Magazine article Guitar Player

"Rebel Rebel" David Bowie

Magazine article Guitar Player

"Rebel Rebel" David Bowie

Article excerpt

RELEASED IN 1974 IN THREE DIFFERENT versions (full-length on the Diamond Dogs album, plus edited US and UK singles), all of which feature the same guitar track, David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" stands as one of the late, great icon's most revered compositions, largely due to the contagiousness of its inescapably irresistible main guitar riff. Though it's been rumored that Bowie played the song's classic Mobius strip of a riff, documentation included with 2004's Diamond Dogs 30th Anniversary Edition reveals that it was actually performed by a formerly uncredited Alan Parker, who electrified Bowie's original acoustic riff and embellished it by adding the last three notes (B, G#, and E) before tracking his parts with a Les Paul and cranked Fender amp (possibly a Deluxe Reverb or a Twin Reverb) beautifully overdriven with deliciously saturated sibilance.

Originally written for the aborted stage production of Ziggy Stardust (and purportedly to piss off Mick Jagger), "Rebel Rebel" was a farewell of sorts that marked Bowie's transition from glam rock to his post-Ronson phase. Its signature riff is so much fun to play, it's hard to stop. (Just check out the recent online video of 1000 musicians performing the song in Italy!) But that's okay--it goes on for over four-and-a-half minutes during the outro of the album version!

The riff is a fairly simple two-bar D-A-E figure that is certainly open to considerably looser live interpretations, but Parker's recorded version, notated in Ex. …

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