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.