Station To Station

  1. Station To Station [10.08]

  2. Golden Years [4.03]

  3. Word On A Wing [6.00]

  4. TVC15 [5.29]

  5. Stay [6.08]

  6. Wild Is The Wind [5.58]

 

Bonus tracks on 1991 reissue:

  • Word On A Wing (Live) [6.10]

  • Stay (Live) [7.24]

Live Nassau Coliseum '76 (included with 2010 reissue):

  • Station To Station [11.53]

  • Suffragette City [3.31]

  • Fame [3.59]

  • Word On A Wing [6.05]

  • Stay [7.25]

  • Waiting For The Man [6.20]

  • Queen Bitch [3.11]

  • Life On Mars? [2.13]

  • Five Years [5.04]

  • Panic In Detroit [6.02]

  • Changes [4.11]

  • TVC15 [4.58]

  • Diamond Dogs [6.38]

  • Rebel Rebel [4.06]

  • The Jean Genie [7.26]

  • Panic In Detroit (Unedited Alternate Mix) [13.08]

  • (Download Only)

Additional bonus tracks on 2010 Deluxe Edition:

  • Golden Years (Single Version)  [3.30]

  • TVC15 (Single Edit)  [3.34]

  • Stay (Single Edit)  [3.23]

  • Word On A Wing (Single Edit)  [3.14]

  • Station To Station (Single Edit)  [3.41]

Station To Station

Released:

  • RCA Victor APLI 1327 - January 1976

  • RCA PL 81327 - 1984

  • RCA PD 8132 - 1986

  • EMI EMD 1020 - April 1991

  • EMI 7243 5219060 - September 1999

  • EMI BOWSTSX2010 - September 2010 (3 CD Special Edition)

  • EMI BOWSTSD2010 - September 2010 (5 CD, 1 DVD, 3 LP Deluxe Edition)

Personnel:

  • David Bowie: Vocals, Guitar, Saxophone

  • Carlos Alomar: Guitar

  • Roy Bittan: Piano

  • Dennis Davis: Drums

  • George Murray: Bass

  • Warren Peace: Vocals

  • Earl Slick: Guitar

Recorded:

  • Cherokee & LA Record Plant Studios, Hollywood

Producers:

  • David Bowie, Harry Maslin

When The Man Who Fell To Earth completed shooting in August 1975 Bowie returned to Los Angeles, where Coco Schwab had found him a house in Stone Canyon Drive. Ava Cherry had departed for Trinidad following a quarrel before the film shoot. Angela Bowie remained on the sidelines, occasionally helping to pick up the pieces during the depths of David's drug dependency, but the end of the marriage was now only a matter of time.

 

May 1975 had seen an abortive collaboration in Los Angeles with Iggy Pop, and there are unreliable rumours of uncredited contributions to recordings by Marc Bolan during the same period. In April, however, Bowie had famously announced his departure from rock music. "I've rocked my roll," he said. "It's a boring dead end. There will be no more rock 'n' roll records or tours from me. The last thing I want to be is some useless fucking rock singer." Later in the year, he declared that rock music had been emasculated by absorption into the mass media, leaving it "dead. It's a toothless old woman. It's really embarrassing." Those who remembered as far back as 1973 knew that such statements were always subject to retraction, and in this case, the retirement lasted less than six months. In September he dropped into LA's Clover Studios to contribute backing vocals to Keith Moon's "Real Emotion", and by the following month, he was hard at work on new songs of his own.

 

In October 1975 David contacted Harry Maslin, who had co-produced the John Lennon tracks on Young Americans, and asked him to come to Los Angeles to work on a new album. Carlos Alomar, Earl Slick, Dennis Davis and Warren Peace were re-convened, and the band was completed with two new recruits: Weldon Irvine's bass player George Murray - bringing together for the first time the Murray/Davis/Alomar rhythm section who would play on every Bowie album up to Scary Monsters - and Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band pianist Roy Bittan, who had worked with Slick in the group Tracks. "I needed a pianist because Mike Garson was off being a Scientologist somewhere," said David. "Roy impressed me a lot." Garson's version of events is rather different: he tells the Gillmans that after exchanging Christmas presents with David in 1974 and being told "I want you to be my pianist for the next twenty years", he simply never heard from Bowie again, considering himself a victim of David's purge of the MainMan era. He wouldn't re-enter Bowie's career until the Black Tie White Noise sessions in 1992.

 

According to Tony Zanetta's Stardust, Deep Purple bassist and co-vocalist Glenn Hughes was also present during the early stages of Station To Station and was invited by David to sing on the album, but Deep Purple, who had already lost Ritchie Blackmore, apparently objected. If this story is true, nothing came of it.

 

After two weeks' rehearsal, the band entered Hollywood's Cherokee Studios in October. Both the split from Tony Defries and the commercial success of Young Americans conspired to create an unfamiliar atmosphere of artistic freedom: "I loved those sessions," Harry Maslin tells Jerry Hopkins, "because we were totally open and experimental in our approach. We weren't trying to create a hit single...I think he felt this was time to feel free. He wanted to do the music the way he heard it and we didn't worry about RCA." Earl Slick would similarly recall that David "had one or two songs written, but they were changed so drastically that you wouldn't know them from the first time anyway, so he basically wrote everything in the studio." Carlos Alomar concurs, telling David Buckley that "It was one of the most glorious albums that I've ever done...We experimented so much on it."

 

The album was provisionally entitled The Return Of The Thin White Duke and then Golden Years, after the first track to be completed. "Golden Years" was premiered on ABC's Soul Train on November 4th, and released as a single later the same month while the sessions continued, interrupted only by David's appearances on The Cher Show and Russell Harty Plus.

 

After returning from New Mexico looking healthier than at any time since 1973, Bowie had once again stepped back into the abyss. Lasting nearly three months and fuelled by David's obsessive perfectionism and prodigious cocaine intake, the sessions sometimes continued for over 24 hours non-stop. On one occasion work began at 7.00am and continued until nine the following morning, when a halt was called only because another artist was booked into Cherokee. Within 90 minutes David had recommenced recording at the nearby LA Record Plant, where he worked until midnight. "He liked to work four days or so, very strenuous hours, then take a few days off to rest and get charged up for another sprint," confirmed Maslin.

 

Today Bowie confesses that he was so addled that he can hardly remember making the album. "I remember working with Earl on the guitar sounds," he recalled in 1997, "And screaming the feedback sound that I wanted at him...I also remember telling him, 'Take a Chuck Berry riff and play it all the way through the solo, don't deviate from it, just play that one riff over and over and over again, even though the chords are changing underneath, just keep it going'...And that's about all I remember of it. I can't even remember the studio. I know it was in LA because I've read it was." Contemporary footage of Bowie bears witness that the Station To Station sessions were probably his darkest hours. "I was flying out there - really in a bad way," he told Q in 1996. "I listen to Station To Station as a piece of work by an entirely different person...It's an extremely dark album."

 

The compelling and often sinister atmosphere was a by-product of David's increasingly unhealthy state of mind: his long-term interest in obscure occultism had now reached obsessive levels. "It was unreal, absolutely unreal," he recalled in 1983. "Of course, every day that you stay up longer - and there's things that you have to do to stay up that long - the impending tiredness and fatigue produces that hallucinogenic state quite naturally. Well, half-naturally. By the end of the week, my whole life would be transformed into this bizarre nihilistic fantasy world of oncoming doom, mythological characters and imminent totalitarianism. Quite the worst. I was living in LA with Egyptian décor. It was one of those rent-a-house places but it appealed to me because I had this more-than-passing interest in Egyptology, mysticism, the Kabbalah, all this stuff that is inherently misleading in life, a hotchpotch whose crux I've forgotten."

 

The distressing depths to which David plummeted in 1975 are recalled in a host of notorious anecdotes, many of which derive from the same source: a 17-year-old reporter called Cameron Crowe who had successfully penetrated Bowie's inner circle and gathered spool upon spool of interview footage. Crowe's subsequent articles in Playboy and Rolling Stone were so sensational that they rapidly became the stuff of legend, but while there is no doubt that Bowie got up to some frighteningly unhinged behaviour during the period, we would do well to remember that he has always enjoyed playing with interviewers and that his performance may have been embellished for Mr Crowe's benefit. Tales abound of black candles, bottled urine, bodies falling past windows, witches stealing David's semen, demons attacking him in photographs, the exorcism of his swimming pool, the CIA infiltrating his movie-making plans, and The Rolling Stones sending him hidden messages in their record sleeves. Angela Bowie has corroborated some of these stories, but the point, surely, is that David Bowie was not a well man. Existing on a diet of red and green peppers, with the curtains constantly drawn because, as he later recalled, he "didn't want the LA sun spoiling the vibe of eternal now", Bowie was wasting away both mentally and physically. "At some points I almost reached 80lbs," he recalled in 1997. "It was really, really painful. And also my disposition left a lot to be desired. I was just paranoid, manic depressive, it was all the usual emotional paraphernalia that comes with abuse of amphetamines and coke and all that."

 

Into the spiritual void came the areas of interest that infused Station To Station. "A lot of them were, I guess, considered taboos," he explained in 1996, "they were things that most people would leave alone and not bother with because the results of investigating them might be quite dodgy...like the whole Fascist thing." What David later referred to as his "wayward spiritual search" had begun in New York in early 1975 when he met Kenneth Anger, the author of Hollywood Babylon whose film Inauguration Of The Pleasure Dome was an exploration of the neo-pagan warlock Aleister Crowley, a figure who famously attracted the attention of Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page at around the same time (a groundless suspicion that Page meant him harm was reportedly another of Bowie's myriad neuroses during the period). David embarked on a long trawl through Crowley's magic treatises and texts by Madame Blavatsky and the Armenian mystic Gurdjieff, together with MacGregor Mather's The Kabbalah Unveiled and a host of fashionable conspiracy paperbacks on subjects like the Tarot, numerology, the Golden Dawn's connections with Nazi iconography, Himmler's alleged search for the Holy Grail in pre-war England, and prehistoric visits from spacemen. The contents of this unwholesome melting pot, together with a substantial dose of his alienated Man Who Fell To Earth character Thomas Newton, congealed in the creation of David's latest alter ego: an emotionless Aryan superman called The Thin White Duke.

 

Station To Station marks a precise halfway point on the journey between Young Americans and Low. There are enough finger-snapping grooves to keep the American market buoyant, but elsewhere the album prefigures the glacial mechanisation of David's imminent "European canon". The chilly Teutonic beat of the title track is partially inspired by Bowie's growing enthusiasm for the ground-breaking sounds of German techno bands like Neu!, Can and Kraftwerk. The austere tone is fixed by the unspaced sleeve lettering and Steve Schapiro's monochrome cover photo from The Man Who Fell To Earth. Latter-day reissues have reinstated the full-colour version originally planned for the album, but for the official release Bowie decided at the eleventh hour to use a cropped black-and-white copy of the same photograph, cut adrift within a huge white border, reflecting the stark monochrome aesthetic of the Thin White Duke character and the 1976 tour. The photo shows Bowie as Newton in one of The Man Who Fell To Earth's pivotal scenes, entering the inner chamber of the spacecraft in which he hopes to return to his home planet - a resonant link with the yearning for a spiritual homecoming that pervades Station To Station.

 

At the time David spoke of the album as "a plea to come back to Europe for me...one of those self-chat things one has with oneself from time to time." In 1999 he described his state of mind during the sessions as "physically damaged. I mean, the words themselves, Station To Station, have a significance inasmuch as they do refer to the Stations of the Cross, but then I took that further and it was actually about the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, so for me the whole album was symbolic and representative of the trip through the Tree of Life." The album, he explained, was conceived as a kind of aural spell: "It had a certain magnetism that one associates with spells. There's a certain charismatic quality about the music...that really eats into you. I still don't know what I think about that album. I find it, at times, probably really quite beautiful, and at other times extraordinarily disturbing."

 

Station To Station certainly sounds like the cry of an unsettled soul, torn between cocaine, occultism and Christianity, most starkly in the oppositions of the title track and the devotional content of "Word On A Wing". There is also a hunger for beauty and tenderness, nowhere clearer than in the desperate yearning of "Wild Is The Wind". The twin search for love and belief underpins much of the album: David's reiteration in "Word On A Wing" that he is "ready to shape the scheme of things" sounds like a breath of cautious optimism on both the spiritual level (in 1976 he began the slow journey back to recovery) and the material (the Station To Station sessions coincided with the last gasp of his Faustian pact with MainMan). In a wasteland of shattered faith and broken relationships Bowie finds himself "searching and searching, and oh what will I be believing, and who will connect me with love?" But it's easy to exaggerate the album's darker elements. Alongside the desperation of "Stay" and "Word On A Wing" are the bouncy nonsense of "TVC15" and the romantic optimism of "Golden Years", which realigns the title track's uncertainties with an affirmation that "I believe, oh Lord, I believe all the way".

 

Although describing Station To Station in 1976 as "devoid of spirit, very steely", Bowie later confessed to reservations about its commercial sheen: "I compromised in the mixing. I wanted to do a dead mix...All the way through, no echo...I gave in and added that extra commercial touch. I wish I hadn't." But the decision to go for a mainstream polish made sense. The US market knew little of David Bowie before Young Americans, and his much-vaunted changes in musical style meant nothing to them. To Billboard's reviewer, Station To Station was therefore "a disco dance album" from an artist "who seems to have found his musical niche following the success of "Fame" and now "Golden Years""; the observation that "the lyrics don't seem to mean a great deal, and the 10-minute title cut drags" merely underlines the extent to which America remained unprepared to consider Bowie's intellectual challenges and stylistic restlessness. Station To Station was a commercial success in America - indeed, more so than in Britain, where it peaked at number 5 against America's number 3 - but in the fickle US marketplace, it was to be the end of Bowie's flirtation with the mainstream until the 1980s.

 

In Britain, the NME found the album "a strange and confusing musical whirlpool where nothing is what it seems", and while admitting that "the significance of the lyrics remains elusive", concluded that it was "one of the most significant albums released in the last five years." For "five" we can now read "thirty-five": Station To Station is now regarded by many as one of Bowie's most important works, a multi-textured experience illuminated, but not diminished, by an awareness of the anguish that attended its creation.

 

The album's towering reputation was confirmed by the avalanche of five-star reviews which accompanied its reissue in September 2010: offering the "original analogue master" and a long-awaited official release of the legendary live recording of Bowie's 1976 concert at Nassau Coliseum, EMI's three-disc Special Edition of Station To Station climbed to number 26 in the UK album chart. For those with deeper pockets there was the lavish and costly Deluxe Edition, which included the same material as the Special Edition on both CD and vinyl, alongside a disc of single edits and no fewer than three further audio mixes of the album: as well as the "original analogue master" there was the 1985 RCA CD master and a DVD featuring a brand new stereo mix and a 5.1 surround version, both created afresh by Harry Maslin. A few years earlier, Tony Visconti's 5.1 mixes of Young Americans, David Live and Stage had demonstrated that the reworking of Bowie's 1970s albums in surround sound had the potential to yield superb results, but sadly the same cannot be said of Maslin's grisly remix of Station To Station, which surrenders all the subtlety of the original in favour of unimaginatively pushing everything to the front, resulting in a messy racket that's never more wretched than during the backing vocals on "TVC15". Virtually nothing is given to the rear channels, squandering the obvious opportunities offered by 5.1. There are a few points of interest, notably a different lead vocal during a brief section of "Wild Is The Wind", but there's nothing that remotely improves on the original. The new stereo mix is simply a fold-down of the 5.1 version, and it's telling that this was relegated to the DVD rather than let loose on the more affordable CD release, whose "original analogue master" (in fact, a newly prepared digital master sourced from the original cutting tape) is immeasurably better. Dedicated audiophiles have nonetheless expressed a preference for the Deluxe Edition's 1985 CD master and, better still, the vinyl version, which is arguably the best of the set.

 

In December 1975, hard on the heels of the Station To Station sessions, Bowie began work on his proposed incidental soundtrack for The Man Who Fell To Earth. Harry Maslin again produced at Cherokee, and David flew in his old Space Oddity colleague Paul Buckmaster to collaborate on the project. Other musicians hired for the recordings included the Station To Station rhythm section of Carlos Alomar, George Murray and Dennis Davis, and the British pianist J Peter Robinson, who would later become a prolific film composer in his own right with credits including Cocktail, Wayne's World and The World's Fastest Indian. With Bowie's guitar and Buckmaster's cello accompanied by synthesizers and some of the earliest drum machines, the compositions were strongly influenced by Kraftwerk's latest album Radio-Activity, released the previous month. The emerging soundtrack incorporated funk-styled instrumentals and slower, more ambient pieces, including a number called "Wheels" and an early version of what would eventually become the Low track "Subterraneans". However, the score was destined not to see the light of day. "When I'd finished five or six pieces, I was told that if I would care to submit my music along with other people's..." Bowie recalled later. "I just said, 'Shit, you're not getting any of it.' I was furious, I'd put so much work into it. Actually, though, it was probably as well. My music would have cast a completely different reflection on it all. It turned out for the better and it did prompt me in another area - to consider my own instrumental capabilities, which I hadn't really done very seriously before. The area was one that was suddenly exciting me...And that's when I got the first inklings of trying to work with Eno."

 

This account doesn't quite tell the whole story. "David was so burned out by the end of Station To Station," Harry Maslin tells Jerry Hopkins, "he had a hard time doing movie cues. The movie was complete and we had all the videotapes and that's what we were working with...He was in bad shape. He had no concentration on the music." Paul Buckmaster concurs, telling Paul Trynka that the soundtrack "just wasn't up to the standard needed." Exhaustion was by no means the only problem: David was now quarrelling with Michael Lippman, the lawyer who had become Tony Defries's short-lived replacement as manager, and Buckmaster recalls the sessions being blighted by cocaine abuse. Matters came to a head when David, overcome by emotional and physical stress, all but collapsed in the studio. "There were pieces of me laying all over the floor," he later said. It was a turning point of sorts: over the next few days he sacked Michael Lippman, abandoned the film soundtrack (which was handled instead by John Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas), and laid immediate plans to leave Los Angeles for good.