Media appearances and mixing
The first song from Station To Station to be unveiled was ‘Golden Years’, which David Bowie performed on the African-American TV show Soul Train on 3 November 1975.
Bowie lip-synced on the show, which was broadcast on 3 January 1976. He was interviewed before the performances, and took questions from the audience.
Bowie later revealed he was drunk during the Soul Train appearance, which led him to forget some of his lines.
I wasn’t even buoyant enough to feel apologetic. I mean I really was a little shit in that way, I hadn’t bothered to learn it. And the MC of the show, who was a really charming guy, took me to one side after the third or fourth take and said, ‘You know there are kids lining up to do this show who have fought their whole lives to try and get a record and come on here?’ And I know that at the time it made no impression on me, his little speech, which was absolutely necessary. And I just screwed up the lyrics.
Strange Fascination, David Buckley
‘Golden Years’ was released as a single shortly afterwards, on 17 November 1975. An excerpt from the Soul Train appearance was shown when Bowie appeared via satellite on the Russell Harty show, where he gave guarded answers and appeared distant and on edge.
Bowie had delegated the mixing of Station To Station to Harry Maslin. This was in contrast to his previous album, Young Americans, with which he had been far more involved.
I had to go back to New York at the end of the album and do the mixing at the Hit Factory. I was actually a bit shocked at the time, as I recall it, that David didn’t want to be involved at all. Because with Young Americans when we mixed it, David literally had his hands on the console, I had to slap his hands a couple of time and be like, ‘Get off the console, David!’
Station To Station was a big ‘mix’ album. After we got the basic tracks it was up to me to put the thing together. A song like ‘TVC 15’ was recorded in many sections, and so after the recording he basically wiped his hands of the album and started painting up in the hills in his house, and sent me back to New York to mix the album.
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
Maslin took the multitrack tapes to New York’s Hit Factory studio, where he was the chief recording engineer.
We had a custom built console utilizing the now classic API 550 equalizers in each channel module. It had no automation, so like all mixing in those day, the mix was somewhat of a performance in itself. Every pass had small differences and sometimes it came to editing different takes together to achieve the ‘final’ mix. ‘TVC 15’ is a classic example of this. The 24 track tapes were packed with different instrument information ending up on the same track at times. This of course made it impossible to add EQ and dynamics processing to a track for a continuous mix pass. One cannot affect a piano, saxophone and maracas in the same manner; hence the song was mixed in sections. My assistant added a second pair of hands for the most demanding sections. The multi-track machine was an Ampex MM-1000… a beast of a machine, but very reliable and the 2 track machine was an Ampex AG-440. The outboard possessing equipment was very similar to what Cherokee had in LA.
Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) book
When Maslin had finished the mixing he took the master tapes to Bowie for approval.
I went up to the house, and he was actually painting whilst we listened to the final mix. When I asked him what he thought, he just said, ‘Good job! You did great.’ Jumping back a little bit, we had all the guys from RCA come down to Cherokee to hear the album for the first time and it was quite an experience because they were all basically suits at the time, I knew they weren’t going to understand what they were going to hear. Because it was quite different from Young Americans, and it was quite different from what had gone before. And they sat on this couch in front of the console, said, ‘That’s just marvellous.’ They didn’t know what else to say. They knew that ‘Golden Years’ was a potential single, but I don’t think they understood or appreciated anything else.
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
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.).