In the studio

Diamond Dogs was recorded in January 1974 at Olympic Studios in Barnes, London. The song was begun on 15 January, under the working title ‘Diamond Dawgs’.

We did Diamond Dogs very fast, doing basic tracks in three days in the little studio at Olympic. Bowie was writing a lot of the stuff as we were going. I think it was a semi-rescue attempt from his proposed George Orwell musical. The music was weird. I have to say I found it mildly unattractive at the time, but it was interesting stuff.
Herbie Flowers
Uncut, March 2008

The album segues into the song from ‘Future Legend’, overlaid with the sound of a rock concert audience. This was sampled from the Rod Stewart/Faces’ 1974 live album Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners. Indeed, Stewart can be heard shouting “Hey!” as the ‘Diamond Dogs’ guitar riff begins.

The release

‘Diamond Dogs’ was first released in Brazil in April 1974, as the b-side of the ‘Rebel Rebel’ single.

It reached a wider audience on 24 May 1974, as the title track of the Diamond Dogs album.

‘Diamond Dogs’ was issued as the follow-up single to ‘Rebel Rebel’ in June 1974, in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and Yugoslavia. The single was also issued in Japan in August 1974, and in September in Italy.

Perhaps due to its ready availability on the album, ‘Diamond Dogs’ was not a chart success, and peaked at number 21 in the UK. This made it Bowie’s poorest chart placing since his commercial breakthrough with ‘Starman’ in 1972.

The b-side in all countries was the 1971 re-recording of ‘Holy Holy’, although on some copies of the Yugoslavian single it was misspelt on the label as ‘Holly Holly’.

In the USA it was pressed as a single for export to the UK, but copies went on sale in America in some stores.

The Australian version, meanwhile, was an edit of the song lasting 2:58. It was included on Re:Call 2, part of the 2016 box set Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976).

Another edit lasting 4:37, known as the K-tel edit, was released in 1980 on the compilation The Best of Bowie. On the Italian edition the song edited further to 3:02. The 4:37 edit was released again in 2004 as a bonus track on the Diamond Dogs 30th anniversary reissue.

Live recordings

‘Diamond Dogs’ became a central part of the Diamond Dogs Tour in North America, the first leg of which lasted from June to July 1974. A recording from Philadelphia recorded in July can be heard on David Live.

Touring Diamond Dogs across America afterwards, it felt like those new songs were anarchic, all about tearing things down. It was prophetic in many ways. And the music was so loud and angry. Those shows were well organised. Strange things were going on, too. There was some in-fighting and maybe a lot of other things going on. But the band stuck together.
Herbie Flowers
Uncut, March 2008

The second leg of the tour took place in California and Arizona in September 1974. The 2017 live album Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74) contains a performance from 5 September 1974, which included ‘Diamond Dogs’.

The third leg of the tour became known as the Soul Tour, and saw Bowie showcasing more songs from the then-unreleased Young Americans album. Bowie rearranged many of his older songs, including ‘Diamond Dogs’: a medley with the Rolling Stones’ ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)’ was released on the 2020 live album I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74), recorded in November 1974.

The bulk of the recordings on I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74) were from a 20 October 1974 show at Detroit’s Michigan Palace. The recording of ‘Diamond Dogs’ was incomplete, however, so encores from a 30 November concert at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium were added, including the ‘Diamond Dogs’/Rolling Stones medley.

‘Diamond Dogs’ was performed again during the Isolar Tour, with a recording from March 1976 available on Live Nassau Coliseum ’76.

Although Bowie rehearsed the song for the Sound + Vision Tour in 1990, he did not perform it in public again until the 1996 Summer Festivals Tour. Thereafter it was dropped once again, before making a reappearance at a small number of dates towards the end of A Reality Tour in 2004.

Previous song: ‘Future Legend’
Next song: ‘Sweet Thing’