Just call me Dave.

It’s 26 years since the release of blues rock colossus and precursor of grunge, Tin Machine, was released to acclaim.


It’s 26 years since David Bowie confirmed his topple into the creative abyss.

Even now it’s hard to place this record with any balance across the musical spectrum such is its divisive nature.

So, Bowie wins again.

After the less than credible Glass Spider tour wrapped and burned in New Zealand, Bowie returned with a new musical partner in Reeves Gabrels, a husband of a mutual friend who kept his guitar playing from Bowie as they became friends. Some say it should have stayed this way.

Having burnt pop to ashes, Bowie’s new spark was a new ground zero. What was he? Where was he? Who was he? He was Dave in Tin Machine, his first band since The Spiders from Mars.

Whilst it had been maintained Tin Machine was a democratic unit, could the meticulous Bowie be consumed within a four man band, playing rhythm guitar behind Gabrels and back up vocals to Hunt Sales on drums with his brother Tony on bass?

His natural ability to create theatre, drama, mime and provide a show would not allow him this; it would only add to his frustration, leaving Dave with no option but to sing lead and be the focal point.

Of course, it would be news and decamp into inches, if not yards, of press regardless of his role as he was David Bowie. Maybe the weight needed to be shared and Gabrels offered in the new collaboration. So Tin Machine was birthed, rather than it being David and his Tin-Machine-made-up-of-an-unknown-and-Iggy-Pop’s-rhythm-section.

After 15 more years of singing, touring, snorting and smoking, he finally has enough gravel in his throat to offer a true rock vocal performance, rather than the fey woofter who sang on The Man Who Sold The World. Why it is considered a distinctly rock LP has never been clear to me.

FU in TM WPIt spawned electric, violent and vitriolic shows, seemingly blunting Bowie pop arrows with Thor’s hammer on the altar of heavy rock with a brutal anger normally reserved for the young, such was Bowie’s built up frustration. All evidenced on the live LP, Oy Vey, Baby.

He pushed boundaries in the studio to effectively banish Tonight and Never Let Me Down from his creative mind with guitar abrasion. So gritty in fact, Rico used the LP as his starting samples for his 1999 album, Sanctuary Medicines.

“I want you to really twang it,” he said to Gabrels, who then launched into one of those intricate five minute hard edged wall of sonic extremity, pencil dick axe solos ending with a towering finale scraping the sky only to collapse as the sweat dripped into his eyes and around his knees on the floor creating a pool around him while the Sales brothers and producer Tim Palmer jaws dropped and wide eyed, for Dave to say. “This time I want you to really twang it.”

For those hankering after Ziggy – Come on, Ziggy’s dead! – this was another move away from a previous album, a familiar pattern for The Dame.

Tin Machine is the very crystallisation of all his grievance being pummelled in an acidic assault to, again, re-invent himself. Only this time, as just ‘Dave.’


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