Station To Station is a masterpiece. Based on the reviews the re-release received earlier this year, it’s probably fair to say that it has recently been re-discovered as such. Bowie himself has said that this is his favourite album, but he’s also on record as saying that he can’t remember recording it (and perhaps the two are linked). Recorded in 1976 in LA, this was Bowie at the height of his cocaine addiction, at his lowest ebb, but riding a wave of musical creativity.
The album contains only six songs, but each is a stand-alone gem. All but two have running times of over six minutes. The title track – perhaps Bowie’s greatest song – is a 10 minute sprawling epic. Opening to the sound of a fast moving train before settling into a foreboding groove, at three minutes in Bowie’s voice rises from the ambiance to announce, “The return of The Thin White Duke, throwing darts in lovers eyes”.
This is one of Bowie’s darkest characters (although he would create a collection of others in 1995’s 1.Outside). As the song builds, he creates a series of fantastically dark images – “Here are we, one magical moment, such is the stuff from where dreams are woven… Here am I, flashing no colour, tall in this room overlooking the ocean… There are you, you drive like a demon, from station to station” – before the song explodes into its second half, again, awash with striking imaginary. It is this second half which embodies the themes of the album: isolation, desperation and a deep rooted need to find love. Although the lyrics are filled with a sense of impending doom – “It’s too late!” screams Bowie, over and over – from this comes a realisation that there could yet be a way out – “Got to keep search and searching, oh what will I be believing, and who will connect me with love?”
Station to Station is followed by Golden Years – one of Bowie’s all-time great pop songs. Building on the sound Bowie had created a year earlier on Young Americans, on the face of it, Golden Years is a much more optimistic song than the album’s opener. However, look deeper and the same angst and fear creep out from the lyrics: “Don’t cry my sweet, don’t break my heart… run for the shadows, run for the shadows, run for the shadows”.
And so these themes continue throughout the album. Bowie himself has talked of Word On A Wing as a cry for help – “Lord, I kneel and offer you my word on a wing” while Stay – “This week dragged past me so slowly, the days fell on their knees, maybe I’ll take something to help me, hope someone takes after me” and Wild Is The Wind – “Love me, love me, love me… say you do” – only add to the feeling of loneliness, insecurity and despair. TVC15 – a song about a guy’s “demonic” TV set which swallows up his girlfriend – says much about Bowie’s state of mind at this time.
In an attempt to escape his addiction and demons, Bowie would relocate to Berlin to record his next album. However, he would fail to escape from the dark mood and themes he created on Station to Station – his next album was to be called “Low“.
Songs to download:
- Station to station
- Golden years
- Word on a wing
- Wild is the wind