1984 (song)

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Song by David Bowie from the album Diamond Dogs
Released April 24, 1974
Recorded Olympic and Island Studios, London
Ludolph Studios, Nederhorst den Berg, Netherlands
October 1973 – February 1974
Genre Funk
Length 3:27
Label RCA Records
Writer David Bowie
Producer David Bowie
Diamond Dogs track listing
"We Are the Dead"
"Big Brother"

"1984" is a song by David Bowie, from his 1974 album Diamond Dogs. Written in late 1973, it was inspired by George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and, like much of its parent album, originally intended for a never-produced stage musical based on the novel but was refused by Orwell's wife.[1]

Music and lyrics[edit]

The centerpiece of Side Two of the original vinyl album, in the context of Bowie's adaptation of Orwell's story, "1984" has been interpreted as representing Winston Smith's imprisonment and interrogation by O'Brien.[1] The lyrics also bear some similarities to Bowie's earlier song "All the Madmen", from The Man Who Sold the World ("They'll split your pretty cranium and fill it full of air").[2]

"1984"'s wah-wah guitar sound is often likened to the "Theme from Shaft" (1971) by Isaac Hayes.[1][3] Played by Alan Parker, it was one of the few instances on the Diamond Dogs album where Bowie himself did not take the lead guitar part.[2] The track's funk/soul influence has been cited as a clear indicator of where Bowie's style was headed on his next album, Young Americans.[2]

Recording and release[edit]

"1984" was first recorded in a medley with "Dodo", known as "1984/Dodo", on 19 October 1973 for the U.S. TV special The 1980 Floor Show (later bootlegged on record as Dollars in Drag).[1] A studio version of "1984/Dodo" was recorded within the month but went unreleased until it appeared on the Sound and Vision box set in 1989. This was Bowie's last recording with Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and producer Ken Scott at Trident Studios, London.

In addition to the "1984/Dodo" medley, "Dodo" and "1984" were also recorded separately, "Dodo" in September 1973[4] and "1984" during the later Diamond Dogs sessions. Only "1984" made it onto the Diamond Dogs album, with the separated "Dodo" being released for the first time as a bonus track on the 1990 Rykodisc release of the album.

The final version of "1984" was faster and funkier than the medley and, as described by Bowie encyclopedist Nicholas Pegg, "an obvious single if there ever was one".[2] However, it was released as a single only in America, where it failed to chart. The track generally opened the Diamond Dogs concerts in 1974 but has not been performed live since the 1990 Sound+Vision Tour.

Live versions[edit]

  • A July 1974 performance was released on David Live and another recording from the 1974 tour was released on the semi-legal album A Portrait in Flesh.
  • A live in-studio performance of "1984" recorded in November 1974 is included on the DVD set The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons.

Other releases[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

Appearances in popular culture[edit]

  • The song has appeared in the Flip Skateboards video Sorry in Arto Saari's part.
  • The first few seconds of the song has been used in Xenon Entertainment's video logo, which is now Xenon Pictures.


  1. ^ a b c d Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.64
  2. ^ a b c d Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: p.153
  3. ^ David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: p.214
  4. ^ Kevin Cann (2010). Any Day Now - David Bowie: The London Years: 1947-1974: p.307