You Belong In Rock N' Roll single (Tin Machine)Written by: David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels
Recorded: September – November 1989; April, September – October 1990; March 1991
Producers: Tin Machine, Tim Palmer

Released: 19 August 1991

Available on:
Tin Machine II
Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby


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

‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ was Tin Machine’s biggest hit single, released ahead of their second album in August 1991.

With Bowie’s sotto voce delivery and saxophone solo, the atmospheric production made a contrast from the balls-to-the-wall rock of the band’s debut album, and signposted new depths for Tin Machine.

The song was started in 1989, after Tin Machine’s first tour, but was subjected to many overdubs by Reeves Gabrels. The guitarist initially used an electric razor against his guitar strings on ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’, but he eventually settled on a vibrator, its variable speed allowing for the creation of new sonic textures.

A song like ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ combines so many elements that couldn’t have been achieved in a live setting. There’s a combination of David playing ’50s sax licks; the groove by Hunt and Tony is very rock ‘n’ roll. David is doing his best Elvis Presley impersonation in the verse, but really lets out that sort of guttural, pleading vocal in the choruses.

At the same time, there’s loops of strange guitar noises, probably created from Reeves’ vibrator trick. And they randomly appear in the song, giving it a kind of haunted feeling. Together, I think that’s a pretty special Tin Machine song from that album.

We took the recording of ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ to another studio in Surrey, Ridge Farm, where Reeves and I created a 12″ extended mix of that song, which is one of my favourites. Ridge Farm was where I’d mixed Pearl Jam’s Ten, so I was very familiar with it. And we were able to take the song to the next level. Quite often, extended mixes aren’t worth listening to, but in this particular case we came up with something really interesting.

Tim Palmer
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

The release

‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ was released as a single on 19 August 1991, ahead of the Tin Machine II album on 2 September. The video was directed by Julien Temple.

There were four formats of the single. The 7″ vinyl had an edit of ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ which reduced the length from 4:08 to 3:33. The b-side was ‘Amlapura’ (Indonesian version).

The 12″ and CD 1 had the same tracklisting: ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ (Extended version) lasting 6:32; ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ (LP version); ‘Amlapura’ (Indonesian version); and ‘Shakin’ All Over’ (live).

There was a second CD single which contained the shorter edit of ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’, plus ‘Amlapura’ (Indonesian version), ‘Stateside’, and ‘Hammerhead’.

‘Baby Universal’ was released the album’s second single on 2 September 1991. The 7″ version had the extended 6:32 version of ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ on the b-side.

Tin Machine undertook a number of public appearances to support ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’, kicking off with a performance on the BBC’s Paramount City on 3 August.

On 14 August they appeared on BBC 1’s Wogan, during which Reeves Gabrels played his guitar with a vibrator. David Bowie’s terse interview manner, meanwhile, did not endear him to the host.

David Bowie would not speak, or at least not sensibly, and would not allow his backing group to talk, either. He will never know how close he came to a slap on live television.
Terry Wogan
Is It Me?

Tin Machine also played on the Top Of The Pops on 29 August, for which Gabrels’ weapon of choice was a bread roll.

Despite these efforts, ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ was not a commercial success, and it peaked at number 33 on the official UK singles chart. In France it reached number 42, and in the Netherlands it peaked at a lowly 51.

It was, however, Tin Machine’s biggest hit, which says much about their lack of success. Although Bowie’s presence was enough to ensure the success of their live shows, the band’s reputation was poor at the time, and their second album was given a drubbing by the critics.

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… 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.
Tim Palmer
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

Live performances

Tin Machine performed ‘You Belong In Rock N’ Roll’ throughout their It’s My Life Tour in 1991-2.

A performance from Chicago’s Riviera Theatre on 7 December 1991 was the final track on Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby.

Previous song: ‘One Shot’
Next song: ‘If There Is Something’
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