a total waste…but it is the first record since Space Oddity where Bowie's reach exceeds his grasp.” AMG Rock Magazine called it “a strong and effective album.” WK Sounds’ Martin Kirkup said the album “has the provoking quality of a thought-out painting that draws on all the deeper colors.” WK Punknews.org’s C.M. Crockford said Bowie would “never make an album that was obviously his own again.” WK
Notes: The 1990 Rykodisc reissue adds the previously unreleased “Dodo” and a demo version of “Candidate.”
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First posted 2/20/2008; last updated 7/30/2021.