Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

Bowie wanted to piss off his friend from The Rolling Stones with this hit. 50 years of success “Rebel Rebel”

In 1973 David Bowie he was a little tired of the artistic adventure under the banner Ziggy Stardust. In the summer he gave his last concerts with his band The Spiders from Mars, which he then solved. He wondered about the direction his career would take. Glam rock no longer shined so strongly, and his musical interests slowly turned towards soul music, which he developed on the album released two years later. “Young Americans”. At the time, he was working on a project that would use the classic novel George Orwell “1984”however, when he encountered the refusal of his heirs to use the work, instead of starting over, he decided to use some of the ideas on a traditional album.

This is how it was created “Diamond Dogs”, an album that was perceived as a musical farewell to the glam rock scene. On the cover by Guy Peellaert Bowie still has his red hair, so characteristic of his stage alter ego Ziggy Stardust, but he is slowly transforming into a different creature. An image of half a man, half a dog lying on the background of an inscription “The strangest living curiosities”, caused a lot of controversy because of its visible animal genitalia. The cover had to be censored and an alternative version was released. He wasn’t entirely happy with it either Mick Jaggerwhich showed David Bowie the works of the Belgian artist. Guy Peellaert he was supposed to prepare the artistic vision of the album “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Author “Rebel Rebel” he was delighted with what he saw and decided to use the illustrator’s talent for his own purposes, contacting him against Jagger’s requests.

When he met Peellaert, he already had a preliminary vision “Diamond Dogs”and Bowie had an idea for a photo session inspired by a photo of a French dancer Josephine Baker, in which she posed as a wild animal. Bowie’s famous photographs were a masterpiece Terry ONeill and became the basis for work for the Belgian painter, who, being enchanted by Bowie’s creativity, refused to let Jagger sign an exclusive contract. Eventually, the Stones got their cover. Guy Peellaert portrayed them as rock gods, descending the steps of a temple surrounded by women worshiping them.

This is not the only sarcasm directed at the singer The Rolling Stonesthat was created while working on the album. David Bowie wasn’t with him for the first time in several years Mick Ronson, the lead guitarist during the days of The Spiders from Mars. He took over these duties himself and also helped him in the studio Alan Parker. Session musician who supported the recording of the album “Diamond Dogs”he recalled years later in an interview for the magazine “Uncut”that Bowie wanted to piss Jagger off a bit with the song’s riff “Rebel Rebel”. Apparently the guitar motif came from the old days and was always somewhere in the back of the artist’s head. Reminiscing about the recording in a magazine interview “Performing Songwriter” in 2002 he stated: “When I was in high school, this was the riff that got all of us young guitarists tested at the local music store”.

“I have this idea and I want it to sound a little more like The Rolling Stones, that would piss Mick off.” Bowie allegedly said, as reported by Alan Parker. “We then spent the next three quarters of an hour trying out different ideas. David stepped aside, changed parts of the text, and when he came back a while later, he said we were done” Parker reported. Thanks to the characteristic and catchy guitar motif, the recording quickly became popular, and its message turned out to be timeless.

“Rebel Rebel” it’s a song about rebellion, but not in the typical sense. It is not a call to arms for a cause, but an attempt to draw attention to the need to free ourselves from the restrictions that social norms impose on people and the need to emphasize our own individuality. Bowie himself was searching for his identity, which is perhaps why there are so many references to sexual fluidity: “You’re driving your mother crazy / She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl” it’s like the quintessence of the glam rock revolution in matters of morals, dressing style and art itself.

The recording became one of the most important songs defining the glam rock trend and at the same time saying goodbye to this style. Feisty and shiny “Rebel Rebel” it stood out against the darker material it filled “Diamond Dogs”the album itself was a kind of bridge for the musician between the world of red hair, glitter, shiny clothes and wedge shoes, and the pulsating funk and soul-driven sound stage, heralded two years later by the opening song of the new album “Young Americans”. A good example of this apparent dualism is the juxtaposition that smells of creativity T.Rex song “Diamond Dogs” with an almost velvety feel “Sweet Thing” or driven by strings “1984”which was originally supposed to be part of a musical Bowie was preparing.

“Rebel Rebel” over the years, it was also a good example of a song that returned and changed along with the singer’s artistic development. Its American single version already sounded different than the British original, it was slightly more filled with a dance rhythm. During the tour promoting the album “Station to Station” another transformation took place and the glam rock composition became a funk hit. Years later, in a rock packaging, it was found as a bonus track on the album “Reality”to finally transform into an excellent mashup created by a British producer Mark Vidler, “Rebel Never Gets Old”which appeared on the charts again.

There is no doubt that the famous composition has had a strong influence on subsequent generations for fifty years. This is evidenced by the number of new versions performed by many artists who found an inspiring message in the song, which they read anew in their own style. He recalled the popularity of the recording with amusement in the interview with the magazine mentioned above “Performing Songwriter” David Bowie himself. One night he returned to the hotel and was tired, and since the next day would be filled with interviews and meetings, he decided to go to bed.

Unfortunately, through the hotel walls, he heard someone in the middle of the night playing the immortal riff on his guitar, screaming the chorus of the song. “So I went upstairs to show the person how it should be played, I knocked on the door. The door opens and I say, ‘Listen, if you’re going to play this…’ and suddenly I see that the guitarist was John McEnroe. That McEnroe! A story like this could only happen in a movie” Bowie concluded with a smile.