Released: May 2004
David Bowie: vocals, guitar, keyboards
Earl Slick, Alan Parker: guitar
Mark Plati: guitar, bass guitar
Herbie Flowers: bass guitar
Mike Garson: piano
Sterling Campbell: drums
Although not a recent innovation, mashups – mixing two or more songs together to create a new track – became popular in the early 2000s. Their renaissance was spearheaded by the 2001 album As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 by 2 Many DJs, and the same year’s ‘A Stroke of Genie-us’ by Freelance Hellraiser – a deft blend of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Genie In A Bottle’ and the Strokes’ ‘Hard To Explain’.
Bowie, predictably, was a fan, and sanctioned a mashup of ‘Rebel Rebel’ and ‘Never Get Old’. Made by LA music production company Endless Noise, it was used from October 2003 in an Audi advertisement titled ‘Progressions’.
In response to the success of the commercial, later that year EMI/Virgin contacted Go Home Productions – the alter ego of British DJ and producer Mark Vidler – to create another mashup of the same songs.
Vidler had become a prolific creator of mashups since May 2002. Among his works were ‘I’m Afraid Of Making Plans For Americans’ (merging Bowie’s ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ with XTC’s ‘Making Plans For Nigel’) and ‘Jacko Under Pressure’ (combining ‘Under Pressure’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Rock With You’).
I heard ‘A Stroke of Genie-us’ on the radio and I thought, That’s clever. I could do that…
You don’t need a distributor, because your distribution is the Internet. You don’t need a record label, because it’s your bedroom, and you don’t need a recording studio, because that’s your computer. You do it all yourself.
The New Yorker, 2 January 2005
The result of the commission was ‘Rebel Never Gets Old’, which was released in three variations: a 3:25 Radio Mix; a 7:22 Seventh Heaven Mix; and an edit of the latter lasting 4:17.
The mashups were initially made available as a digital download in May 2004, and subsequently as a CD single, 12″ black vinyl, and 12″ picture disc, and on a bonus disc included with limited editions of Reality. The EPs contained the three mashups as well as the album track ‘Days’.
Copies of the CD single and black vinyl versions were particularly limited, and shortly afterwards the CD was selling for over £50. Despite the restricted supplies, ‘Rebel Never Gets Old’ peaked at number 47 in the UK singles chart in June 2004.
The full Seventh Heaven Mix was known as the Extended Edit on promotional copies. The Radio Mix was also included on the 2008 Sony compilation Rock 100.
To coincide with the release, in April 2004 Sony and Audi launched a competition allowing members of the public to remix a selection of Bowie clips. The winner was David Choi, an 18-year-old Californian, whose ‘Big Shaken Car’ combined Bowie’s songs ‘Shake It’ and ‘She’ll Drive The Big Car’. His prize was a 2004 Audi TT Coupé.