Diamond Dogs marked the end of David Bowie’s dalliance with glam rock. Already focusing his attentions across the Atlantic, towards American soul and R&B, the days of Ziggy-era clothes and spiky red hair were numbered.
It was also the first Bowie album to not feature a photograph of the singer. Instead, he commissioned a painting by Belgian artist Guy Peellaert, who was shortly to publish the acclaimed book Rock Dreams.
The book was a collection of artworks showing airbrushed and stylised renditions of musicians, among them a double portrait of Bowie and Lou Reed. Bowie also featured on the cover, alongside John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, and Mick Jagger.
Mick Jagger had seen Peellaert’s work prior to Rock Dreams‘ publication, and had commissioned Peellaert to design the sleeve for the Rolling Stones’ forthcoming album It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll. Jagger mentioned this to Bowie, who moved quickly to secure the artist for his own release.
I’ve caused a lot of discontent because I’ve expressed my admiration for other artists by saying, ‘es, I’ll use that,’ or, ‘Yes, I took this from him and this from her.’ Mick Jagger, for example, is scared to walk into the same room as me even thinking any new idea. He knows I’ll snatch it…
Mick was silly. I mean, he should never shown me anything new. I went over to his house and he had all these Guy Peellaert pictures around and said, “What do you think of this guy?” I told him I thought he was incredible. So I immediately phoned him up. Mick’s learned now, as I’ve said. He will never do that again. You’ve got to be a bastard in this business.
Playboy, September 1976
Bowie had a breakfast meeting with Peellaert on 30 January 1974, and invited him to attend a photoshoot later that day with Terry O’Neill.
Bowie already had the cover concept for Diamond Dogs in mind, which was to feature him as half-man, half-canine, and had sketched out some ideas.
During the O’Neill shoot, he was photographed adopting a similar pose to that in a photograph of the singer, dancer and entertainer Josephine Baker, taken in Paris in 1926.
A Great Dane dog was also used in the shoot. Although not fully grown, the animal was sizeable and hard to control.
I had shot the dog first and then a few frames of Bowie posing in his inimitable way – which was at ease but totally in control. Then I said, ‘What about trying one with you and the dog?’ Just as I started shooting, the bloody dog leapt up into the air towards the camera. It was quite aggressive and I was a bit taken aback, but I kept thinking: ‘Thank God I’m using a wide-angle lens.’ David just sat there throughout. He was totally unfazed.
The Observer, 17 February 2013
David tricked me into doing the cover artwork. It was only when we were at the session that he finally asked me if I would do a painting for him. The idea was so interesting I couldn’t refuse.