Tin Machine: You Belong In Rock ‘N Roll – UK – LTD CD5 
- You Belong In Rock N’ Roll [Extended Mix] 6:33
- You Belong In Rock N’ Roll [LP Version] 4:08
- Amlapura [Indonesian Version] 3:50
- Shakin’ All Over [live] 2:51
Hard to believe, but I’m just reviewing a Tin Machine release today! This is shocking considering that I greeted the first Tin Machine album in 1989 like desert dweller greets a raincloud. After almost a decade of seriously avoiding any David Bowie releases, which felt alien, but was absolutely necessary, Tin Machine was not divisive to me as it was to many Bowie fans. Far from it. Having bought the albums, I made the leap to collecting the singles from these releases as well. I was collecting about 40 artists at the time, and it felt great to finally be indulging with David Bowie in this game.
The first release from the “Tin Machine II” era was the single “You Belong In Rock ‘N Roll,” which came in two different CD5 formats. As it was still high chart manipulation era, these two different singles had two of the same songs overlap with two others that didn’t. This edition came in a large cardboard canister with steel ends, and a round foldout photo booklet inside. You might say “it lay there canistered for future reference” for the last 32 years. Well, the future is now.
After a paint-peeling album of caterwauling, metallic bluesnoise, it was surprising to hear how gentle the first single from the new Tin Machine album was. Perhaps it staked out a point halfway from the David Bowie wheelhouse and the first album, but this song was even given the extended remix treatment! Signs that this was not your father’s Tin Machine album this time! The extended version had a nice buildup emphasizing the rhythm and acoustic guitars and minimized the already subtle vocal turn by Bowie this time out. The drum track was isolated and EQ’d into a modest “thwack” with hoots of Bowie’s baritone sax played rhythmically to approximate what cellos might do if this were not a Tin Machine record.
Bowie’s vocal was almost dubbed out here. The verses were at the very least severely undermixed. Leaving the more expansive chorus room to unfold throughout the song. The mix here gave the tune a long instrumental coda for sax and the almost nonexistent keyboards a brief glint in the sunlight.
The LP mix of the song was much more immediate and in hearing it, one can imagine how this song was given the nod as the pre-release single. Not that “Tin Machine II” was lacking in that respect. Bowie’s vocals were still subtle with a delivery that emphasized an almost tremolo approach to singing the song. And I mean tremolo as opposed to vibrato, but they were more prominent in the mix to the 12″ version.
The highlight of “Tin Machine II” for me was the beauty of “Amlapura” with the ululating tone of Reeves Gabrels lead guitar being beauty I could listen to for days. But the LP version of the song featured decidedly exotic scales and chord sequences…with English lyrics shoehorned into the result. It was still impressive, but the Indonesian version of the lyric as delivered here, had miles more integrity. And it showed that Bowie had come far since the days of trying songs in the now commonplace Italian, German, or French languages! In this a great song was made even better.
After two snapshots of Tin Machine at their delicate and melodic best, we didn’t think we were getting out of this one without some of the famed Tin Machine grease and grit, did we? This one was a cover of the venerable Johnny Kidd + The Pirates “Shakin’ All Over.” My pick for the greatest Rock ‘N Roll single ever by a British band, and a song I have never heard a bad version of! The recording had the sound of a rehearsal tape with the band in muscular yet loose form. Boom! Only the slight sound of audience applause bleeding in through the vocal mics revealed that it was a concert recording in the fade.
Of all of the Tin Machine singles, this one had the most bang for your buck. The extended mix was slightly off-kilter and subtle. No 80s 12″ cliche’s on parade here. The Indonesian version of “Amlapura” was perhaps Tin Machine at their finest. And the “Shakin’ All Over” cover was pitch perfect at 2:51. If Tin Machine were going to rock, better they did it nice and tight like this.
I have the same CD and – whilst I get some of the tracks on TMII – I never ever go back to it except for this track and Baby Universal. I’m more likely to listen to the first album but that isn’t saying much. “Why?”, I hear you ask…..oh, no? It lacks originality, the song writing is generally still pretty lackadaisical and although Reeves Gabrels is a fantastic guitarist, he really needs reining in which Bowie fails to do when it is needed. And let’s not kid ourselves here, TM was not a band,,,,,, Perversly, Reeve’s solo album from the same era, ‘The Sacred Squall of Now’ is much more balanced yet still off the cuff and inventive and really doesn’t go too overboard. It’s worth it for King Of Stamford Hill & You’ve Been Around alone.
I was also very disappointed that the extended version of Baby Universal was not included on what was then the only digital format. Roll on 30 years and I’m still trying to get hold of decent copies of the record…..
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alonewithstrangers – Do you mean that you never got one of these?
One of the [few] perks of living in America was access to domestic promos. I got this at a record show. I miss those.
And I’ve still got “The Sacred Squall of Now” penciled in on the infinite Want List. Must act sooner than later as I’m perilously old now! The only Gabrels solo material I have is from later, like his Bill Nelson duet album and the “Imaginary Friends” album. Bought from the man’s merch table. The night of that amazing concert. I will say that the man had really moved places in the 20 years where I had not heard his work. There was none of the penchant for wankery that colored his earlier, often bracing, work.
My biggest quarrel [and I’ve got several] with TMII was the rape at knife point committed to “If There Is Something,” my favorite song from “Roxy Music.” Neck and neck with “God Only Knows” for me, and one a bad day, even worse.
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No, not got it but have a FLAC version now and would rather get a decent 12″. I forgot they covered ITIS……yeah, not great.
alonewithstrangers – Sadly, I can’t forget [or forgive] that!
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We need a definitive 3 disc release of the Tin Machine output. I disc per album and another of all the extra bits.
postpostmoderndad – I can see that happening. I think the Bowie estate is going to squeeze that cash cow until the udder gives powder. The question is, will they do one of the Big Bowie Boxes for the relatively unloved Tin Machine era? First and second album. “Oy Vey Baby” on extended 2xCD + Blu-Ray. Maybe the whole SNL Tin Machine episode! One disc of the single tracks. Unreleased materials on another disc. And the inevitable Visconti remix! Another disc remixed into 5.1 by Steven Wilson while we’re at it. Is that ten?
The topic of “Bowie Covers Ranked” would be a fascinating entry for the blog … in a few cases he’s been brilliant at it, but over his career there have been quite a number of right stinkers.
chasinvictoria – So true! For every good one there are maybe two bad ones. “Pinups” never convinced me. But when he’s good at it [“Cactus,” “Kingdom Come,” “I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship”] he can hit it out of the park.
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Add ‘Pablo Picasso’, Nite Flights’ & ‘Criminal World’ to the good list and – Gawd almighty – ‘God Only Knows’ as well as ‘It Ain’t Easy’ & ‘I Feel Free’ to the disastrous list.
‘China Girl’ is an odd one though. I love Iggy’ rendition and that is the version Bowie ended up playing live from the mid 90s but his own version, corny as it is, has probably weathered the passing of time better than most of his 80s output and I can quite happily listen to it.
alonewithstrangers – I had “Pablo Picasso” on my shortlist, but veered further left to include “Gemini Spaceship” which delighted me even more. But curse me for the novice for not thinking of “Nite Flights” first and foremost! Every time I hear that one I get chills on my spine. We’ll have to agree to disagree on “It Ain’t Easy” as I enjoy hearing Ronno unleash the kraken on the surprisingly few numbers on “Ziggy” where that actually happens.