Tin Machine; short-lived, somewhat underrated, slightly overlooked but career rejuvenating for its front man, David Bowie.
Put together at the spur of the moment in 1988, falling together effortlessly, David Bowie, along with Hunt and Tony Sales and guitarist Reeves Gabrels formed Tin Machine as a sort of temporary thing – it was only meant to be fun and spontaneous. And once it stopped being that, the band would dissolve. Everyone shared an equal footing and each assumed writing chores.
Looking at it as an opportunity to steer away from his previous incarnations, David Bowie saw it as a chance to branch out and get into a more raw and Punk state of mind. As a fan of The Pixies, Bowie took them as a sort of prototype. And along with the Sales’ more hard-rock approach, the band explored different possibilities. Since both Tony and Hunt Sales had worked with Bowie during his collaboration with Iggy Pop in the late 1970s, the fit seemed to work very well.
Initially, the critics and the audience reactions were mixed. And even though Tin Machine’s debut album sold well, earning it a number 3 spot in the British charts, it dropped off quickly. But despite that, Bowie felt the band had “at least another two albums in them”.
The group went on hiatus in 1990 while Bowie did his Sound and Vision tour. During that time, David Bowie split from EMI and signed with a subsidiary label of JVC, taking Tin Machine along with him.
This batch of sessions comes around the time of the release of their second album, Tin Machine II and the subsequent tour to promote it. Tin Machine would break up late in 1992, partly because of poor sales, partly because of problems developing in the band. Bowie came away feeling a new surge of creativity, and years later Tin Machine would be reassessed and considered to have been judged too harshly at the time. Many felt the band was ahead of its time and the audience and critics just weren’t ready for it.
But ultimately, it stopped being fun.
To get an idea of what Tin Machine sounded like live (in case you missed them the first time around), here is that session done for the BBC in 1991.