The Man Who Fell To Earth

by Dave Fanning / The Irish Times

24th August 1991

AS we sit in the basement of The Waterfront a few hours before the second of Tin Machine’s two low-key Dublin gigs last weekend, David Bowie and his sidekicks just don’t seem to be as full of the camaraderie and good spirits one might associate with a band who have just completed their second album.

Critically, at least, to say that Bowie hasn’t had too much to smile about for almost a decade now (since his biggest ever commercial success, “Let’s Dance”) is cruel, but fair; although the playing seemed a little tighter on Monday at The Waterfront than on Friday at The Baggot, the most significant fact was that a living rock legend was playing in two Dublin rock clubs.

“Well, we wanted somewhere to start the rehearsals and this seemed a lot quieter than London,” Bowie says. “People are pretty cool here and laid back. So we were able to get all the work that we needed to do, done. We’re still only about half way through rehearsals but it’s coming together, hence the reason for doing these gigs. It’s a chance to try out the new material and count the mistakes.

“Even taking in The Spiders, or whoever, I’ve never been in a band”, he remarks, London barrow-boy accent still intact. “I’ve never been in a band. I’ve always led a band. It’s probably the only band I’ll ever be in, because it’s fulfilling everything I ever thought you could do with a band and I would see no necessity for being with another one.”

Since the Glass Spider tour and the awful accompanying album, Bowie had dished up “Tin Machine One” to a lukewarm response; and last year he brought his greatest hits package to The Point for two nights. Does Tin Machine II mean that his solo career is on the back burner with the movie career?

“Well, as regards movies I did two this year. I did a comedy with Rosanna Arquette called “Linguini” which comes out in the fall and I’ve done a film with John Landis and Sylvester Stallone for television which comes out later this year. And I’m directing my own first movie next year. So with movies I’m still in there. I’ve no plans whatever at the moment for what happens next for David Bowie solo.”

This month sees the re-release of his late-Seventies triple set “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger”, which have stood the test of time and demonstrate a fiery artistic potency and staying power.

Bowie had gone to Berlin at the time to get away from his fast-lane lifestyle in Los Angeles. He worked with Brian Eno and stayed for over two years.

“If you put yourself in the same environment or with the same people for too long, there’s a certain sterility which starts to cause a stagnation so you have to break free of that. It generally is by meeting another personality who also has a very sorta off-the-beaten-track point of view. These things happen accidentally and they’re really meant to last.

“Brian has always worked in a much more cerebral way than I do. He prides himself quite rightly on being an intellectual whereas I’m far more sorta physical. I sometimes don’t know how I come up with some of the things I come up with. With me it feels right; with Brian, he knows.

“I think artistically it was a very interesting time. But then again so was making ‘Scary Monsters’ in New York. And ‘Diamond Dogs’ was. Each album represents a whole different thing for me.”

    And Tin Machine represents more changes. There were times at The Baggot and The Waterfront when the music’s sense of primal release harkened back to the days when Mick Ronson was bending the frets as Bowie’s chief Spider From Mars. But two decades later the litmus test in judging just how seamlessly Bowie’s delicate songcraft can be woven into the music’s muscle-rock framework.


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