One Shot single (Tin Machine)Written by: David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels, Hunt Sales, Tony Sales
Recorded: September – November 1989; April, September – October 1990; March 1991
Producers: Tin Machine, Hugh Padgham

Released: 2 September 1991

Available on:
Tin Machine II


David Bowie: vocals, guitar
Reeves Gabrels, Kevin Armstrong: guitar
Tony Sales: bass guitar, vocals
Hunt Sales: drums, vocals

‘One Shot’ is the second song on the Tin Machine II album. In November 1991 it was released as the band’s final single.

The song was first recorded at Tin Machine’s Australia sessions, in which the bulk of the album was laid down. The sessions took place from September to November 1989 at Studios 301 on Castlereagh Street, Sydney.

David Bowie parted company with EMI after the label refused to release the second Tin Machine album. He was put in the humbling situation of looking for a label to issue the record, and eventually settled on Victory Music, a new label run by electronics company JVC.

Tin Machine II was to have been the label’s first major release, and they demanded that ‘One Shot’ be re-recorded with Hugh Padgham, who had worked on Bowie’s Tonight album.

I was sent the demo and I thought, Yes, this is a bloody great song.
Hugh Padgham
Strange Fascination, David Buckley

The sessions with Padgham took place at A&M Studios in Los Angeles in September and October 1990. The producer was unimpressed with the other recordings for the album, and his initial impressions of the band were negative.

I just couldn’t believe it. It just sounded like this mad bunch of people. It was only when I started working with them that I realised that Reeves was a master of his instrument in an Adrian Belew kind of way. To the uninitiated it could sound just like a load of noise, but actually when you concentrated on listening, it made more sense. I remember being amazed by Hunt Sales. The Sales brothers were basically mad.
Hugh Padgham
Strange Fascination, David Buckley

Also present during the re-recording of ‘One Shot’ was Tin Machine’s main producer, Tim Palmer.

For ‘One Shot’ we actually had a pretty great version of it in the can. But the record label decided they thought it would be a good idea to have Hugh Padgham produce it. At that time, Hugh was a very successful producer/engineer, and the idea that his name would be on this particular song may encourage radio stations to give it more airplay. So the song was recut in LA. Strangely enough, I happened to be working in the other studio in the same complex, which was A&M Studio in Hollywood. And I was able to go into the sessions, sit on the couch at the back and watch them re-record it with Hugh. He’s a great producer and he gave it a slightly more polished sound. The hope was that it might be more conducive to radio stations than the more aggressive side of Tin Machine, but the irony, in the end, is that ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ became the biggest single, especially in the UK. There are two great versions of that song. I’d love you to hear the original one.
Tim Palmer
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

Although Palmer was respectful of Padgham’s work, drummer Hunt Sales was less complimentary.

We’d already recorded the song and had two pretty good versions of it in the can when David brought in Hugh Padgham on a third session, which of course ended up being the version. I thought it was pretty unnecessary, and besides that, Hugh was a real dick.
Hunt Sales
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

Despite all the effort put into it, Padgham’s version of ‘One Shot’ was almost identical to the Sydney version.

We recorded that song the way we recorded everything, with Tim Palmer producing. Victory Music’s owner Phil Carson begged us to re-record it with Hugh Padgham. The thought was that radio would play the song if they saw Hugh’s name. And he’s a lovely man and a talented man. I just listened to the original version the other day, the only difference is the hi-hat pattern. And I think the guitar solo is better on the Hugh version. But they’re almost identical. I hope at some point we put it out; we could put out a four or five CD box set because there’s an album of material that never got released, plus there’s alternate material, and live stuff.
Reeves Gabrels, February 2017

Tin Machine performed ‘One Shot’ throughout their 1991 and 1992 live dates.

The release

‘One Shot’ was first released on 2 September 1991 as the second song on Tin Machine II.

In November 1991 it became the third single released from the album, after ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ and ‘Baby Universal’. The b-side of ‘One Shot’ was ‘Hammerhead’.

‘One Shot’ was not a commercial success, although it reached number three on the US Billboard Alternative Songs chart. It was not released in the United Kingdom.

In 2008 a number of Tin Machine II outtakes leaked online, including five versions of ‘One Shot’.

That stretch of time, I’m proud of it because we didn’t do anything we didn’t want to do. I think the biggest compromise was doing ‘One Shot’ with Hugh Padgham.
Reeves Gabrels, February 2017
Previous song: ‘Baby Universal’
Next song: ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’
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