Candidate 1 (Alternative Candidate)

Candidate 1 (Alternative Candidate).

Having only one line and a title in common with the “Candidate” that eventually appeared on Diamond Dogs, the earlier “Candidate” was a studio demo Bowie recorded on New Year’s Day 1974. It apparently was part of Bowie’s stillborn Nineteen Eighty-Four adaptation, though little of its lyric would suggest that (there’s a reference to “the correction room”—that’s about it). It’s in F-sharp minor (was the entire Orwell musical going to be in a minor key?), and is centered around Mike Garson’s piano runs and smears of Bowie’s guitar.

“Candidate 1,” or “Alternative Candidate,” is somewhat akin to “Zion” in that it’s an inchoate track that serves as a storehouse of obsessions Bowie would tag for future development. So there’s identity and sex games, hallucinogenic TV pornography (see “TVC 15”) and hints of fascism and black magic (see Station to Station). Bowie sings blankly and distantly, and ends the last verse with “Do I have to give your money back when I’m the Führerling?

Recorded 1 January 1974; not released until the Ryko reissue of Diamond Dogs (& later included on the 30th anniversary reissue).

Top: Vanessa Redgrave, campaigning as a MP candidate for the Workers Revolutionary Party, February 1974.

14 Responses to Candidate 1 (Alternative Candidate)

  1. Joe the Lion says:

    I consider this song to be Bowie’s strongest ‘obscurity’. Love it.

    By the way, I’ve only recently discovered your blog following a mention of it in the UK Guardian’s weekend Guide. I’m a diehard Bowie fan and I’ve been reading your website whenever I have the chance. Superlative stuff.

  2. snoball says:

    This track is also my favourite DB ‘obscurity’, with perhaps one exception which will appear a little later. With a bit more work it could have been a great addition to the album. Bowie’s singing on this track is like a bored teenager, looking for kicks but in the end disinterested.

  3. Joe the Lion says:

    I wonder if your one possible exception is also mine? I don’t want to ruin it by saying mine now!

    Yes, it’s sketchily produced but it feels pretty ‘good to go’ – and with Bowie’s vocal, which could maybe be a guide vocal, the spare instrumentation works very well in creating the mood of resignation.

  4. ian says:

    It sounds like it could be a guide vocal, but the weary tone works perfectly. The whole song shuffles along with a fair bit of death in it, with only Bowie’s scuzz-guitar showing any protest.

    The song also seems to be the truest set (along with We Are The Dead) of Bowie’s cut-up lyrics until Outside. As much as he talked about being a big cut up fan in ’74, it always seems like he took the cut ups, then made a second draft (or third?) of the lyrics that makes sense. With this Candidate, he just let it all fly out uninhibited. That, coupled with the arrangement and the blasé vocals, adds up to something really chilling.

    This song is one of my top five Bowie tracks, ever.

  5. ian says:


  6. col1234 says:

    As much as he talked about being a big cut up fan in ’74, it always seems like [DB] took the cut ups, then made a second draft (or third?) of the lyrics that makes sense.”

    yeah, very much agree. I actually tried to assemble the Sweet Thing entry cut-up style, then got irritated with the placement of various entries and reworked it. Close to the DB songwriting process, maybe.

  7. Joe The Lion says:

    I third that, re. cut-ups. I think he used them as a starting point. Not sure he ever bettered the lyrics of I’m Deranged in a cut-up style.

    It’s Gonna Be Me is suh-weet, but it’s not the one I’m thinking of.

    Lovely entry on Sweet Thing, btw. Maybe Bowie’s greatest artistic statement up to that time, I reckon.

  8. Anonymous says:

    With a fairly wide ranging db collection, this Candidate/demo-version took me by complete surprise, but unlike some of the less-well-cooked ideas in the rarities column, it is a standalone success.

    As mentioned above, good to go with a rough-n-ready sonic presentation –but what’s there is tight, infectious and meticulously produced. This doesn’t sound like some cassette from the bottom of somebody’s knapsack.

    Thematically, yes, firmly in the Sane/Dogs camp with the lyric and tone … “You don’t have to scream a lot to keep an age in tune” .. But to my ear reaches back to the percussive acoustic thwack of the Hunky Dory days .. Andy Warhol, Queen Bitch or even Changes, all sharing that sort of throbby elliptical beat & progression.

    As such, for the longtime db epicurean, a revelation, rising fully formed from the depths. How did we not know this one for the last thirty-some years ? This track is kind of another color in the palette of 1972 db that we never quite knew was there. But put it on loud and it’s a time-machine invention. It sounds proto-spiders and should’ve been a hit (not for the charts but for us, anyway)– and it took this long to surface.

    Great site, always checking in, thanks.

    • J.D. says:

      Strikes me too that the upbeat Alternate Candidate might have been part of the larger framework for the never produced 1984 extravaganza… Too many similarities in theme, if not in tone, to the Sweet-Thing triptych (I’ll pretend I’m walking home morphs from a rendezvous, an occasion, in the alternate to a scheme of plausible deniability in the way-darker Sweet Thing).

      The alternate Candidate feels sort of the upbeat early-in-show introduction to the themes that would take a desperate turn later on.

      Evidence of this– none. But DB was working out a whole theater piece for 1984, so not impossible to think

  9. rob thomas says:

    Great comments here- like many of the above, I came across this track by accident, and it’s immediately entered the ‘Desert Island Bowie Tracks’. (I assume that we all have our separate ‘Bowie Island’ to languish on, as well as the one with The Beatles, Dickens and the Endless Bacon Sarnie). I can add nothing to the appreciations above, apart from enthusiastic agreement: it’s a fantastic track, evocative, mysterious and groovy. Thanks as always.

  10. Great site – and by the way my alternative guess was also It’s Gonna Be Me so I laughed out loud when I saw your suggestion 🙂

  11. My copy of Rebel Rebel should arrive on Monday. To be entirely honest, I must say I’m most excited to read the promised *ambitious* entry on this very track.

  12. BenJ says:

    If this isn’t the best song to ever be shelved for decades and finally see the light of day as a CD extra – Sly & the Family Stone’s “We Love All” is in the running too – it must be the greatest to lack even a proper name after all that time.

    It’s also evidence that even before Mrs. Orwell put her foot down, Bowie wasn’t exactly planning a straight adaptation of 1984.

  13. todd says:

    Should have gone on the album, would have been a great trak, love diamond dog’s, I’m puzzled as to why it was omitted, well, it’s all just over now he’s gone, that’s life as they say, the song I’ll listen to on my deathbed changes, a bowie for sure, lift off, todd

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