I always group these three records together, they compliment each other so well it is difficult not to group them with the others. Tin Machine “Tin Machine” (May 1989, EMI), The Godfathers “Birth School Work Death” (1988 Epic/Sony) and Lou Reed’s “New York” (Jan 1988 Sire) all signaled a return to the guitar rock sound. For Reed and Bowie it was reclaiming a sound that was theirs, and in many ways a return to form. The Godfathers, young London upstarts probably gave Lou and Bowie a bit of a kick in the ass to get their own musical acts together. Particularly with Bowie, you saw Tin Machine wearing suits, not unlike the vibe of the Godfathers.
Sonically, Bowie abandoned his disco-Chic of Let’s Dance, all the pageantry of Glass Spider for a far more bluesy sound, featuring another upstart from Boston named Reeves Gabrels. Part blues guitar and part next-generation Adrian Belew, Gabrels would continue to help shape Bowie’s sound post Tin Machine through some of his most celebrated later career records such as “Earthling.”
Lyrically, Bowie went back to emulating his friend and idol, Lou Reed, singing about junkies and writing lyrics like “I can’t read shit anymore” … Gone were those red shoes for dancing the blues, for now at least.
Critics and fans were not really sure what to make of Tin Machine, which in my opinion is the best compliment. They made a TV Debut on an awards show playing the first track on the LP, “Heavens in Here.”
Press was more on board for Lou Reed’s New York, and even rocker John Mellencamp said “Yeah, it sounds like it was produced by an eighth-grader, but I like it.” One of the standout tracks from the LP is Romeo had Juliette. Like Bowie, Lou had a great guitar player at his side in Mike Rathke.
The Godfathers went on to be one of the more successful acts of that time, darlings of MTV’s 120 minutes crowd.
The Godfathers are currently on tour . I caught them last year and they are sounding tighter than ever. Go see them.
As for Lou and Bowie, I’d like to hope they are somewhere jamming together again.