In a career that is one of the most creative and innovative that pop music has ever known, David Bowie was arguably at his most daring when with Tin Machine, his band from the early nineties. This cover of Pixies’ anthem ‘Debaser’ is Bowie at his best.
Following the overblown Glass Spider Tour, which acted more like Bowie’s greatest hits tour following the huge success of Let’s Dance some year prior, The Starman was stuck in a creative rut.
Tired of churning out the hits like some kind of alien jukebox, he decided to team up with guitarist Reeves Gabrels, bassist Tony Sales and drummer Hunt Sales to form the noise-rock band Tin Machine. The band would hit the road in 1989 to promote their self-titled debut record and encounter problem almost immediately.
The biggest one of those was Bowie’s own majesty. Despite the band’s protestations that anyone arriving to hear David Bowie’s greatest hits would be left disappointed, the audience seemingly couldn’t comprehend seeing the Thin White Duke without his usual repertoire of songs.
It may have been a frustration that Bowie himself shared as after a year of touring with the dark edge of Tin Machine, Bowie was back out on his own ‘Sound + Vision’ solo tour the very next year. Those looking to hear ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Young Americans’ and ‘Starman’ would get their wish—but only this last time.
Bowie would spend much of the tour telling anyone who would listen that this would be the last chance to hear Bowie’s hits. To hammer that point home, as soon as the singer returned from globetrotting, he joined back up with Tin Machine to create a new LP and tour it.
Yet again, Bowie ran into the same problem. Despite a tour full of Bowie’s best bits, the crowd that attended the Tin Machine shows were hoping for a little bit more Bowie. But while the band didn’t cover any of his hits, the noise-rock outfit did deliver a quite spellbinding cover of Pixies indie anthem, ‘Debaser’.
The singer was a big fan of Pixies, “I found [the Pixies] just about the most-compelling music outside of Sonic Youth in the entire 1980s,” he said. “I always thought there was a psychotic Beatles in them.” He takes the same joy and vigour into his performance too, with Bowie behind a guitar and delivering a raw and energetic cover of one of our favourite songs of the last few decades.
Watch below as David Bowie and Tin Machine cover the Pixies’ ‘Debaser’ at a Wolverhampton, England gig on November 2nd, 1991.