Review Summary: One of the most memorable and unique albums, created by a man just as memorable.
“Nineteen Eighty-Four” is a novel written by famous author George Orwell describing a world of government take over and total society breakdown as rebels took stand against the all seeing government figure Big Brother, coining the phrase, “Big brother is watching you.” Greatly influenced by this novel was David Bowie, a man who already had become a notable musician and one of the greats in the musical world. Bowie who had just wrapped up the success of his previous full-album, Aladdin Sane
, had decided to take on the task of developing a musical stage production of the novel. He prepared plenty of songs and had everything planned, but when he could not obtain the legal rights to create the production, he did not see it as a loss; he decided to put his efforts to good use by making a new concept album using the songs originally written for the stage show. This album would eventually come to be named, Diamond Dogs
Step one of putting this concept all together was forming a central persona for Bowie to take on, similar to when he took on the name Ziggy Stardust for his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars
. After a creepy spoken word introduction describing the situation of the world in the story, the character that would come forward was named Halloween Jack, described in the title song, Diamond Dogs
. “Halloween Jack is a real cool cat/And he lives on top of manhattan chase/The elevators broke, so he slides down a rope/Onto the street below, oh tarzie, go man go,” are the first words introducing this new person in the world of David Bowie.
The song Diamond Dogs
begins with loud cheering of a crowd as it quickly jumps into the song, loud guitars rhythmically flow with Bowies voice describing the people of this ravaged city as dogs in an upbeat tempo. The song is very rebellious; Halloween Jack, who stands above the “dogs”, expresses his individualism from the world and his freedom from the governments take over. Similar to Bowies personal individualism.
Directly following is the three part song Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise)
. Starting out slow, it is quite the opposite of the previous song, although still featuring the same sliding guitar with a sleek undertone of piano and saxophone building the backbone of the track. The saxophone carries right into part two, named Candidate
. A song that seems to be just like the first part until it quickly builds loud and bold with lines like, “Some make you sing and some make you scream/One makes you wish that you'd never been seen/But there's a shop on the corner that's selling Paper Mache/Making bullet-proof faces, Charlie Manson, Cassius Clay.” The song just builds louder and louder, until Bowie is almost yelling, but it unexpectedly comes to an instant halt and goes back into the slow saxophones that lead into the song, which goes to part three, Sweet Thing (Reprise)
which is essentially the same as part one just sang in a more lonely and desperate way.
Following this trilogy of songs is one of Bowies most popular is Rebel Rebel
, opening with a catchy and distinctive guitar. The song has lyrics depicting some of Bowie famous traits including slight gender-bending, “You’ve got your mother in a whirl/She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl/Hey babe, your hairs alright/Hey babe, let’s go out tonight/You like me, and I like it all/We like dancing and we look divine.” It is a major stand out track on the album and adds good variety to the variances in tempo through the whole album.
The most notable song that relates to the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, is the song with the same name of 1984
. The song is one of the most bizarre on the album because of its dance-like tone, clearly being a song meant for a stage show, because of its show tune style. The chorus is an echoing shout of Bowie saying, “Nineteen eighty-four!” rhythmically. This is followed by Big Brother
, taking its name from the power figure featured in the novel that begins with a horn intro and lyrics that seem to be words of a very desperate person. That is until the chorus comes in a loud and actually happy manner saying, “Someone to claim us, someone to follow/Someone to shame us, some brave Apollo/Someone to rule us, someone like you.” Although the song is not as happy as it may seem as it is talking about how the people fall for the government and believe Big Brother is who they must follow in order to survive. Since it is never said what happened to Halloween Jack one can only assume he was dissolved into the masses and became one of the dogs.
The greatest thing about David Bowies Diamond Dogs
is the story that is laid before you like pictures in a book. Each listen is like sitting though an epic movie of the struggles of Halloween Jack to be one of the rebels. This creativity and sense of story structure is what makes David Bowie one of the greatest musicians of the past decades. He is able to put out albums that stick with the listener over and over again and never gets old like watching your favorite movie or reading your favorite book, which, in a manner of speaking, is exactly what Diamond Dogs
“Don't talk of dust and roses
Or should we powder our noses?
Don't live for last year's capers
Give me steel, give me steel, give me pulses unreal
He'll build a glass asylum
With just a hint of mayhem
He'll build a better whirlpool
We'll be living from sin, then we can really begin”