The David Bowie Community of Australia and New Zealand

Bowie Tours and
                Visits to Down Under

Australia's Tin Machine Concert

On November 4, 1989, David Bowie and his band Tin Machine burst on to the Sydney pub scene with an unannounced performance at Whale Beach.


Whale Beach is located 41 kms north of the CBD. The location of the show was a small venue called Moby Dicks.





Bowie and the band had been recording their second album at Studio 301 in Sydney.


It had been 4 months since they'd played any live shows at all.



"You can only take so much live recording.

You've just got to play live and get that feel again. We hate feeling like a studio band".

~ David Bowie, Sydney, 1989


Guy Gray


Guy Gray (left) was the house engineer at Studio 301 and it appears that he acted somewhat as a scout for the night.

In late October, Robert Barnhill from Fun in Acapulco recalls that they were approached by Guy backstage whilst playing a gig with Kate Ceberano in Dee Why:

"He rang me the next day and asked where we were playing that week. He rang back again about 10 minutes later and asked me if it would be okay for 'David and his band' played with us on the following Saturday at Moby Dicks. I replied with 'David who?'."

We kept it very quiet but when I arrived at the gig on Saturday there were already about 500 people there. It was a small club."

It was already clear that a few people with good connections had gained a hot tip!!!


SET ONE - Fun in Acapulco

The show began with a set from Fun in Acapulco and the picture on the left is of Robert - the singer - taken on the night.

It was arranged that Bowie and Tin Machine would use FIA's equipment.



"David used my Tama round base mic stand and my Shure SM58 microphone. I [later] gave that microphone to Joyce Simmons, my singing teacher, as a memento."

~ Robert Barnhill


When Robert entered the board room (used as the change room for the night), the musicians were introduced: 'David, this is Robert who's band, gear - and audience - you are using tonight' to which David replied 'Man, this is so good of you really.'

Robert also recalled congratulating Bowie on his very recent engagement to Melissa Hurley: "He was very gracious and told me what a great person [Melissa] was."

Robert and the band went on stage to play however Robert's girlfriend Justine stayed chatting with DB.



Who is on Next?

Some people at the pub knew exactly who was going to perform - but the majority did not. Others had gained an impression that a big act was scheduled.

Reportedly the club manager Val Hayme didn't even know who it would be - she was thinking perhaps Bon Jovi.

One person who was lucky to gain a hot tip was Bowie Downunder member, Chris Wooden...

Chris recalls that the band played for about 40 minutes....


"Some people had no idea of what was about to happen.

I was told to be there by midnight as the venues were closing the doors then.

I made it within literally seconds and [Tin Machine] virtually came on just as I walked up to the stage.

They did a blistering set of tracks.

A unique experience to say the least!!!"

~ Chris Wooden (Bowie fan)


SET TWO - Tin Machine


Robert Barnhill (Fun in Acapulco) recalls:


"A great night for so many reasons.

David's voice at close range and in a small club was incredible, as we well know. But experiencing it live was a knock out.

The live version 'Heaven's in Here' was really awesome.

Guy Gray:


"The guys did a good job of keeping it secret. We walked through the kitchen to get to the stage, and the chef yelled 'DAVID BOWIE!'

I always remember people running for the telephone and calling people and telling them to come down to the club; there were hundreds of people outside the front by the end"







Crack City

Heaven's in Here

Baby Can Dance

Under The God



SET THREE - Fun in Acapulco

Robert Barnhill (Fun in Acapulco):



I said to David:

"Would you do me a favour?"

He replied "yes, man, I owe you"

...or words to similar effect.

I asked him if he would invite the audience to stay on AFTER Tin Machine.

Then just before Tin Machine's final song David thanked us and announced:



After The Show

Robert Barnhill (Fun in Acapulco):



"We all partied on in the board room until about 2.00am

"I had several beers with David and I remember thinking about my Diamond Dogs album - up until then the only Bowie album I had bought.

Watching 'Life on Mars' in 2006 finally turned me - that really made me start reading about him and listening to everything he has recorded. Today I would describe myself as a BIG fan. "


Robert Barnhill (Fun in Acapulco):


"Larry Van Kriedt, [pictured in a black waistcoat next to Bowie] was the first bass player in AC/DC. He went on to have a hit song with 'Shake This City' by his band Non Stop Dancers in 1984. He now lives just outside Manchester (UK) where he performs and is just about to release his first solo album.

[Bowie] was really lovely. Those boys [from Tin Machine] were so nice and unassuming at the Whale Beach gig. Reeves Gabrels was nicely weird (currently playing with The Cure)".

Chris Wooden (BDU):


"Craig Braun (EMI) told me that we were invited back stage, but he said he was "too tired" and said no thanks..... he just wanted to get home!!


Cancelled Shows

Above montage by Blammo at

Tin Machine originally planned to do about a dozen impromptu shows in Sydney over the following 6 weeks while they continued recording.


"I'd like to get in a couple (of gigs) per week. So whatever's going we'll have a go at it."

~ David Bowie

Unfortunately, the show at Moby Dicks was followed by a rebuke from the Australian Musicians Union and this effectively prevented them from playing any additional live performances - even impromptu.

The Union stated that any shows were outside the terms of Bowie 's VISA.

A spokesperson from Bowie's record company said:


"I can't understand why the union is making such a fuss over Bowie having fun with other musicians. It's a very casual thing. He's not even being paid a performance fee"

~ EMI spokesperson

Considering how much the local venues and local bands would have gained - both financially and from public exposure - and the fact that Bowie was not taking a cut - this would seem to be quite a wasted opportunity.


"I like to joke that Tin Machine were our support band and - because we were on a door deal ($10 a head) - we made a small fortune that night."

~ Robert Barnhill (Fun in Acapulco)


No More Shows

Above photo credit Claude Neon.
David Bowie remained in Sydney for at least most - if not all - of November, 1989.

BDU member Roger Di Lernia recalls that he would often see Bowie at Kings Cross bars at this time:

"He would sit with a hat covering his face, and he would check out the bands playing there".

The AMU ruling, however, appears to have cut off any chance of Bowie jumping up on stage. This was clearly the case when he was asked to join The Edge (U2) and Weddings, Parties, Anything on a small Sydney stage about 10 days later.

Later Reflections

The impromptu 1989 gig remained in David Bowie's mind for many years to come - even though he did not play another Australian show for another 15 years.

 Chris Wooden recalls seeing David Bowie again in 2004 (backstage in Melbourne):


He mentioned that gig....I reminded him of the location and venue.

He put it in the list of tours/gigs that he had done in Australia".

On the left is a photo of that evening backstage in 2004 - Chris Wooden, Dave Anderson and Doug Von Blucher with David Bowie.

Press Articles

Many thanks to Bowie fan, David Fowler for sending in this article and the one below.