"1984" is a song by David Bowie, from his 1974 album Diamond Dogs. Written in late 1973, it was inspired by George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and, like much of its parent album, originally intended for a never-produced stage musical based on the novel.
Music and lyrics
The centrepiece of Side Two of the original vinyl album, in the context of Bowie's adaptation of Orwell's story, "1984" has been interpreted as representing Winston Smith
's imprisonment and interrogation by O'Brien
. The lyrics also bear some similarities to Bowie's earlier song "All the Madmen
", from The Man Who Sold the World
("They'll split your pretty cranium and fill it full of air").
"1984"'s wah-wah guitar sound is often likened to the "Theme from Shaft" (1971) by Isaac Hayes. Played by Alan Parker, it was one of the few instances on the Diamond Dogs album where Bowie himself did not take the lead guitar part. The track's funk/soul influence has been cited as a clear indicator of where Bowie's style was headed on his next album, Young Americans.
Recording and release
"1984" was first recorded in a medley with "Dodo
", known as "1984/Dodo", on 19 October 1973
for the U.S. TV special The 1980 Floor Show
(later bootlegged on record
as Dollars in Drag
). A studio version of "1984/Dodo" was recorded within the month but went unreleased until it appeared on the Sound and Vision
box set in 1989. This was Bowie's last recording with Mick Ronson
, Trevor Bolder
and producer Ken Scott
at Trident Studios
In the later Diamond Dogs sessions, "1984" and "Dodo" were rerecorded separately, though only the former made it onto the album. The final version of "1984" was faster and funkier than the medley and, as described by Bowie encyclopedist Nicholas Pegg,"'an obvious single if there ever was one". However it was only released as such in America, where it failed to chart. The track generally opened the Diamond Dogs concerts in 1974 but has not been performed live since.
- A live version from the 1974 tour was released on David Live and another recording from the 1974 tour was released on the semi-legal album A Portrait in Flesh.
- A live in-studio performance of "1984" is included on the DVD set The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons
- It was released as a single in the U.S. in July 1974, backed with "Queen Bitch" from Bowie's 1971 album Hunky Dory.
- It appeared on several compilations:
- The "1984/Dodo" version was released in the Sound and Vision box set in 1989, and in 2004 on the bonus disc of the 30th Anniversary Edition of Diamond Dogs.
Appearances in popular culture