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2023 Albums Thing #030 - David Bowie “Station To Station”

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This is one of those other days. Six songs, 5 originals and a cover (this time he picked a good un) and another of my very favourite Bowie records.

Bowie spent the first half of 1975 agreeing to star in and filming Nic Roeg’s movie “The Man Who Fell To Earth”. He plays an alien who has come to Earth in order to bring its natural resources back to his dying home planet. He styles himself as Thomas Jerome Newton and, using alien technological knowledge, forms a company, makes a great fortune but succumbs to depression and a crippling drug addiction. Much as the character of Ziggy Stardust had taken over Bowie so did Thomas Jerome Newton, with him pretty much becoming the lead character in person. After finishing the movie in August 1975 Bowie returned to Los Angeles where his Cocaine usage ramped up and his mental and physical health went downhill fast.

I have an addictive personality. I’m quite clear on that now. And it was easily obtainable and it kept me working, ’cos I didn’t use it for… I wasn’t really a recreational guy, I wasn’t really an out-on-the-town guy…I loved being involved in that creative moment. And I’d found a soul-mate in this drug, which helped perpetuate that creative moment…“ David Bowie, Mojo, July 2002

Given all this it’s incredible that he managed to produce one of his best and most focussed albums. The sessions for “Station To Station” ran from September to November 1975. It was produced by Bowie and Harry Maslin with a band led by Carlos Alomar and featuring Earl Slick, a rhythm section of George Murray and Dennis Davies plus an appearance by the E Street Band’s Roy Bittan.

The title track introduces us to Bowie’s next character, “The return of the Thin White Duke, throwing darts in lovers eyes”. The Thin White Duke was equal parts Bowie’s coke fired neurotic self and Thomas Jerome Newton, all skin bone and black and white, singing us an epic song concerned with the stations of the cross and the Kabbalah and at the same time trying to convince us all “it’s not the side effects of the Cocaine”. When I first heard “Station To Station” I really didn’t get the title track, don’t know why it simply didn’t click with me. Then I heard the live version on “Stage” which is taken at a slightly quicker tempo and suddenly I got it. It’s become one of my most played individual Bowie songs.

I’ve referred before to a theory that each Bowie album features a song that’s a pointer to the next album. “Golden Years” could be that in reverse, it really would not have sounded out of place on “Young Americans”. A guitar riff coiled so slinkily it could be a snake ushers your feet to the dancefloor (it’s used brilliantly in a dance scene in the Medieval set film (!) “A Knights Tale”, check it out).

“Word On A Wing” is a hymn. Bowie had been searching before for something spiritual with his dalliance with Buddhism in the ‘60’s. The title track references the stations of the cross from Christianity and the Kabbalah, a school of thought within Judaism. Here he sings 

Lord, I kneel and offer you my word on a wing, And I'm trying hard to fit among your scheme of things

the need for something spiritual is still there but has to fit into a life as it is. Above all of that (for me) it’s an utterly beautiful song.

“TVC15” is the bizarre tale of a girl who’s eaten by her TV replete with bar room piano and some slightly silly backing vocals. And then we come to the 2nd great riff on this album. “Stay” is built around a powerhouse guitar figure conjured up by Earl Slick around which Bowie creates another dancefloor killer that stayed (see what I did there) in his live set right into the 21st century.

It all comes to a close with “Wild Is The Wind”, arguably Bowie’s best cover version. The song was written for the film of the same name in 1957 and first sung by Johnny Mathis. Bowie’s cover is virtually unrecognisable as the same song and is quite breathtaking.

“Station To Station” is a fabulous album, I just wish there was more of it. Six tracks almost qualifies it as a mini album. It remains, though, one of my favourites.


Wild Is The Wind - https://youtu.be/YsqlXkkEKxI


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