The David Bowie Community of Australia and New Zealand

The Australian Album: Tin Machine II

The basic tracks for the album Tin Machine II were written and recorded in just over three weeks in Sydney.

While the first album was all about manic sparks, it has been noted that this second album reflects the bands impressions of Australia.

As one example, the album outtake "Needles on the Beach" had a title directly inspired by an issue facing Sydney at the time - used needles turning up on beaches.

Another song - 'Amlapura' - however, was not about Australia at all but nearby Indonesia.

The Music
"[Sydney, Australia] had a big impact on how the record sounds.

One of the nice things about working there was that we could go out and have a cappuccino at a sidewalk cafe. The Australian attitude is really cool. No one would ever think to hassle anyone in the band. And that definitely affected our approach - there wasn't as much pent-up energy, not as much of a mad-at-the-whole-world feeling.

There's a more introspective attitude and also a lot more acoustic guitar. ''

~ Reeves Gabrels (lead guitar)

"We opted to go someplace that most of the band had never been to before, I've always found that incredibly stimulating.

If you can tap into all these initial feelings when you go to a foreign place, then I think it can often produce something that is very worthwhile"

~ David Bowie

It may sound like a cliche, but a lot of tracks have an openness to them.

'You Belong in Rock n Roll' and even 'Shopping For Girls' to a certain degree, have a bigger horizon to them sonically, and I think Australia had something to do with that. It's a place that moves slower and it's so wide open, almost like Texas".

Lyrically, especially, David really responds to what is going on around him. Making this album was more of a journey inside, thinking about relationships, the romantic side, instead of trying to point out the problems in the world"

~ Reeves Gabrels (lead guitar)


1989 Time line


Work on the second Tin Machine album occurred shortly after the release of the first album....



...despite the period between the two Tin Machine albums being quite long by Bowie's standards (2 years and 4 months).


EMI Studio 301, Sydney, 1989


The recording took place at Sydney's EMI Studios at 301 Castlereagh Street.

The EMI studios had been located on Level 7 of the strata office building since 1954.

There were 3 studios:

Studio A,

Studio B,

Studio C disc mastering facilities.

The head office of EMI in Australia was also located in the building.


Above: Photo by Bruce Lydamore, 1989.


Inside The Studio

Above: David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels and reporter Fiona Wingett. (pic by David Hancock)


Guy Gray

Guy Grey: Engineer and Mixer for Tin Machine at Studio 301 in Sydney


At this time, Guy Gray (left) was the music engineer.

Guy had been working at the EMI premises for a number of years already - starting as a studio assistant in 1981.



"A great personal time in my career.

For David, it was all about the music. Always creative. Always innovative.

Sometimes, he wanted to sing late at night. He was very respectful of everybody. All round nice guy.

Occasionally he’d invite people he had only just met up to the studio to listen to our work, but he’d also invite all the studio staff up too.

During the recording he asked if the 301 staff to come and sing on the album. And they did! They did a big yell or something and we recorded it and it’s on the album."

~ Guy Gray


Visitors and Luminaries
Above: Reeves Gabrels and Charlie Sexton, 1989. Studio 301. Photo by Bruce Lydamore.


Good Vibrations
David had a place in Sydney which was a lovely place to stay. 

The Sales brothers stayed in a hotel just off Kings Cross and a bunch of bands were staying there at the time – Bon Jovi, Charlie Sexton and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. There were lots of bands around the Kings Cross neighbourhood. 

The brothers came over for about two weeks and we did the basic tracks before they flew back to LA. 

David and I stayed for about another two months and continued working… and enjoying Sydney at the same time.

~ Reeves Gabrels (lead guitar)

We wanted something which would make the strings of the guitar buzz, so [Reeves] went around to all the sex shops in Sydney, asking them for different - from ladyfingers up to doubledongs, or whatever it is, actually HOLDING THEM UP TO HIS EAR.

And he was in one shop, and there was this guy, with a vacuum cleaner, vacuuming up and Reeves goes *simulates Reeves listening to the vibrator and following the employee with his eyes* and the guy goes "NO!".

~ David Bowie

My tech guy said:

‘Well there’s a sex shop down the street and they’ll have vibrators with motors you can change the speed on’.

I didn’t ask him how he knew there was a sex shop at the end of the street, but he and I just walked down there.

It was around closing time in the evening and we got in as they were locking the door.

I said to them:

‘I won’t be long – I just need two variable speed vibrators!’.

I would have thought that the gentleman running the shop would have seen it all, but I was putting the vibrators up to my ear to listen to the motor speed."

~ Reeves Gabrels (lead guitar)

The Crossing (Soundtrack)


The first fruit of the Sydney recording sessions appeared on a soundtrack to an Australian movie - the 1990 romantic drama called The Crossing.

Tin Machine's original song "Betty Wrong" was used on the soundtrack - quite different to the mix that ended up on the Tin Machine album a year or so later.

Otherwise, most of the remainder of the sountrack was composed of cover songs - mostly by local Aussie acts such as Kate Ceberano, Crowded House, Stephen Cummings, Peter Blakely (The Rockmelons), Jenn Forbes, The Chantoozies and The Cockroaches.



One Shot, Second Shot


The Sydney recording sessions were certainly not final.

18 months later, finishing touches were being applied in Los Angeles due to the insistence of Tin Machine's new record company Victory (Bowie had split with EMI in December 1990).

The following version of 'One Shot' is apparently much closer to how it sounded after the Sydney sessions (and before the involvement of producer Hugh Padgham).


Leaked Tape


In 2008, a tape of studio outtakes and demos was leaked from the album sessions at Studios 301, Sydney.



A couple of years after Bowie, Prince began working at 301 Castlereagh Street. This was when his Diamonds and Pearls tour swept through Australia (April-May, 1992).

It is reported that Prince was working on tracks in Studio B until dawn each day - none of which have been released to this day.

More here.


EMI Sell Out and Modifications


In 1996, the premises was sold by EMI to the studio management and at this point, it became simply known as "Studio 301".

Several modifications were made - studios A & B closed down and the facility was consolidated into one recording and mixing studio, a programming suite, and a mastering operation.

in 1998, Studio 301 was purchased by Tony Misner (SAE Founder), however, he soon moved the main facility out to Alexandria.



"The old mixing room at 301 in Castlereagh St had an eight-foot ceiling. It was a joke.

Acoustically speaking, there’s nothing you can do with an eight-foot room. You can produce things out of it, but you have to get used to it."

~ Tony Misner, SAE Founder.


This, however, was not the final chapter of Bowie recordings at Studio 301 Sydney...




In September 1999, Brendan Gallagher (of the band Karma Country) was asked by British producer Marius de Vries to play guitar on his re-mix of David Bowie's 'Survive'.

Brendhan layed down his guitar track for the track at Studio 301.

The song, from Bowie's Hours album, was released as a single in Europe, USA and UK in January 2000.


2000 - 2011

Above: Studio 301 in 2004. Photo by Adam Dean.



301 Castlereagh remained a music studio for a couple more decades.

In 2004, when David Bowie played his last tour of Australia, several members of Bowie Downunder visited the studio and were kindly shown around by music engineer Don Bartley.

At this time, the building even had its old EMI sign-age still in place.


Above: Bowie Downunder at 301 Castlereagh, Feb 2004.
Above: Don Bartley at 301 Castlereagh, 2004


2011 - 2018


From 2011 onwards, the premises was known as REC Studios.

  "The studio has been operating since 1954, making recordings for artists including Skrillex, David Bowie, Paramore, Bob Dylan and many more."


2011-2018 - REC Studios


Sadly in 2018, Australia's most legendary music studio location closed its doors - the end of an era after 60 years of operation.

According to REC, the studio premises has now sadly been decommissioned.


"Artists that have graced the halls over the years include:

David Bowie,

Duran Duran,


Alanis Morissette,

Stevie Wonder,

Bob Dylan,

Stevie Nicks,

Elton John,

Alan Parsons,

Split Enz,




Midnight Oil,


The Script,

Newton Faulkner,


...and the list goes on..."


The Building Today



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