Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: 19 January, October 1973; January 1974
Producers: David Bowie
Engineer: Keith Harwood
Released: 24 May 1974
Alan Parker: guitar
Mike Garson: electric piano, harpsichord
Herbie Flowers: bass guitar
Tony Newman: drums
Geoff MacCormack: vocals
Additional musicians: violin, viola, cello
‘1984’ was written as the title track for David Bowie’s proposed theatrical version of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
When we were recording Diamond Dogs we worked on the song ‘1984’, and he was already referencing Barry White. He wanted the hi-hat and the strings to sound like they would on a Barry White record. He was already anticipating the sound of Young Americans. He had already moved on.
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In October 1973 Bowie began rehearsing The 1980 Floor Show, held at the Marquee Club in London. It was his final performance as Ziggy Stardust.
The show included songs from Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups, plus a medley of the new songs ‘1984’ and ‘Dodo’. The 1980 Floor Show also featured guest performances from Marianne Faithfull, The Troggs, Amanda Lear, and Carmen, and had the Astronettes (Ava Cherry, Jason Guess, and Geoffrey MacCormack) performing as Bowie’s backing singers.
During a day’s filming at the Marquee on 20 October 1973, Bowie introduced ‘1984’ with the words: “We’ve written a musical, and this is the title song called ‘1984’. We’ll be doing the show in March next year.”
‘1984’/‘Dodo’ were the opening numbers of The 1980 Floor Show when it was broadcast by NBC in America on 16 November, as part of the Midnight Special series.
Bowie began planning his stage production of Nineteen Eighty-Four after completing Pin Ups in 1973. However, he was denied the rights to the novel by Orwell’s widow Sonia Brownell, so reworked the concept into Diamond Dogs. Although the Hunger City concept was Bowie’s own, the origins of the project were most apparent in the trio of songs ‘We Are The Dead’, ‘1984’, and ‘Big Brother’, all of which directly quoted Orwell.
‘1984’ was released as a single in the US and New Zealand in August 1974, with ‘Queen Bitch’ on the b-side.
It was also issued as a single in Japan in October 1974, coupled with ‘Lady Grinning Soul’.
In the end, my version of ‘Dodo’/‘1984’ failed to make the cut for Diamond Dogs. It did, however, eventually appear on one of the many compilations down the road.
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I love this song. What can I say? It’s just so infectious. He’s taking in 1974 about 1984 and here we are in 2020 and it’s crazier than ever. I’m not going to go there now, though. I’m having too much fun talking about this music. #TimsTwitterListeningParty
— Mike Garson (@mikegarson) July 12, 2020
On 19 April 2014, for Record Store Day, a picture disc 7″ single was released, with the album version of ‘1984’ on one side, and Bowie’s performance of the song on The Dick Cavett Show on the b-side.
It was only released in the USA, and limited to 4,000 copies. The picture disc had a photograph of Bowie and William Burroughs on one side, and a Dick Cavett Show performance shot on the other.