Rebel Rebel is one of Bowie's best known songs, yet the fact that the album version was released as a single in the US is little known and often contradicted; the release's date is a yet unresolved mystery...
The "Rebel Rebel/Queen Bitch" single was released in the UK in February, 1974 (on the 15th according to both R. Carr and C. S. Murray's An Illustrated Record and and G. Tremlett's The David Bowie Story; on the 13th according to D. Buckley's timeline on the DD 30th anniversary 2CD release). It seems to have been released all over Europe at the same time or shortly afterwards and to have received promotion such as the February eyepatch appearance on Holland's Top Pop. Elsewhere, there were Japanese and Australian releases in April (non-UK release dates taken from Marshall Jarman's World 7" Discography). I understand that the UK single version is very slightly different from the album version that would see the light of day in the UK on April 24 according to Carr and Murray, P. & L. Gillman's Alias David Bowie as well as the DD30th timeline. Although I have a number of RRs from different countries on 7", I have never played them for comparison purposes, so if anyone knows which ones also differ from the album version, I'd like to know.
Back in the USA, the "phased" version with "Lady Grinning Soul" on the B-side, a rendition much more like the one that would emerge on the 1974 tour, is released around the 24th of May with album coming out a week later (dates according to H. Edwards and T. Zanetta in Stardust). This "phased" version is also released in Canada and Mexico, presumably at around the same time. Buckley in his notes for the Diamond Dogs 30th Anniversary issue (DD 30th) incorrectly writes that this single was "only issued in the US"; Jarman omits the Canadian release in his discography. According to the DD 30th, parts for this version were recorded in NYC in April, then mixed with the tapes from the previous version(s).
Now then, getting to my point... no one, save for Jarman in his World 7" Discography and, I'm given to understand, Robert Bruna in his A Collector Discography 1964-1982 ever mentions the US "Rebel Rebel/Queen Bitch" single (LPB05009) - not even The Young American website (for the time being, I hope!). As I have a copy, I have no doubts as to its existence. Furthermore, all the references to a "US single version" of Rebel Rebel throughout the years - including the official reference on the DD 30th - implicitly deny the existence of the US "Rebel Rebel/Queen Bitch" single. Such a reference also does nothing about informing people that the "phased" version was released in Mexico or Canada. As Jarman omitted the Canadian "phased" release, there is no source that I'm aware of that mentions this release apart from Bassman and Ruud's websites who have included a mention after correspondence from me.
Jarman has the US "Rebel Rebel/Queen Bitch" single listed as coming out in February, 1974. He also writes that "Large quantities of this were exported to the UK. Those export copies don't have 'MADE IN USA' at the bottom of the label." One is tempted by the idea that, perhaps, these singles were pressed at around the same time as in Europe, but that they were shipped off to the UK to meet demand there (according to a March '05 post by "Risky Folio" to the BWW message board, there was a strike at the UK pressing plant) while a US release was delayed to coincide with the album release and the start of the tour. But then, what of the non-export copies - the ones with the 'MADE IN USA' on the label - such as my copy. Could the publicity obsessed MainMan have released the single without fanfare in February? In an article titled "Diamond David", to be found in the June '74 issue of Rock Magazine, the author, writing in about mid-April offers: "'Rebel Rebel' closes out side one on its lightest note. It's probably Bowie's best single, but it won't be released as such in America. At least three of the other four songs have obvious "single-potential" though, so Id take bets that an edited "Diamond Dogs" or "1984" hits the charts soon." American fan and author D. Fletcher had "no release" as far as a US "Rebel Rebel/Queen Bitch" is concerned in his Discography Of A Generalist, written in 1979. Yet the single's orange coloured label indicates that the latest possible release date would have been November 1975, as starting with "Golden Years", RCA stopped using orange labels on US singles.
My guess is that the US singles with 'MADE IN USA' were released some time after the "phased" version, likely after overseas demand for the export copies had dried up. There was a spate of US singles which followed the release of the "phased" version (Diamond Dogs June'74, 1984 July '74, Rock 'N Roll With Me Oct '74, Young Americans Feb '75, Fame Aug '75), so it does not appear that the release was an effort to fill a gap in the release schedule. Could it be that the release was a failed 1975 attempt to piggyback on the successes of Young Americans or Fame?
(last edited) 23rd March 2005.