After touring as Ziggy Stardust for a few years David Bowie took a good look in the mirror, red face with a yellow circle in the center of his forward and all, and thought “is this it? Am I going to be Ziggy Stardust for the rest of my life?”
Ziggy Stardust was a fun character to play, I am sure, but someone with Bowie’s creativity must have dreaded the idea of being confined to a single persona forever. Frankly as interesting as the character Ziggy Stardust is, the man David Bowie is far more interesting. So he broke up the band, much to the sadness of many fans at the time, but if they knew what a long and legendary career Bowie had in store they would have approved without question or concern. In the story arc of Ziggy Stardust, Ziggy broke up the band, so it only seemed fitting for Bowie to do the same.
Where do you go from Ziggy Stardust? Bowie had sang songs about dreams, aliens, rock stardom, bisexuality, cross dressing, death, the end of the earth, people forgetting how to make love, and immortality, Bowie had covered a lot of ground, so his follow up album “Diamond Dogs,” could not possible be as wild as his previous works right? I mean he must run out of outrageous ideas right? Wrong, so wrong.
David Bowie’s 1974 Album “Diamond Dogs,” has a very interesting back story, but first the basic story.
The basic story told to us in Diamond Dogs, is a crazy post-apocalyptic world (reoccurring theme) where dogs rule the world, and humans are being hunted for sport. Fortunately we got Halloween Jack to lead us to freedom and Rock N’ Roll. Now as insane as it sounds the story in Diamond Dogs is... arguably less wild than the story told to us in the Ziggy Stardust saga, however the creative process behind Diamond Dogs has to be one of the craziest I’ve ever heard.
Originally Bowie had the idea of doing a musical about George Orwell’s “1984.” For those of you who do not know Orwell passed away in 1950, but he was survived by his second wife Sonia Brownell. Sonia inherited the rights to all of Orwell’s works, and in 1954 she allowed the BBC to produce a movie of “1984,” and to put it simply it was ghastly. Sonia was very unhappy with the way the BBC had handled her late husband’s work, so when the bisexual, cross dressing, alien rock star told her he wanted to do a zany musical based on the same story her reaction was predictable, she brought her lawyers and a mindset ready for war to stop him.
Bowie had already written a collection of songs for the album that clearly revolved around the book “1984,” songs like, “1984,” “Dodo,” and “Candidate,” when Sonia emerged to stop him dead in his tracks, no pun intended. What was Bowie to do with all this hard work for the “1984”musical? Dogs ruling the world, of course!
Bowie himself has been quoted about how he had to take his ideas and take them into a radically different direction, but how it was also a very rewarding challenge, he looks back on the album with a lot of happiness in the way things worked out, as do I, I really love the album “Diamond Dogs,” it is one of my favourites of his.
Like previous Bowie albums the whole work is full of fantastic songs, but for this Music in Review, I want to focus on the demo version of “Candidate.” The studio version of “Candidate” is really part of a three song piece, where each song flows into the next as if they are meant to be one song, so the studio version of “Candidate” is really “Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing reprised,” so the demo version standing alone as a song is the first indication to all of you just how different it is.
To put it bluntly they are nothing alike, and it all stems back to Sonia Brownell not letting Bowie make a musical about 1984. The original song “Candidate,” is big brother/David Bowie selling himself as a great leader. It is a light song instrumentally, the piano takes the melody lead, while the subdued electric guitar fills the roll of harmony; the song has a soft touch but a memorable one. The lyrics really strike me because Bowie says a lot about himself; even though I very much get the impression he is trying to sing a song about big brother the future tyrant as a candidate trying to convince people to give him the power he possesses in 1984. However every lyric is more like David Bowie singer about himself as a political “Candidate.”
“I make it a thing, when I gazelle on stage, to believe in myself.” Appropriate for a flamboyant rock star to say.
“I’ll make you a deal, I’ll say I came from earth and my tongue is taped.” Ziggy Stardust, enough said.
“You don’t have to paint my contact black, now I’ve hustled in a pair of jeans.” David Bowie has bicoloured eyes; one of them is blue the other black. His black eye is a result of Bowie being stabbed in the eye with a compass by another child at school when he was very young, not everybody knows that. This last lyric to me really says something about Bowie. Despite the ridiculous personas he often played, or some of the outlandish themes for his music, behind all of it there was a very sincere man. Bowie did not so much play Ziggy Stardust, or Aladdin Sane, or Halloween Jack, he was all those people. Bowie was a very genuine person, he was an entertainer through and through, all those things he pretended to be, in some ways he really was those things, and his eyes, no trick there, those are his real eyes.
“Candidate (Demo Version)” never made it to album, and I can only suspect as to why a song so good would have been reduced to a bonus track. It may have something to do with the fact the song was written about Bowie assuming the role of big brother and after Ms. Brownell’s wrath Bowie could not included it, yet songs more obvious like “1984” made the final cut. I suspect Bowie felt it no longer fit the crazy new theme of dogs ruling the world, which is unfortunate, but I suppose makes sense.
The important thing is this gem of a song has not been lost to us.
Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.
- Colin Kelly