Diamond Dogs album coverWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: January 1974
Producers: David Bowie
Engineer: Keith Harwood

Released: 24 May 1974

Available on:
Diamond Dogs
David Live
Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74)


David Bowie: vocals, guitar, saxophone, Mellotron, Moog synthesizer
Mike Garson: piano
Herbie Flowers: bass guitar
Tony Newman: drums

The finale of the ‘Sweet Thing’/‘Candidate’ medley on David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs was a reprise of the first song.

I’d failed to obtain the theatrical rights from George Orwell’s widow for the book 1984 and having written three or more songs for it already, I did a fast about-face and recobbled the idea into Diamond Dogs: teen punks on rusty skates living on the roofs of the dystopian Hunger City; a post-apocalyptic landscape.

A centrepiece for this would-be stage production was to be Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing, which I wrote using William Burroughs’s cut-up method.

You write down a paragraph or two describing several different subjects creating a kind of story ingredients-list, I suppose, and then cut the sentences into four or five-word sections; mix ’em up and reconnect them.

You can get some pretty interesting idea combinations like this. You can use them as is or, if you have a craven need to not lose control, bounce off these ideas and write whole new sections.

I was looking to create a profligate world that could have been inhabited by characters from Kurt Weill or John Rechy – that sort of atmosphere. A bridge between Enid Blyton’s Beckenham and The Velvet Underground’s New York. Without Noddy, though.

David Bowie
Mail Online, 28 June 2008

‘Sweet Thing (Reprise)’ begins with a plaintive saxophone solo performed by Bowie, before a repeat of the main song’s chorus: “If you want it, boys, get it here thing/’Cause hope, boys, is a cheap thing, cheap thing”.

Bowie was using cocaine heavily during the making of Diamond Dogs, and drug references can be found in several of the songs. In ‘Sweet Thing (Reprise)’ he asks: “Is it nice in your snow storm, freezing your brain?”

I started getting into a very bad period. I mean, it really developed. My drug addiction really started, I suppose you could pin it down to the very last months of the Ziggy Stardust period. Not in a particularly heavy way, but enough to have probably worried some of the people around me. And after that, when we got into Diamond Dogs, that’s when it was out of control. From that period onwards I was a real casualty.
David Bowie
Mojo, July 2002

Whereas ‘Candidate’ had ended defiantly and triumphantly, on ‘Sweet Thing (Reprise)’ Bowie hints that he was already struggling with addiction: “It’s a street with a deal, and a taste/It’s got claws, it’s got me, it’s got you…”

The finale of ‘Sweet Thing (Reprise)’ begins with a piano motif played by Mike Garson, which had first appeared in the six-minute 1973 outtake ‘Zion’. The piece has also appeared on bootlegs under the titles ‘Aladdin Vein’, ‘Love Aladdin Vein’ and ‘A Lad In Vein’.

Garson’s piano is then swamped by some of the nastiest, filthiest guitar sounds ever heard on a David Bowie recording. As with most of the Diamond Dogs guitar parts, they were played by Bowie himself. Prior to the sessions he underwent a period of dedicated practice.

I knew that the guitar playing had to be more than okay. That couple of months I spent putting that album together before I went into the studio was probably the only time in my life where I really buckled down to learn the stuff I needed to have on the album. I’d actually practise two hours a day. I knew the sound in my head, and at that time I didn’t know musicians who could carry it off.
David Bowie
Guitar Player, June 1997

The passage also shows Bowie’s burgeoning interest in Krautrock. The motorik rhythms of ‘Sweet Thing (Reprise)’ were seemingly modelled on ‘Negativland’, a track on Neu!’s self-titled debut album.

Live performances

David Bowie performed the ‘Sweet Thing’/‘Candidate’/’Sweet Thing (Reprise)’ medley throughout the Diamond Dogs Tour in 1974, although it was dropped later in the year for the Soul Tour. Bowie never again performed it live.

For no clear reason (what’s new?) I stopped singing this song around the mid-Seventies.
David Bowie
Mail Online, 28 June 2008

A performance of the medley from July 1974, recorded at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia, can be heard on David Live. Another, from 5 September 1974, was released on the 2017 album Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74).

A rare filmed performance of the medley, from Los Angeles on 2 September 1974, can be seen in the 1975 BBC television documentary Cracked Actor.

Previous song: ‘Candidate’
Next song: ‘Rebel Rebel’
Published: |