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Tin Machine II

Tin Machine II
The European album cover, showing 4 greek Koroi statues and the name of the band
The unedited European album cover
Studio album by
Released2 September 1991 (1991-09-02)
RecordedSydney September 1989 (1989-09) – November 1989 (1989-11); April 1990 (1990-04); September 1990 (1990-09) – October 1990 (1990-10); Los Angeles, March 1991 (1991-03)
GenreRock, hard rock, art rock[1]
LabelVictory Music/London Records
Tin Machine chronology
Tin Machine
Tin Machine II
Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby
David Bowie chronology
Tin Machine II
Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby
US album cover
The US album cover, with the Kouroi's penises airbrushed out
The US album cover, with the Kouroi's penises airbrushed out

Tin Machine II is the second and final studio album by Anglo-American rock group Tin Machine, originally released by Victory Music in 1991. After this album and the supporting tour, Tin Machine dissolved as frontman David Bowie resumed his solo career.


The band reconvened following their 1989 tour, recording most of the album in Sydney.[2] The band played an impromptu show at a small Sydney venue on 4 November 1989, which prompted a rebuke from the local musician's union[3] before taking a rest while David Bowie conducted his solo Sound+Vision Tour and filmed The Linguini Incident.

In describing this album, guitarist Reeves Gabrels said "this album is as aggressive as the first one, but the songs are more melodic. Last time, we were screaming at the world. This time, I think, they're all love songs in a strange kind of way",[4] and he joked that his personal playing style was something his friends called "modal chromaticism, which is 'any note you want as long as you end on a right note.'"[5]

Gabrels later stated that at the time he was deeply into Nine Inch Nails' album Pretty Hate Machine and was looking for an industrial edge to his own guitar work for the album. Ultimately (after recording track after track of guitar noise), he found a "shard of guitar noise" that he liked and used it on the album track "Shopping for Girls,"[6] a song about child prostitution in Thailand.[5] Bowie said of the track:

That song actually came out of an investigative magazine article that Reeves' wife wrote on child prostitution around the world. And one of the places she went to was Thailand. Reeves had the rather unsavory job of hiring the children and then getting them out of the brothels to Sara, who could then interview them. We were just talking about those experiences one night. And I've also been in Thailand and witnessed the same kind of thing. The actual approach of how to write the song was quite devastating. 'Cause it was so easy to slip into sensationalism. I tried all kinds of ways of approaching it … the moral point of view … and I just ended up doing it straight narrative. That seems to make it stronger than any other approach.[7]

"If There Is Something" (a Roxy Music cover) was originally recorded during the sessions for the first Tin Machine album but deemed unsatisfactory, so it was shelved until this album.[7]

The track "Goodbye Mr. Ed" was started as a jam the band used to tune up one day. Tony Hunt recalled "We all came back from lunch and David had written a whole sheet of lyrics for it, and then he put the vocal on later with the melody." Bowie described the meaning of the song this way:

[The song] is very much juxtaposing lines which really shouldn't fit, free-association around the idea of 'bye-bye, '50s America.' New York once belonged to the Manahattos — a tribe that used to have that bit of land before it became Manhattan. That was the first real, solid image I had ... I thought, 'That's what this song's about.'[5]

The group signed to Victory Music[8] and added three further tracks in Los Angeles, with Hugh Padgham (producer of Bowie's 1984 album Tonight) overseeing the song "One Shot".[9] Gabrels later said the band was pressured by Victory Music's owner Phil Carson to re-record "One Shot" with Padgham because "radio would play the song if they saw Hugh’s name", but in essence the original and released version of the song were "nearly identical." Gabrels said "the only difference is the hi-hat pattern. And I think the guitar solo is better on the Hugh version."[10] The album was issued in September 1991. Hunt Sales took lead vocals on two tracks: "Stateside" and "Sorry".[9]

The song "Betty Wrong" is featured in the 1990 film The Crossing.


The album's cover was created by Edward Bell, who had previously worked with Bowie in making artwork for Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). In a manner similar to pop art, it consists of a photo of the Kroisos Kouros repeated fourfold. The original concept had each one overlaid with torn pieces of photos of each member to represent them (except for Gabrels', which featured a cutout of a Steinberger guitar).[11] The photo that would have represented Bowie was used to emblazon the CD label.


For the American release of the album, the cover was airbrushed to remove the genitalia of the Kouroi statues.[7] "Even Canada has the original cover," Bowie said, "Only in America …"[12] Bowie floated the idea of allowing American album-buyers to send away to the record company for the genitalia that were struck from their version of the cover, but the label balked. He said: "then [the fans] could paste them back on. But the label freaked out at the idea. Sending genitals through the mail is a serious offense."[7]

Release and reviews

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[13]
Blender1/5 stars[14]
Entertainment WeeklyC[15]
The New York Timesfavourable[17]
Q3/5 stars[18]
Trouser Pressunfavourable[20]

Less successful than the band's debut album, Tin Machine II peaked at No. 23 in the UK and No. 126 in the USA. It received generally poor reviews on release,[14][18] although it achieved success on the Modern Rock chart in the USA, where "Baby Universal" reached No. 21, and "One Shot" became an even bigger hit, reaching No. 3. Q magazine, in a review that stated on the cover the question "Are Tin Machine Crap?", felt that this album did not "quite match up to their wonderfully overwrought but sadly under bought debut", while praising such individual tracks such as "If There Was Something", "You Belong in Rock 'n' Roll" and "Shopping for Girls".[18] There were positive reviews, with one reviewer finding the album "a return to raw form" and called it "the best music Bowie's released since 1980s Scary Monsters",[9] while another found the album "well-conceived and well-executed", only lamenting that it had perhaps been released before radio listeners were ready to hear it.[13] Yet another critic praised Gabrels' guitar work as "two parts Robert Fripp, one part Eddie Van Halen and one part speeding ambulance" in a review that also praised the album.[21] In 2010, Uncut magazine placed the album on their list of 50 Great Lost Albums (their list of great albums not currently available for purchase), calling the album "extraordinary".[22]

In the years after the album's release, some critics have suggested that the album was "unjustly" harshly reviewed at the time of its release.[23][24]

Live performances

The band supported the album with a seven-month tour called the "It's My Life Tour", which started in late 1991 and ran through early 1992. Tracks from this and the first Tin Machine album were released on Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby (1992).

Track listing

All tracks are written by David Bowie and Reeves Gabrels, except where noted.

1."Baby Universal" 3:18
2."One Shot"Bowie, Gabrels, Hunt Sales, Tony Fox Sales5:11
3."You Belong in Rock n' Roll" 4:07
4."If There Is Something"Bryan Ferry4:45
5."Amlapura" 3:46
6."Betty Wrong" 3:48
7."You Can't Talk"Bowie, Gabrels, H. Sales, T. Sales3:09
8."Stateside"Bowie, H. Sales5:38
9."Shopping for Girls" 3:44
10."A Big Hurt"Bowie3:40
11."Sorry"H. Sales3:29
12."Goodbye Mr. Ed"Bowie, H. Sales, T. Sales3:24
13."Hammerhead" (instrumental) (hidden track)Bowie, H. Sales0:57

"Hammerhead" is an edit from the longer vocal version that was issued as the B-side for some releases of the "You Belong in Rock 'n' Roll" and "One Shot" singles.


Tin Machineproducers, mixing




Chart (1991) Position
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista) 14
UK Albums (OCC)[25] 23
US Billboard 200[26] 126


  1. ^ "David Bowie's genre-hopping career". 12 January 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  2. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (April 1990), "David Bowie (Interview)", Q, pp. 60–70
  3. ^ Mann, Tom (12 January 2016). "David Bowie's Australia: Glass Spiders, Tin Machines, iconic videos and Molly Meldrum". Faster - Louder Junkee. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Rock 'n Roll notes", Rolling Stone, 1991
  5. ^ a b c Resnicoff, Matt (September 1991), "Tin Machine's Progression of Perversions", Musician, no. 155, pp. 46–52, 94–95
  6. ^ "Changes 2.1" by Joe Gore, Guitar Player, June 1997, pp 45-58
  7. ^ a b c d di Perna, Alan (1991). "Ballad of the Tin Men". Creem. 2 (1): 50–59.
  8. ^ Varga, George (1–7 January 1992). "David Bowie Music Interview". The Star Entertainment Weekly. 2 (5). Lynnwood, Washington. pp. 2, 10.
  9. ^ a b c Appleford, Steve (1991). "Tin Machine II Review". Creem. 2 (1): 59.
  10. ^ Ives, Brian (20 February 2017). "David Bowie: A Look Back at His '90s Era — When He Got Weird Again". Archived from the original on 28 March 2018. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Artist writes book about his friendship with music icon David Bowie" (video). 19 June 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  12. ^ MacDonald, Patrick (20 December 1991). "Beaming Bowie excited about current direction of his life, music". The Seattle Times.
  13. ^ a b Allender, Mark. "Tin Machine II - Tin Machine | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  14. ^ a b "Tin Machine II". Retrieved 6 November 2011.[dead link]
  15. ^ "Tin Machine II Review", Entertainment Weekly, retrieved 8 January 2013
  16. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Visible Ink Press. p. 151. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Pareles, Jon (1 September 2013), "RECORDINGS VIEW; David Bowie Makes News With Noise", The New York Times, retrieved 29 October 2013
  18. ^ a b c Deevoy, Adrian (October 1991). "Tin Machine II Album Review". Q. p. 105.
  19. ^ Cavanagh, David (October 1991). "Tin Machine Tin Machine II". Select: 72.
  20. ^ Walker, John; Robbins, Ira; Neugebauer, Delvin. "David Bowie". Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  21. ^ Pareles, John (1991). "Bowie's newest album rocks". The New York Times, Journal American.
  22. ^ "Uncut's 50 Greatest Lost Albums". NME. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  23. ^ Sprague, David (February 1997), "After a decade of missteps, David Bowie reinvents himself again ... and this time he's on target", Pulse!, no. 156, pp. 34–37, 72–73
  24. ^ Pond, Steve (March 1997). "Beyond Bowie". Live. pp. 38–41, 93.
  25. ^ "Official Charts: Tin Machine",, retrieved 23 May 2013
  26. ^ "Billboard Artists: Tin Machine",, retrieved 24 May 2013


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