Blog 6: The Rebel and the Dude

It occurred to us when compiling these blogs that we are only providing our thoughts on songs that we currently play. There are a number of songs that we have played live and which, for one reason or another, we have dropped. Deciding which songs to play can be a challenge as we have found that the audience at say a convention will have a far greater knowledge of Bowie’s body of work and as such, we can include songs that we love but which might not suit every audience we play to. Included in this list are songs like Fantastic Voyage, You Feel So Lonely You Could Die, I’m Afraid of Americans, and Cracked Actor to name but four. We would also put money on the fact that we are the only UK-based David Bowie tribute band to play The Laughing Gnome in Paris!

Up to this point, we have run through our first set, which concludes with two absolute belters, Rebel Rebel and All the Young Dudes. From the 1974 album Diamond Dogs, Rebel Rebel is another of those driving anthemic songs that audiences tend to know and love. In the early days, original guitarist Ben provided the metronomic lead riff which Andrew took over playing on his departure and in a similar vein to Jean Genie, Rebel Rebel is one of those songs that is wonderful to play when you get into the groove. At just under four and a half minutes, it’s quite a long song compared to other tracks from that era so after a bit of deliberation and research into Bowie’s live renditions of the song, we decided to try out a shorter, alternate version.

Based on Bowie’s 2002 performance on Later… with Jools Holland we’ve reworked the arrangement to incorporate a delay-laden power chord progression that keeps that all driving rhythm, but puts a groovier spin on it.

With the original, iconic riff acting as its counterpoint throughout the song, we switch between a classic 60s RnB influenced sound (reminiscent of Jean Genie), to a much more modern rock sound (think U2 meets Third Eye Blind). This musical revamp coupled with the omission of all of the outro lyrics (from “You’ve torn your dress, your face is a mess..” onwards) leads to a much shorter, and we think, snappier version of the song with newfound dynamism but no loss of its original soul.

An added bonus is that it keeps up the interest for the band; Allan switches between delicately placed rimshots to full blown windmill arms, Mel gets to battle with her tap tempo delay pedal, and Jane’s just delighted to not have to remember so many words! We all love Bowie’s 70s releases, which is why so many feature in our set, but it’s nice to have the opportunity to get creative and re-interpret them for modern times.

As this is currently the only song we play off the brilliant Diamond Dogs album (there will soon hopefully be at least one more), it’s a good time to talk about another aspect of running the band, which is the aspect of image, and how we present the band on promo material, the logos we use and so on. Our first logo was designed by Phil and is such a great logo that we still use it today, with a few updates having been carried out by our graphic designer friend Kizzie.

We do think it’s important though to always try and change things up, so over the last year, we’ve also introduced a couple of other logos we use from time to time; the most recent of which has been based on the absolutely beautiful and very famous Bowie logo used on Diamond Dogs (and Rebel Rebel). This logo has been used on our most recent t-shirts, which have been designed with the goal of making something modern looking but with a call out to something so easily recognizable that links what we do back to the Great man himself. We wanted a shirt that people will want to wear out and not just to our gigs. Jane was responsible for this design and loves it so much she’s often seen committing the cardinal sin of wearing her own band t-shirt!

Set 1 ends with a song that was originally written by Bowie and recorded and released by Mott the Hoople in 1972. Bowie gave the song to Mott the Hoople in an attempt to stop the band splitting up and Bowie himself also started performing it during the Ziggy Stardust tour. The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert saw Bowie re-unite with Mick Ronson to play the song with members of Queen and Def Leppard. It’s one we really enjoy playing and serves as the perfect conclusion to our first set.

For this song, we try and recreate Bowie’s majestic performance of it at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2004 as arm waving and singing along are strongly encouraged.

The next blog will see us look at the start of the second set with the very iconic songs Ziggy Stardust and China Girl.