"Rebel Rebel" is a song by David Bowie, released in 1974 as a single from the album Diamond Dogs. Cited as his most-covered track, it has been described as being effectively Bowie's farewell to the glam rock movement that he had helped pioneer, as well as being a proto-punk track.
A-side label of the original 1974 UK vinyl pressing
|Single by David Bowie|
|from the album Diamond Dogs|
|Released||February 15, 1974|
|David Bowie singles chronology|
Music and lyricsEdit
Originally written for an aborted Ziggy Stardust musical in late 1973, "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 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!'"
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". It reached No. 5 in the UK and No. 64 in the USA. 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. Within a couple of months it was withdrawn and replaced by the UK single version, but the same arrangement was used on Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour, appearing on its concert album David Live.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?"
- "Rebel Rebel" (Bowie) – 4:20
- "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.
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|Australia (Kent Music Report)||28|
|Canadian Singles Chart||30|
|Dutch Singles Chart||12|
|Finnish Singles Chart||7|
|French Singles Chart||12|
|German Singles Chart||33|
|Irish Singles Chart||2|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||9|
|UK Singles Chart||5|
|US Billboard Hot 100||64|
|US Billboard Rock Songs||16|
- A live version from the first leg of the Diamond Dogs Tour was released on David Live. This version was also issued on the Dutch release Rock Concert. A live version from the second leg of that tour (previously available on the unofficial album A Portrait in Flesh) was released in 2017 on Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles '74).
- A live performance recorded on 23 March 1976, during the Isolar Tour was included on Live Nassau Coliseum '76, which was released as part of the 2010 reissues of the Station to Station album, on the 2016 collection Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976), and as a stand–alone album in 2017.
- A live version from the Isolar II Tour was released on Welcome to the Blackout in 2018.
- A live performance filmed on 12 September 1983 during the Serious Moonlight Tour was included on the Serious Moonlight live VHS (1984) and DVD (2006) releases. The same concert performance was included on the live album Serious Moonlight (Live '83), which was part of the 2018 box set Loving the Alien (1983-1988) and was released separately the following year.
- Bowie performed the song during his set at Live Aid in 1985.
- The song was performed during 1987's Glass Spider Tour and released on the subsequent Glass Spider live VHS (1988) and DVD/CD (2007).
- Bowie's 25 June 2000 performance of the song at the Glastonbury Festival was released in 2018 on Glastonbury 2000.
- Bowie performed the song on Later... with Jools Holland, a UK television programme in 2002.
- The new version of "Rebel Rebel" from 2003 was performed live on A Reality Tour. It was used as the opening piece for the bulk of the tour, and is featured on the A Reality Tour DVD, released in 2004, as well as the A Reality Tour album, released in 2010.
- The song has appeared on several Bowie compilations, in its album version:
- It was released on the RCA Life Time picture disc set and the Fashion Picture Disc Set.
- The original single mix of the song appeared on CD in 2016 on Re:Call 2, part of the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) compilation. This particular feature was sourced from a pristine original UK 7" single, as the original tape had not yet been recovered since its disappearance in the mid-1970s.
- The rare US single version (released May 1974) was included in the 1989 Sound + Vision box set, on the bonus disc of the 30th Anniversary Edition of Diamond Dogs in 2004, and on Re:Call 2, part of the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) compilation.
- The 2003 rerecording was released on the Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle soundtrack, the Limited Edition bonus disc of Reality, and the bonus disc of the 30th Anniversary Edition of Diamond Dogs.
- A cover version of the guitar intro was featured in a series of Mazda car advertisements in the US and Canada in 1998/1999.
- The soundtrack of the 1999 film Detroit Rock City featured "Rebel Rebel".
- It was featured in the trailer for the 2006 film Barnyard
- The soundtrack of the 2009 film Bandslam (in which Bowie makes a cameo) features "Rebel Rebel".
- It is featured in the 2010 film The Runaways, and is included on its soundtrack album.
- It is featured in the trailer to the 2011 remake of Arthur.
- In the movie Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds the character Darkos (played by Iggy Pop) sings "Rebel Rebel" during the credits.
- It is featured in a video tribute to Carrie Fisher shown at Star Wars Celebration Orlando in 2017, in reference to her character Princess Leia's role in the Rebel Alliance.
- The original single mix was released again on 24 May 2019 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the release of Diamond Dogs, this time sourced from the original analogue tape which has been recovered since the release of Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976).
- Norbert Pek (3 October 2013). "Aardappels voor David Bowie" [Potatoes for David Bowie]. www.perfects.nl (in Dutch).
- Chris O'Leary (2015). Rebel Rebel: p.330
- Savage, Jon (1 February 2013). "The 20 best glam-rock songs of all time". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
- 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.
- Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: pp.90-92
- Mat Snow (2007). "Hang on to Yourself", MOJO 60 Years of Bowie: p.51
- David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.210-217
- David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: p.140
- Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.60
- Kris Needs (1983). Bowie: A Celebration: p.29
- 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"
- Ingham, Chris (August 2001). "Breaking the habit". Classic Rock. No. 30. p. 62.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 43. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "Dogs 45th red vinyl and original Rebel digital out now". David Bowie. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
- Star Wars (13 April 2017), A Tribute To Carrie Fisher, retrieved 19 April 2017