"Rebel Rebel" is a song by English musician David Bowie, released in 1974 as a single from the album Diamond Dogs. Cited as his most covered track,[5] it has been described as being effectively Bowie's farewell to the glam rock movement that he had helped pioneer,[6][7] as well as being a proto-punk track.[4]

"Rebel Rebel"
Rebel Rebel by David Bowie UK vinyl pressing.png
A-side label of the original 1974 UK vinyl pressing
Single by David Bowie
from the album Diamond Dogs
B-side"Queen Bitch"
ReleasedFebruary 15, 1974 (1974-02-15)
Format7-inch single
LabelRCA Victor
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
Producer(s)David Bowie
David Bowie singles chronology
"Rebel Rebel"
"Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"

Music and lyricsEdit

Bowie performing "Rebel Rebel" on AVRO's TopPop in 1974.

Originally written for an aborted Ziggy Stardust musical in late 1973,[8] "Rebel Rebel" – completed in January 1974 and released the following month – 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 played guitar himself 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".[9]

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'".[10] Bowie himself later said, "It's a fabulous riff! Just fabulous! When I stumbled onto it, it was 'Oh, thank you!'"[11]

Release and aftermathEdit

The single quickly became a glam anthem, the female equivalent of Bowie's earlier hit for Mott the Hoople, "All the Young Dudes".[9] It reached No. 5 in the UK and No. 64 in the US. The single and album versions, released three months apart, feature slightly different mixes.

The US release initially featured a different recording altogether: a radically revised mix that Bowie cut in New York in April 1974. The US single, credited to simply 'Bowie' and released in May 1974, is shorter (2:58) and more uptempo, dense and camp than the UK single, featuring percussion by Geoff MacCormack, an original backing vocal line, and a new arrangement.[11] Within a couple of months it was withdrawn and replaced by the UK single version, but the same arrangement was used on Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour, appearing on its concert album David Live.

After retiring the song on his Sound+Vision Tour in 1990, Bowie restored "Rebel Rebel" for the "Hours..." Tour. In early 2003, he recorded a new version, featuring an arrangement by Mark Plati and without the original's reference to quaaludes. This was issued on a bonus disc that came with some versions of Reality the same year, and on the 30th Anniversary Edition of Diamond Dogs in 2004. Also in 2004, the track was blended in a mash-up with the Reality song "Never Get Old"; the result was issued as the single "Rebel Never Gets Old".

"We love David Bowie," noted Jane's Addiction front-man Perry Farrell in 2001. "Given the length of his career, I'm stunned that he still pushes things musically. But, please, please, David, can you sing "Rebel Rebel" still?"[12]

Track listingEdit

  1. "Rebel Rebel" (Bowie) – 4:20
  2. "Queen Bitch" (Bowie) – 3:13

The US version of the single, also released in Canada and Mexico, had "Lady Grinning Soul" as the B-side.


Chart historyEdit

David Bowie
Chart (1974) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[13] 28
Canada RPM Top Singles 30
Dutch Singles Chart 12
Finnish Singles Chart 7
French Singles Chart 12
German Singles Chart 33
Ireland (IRMA)[14] 2
New Zealand (Listener)[15] 19
Norwegian Singles Chart 9
UK [16] 5
US Billboard Hot 100[17] 64
US Billboard Rock Songs 16
US Cash Box Top 100[18] 53
Chart (2016) Peak
UK [19] 65
International Chrysis
Chart (1994) Peak
UK [20] 76

Live versionsEdit

Other releasesEdit

Cover versionsEdit


  1. ^ Norbert Pek (3 October 2013). "Aardappels voor David Bowie" [Potatoes for David Bowie]. www.perfects.nl (in Dutch).
  2. ^ Chris O'Leary (2015). Rebel Rebel: p.330
  3. ^ Savage, Jon (1 February 2013). "The 20 best glam-rock songs of all time". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  4. ^ a b Greene, Lora (2012). Combat Rock: A History of Punk (From Its Origins to the Present). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1478305637. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  5. ^ Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: pp.90-92
  6. ^ Mat Snow (2007). "Hang on to Yourself", MOJO 60 Years of Bowie: p.51
  7. ^ David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.210-217
  8. ^ David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: p.140
  9. ^ a b Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.60
  10. ^ Kris Needs (1983). Bowie: A Celebration: p.29
  11. ^ a b Nicholas Pegg (2000). Op Cit: p.170. Pegg also credits Alan Parker with augmenting Bowie's guitar work on the album and UK single version of "Rebel Rebel", although the Diamond Dogs sleeve acknowledges Parker only on "1984"
  12. ^ Ingham, Chris (August 2001). "Breaking the habit". Classic Rock. No. 30. p. 62.
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 43. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Rebel Rebel". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  15. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 17 August 1974
  16. ^ "Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. 23 February 1974. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  17. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  18. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, July 20, 1974
  19. ^ "Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  20. ^ "Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. 25 June 1994. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  21. ^ a b "Dogs 45th red vinyl and original Rebel digital out now". David Bowie. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  22. ^ Star Wars (13 April 2017), A Tribute To Carrie Fisher, retrieved 19 April 2017


  • Pegg, Nicholas, The Complete David Bowie, Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2000, ISBN 1-903111-14-5

External linksEdit