Album release: Tin Machine

The first Tin Machine album was released on 22 May 1989.

I think the first album was important as it was sort of a proto-grunge album. David was listening to bands like Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and the Pixies, but none of those bands had broken into the top 20 US albums. Tin Machine I think opened the door to some of the more chaotic-sounding guitar bands. This, to me, was at least the most vital Bowie album for some time. People seemed to either love it or hate it. At least we got a strong reaction.
Tim Palmer
Strange Fascination, David Buckley

Tin Machine album cover

Upon Tin Machine’s release, Bowie heralded the album as a creative rebirth, and a realigning of his artistic vision.

It’s hard without sounding phony. I love it. This, for me, is kind of like catching up from Scary Monsters. It’s almost dismissive of the last three albums I’ve done. Getting back on course, you could say.
David Bowie
Q magazine, June 1989

He did, however, note that it wouldn’t be universally welcomed.

There’s going to be a whole bunch of people who’ll say it’s just not accessible. I guess it’s not as obviously melodic as one would think it would probably be. I don’t know. We don’t know…

I’ve never been worried about losing fans. I just haven’t bothered to put that into practice recently. My strength has always been that I never gave a shit about what people thought of what I was doing. I’d be prepared to completely change from album to album and ostracise everybody that may have been pulled in to the last album. That didn’t ever bother me one iota. I’m sort of back to that again.

David Bowie
Q magazine, June 1989

Tin Machine was greeted with broadly positive reviews, and reached number three on the UK album chart. It went top ten in Norway and Sweden, and top 40 in Austria, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

In later years, however, the Tin Machine period was seen as something of an aberration; an artistic nadir devoid of much musical merit. The band went on to record a follow-up, 1991’s Tin Machine II, and the following year issued Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby.

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? The moment we stop enjoying it, we’re all prepared to quit. I’m so up on this I want to go and start recording the next album tomorrow.
David Bowie
Q magazine, June 1989

The compact disc edition contained two songs – ‘Run’ and ‘Sacrifice Yourself’ – not on the vinyl version. ‘Run’ was credited to David Bowie and Kevin Armstrong, while ‘Sacrifice Yourself’ was by Bowie and the Sales brothers.

Although Tin Machine was intended as a band endeavour, subsequent reissues have credited the album to Bowie alone.

Last updated: 30 November 2018
Live: Western Springs Stadium, Auckland
Live: Tin Machine, The World, New York
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  1. Scott Robb 30 May 2019

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