Station to Station

Infobox Album
Name = Station to Station
Type = studio
Artist = David Bowie

Border = yes
Released = 23 January 1976
Recorded = October–November 1975 at Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles, California
Genre = Rock, funk, soul
Length = 38:08
Label = RCA
Producer = David Bowie, Harry Maslin
Reviews =
* Allmusic Rating|4.5|5 [ link]
* Robert Christgau (A) [ 1976]
* "Rolling Stone" [ 1976]
Last album = "Young Americans"
This album = "Station to Station"
Next album = "Low"
Misc = Extra album cover 2
Upper caption = Alternate cover
Type = studio

Lower caption = Reissue cover

"Station to Station" is the tenth studio album by English musician David Bowie, released by record label RCA in 1976. Commonly regarded as one of his most significant works,Nicholas Pegg (2000). "The Complete David Bowie": pp.297-300] David Buckley (1999). "Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story": pp.258-275] "Station to Station" is also notable as the vehicle for Bowie's last great "character", The Thin White Duke. The album was recorded after he completed shooting Nicolas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth", and the cover featured a still from the movie. During the sessions Bowie was heavily dependent on drugs, especially cocaine, and recalls almost nothing of the production. He would blame his addictions and the persona of The Duke for lapses in judgment over the following year.Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). "Bowie: An Illustrated Record": pp.75-80]

Musically, "Station to Station" was a transitional album for Bowie, developing the funk and soul music of his previous release, "Young Americans", while presenting a new direction towards synthesizers and motorik rhythms that was influenced by German electronic bands such as Kraftwerk and Neu!. This trend would culminate in some of his most acclaimed work, the 'Berlin Trilogy', recorded with Brian Eno in 1977–79. Bowie himself has said that "Station to Station" was "a plea to come back to Europe for me". The album’s lyrics, meanwhile, reflected his preoccupations with Nietzsche, Aleister Crowley, mythology and religion.

With its blend of funk and Krautrock, romantic balladry and occultism, "Station to Station" has been described as "simultaneously one of Bowie's most accessible albums and his most impenetrable". Featuring the hit single "Golden Years", it made the Top 5 in both the UK and US charts. RS500|323


According to biographer David Buckley, the Los Angeles-based Bowie, fuelled by an "astronomic" cocaine habit and subsisting on a diet of peppers and milk, spent much of 1975–76 "in a state of psychic terror". Stories – mostly from one interview, pieces of which found their way into "Playboy" and "Rolling Stone" – circulated of the singer living in a house full of ancient-Egyptian artefacts, burning black candles, seeing bodies fall past his window, having his semen stolen by witches, receiving secret messages from The Rolling Stones, and living in morbid fear of fellow Aleister Crowley aficionado Jimmy Page. Bowie would later say of L.A., "The fucking place should be wiped off the face of the earth".cite journal | last = Angus McKinnon | title = The Future Isn't What It Used to Be | journal = NME | date = 13 September 1980 | pages= pp.32–35]

It was on the set of his first major film, "The Man Who Fell to Earth", that Bowie began writing a pseudo-autobiography called "The Return of the Thin White Duke".Mark Paytress (2007). "So Far Away...". "MOJO 60 Years of Bowie": p.55] He was also composing music on the understanding that he was to provide the picture's soundtrack, though this would not come to fruition. Director Nicolas Roeg warned the star that the part of Thomas Jerome Newton would likely remain with him for some time after production completed. With Roeg's agreement, Bowie developed his own look for the film, and this carried through to his public image and onto two album covers over the next twelve months, as did Newton's air of fragility and aloofness.

The Thin White Duke became the mouthpiece for "Station to Station" and, as often as not during the next six months, for Bowie himself. Impeccably dressed in white shirt, black trousers and waistcoat, The Duke was a hollow man who sang songs of romance with an agonised intensity while feeling nothing; "ice masquerading as fire". The persona has been described as "a mad aristocrat", "an amoral zombie", and "an emotionless "Aryan" superman". For Bowie himself, The Duke was "a nasty character indeed".Hugo Wilcken (2005). "Low": pp.16-25]


"Station to Station" was recorded at Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles. In 1981, "NME" editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray surmised that it was cut – "in 10 days of feverish activity" – when Bowie decided that there was no hope of his producing a soundtrack for "The Man Who Fell to Earth". More recent authorship contends that the album was recorded over a couple of months, in October–November 1975, and was in the can before Bowie began his abortive sessions on the soundtrack.

At various times to be titled "The Return of The Thin White Duke" or "Golden Years", "Station to Station" was co-produced by Harry Maslin, Bowie's associate for "Fame" and "Across the Universe" on "Young Americans". Tony Visconti, who after a three-year absence had recently returned to the Bowie fold mixing "Diamond Dogs" and co-producing "David Live" and "Young Americans", was not involved due to competing schedules. However, the recording did cement the band line-up that would see Bowie through the rest of the decade, with bassist George Murray joining "Young Americans" drummer Dennis Davis and rhythm guitarist Carlos Alomar.

The recording process developed with this team set the pattern for Bowie's albums up to and including "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" in 1980: backing tracks laid down by Murray, Davis and Alomar; sax, keyboard and lead guitar overdubs (here by Bowie, Roy Bittan and Earl Slick, respectively); lead vocals; and finally various production tricks to complete the song. According to Bowie, "I got some quite extraordinary things out of Earl Slick. I think it captured his imagination to make "noises" on guitar, and textures, rather than playing the right notes."Kurt Loder & David Bowie (1990). "Sound and Vision" (box set): CD liner notes] Alomar recalled, "It was one of the most glorious albums that I've ever done ... We experimented so much on it". Harry Maslin added, "I loved those sessions because we were totally open and experimental in our approach".

Bowie himself remembers almost nothing of the album's production, not even the studio, later admitting, "I know it was in LA because I've read it was". The singer was not alone in his use of cocaine during the sessions, Carlos Alomar commenting, "if there's a line of coke which is going to keep you awake till 8 a.m. so that you can do your guitar part, you do the line of coke ... the coke use is driven by the inspiration." Like Bowie, Earl Slick had somewhat vague memories of the recording: "That album's a little fuzzy – for the obvious reasons! We were in the studio and it was nuts – a lot of hours, a lot of late nights."

tyle and themes

"Station to Station" is often cited as a transitional album in Bowie's career. Nicholas Pegg, author of "The Complete David Bowie", called it a "precise halfway point on the journey from "Young Americans" to "Low", while for Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray, it "effectively divides the '70's for David Bowie. It ties off the era of Ziggy Stardust and plastic soul, and introduces the first taste of the new music that was to follow with 'Low'."

In terms of Bowie's own output, "Station to Station"'s Euro-centric flavour had its musical antecedents in tracks like "Aladdin Sane 1913-1938-197?" and "Time" (1973), while its funk/disco elements were a development of the soul/R&B sound of "Young Americans" (1975). More recently Bowie had begun to soak up the influence of German motorik and electronic music by bands like Neu!, Can and Kraftwerk. Thematically the album revisited concepts dealt with in songs such as "The Supermen" from "The Man Who Sold the World" (1970) and "Quicksand" from "Hunky Dory" (1971): Nietzsche's 'Overman', the occultism of Aleister Crowley, Nazi fascination with Grail mythology, and the Kabbalah. Pegg considered the album's theme to be a clash of "occultism and Christianity".

The musical style of "Golden Years", the first track recorded for the album, built on the funk and soul of "Young Americans" but with a harsher, grinding edge. It has been described as carrying with it "an air of regret for missed opportunities and past pleasures". Bowie said that it was written for – and rejected by – Elvis Presley, while his wife at the time Angie claimed it was penned for her. Though a Top 10 single on both sides of the Atlantic, it was rarely performed live on the subsequent "Station to Station" tour.Nicholas Pegg (2000). Op Cit: pp.82-83] "Stay" was another riff-driven funk piece, "recorded very much in our cocaine frenzy", according to Alomar. Its lyrics have been variously interpreted as reflecting on "the uncertainty of sexual conquest", and as an example of "the Duke's spurious romanticism".

The Christian element of the album was most obvious in the hymn-like "Word on a Wing", though for some commentators religion, like love, was simply another way for the Duke to "test his numbness". Bowie himself has claimed that in this song, at least, "the passion is genuine". When performing it live in 1999, the singer described it as coming from "the darkest days of my life ... I'm sure that it was a call for help".Nicholas Pegg (2000). Op Cit: pp.240-243] The closing ballad, "Wild Is the Wind", was the album's sole cover, and has been praised as one of the finest vocal performances of Bowie's career. Bowie was inspired to record the song after he met singer/pianist/songwriter Nina Simone, who sang it on the soundtrack album "Wild Is the Wind" (1966).

The spectre of "The Man Who Fell to Earth"'s Thomas Jerome Newton sprawled in front of dozens of television monitors is said to have partly inspired the album's most upbeat track, "TVC15". Supposedly also about Iggy Pop's girlfriend being eaten by a TV set, [Nicholas Pegg (2000). Op Cit: p.223] it has been called "incongruously jolly" and "the most oblique tribute to The Yardbirds imaginable".

The title track has been described as heralding "a new era of experimentalism" for Bowie. "Station to Station" was in two parts: a slow, portentous piano-driven march, introduced by the sound of an approaching train juxtaposed with Earl Slick's agitated guitar feedback, followed by an up-tempo rock/blues section. In 1999 Bowie told "UNCUT" magazine, "Since Station To Station the hybridization of R&B and electronics had been a goal of mine". ["UNCUT" (1999). [ Interview] . Cited at BowieGoldenYears 3 August 2007.] Despite the noise of a train in the opening moments, Bowie claims that the title refers not so much to railway stations as to the Stations of the Cross, while the line "From Kether to Malkuth" relates to mystical places in the Kabbalah, mixing Christian and Jewish allusions.Nicholas Pegg (2000). Op Cit: pp.205-206] Fixation with the occult was further evident in such phrases as "white stains", the name of a book of poetry by Aleister Crowley.Hugo Wilcken (2005). Op Cit: pp.4-15] The lyrics also gave notice of Bowie's recent drug use ("It's not the side effects of the cocaine / I'm thinking that it must be love"). With its Krautrock influence, it was the album's clearest foretaste of Bowie's subsequent 'Berlin Trilogy'.

Speaking to "Creem" magazine in 1977, Bowie proclaimed that "Station to Station" was "devoid of spirit ... Even the love songs are detached, but I think it's fascinating."


The album sleeve was originally to have featured a full-colour still from "The Man Who Fell to Earth". However Bowie rejected the colour cover, claiming the sky looked artificial ("Since when has that ever stopped him from doing anything?", quipped "NME"'s Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray later). The album was duly released in 1976 with the same picture cropped in black-and-white. It was not until Rykodisc reissued Bowie's catalogue in the early 1990s that the colour version was restored; this cover was retained for the subsequent remastered edition on EMI.

ingles and unreleased tracks

Every song on "Station to Station", with the exception of the title track, eventually appeared on a single. "Golden Years" was released in November 1975, two months before the album. Bowie allegedly got drunk to perform it on TV for the American show "Soul Train", resulting in the film clip seen on music video programmes. It was a substantial hit, making number 8 in the UK and number 10 in the US (where it charted for 16 weeks) but, like "Rebel Rebel"'s relationship to "Diamond Dogs" (1974), was a somewhat unrepresentative teaser for the album to come.

"TVC15" was released in edited form as the second single in May 1976, making number 33 in the UK and number 64 stateside. "Stay", also shortened and appearing the same month, was issued as a companion 45 to RCA's "ChangesOneBowie" greatest hits collection (though it did not appear on the compilation) which was itself packaged as a uniform edition to "Station to Station". In November 1981, as Bowie's relationship with RCA was winding down, "Wild Is the Wind" was issued as a single to push the "ChangesTwoBowie" compilation. Backed with "Word on a Wing" and accompanied by a video shot especially for the release, it made number 24 in the UK and charted for 10 weeks.

Another song purportedly recorded during the album sessions at Cherokee Studios, a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City", went unreleased at the time but was issued in 1990 on the "Sound and Vision" box set. According to Nicholas Pegg, however, the Cherokee work most likely consisted of overdubs to a track originally cut at Sigma Sound Studios during "Young Americans". [Nicholas Pegg (2000). Op Cit: pp.107-108]

Release and reception

The album was released in January 1976. "Billboard" considered that Bowie had "found his musical niche" following songs like "Fame" and "Golden Years" but that "the 10-minute title cut drags". "NME" called it "one of the most significant albums released in the last five years". Both found the meaning of the lyrics difficult to fathom.

"Rolling Stone" applauded the album's 'rockier' moments but discerned a move away from the genre:

"Circus" magazine, noting that Bowie was "never one to maintain continuity in his work or in his life", declared:

"Station to Station" was, and remains, Bowie's highest-charting album in the US, reaching number 3 and remaining for 32 weeks. In the UK, it charted for 17 weeks, peaking at number 5, the last time one of his studio albums placed lower in his home country than in America. [David Buckley (1999). Op Cit: pp.623-624]


"The Man Who Fell to Earth" soundtrack

After the "Station to Station" sessions completed in December 1975, Bowie started work on a soundtrack for "The Man Who Fell to Earth" with Paul Buckmaster as his collaborator. In 1980 he said:However Harry Maslin contended that Bowie was "burned out" and couldn't complete the work in any case. The singer eventually collapsed, admitting later, "There were pieces of me laying all over the floor". In the event, only one of the instrumentals composed for the soundtrack saw the light of day, evolving into "Subterraneans" on his next studio album, "Low".

Concert tour

Bowie went on tour in support of the album shortly after its release, commencing 2 February 1976 and completing on 18 May 1976. Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity" was employed as an overture to the shows, accompanying footage from Luis Buñuel's and Salvador Dali's surrealist film "Un Chien Andalou".David Buckley (1999). Op Cit: pp.281-289] The staging featured Bowie, dressed in The Duke's habitual black waistcoat and trousers, a pack of Gitanes placed ostentatiously in his pocket, moving stiffly among "curtains of white light", an effect that spawned the nickname 'the White Light Tour'. In 1989 Bowie reflected:

The "Station to Station" tour was the source of one of the artist's best-known bootlegs, culled from an FM radio broadcast of his 23 March 1976 concert at Nassau Coliseum.

Victoria Station

Bowie drew criticism after the release of "Station to Station" for his alleged pro-fascist views. In a 1974 interview he had declared, "Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars ... quite as good as Jagger ... He staged a country", but managed to avoid condemnation. On the White Light Tour, however, a series of incidents attracted publicity, starting in April 1976 with his detention by customs in Eastern Europe for possession of Nazi memorabilia. The same month he was quoted in Stockholm as saying that "Britain could benefit from a Fascist leader". The controversy culminated on 2 May 1976 in the so-called 'Victoria Station incident' in London, when Bowie arrived in an open-top Mercedes convertible and apparently gave a Nazi salute to the crowd that was captured on film and published in "NME". Bowie claimed that the photographer simply caught him in mid-wave, [Mark Paytress (2007). "The Controversial Homecoming". "MOJO 60 Years of Bowie": p.64] a contention backed by a young Gary Numan who was among the throng that day:The stigma remained, however, to the extent that the lines "To be insulted by these fascists/It's so degrading" from "Scary Monsters"' opening track "It's No Game", four years later, were taken as an attempt to bury the incident once and for all. [Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Op Cit: p.112]


"Station to Station" has been described as "enormously influential on post-punk", [ [ Allmusic review] . Cited 3 August 2007.] and a milestone in Bowie's transition to his late-70s 'Berlin Trilogy'. Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray wrote in 1981, "If "Low" was Gary Numan's Bowie's album, then "Station to Station" was Magazine's." Bowie himself has said of "Station to Station", "As far as the music goes, "Low" and its siblings were a direct follow-on from the title track", while Brian Eno opined that "Low" was "very much a continuation from "Station to Station". In 1999, music biographer David Buckley described "Station to Station" as a "masterpiece of invention" that "some critics would argue, perhaps unfashionably, is his finest record". The same year, Eno called it "one of the great records of all time". RS500|323

In popular culture

Kraftwerk reference the album, and Bowie himself, in the title track of their 1977 album "Trans-Europe Express": "From station to station/Back to Düsseldorf City/Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie". The Red Hot Chili Peppers' song "Californication" contains the reference: "Cobain can you hear the spheres/Singing songs off "Station to Station". The Fall Out Boy song "It's Not a Side Effect of the Cocaine, I'm Thinking It Must Be Love", from the EP "My Heart Will Always Be the B-Side to My Tongue", alludes to a line in the title track. The last chapter of the Irvine Welsh novel "Trainspotting" is named "Station to Station".

Track listing

LP: RCA / APL1 1327 (UK)

All songs written by David Bowie except where noted.

ide one

# "Station to Station" – 10:14
# "Golden Years" – 4:00
# "Word on a Wing" – 6:03

ide two

# "TVC 15" – 5:33
# "Stay" – 6:15
# "Wild Is the Wind" (Ned Washington, Dimitri Tiompkin) – 6:02


The album has been rereleased four times to date on CD, the first being in 1985 by RCA with the original black-and-white cover art, the second in 1991 by Rykodisc (containing two bonus tracks), the third in 1999 by EMI (featuring 24-bit digitally remastered sound and no bonus tracks), and finally in 2007 by EMI Japan replicating the original vinyl artwork.

CD: Rykodisc / RCD 10141 (US)

All songs written by David Bowie. Recorded start date|1976|3|23|df=yes at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York. [David Bowie. "Station to Station" (Rykodisc, 1990).]

  • "Word on a Wing" (live) – 6:10
    # "Stay" (live) – 7:24


    * David Bowie – vocals, guitar, tenor and alto saxophone, Moog synthesizer, Mellotron, producer
    * Carlos Alomar – guitar
    * Roy Bittanpiano
    * Dennis Davisdrums
    * George Murraybass
    * Warren Peacebacking vocals
    * Earl Slick – guitar
    * Harry Maslin – producer
    * Steve Shapiro – photography




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