The new MUSIC & SURVEILLANCE episode is about a record published in 1974, ‘Diamond Dogs’, which was supposed to be David Bowie’s take on George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four‘. Bowie started working on it in 1973, but he was denied by the author’s estate the right to produce his own adaptation, and decided to produce instead a loosely conceptual record about a future post-apocalyptic society, only partially linked to Orwell.
Preceding his more critically acclaimed Berlin phase, ‘Diamond Dogs’ sees Bowie touch upon a variety of styles, from glam to funk to hard rock. It includes the relatively Orwellian songs ‘1984‘, ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Candidate’, but it became especially famous for the hit ‘Rebel Rebel’ (with lighter lyrics: “You’re a juvenile success / because your face is a mess”). One of its most controversial features was actually the cover, by Belgian Pop Art artist Guy Peellaert, because it showed the fictional genitalia of a fictional half-dog Bowie.
In 2013, ‘Diamond Dogs’ was again in the news as San Francisco singer-songwriter John Vanderslice decided to rework the whole record, and managed to finance his project through crowdfunding. ‘Vanderslice plays Diamond Dogs’ revisits the original in a more intimate mood and incorporate some changes, notably in song titles and the lyrics (for instance, Bowie’s exclamation ‘This ain’t rock’n’roll, this is genocide!‘ has been transformed into ‘This ain’t rock’n’rol. This is suicide‘). Incidentally, Vanderslice’s discography already counted a few pieces on surveillance, security and modern society, such as his 2000 song ‘Bill Gates Must Die‘, or the whole ‘Pixel Revolt’ LP. Text by Gloria González Fuster