Tin Machine (album)

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Tin Machine
Tin-machine album.jpg
Studio album by Tin Machine
Released 22 May 1989 (1989-05-22)
Recorded August 1988 - early 1989;
Mountain Studios, Montreux Switzerland,
and Compass Point Studios, Nassau
Genre Rock, hard rock, art rock,[1] noise rock[2]
Length 56:49
Label EMI
Producer Tin Machine and 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. "Heaven's in Here""
    Released: 1989 (promo only)
  2. "Under the God" b/w "Sacrifice Yourself"
    Released: June 1989
  3. "Tin Machine" b/w "Maggie's Farm"
    Released: September 1989
  4. "Prisoner of Love" b/w "Baby Can Dance"
    Released: October 1989
Original Vinyl Album Cover
Original Cassette Album Cover

Tin Machine is the debut album of Tin Machine originally released by EMI in 1989. The group was the latest venture of David Bowie, inspired by sessions with guitarist Reeves Gabrels. Drummer Hunt Sales and bassist Tony Sales formed the rest of the band, with "fifth member" Kevin Armstrong providing rhythm guitar.

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 tend 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.[4][5][2]

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)[8] 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][9] 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."[8] 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."[8] 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."[8]

Gabrels would later describe the songs on the album as the band "screaming at the world,",[10] 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?"[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[11]
Los Angeles Times favourable[12]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[13]
Robert Christgau B−
The New York Times mixed[14]
Trouser Press generally favourable[15]

At the time of release, Tin Machine met with some success, winning generally positive reviews and reaching No. 3 in the UK album charts. However, short-term sales of the album were not good, with the album estimated to have sold only around 200,000 copies by 1991[16] (although by the end of 2012 the entire catalogue of Tin Machine albums sold an estimated 2 million copies).[17]

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.[13] A review by the McClatchy News Service 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 1980s Scary Monsters.[9]

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]."[8]

Live performances[edit]

The band played a handful of shows in support of the album, informally called the "Tin Machine Tour" in mid-1989.

Track listing[edit]


Side 1
  1. "Heaven's in Here" (David Bowie) – 6:01
  2. "Tin Machine" (Bowie, Reeves Gabrels, Hunt Sales, Tony Sales) – 3:34
  3. "Prisoner of Love" (Bowie, Gabrels, H. Sales, T. Sales) – 4:50
  4. "Crack City" (Bowie) – 4:36
  5. "I Can't Read" (Bowie, Gabrels) – 4:54
  6. "Under the God" (Bowie) – 4:06
Side 2
  1. "Amazing" (Bowie, Gabrels) – 3:06
  2. "Working Class Hero" (John Lennon) – 4:38
  3. "Bus Stop" (Bowie, Gabrels) – 1:41
  4. "Pretty Thing" (Bowie) – 4:39
  5. "Video Crime" (Bowie, H. Sales, T. Sales) – 3:52
  6. "Baby Can Dance" (Bowie) – 4:57


The CD release of the album contained two tracks not available on the vinyl release.[8][13]

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

The 1995 Virgin Records reissue of the album included a live, country-styled version of "Bus Stop" recorded in Paris on the band's 1989 world tour.

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



Additional musicians



Year Chart Position
1989 Australia's album charts 42[18]
1989 Austria's album charts 19[18]
1989 Holland's album charts 24[18]
1989 New Zealand's album charts 14[18]
1989 Norway's album charts 9[18]
1989 Rolling Stone magazine album charts 20[19]
1989 Rolling Stone magazine college album charts 10[19]
1989 Sweden's album charts 9[18]
1989 UK album charts 3[20]


  1. ^ "David Bowie's genre-hopping career". 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 
  7. ^ a b c Passantino, Rosemary (July 1989), "Tin Machine Album Review", Spin magazine, 5 (4): 110–111 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Boys Keep Swinging", Q magazine, June 1989 
  9. ^ a b Barton, David (8 June 1989), "David Bowie puts career on the line", Journal-American, p. D5 
  10. ^ "Rock 'n Roll notes", Rolling Stone magazine, 1991 
  11. ^ Mark Allender. "Tin Machine - Tin Machine | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  12. ^ Pareles, Jon (4 June 1989), "RECORDINGS; And Now, The No-Frills David Bowie", Los Angeles Times 
  13. ^ a b c Fricke, David (15 June 1989), "The Dark Soul of a New Machine", Rolling Stone magazine (554): 137–139 
  14. ^ Pareles, Jon (4 June 1989), "RECORDINGS; And Now, The No-Frills David Bowie", The New York Times, retrieved 28 October 2013 
  15. ^ Walker, John; Robbins, Ira; Neugebauer, Delvin. "TrouserPress.com :: David Bowie". TrouserPress.com. Retrieved July 7, 2016. 
  16. ^ The Man Who Fell To Earth, retrieved 8 January 2013 
  17. ^ David Bowie Bio, retrieved 7 January 2013 
  18. ^ a b c d e f Australian Charts : Tin Machine (Album), retrieved 23 October 2013 
  19. ^ a b Rolling Stone Album Charts, Compiled by Jancee Dunn, 10 August 1989, page 97
  20. ^ Official Charts: Tin Machine, retrieved 23 May 2013