Recorded: September–November 1975
Producers: David Bowie, Harry Maslin
Released: 23 January 1976
David Bowie: vocals, guitar, saxophone, Moog synthesizer, Chamberlin, harmonium
Carlos Alomar, Earl Slick: guitar
Roy Bittan: piano
George Murray: bass guitar
Dennis Davis: drums
Warren Peace: backing vocals
Harry Maslin: saxophone
Station To Station, David Bowie’s tenth studio album, was recorded in Los Angeles in 1975 and released the following year. It marked a transitional phase in Bowie’s career, between the blue-eyed soul of Young Americans and the more experimental European sound of the Berlin trilogy.
The reasons for doing the show and record were many-faceted. The overriding need for me was to develop more of a European influence, having immersed myself so thoroughly in American culture. As I was personally going through a very bad time, I thought I had to get back to Europe. So it came to that.
Musician magazine, May 1983
Although created during a high point in his career, Bowie was in the midst of numerous personal troubles. These included a chronic cocaine addiction, the decline of his marriage, a long-running lawsuit to end his management contract with MainMan, and disillusionment with the music industry.
Bowie had also become disenchanted with Los Angeles, where he lived for much of the year.
There was no enjoyment in the working process [in America]. I’d exclude from that Station To Station. That was fairly exciting because it was like a plea to come back to Europe. It was one of those self chat things one has with oneself from time to time.
Christ, no… what am I talking about? A lot of that and Young Americans was damn depressing. It was a terribly traumatic time. I was absolutely infuriated that I was still in rock ‘n’ roll. And not only in it, but had been sucked right into the centre of it. I had to move out. I never intended to be so involved in rock and roll… and there I was in Los Angeles, right in the middle of it.
Whether it’s fortunate or not I don’t know, but I’m absolutely and totally vulnerable by environment, and environment and circumstances affect my writing tremendously. To the point of absurdity sometimes.
I look back on some things in total horror… And anyway I began to realise that the environment of Los Angeles, of America, was by this time detrimental to my writing and my work. It was no longer an inspiration to be caught in that environment.
I realised that that was why I was feeling so claustrophobic and cut off. I was adopting such a hypocritical stance. There was this incredible fight between materialism and aestheticism. My commitment has certainly never been in rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve made no secret of that. I was just a hack painter who wanted to find a new medium to work in, frankly.
Melody Maker, 29 October 1977
In 1976, during the making of Station To Station, Bowie explained his future direction to Rolling Stone magazine.
My actual writing doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense … frankly, I’m surprised Young Americans has done so well. I really, honestly and truly, don’t know how much longer my albums will sell. I think they’re going to get more diversified, more extreme and radical right along with my writing. And I really don’t give a shit…
Rolling Stone, 12 February 1976
Station To Station was mostly written and recorded a time when David Bowie was burnt out, paranoid, drug addicted, and barely subsisting on a diet of pure coke, milk, and finely chopped red peppers. He later said he barely remembered anything of the album’s creation.
I would say a lot of the time I spent in America in the ’70s is really hard to remember, in a way that I’ve not seen happen to too many other artists. I was flying out there – really in a bad way. So I listen to Station To Station as a piece of work by an entirely different person.
Q magazine, February 1997
In re: the album’s content, I think that the pleas to God and declarations of love are more those of desperation/insincerity. In ‘Word On A Wing’, he sounds uncertain about whether he is actually willing to commit to God or not — almost reluctantly trying hard to fit in the scheme of things. ‘Wild Is The Wind’, on the other hand, is almost obsessive in its desire to ‘satisfy this hungriness’, and the meaning becomes hollow when looked at from the perspective of the Thin White Duke character being ‘a would-be romantic with absolutely no emotion but who spouted a lot of neo-romance’.
At least, that’s my cynical take on the album. 🙂
“Word On a Wing”, to me, is the offer of a man who has a great deal of pride and self-respect to serve God, but on terms which are agreeable to him. He still cares for himself and doesn’t stand in his own light. It is the approach of a little god to the big God, accepting the latter’s supreme authority but at the same time asserting some degree of independence and control over the relationship that he wants to build between them.
This theme is revisited in Blackstar, with the conversation the dying or deceased Bowie has with God. “You’re a flash in the pan, I’m the big I am”. “I am” is, of course, how God referred to himself in Exodus. God is asserting his primacy over Bowie whilst paradoxically acknowledging that Bowie has a certain god-like status.
Bought this when it came out. Never opened it, and still sealed. Many, many times I’ve been tempted to! Curious to know how much it’s valued at now (unopened/mint obvs.).