Station to Station

Album: Station to Station (1976)

Songfacts®:

  • This is the title track to David Bowie's 10th studio album. It is notable as the vehicle for Bowie's last great "character," The Thin White Duke, a well-dressed, cocaine-addled tortured soul with an interest in the occult.

    "Station to Station" in the only Bowie song that names the character ("The return of the Thin White Duke") - he would abandon the persona after the album.
  • During the sessions for Station To Station, Bowie was heavily dependent on drugs, especially cocaine, and recalls almost nothing of the production. He once joked, "I know it was recorded in LA because I read it was."
  • The only memory Bowie has of making the album is of ordering lead guitarist Earl Slick to play and repeat a Chuck Berry riff over the opening bars of this track. "I have only flashes of making it," a saner Bowie said much later. "I have serious problems about that year or two. I can't remember how I felt; I have no emotional geography."
  • The song is in four movements and the lyrics reflect Bowie's preoccupations with the influential occultist Aleister Crowley, Hermetic Qabalah and Gnosticism. The title is a reference to the Stations of the Cross, a series of 14 images depicting the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • The Station to Station era was a musically fertile time for Bowie, but he was battling demons in a rather literal sense, which is reflected in this song. The journalist Cameron Crowe claimed to have found evidence of black magic rituals when he interviewed Bowie, and Bowie says that when he was living in Berlin at this time, he saw objects move around rooms on their own.

    This song has some overt references to mysticism ("Kether" and "Malkuth" are found on the Kabbalah Tree of Life), and many lines that can be interpreted that way. For example, "Here am I, flashing no color" could represent the flashing complimentary colors in the Tattva belief that lead to a higher level of consciousness. Since Bowie can't recall writing the song, a variety of influences could be at play here. What force compelled the lyrics is the big mystery.
  • The Station To Station album was recorded after Bowie completed shooting Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth, and the cover features a still from the movie.
  • The line, "Making sure white stains" is a reference to Aleister Crowley's first book, White Stains.
  • This is Bowie's longest studio recording, clocking in at 10 minutes and 11 seconds. For a full minute, sampled locomotives clatter from speaker to speaker and the coke-deranged singer makes his entrance at 3:17.

Comments: 4

  • Aife from LondonI think they meant it's the only song that refers to the Thin White Duke. There are also songs for Aladdin Sane , and Diamond Dogs , if you count that as a character
    And I believe it's European Canon , one n , meaning body of work
    The lyrics are quite oblique but one of his best songs I think
  • Scott Glazbrook from AustraliaIt is not the only song that names a character, Ziggy
  • Garry S from Manahawkin, NjWhat is a European Cannon?
  • Cliff from Oakdale, NyBowie opened his Jones Beach Theater Concert at Zach's Bay a few years ago with this one. He used an unbelivable video in the background of trains rushing to each other along with a great light show, it was spectacular!!!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

P.F. SloanSongwriter Interviews

P.F. was a teenager writing hits and playing on tracks for Jan & Dean when he wrote a #1 hit that got him blackballed.

Eric ClaptonFact or Fiction

Did Eric Clapton really write "Cocaine" while on cocaine? This question and more in the Clapton edition of Fact or Fiction.

80s Video Director Jay DubinSong Writing

Billy Joel and Hall & Oates hated making videos, so they chose a director with similar contempt for the medium. That was Jay Dubin, and he has a lot to say on the subject.

Mick Jones of ForeignerSongwriter Interviews

Foreigner's songwriter/guitarist tells the stories behind the songs "Juke Box Hero," "I Want To Know What Love Is," and many more.

Yacht Rock!Song Writing

A scholarly analysis of yacht rock favorites ("Steal Away," "Baker Street"...) with a member of the leading YR cover band.

Petula ClarkSongwriter Interviews

Petula talks about her hits "Downtown" and "Don't Sleep In The Subway," and explains her Michael Jackson connection.