Released: 22 May 1989
Reeves Gabrels, Kevin Armstrong: guitar
Tony Sales: bass guitar, vocals
Hunt Sales: drums, vocals
‘Under The God’ was Tin Machine’s debut single, released in June 1989.
The song was written about the rise in far right fascist politics, a movement with which Bowie had openly flirted in the previous decade.
I wanted something that had the same simplistic, naive, radical, laying it down about the emergence of a new Nazi so that people could not mistake what the song was about.
Melody Maker, 20 May 1989
The song began life as ‘Night Train’. It was one of several songs which David Bowie and Reeves Gabrels demoed in Switzerland ahead of the Tin Machine album sessions.
David and I had about five song ideas sketched out initially – ‘Heaven’s In Here’ and ‘Pretty Thing’ and a version of ‘Under The God’ that was called ‘Night Train’ at one point. We even kept some of the ‘Night Train’ backing vocals as a tip of the hat to James Brown, with a Sonny Boy Williamson guitar riff.
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)
Tin Machine’s first release was a promotional single of ‘Heaven’s In Here’. Despite a video being made by Julien Temple, plans for a full release were shelved.
‘Under The God’ was released as the band’s first proper single in June 1989, a month after the Tin Machine album. It stalled at 51 on the UK singles chart, and failed to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100. It did, however, reach number four on the US Billboard Alternative Songs chart, and eight on the US Mainstream Rock chart.
The 7″ single had ‘Sacrifice Yourself’ on the b-side, one of the songs left off the vinyl edition of the album.
There were also 10″, 12″ and CD single versions, all of which added an interview with Tin Machine by Scott Muni, originally broadcast on the DIR radio show The World of Rock.
Tin Machine chose not to make conventional promotional videos for their singles. Instead, a 13-track megamix video was made for the entire album, directed by Temple. The ‘Under The God’ sequence featured the band performing in front of caged people while rioters stormed the stage.
Tin Machine performed ‘Under The God’ throughout both of their tours.
A live performance, recorded in February 1992 in Sapporo, Japan, was included on the album Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby.