Rebel Rebel

"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,[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
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
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 lyrics

David Bowie - TopPop 1974 06
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 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".[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 aftermath

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 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', 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by Geoff MacCormack, an original backing vocal line, and a new arrangement.[11] Within a couple of months it was withdrawn and replaced by the UK single version, but the same arrangement was used on Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour, appearing on its concert album David Live.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 listing

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

The US and Canadian version of this single had "Lady Grinning Soul" as the B-side.

Production credits


Chart (1974–2016) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[13] 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

Live versions

Other releases

Cover versions


  1. ^ Norbert Pek (October 3, 2013). "Aardappels voor David Bowie" [Potatoes for David Bowie]. (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. ^ Star Wars (2017-04-13), A Tribute To Carrie Fisher, retrieved 2017-04-19


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

External links

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