Rebel Rebel

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"Rebel Rebel"
Single by David Bowie
from the album Diamond Dogs
B-side "Queen Bitch"
Released 15 February 1974
Format 7" single
Recorded Ludolph Studios, Nederhorst den Berg, The Netherlands, January 1974;[1] Trident Studios and Olympic Studios, London, December 1973 – January 1974[2]
Genre Glam rock
Length 4:30 (album version)
4:22 (original single version)
2:58 (US remixed single version)
Label RCA - LPBO 5009
Writer(s) David Bowie
Producer(s) David Bowie
David Bowie singles chronology
"Rebel Rebel"
"Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"
Diamond Dogs track listing
"Sweet Thing (Reprise)"
"Rebel Rebel"
"Rock 'n' Roll with Me"

"Rebel Rebel" is a song by David Bowie, released in 1974 as a single and on the album Diamond Dogs. Cited as his most-covered track,[3] it was effectively Bowie's farewell to the glam rock movement that he had helped pioneer.[4][5]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Bowie performing "Rebel Rebel" on AVRO'sTopPop in 1974.

Originally written for an aborted Ziggy Stardust musical in late 1973,[6] "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".[7]

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'".[8] Bowie himself later said, "It's a fabulous riff! Just fabulous! When I stumbled onto it, it was 'Oh, thank you!'"[9]

Transgender rock artist and former Bowie associate Jayne County claims that "Rebel Rebel" was based in part on County's own song "Queenage Baby",[10] which was recorded in January 1974 by Bowie's Mainman Records, but not released at the time. The song later surfaced on the independent 2006 release Wayne County at the Trucks, and some critics, upon hearing the track, echoed County's claims.[11][12]

Release and aftermath[edit]

The single quickly became a glam anthem, the female equivalent of Bowie's earlier hit for Mott the Hoople, "All the Young Dudes".[7] It reached No. 5 in the UK and No. 64 in the USA. The latter 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, phased vocals, and a new arrangement.[9] Within a couple of months it was withdrawn and replaced by the UK single version, but the same arrangement was used on Bowie's North American tour in 1974, appearing on the concert album David Live.

After retiring the song on his 1990 Sound+Vision Tour, Bowie brought "Rebel Rebel" back for the 1999 'hours...' promotional tour. In early 2003, Bowie recorded a new version of the song, featuring an arrangement by Mark Plati and without the reference to quaaludes present in the original. This was issued on a bonus disc that came with some versions of the Reality album 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".

Track listing[edit]

  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[edit]


Chart (1974–2016) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[13] 28
Canadian Singles Chart 30
Finnish Singles Chart 7
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[edit]

  • A live version from the 1974 tour was released on David Live. This version was also issued on the Dutch release Rock Concert. Another live recording from the 1974 tour was released on the semi-legal album A Portrait in Flesh.
  • A live performance recorded on 23 March 1976 was released on Live Nassau Coliseum '76, part of the 2010 reissues of Station to Station.
  • A live performance filmed on 12 September 1983 was included on the Serious Moonlight (1983 film) live VHS/laserdisc (1984) and DVD (2006).
  • 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 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.

Other releases[edit]

Cover versions[edit]


  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. ^ Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: pp.90-92
  4. ^ Mat Snow (2007). "Hang on to Yourself", MOJO 60 Years of Bowie: p.51
  5. ^ David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.210-217
  6. ^ David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: p.140
  7. ^ a b Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.60
  8. ^ Kris Needs (1983). Bowie: A Celebration: p.29
  9. ^ 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"
  10. ^ Fox, Katrina (24 August 2006). "Complete and Utter County". 
  11. ^ Lalumia, Jimi. "Wayne County at the Trucks". Punk Globe Magazine. 
  12. ^ Thompson, Dave. "Wayne County at the Trucks - Review". Allmusic. 
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 43. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 


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

External links[edit]