Tin Machine (album)

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Tin Machine
Tin-machine album.jpg
Studio album by
Released22 May 1989 (1989-05-22)
RecordedAugust; November–December 1988
StudioMountain Studios, Montreux Switzerland
Compass Point Studios, Nassau, The Bahamas
GenreRock, hard rock, art rock,[1] noise rock[2]
ProducerTin Machine, Tim Palmer
Tin Machine chronology
Tin Machine
Tin Machine II
David Bowie chronology
Never Let Me Down
Tin Machine
Sound + Vision
Singles from Tin Machine
  1. "Under the God" b/w "Sacrifice Yourself"
    Released: June 1989
  2. "Tin Machine" b/w "Maggie's Farm"
    Released: September 1989
  3. "Prisoner of Love" b/w "Baby Can Dance"
    Released: October 1989
Original Vinyl Album Cover
Tin Machine Vinyl Album Cover.jpg
Original Cassette Album Cover
Tin Machine Cassette Cover.jpg

Tin Machine is the debut album by Anglo-American hard rock band Tin Machine. It was originally released in May 1989, on the label EMI. The band was the latest venture of David Bowie, inspired by sessions with guitarist Reeves Gabrels. Drummer Hunt Sales and bassist Tony Fox Sales formed the rest of the band, with "fifth member" Kevin Armstrong providing rhythm guitar and Hammond organ.

The project was intended as a back-to-basics album by Bowie, with a hard rock sound and simple production, as opposed to his past two solo albums. Unlike previous Bowie bands (such as the Spiders from Mars), Tin Machine acted as a democratic unit.[3]


The band prepared some demos in LA before moving to Mountain Studios[4] in Switzerland and then on to Montreal and then finally to Nassau.[5] The band did not have much luck recording in Nassau, finding it hard to record in the midst of the "coke and poverty and crack," which partly inspired the album track "Crack City."[5] Bowie also claimed his own cocaine-addled past in the 1970s as an inspiration for the track.[6] The songs on the album tended to stick to topics such as drugs and urban decay.[7] All songs were a group effort, and the band recorded 35 songs in just six weeks.[2][4][5] In 2017, Gabrels said that the album "could have been a double album" given the amount of material recorded (but not released) by the band during this period.[8]

The first song the band wrote and recorded was "Heaven's in Here", which they wrote from scratch and recorded in their first 30 hours together.[3] They followed up by recording a cover of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero" (one of Bowie's favorite Lennon songs)[9] and Roxy Music's "If There Is Something", though the latter wouldn't appear until the second Tin Machine album in 1991.[3]

The tracks on the album were recorded raw and live with no overdubs to capture the energy of the band.[7][10] The band urged Bowie to avoid re-writing his lyrics: "They were there all the time saying, 'Don't wimp out,' sing like you wrote it. Stand by it. I have done and frequently do censor myself in terms of lyrics. I say one thing and then I think, 'Ah maybe I'll just take the edge off that a bit."[9] He elaborated, "We wanted to come out of the box with energy, the energy we felt when we were writing and playing. There's very, very little over-dubbing on [the album]. For us [it] is our live sound."[4] There were no demos made for the album; Gabrels said "Basically the album is the demo."[3]

Bowie enjoyed making the album, saying "I'm so up on this I want to go and start recording the next album tomorrow."[9] Stylistically, he felt that the album was a continuation from Scary Monsters: "It's almost dismissive of the last three albums I've done. Getting back on course, you could say."[9]

Gabrels would later describe the songs on the album as the band "screaming at the world",[11] and Tony Sales, bassist for the band, described the band's approach to the music they created by saying:

We were so sick of turning on the radio and hearing disco and dance music and drum machines; all that stuff, which I think in the business they call "crap." We were just thinking about doing a project that would put an end to rock 'n' roll.[2]

As the band finished the album, Bowie was sure the band would continue. He said, "There'll be another two albums at least. Oh, yes, this will go for a while. While we're all enjoying playing with each other so much, why not?"[9]

Live performances[edit]

The band played an unannounced live show in Nassau while recording the album, and then made a live appearance at the International Rock Awards Show on 31 May 1989.[9][12] Two weeks later, the band embarked on their 12-show "Tin Machine Tour", wrapping up in early July.

Tracks from this and the second Tin Machine album were recorded live during the 1991-1992 "It's My Life Tour" and released on Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby (1992).

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[13]
Los Angeles Timesfavourable[14]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[15]
Robert ChristgauB−[16]
The New York Timesmixed[17]
Trouser Pressgenerally favourable[18]

At the time of release, Tin Machine met with some success, winning generally positive reviews and reaching No. 3 in the UK Albums Chart. Short-term sales of the album were estimated to have been between 200,000[19] and 1,000,000 copies within a few years.[20] By the end of 2012 the entire catalogue of Tin Machine albums had sold an estimated 2 million copies.[21]

Spin magazine called the album "noise rock without the noise. Aggressive, direct, brutal and stylishly plain, it combines the energy of the rock avant-garde with traditional R&B rhythmic punch",[2] summing up the album by calling it "incendiary fun" and noting that "the buoyant Sales brothers and Gabrels certainly equal and frequently surpass Bowie."[7] Rolling Stone magazine praised the album's "cynical, indignant and acidic" approach to music as an "all-too-welcome feast of aggro-guitar flamboyance and bass-drum body checking", noting that at times it sounds like Sonic Youth meets Station to Station.[15] A review by the McClatchy Company called the band "a lean, mean rock 'n' roll machine", that showed that "Bowie's back", going on to say that this is his most invigorating album since 1980's Scary Monsters.[10]

When asked in an interview what the main criticism of the record would be, Bowie conceded that the album might be "not accessible" to fans. "I guess it's not as obviously melodic as one would think it would probably be [for a Bowie album]."[9]

Track listing[edit]

The CD and cassette releases of the album contained two tracks not available on the vinyl release.[9][15] All releases since follow the former's sequencing.

All tracks written by David Bowie, except where noted.

1."Heaven's in Here" 6:01
2."Tin Machine"Bowie, Reeves Gabrels, Hunt Sales, Tony Fox Sales3:34
3."Prisoner of Love"Bowie, Gabrels, H. Sales, T. Sales4:50
4."Crack City" 4:36
5."I Can't Read"Bowie, Gabrels4:54
6."Under the God" 4:06
7."Amazing"Bowie, Gabrels3:06
8."Working Class Hero"John Lennon4:38
9."Bus Stop"Bowie, Gabrels1:41
10."Pretty Thing" 4:39
11."Video Crime"Bowie, H. Sales, T. Sales3:52
12."Run"Kevin Armstrong, Bowie3:20
13."Sacrifice Yourself"Bowie, H. Sales, T. Sales2:08
14."Baby Can Dance" 4:57

Later reissues have been in line with the rest of Bowie's back catalogue, and the spine and disc of the 1999 reissue credits the artist as David Bowie, with Tin Machine as the album's title.


Tin Machineproducers, mixing


Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart Peak
Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart[22] 42
Austrian Albums Chart[22] 19
Dutch Mega Albums Chart[22] 24
New Zealand Albums Chart[22] 14
Norwegian Albums Chart[22] 9
Rolling Stone Albums Chart[23] 20
Rolling Stone College Albums Chart[23] 10
Swedish Albums Chart[22] 9
UK Albums Chart[24] 3


  1. ^ "David Bowie's genre-hopping career". The Economist. 12 January 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Levy, Joe (July 1989), "I'm with the Band", Spin Magazine, 5 (4): 35–36
  3. ^ a b c d di Perna, Alan (1991), "Ballad of the Tin Men", Creem, 2 (1): 50–59
  4. ^ a b c Clarke, Tina (July 1989), "If I only had a band", Music Express Magazine, 13 (138): 8–11
  5. ^ a b c Derringer, Liz (August 1989), "Tin Machine - Bowie's Latest Vehicle", The Music Paper, Manhasset, NY, 22 (1), pp. 16–17
  6. ^ Clarke, Tina (1990), "David Bowie: Ornament - Oddity - Artist - Survivor", Elle, archived from the original on 2001-07-16
  7. ^ a b c Passantino, Rosemary (July 1989), "Tin Machine Album Review", Spin Magazine, 5 (4): 110–111
  8. ^ Ives, Brian (20 February 2017). "David Bowie: A Look Back at His '90s Era – When He Got Weird Again". Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "Boys Keep Swinging", Q magazine, June 1989, archived from the original on 16 July 2001
  10. ^ a b Barton, David (8 June 1989), "David Bowie puts career on the line", Journal-American, p. D5
  11. ^ "Rock 'n Roll notes", Rolling Stone Magazine, 1991
  12. ^ Fantino, Lisa (August 1989), "International Rock Awards", The Music Paper, Manhasset, NY, 22 (1), p. 14
  13. ^ Mark Allender. "Tin Machine - Tin Machine | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-01-12.
  14. ^ Pareles, Jon (4 June 1989), "RECORDINGS; And Now, The No-Frills David Bowie", Los Angeles Times
  15. ^ a b c Fricke, David (15 June 1989), "The Dark Soul of a New Machine", Rolling Stone magazine (554): 137–139
  16. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Tin Machine Reviews". Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  17. ^ Pareles, Jon (4 June 1989), "RECORDINGS; And Now, The No-Frills David Bowie", The New York Times, retrieved 28 October 2013
  18. ^ Walker, John; Robbins, Ira; Neugebauer, Delvin. "TrouserPress.com :: David Bowie". TrouserPress.com. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  19. ^ The Man Who Fell To Earth, retrieved 8 January 2013
  20. ^ Sandford, Christopher (1996). Bowie: Loving the Alien. Da Capo Press. p. 275. ISBN 978-0-306-80854-8.
  21. ^ David Bowie Bio, archived from the original on 11 January 2013, retrieved 7 January 2013
  22. ^ a b c d e f Australian Charts : Tin Machine (Album), retrieved 23 October 2013
  23. ^ a b Rolling Stone Album Charts, Compiled by Jancee Dunn, 10 August 1989, page 97
  24. ^ Official Charts: Tin Machine, retrieved 23 May 2013

External links[edit]