Written by: David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels
Recorded: September – November 1989; April, September – October 1990; March 1991
Producers: Tin Machine, Tim Palmer
Released: October 1990
Tin Machine II
Reeves Gabrels: guitar
Tony Sales: bass guitar, vocals
Hunt Sales: drums, vocals
‘Betty Wrong’ was the first released on the soundtrack of the 1990 film The Crossing, and was remixed the following year for the second Tin Machine album.
The Crossing was directed by George Ogilvie, and starred a young Russell Crowe. In addition to Tin Machine, the soundtrack included songs by The Proclaimers, Crowded House, and others.
The soundtrack version was different from the mix on Tin Machine II, notably the presence of woodblocks and saxophone during the verses.
Although the name does not feature anywhere in the song’s lyrics, the title ‘Betty Wrong’ was seemingly based on Betty Wright, an American soul and R&B singer who, like David Bowie, found fame in the 1970s.
Bessie Regina Norris (December 21, 1953 – May 10, 2020), better known by her stage name Betty Wright, was an American soul and R&B singer, songwriter and background vocalist. Beginning her professional career in the late 1960s as a teenager, Wright rose to fame in the 1970s with hits such as “Clean Up Woman” and “Tonight Is the Night”. Wright was also prominent in her use of whistle register.
The bulk of Tin Machine II, including ‘Betty Wrong’, was recorded in 1989 in Australia, in the wake of the band’s first tour. The sessions took place from September to November 1989 at Studios 301 on Castlereagh Street, Sydney.
After the sessions, the band went on a temporary hiatus while Bowie appeared in The Linguini Incident and prepared for the solo Sound + Vision Tour. In his absence guitarist Reeves Gabrels continued to work on the session recordings.
I put a lot of effort into that record. A song like ‘Betty Wrong’ has a lot of harmonic development in it. My biggest chore was making sure everyone was happy. Once I’d done that I could just be creative. I learnt how to care for an idea. It’s like trying to build a fire out of kindling and flint – you have to crowd around it and protect the flame and nurture it until you’ve got something you can use.
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)
‘Betty Wrong’ was given a makeover for Tin Machine’s It’s My Life Tour in 1991/2, with extended saxophone solos by Bowie.