In the studio

Although some of the songs had been written, there was much collaboration, arrangement and development as the sessions continued.

There are not that many songs on Station to Station, and the intro to ‘Station To Station’ itself is over three minutes long. We mashed all these songs together. It’s not really a rock and roll record… Earl Slick and I work in different ways, and while I would record something and just put a holding part in, he would then come in and make it all his own. My line was the inspirational line, his was the real line. His sound was very close to Mick Ronson, which David loved, and he was able to create a link. Sure, ‘Station To Station’ and ‘Stay’ are experimental records, but the rest of the album is medium poppy. David was on it. If you need to have fifteen cups of coffee, or whether you want to buzz around on coke, people do what they have to do. I do not condone being so out of it that you don’t remember anything, but the fact that you are able to rise to the challenge at the moment, that’s the challenge.
Carlos Alomar
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

The sessions for Station To Station began at Cherokee Studios on 21 September, and continued until November or early December. Cherokee was based at 751 North Fairfax Avenue in West Hollywood, Los Angeles.

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.
David Bowie
Q magazine, February 1997

Live performances

‘Station To Station’ was the curtain-raiser throughout David Bowie’s Isolar Tour in 1976. A performance from 23 March 1976 can be heard on Live Nassau Coliseum ’76.

It was also performed throughout the Isolar II Tour in 1978, with version released on that year’s live album Stage, and on the 2018 release Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78).

David gave me great encouragement and let me do what I wanted to do, within a framework of course! He used to say to me, ‘Just go wild, be as wild as you like. That’s why you’re here, and that’s what I want you to add to the band.’ And when we played ‘Stay’ or ‘Station To Station’ onstage, as I was embarking on these huge guitar solos, he would never do anything but stand there, still, grinning from ear to ear.
Adrian Belew, guitarist
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

The Stage version of ‘Station To Station’ was an edit made from two separate show recordings.

Fans adore bootlegs and cherish any perceived ‘mistakes’ as very vibey things; Stage is 100 per cent live. There wasn’t time during the tight touring schedule to fix anything. The performances were selected from the four nights. It’s almost impossible to perceive the different sound of each venue. When the mixes were finished I tracked David and the band down in Munich on 20 May and played them the album. They were thrilled.

The only ‘cheating’ I am guilty of was cutting into the middle of ‘Station To Station’ with a section from another night and city. The beginning and end are from Boston but the middle is from Providence. The possibility of making such edits was planned from the time I set up the sound for the first show. After I made an initial band set up, complete with equalization, dynamic processing and track assignment, I instructed the crew never to change anything on the console from show to show, and to always to use the same exact microphones. After each show a big X was made across the console in white tape, with a written warning that anyone who touched it would be, at the very least, castrated. Enormous credit goes to drummer Dennis Davis for consistently playing the same tempo from night to night, making such an edit possible. Top honours go to David for delivering some his best ever live vocals.

Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan And The Brooklyn Boy

Bowie continued to perform ‘Station To Station’ during the Serious Moonlight Tour, as heard on Serious Moonlight (Live ’83), and 1990’s Sound + Vision Tour.

Only infrequently have I written things for a particular generation, things like ‘Rebel Rebel’. Those kind of songs are odd for me to sing now. I haven’t done ‘Rebel Rebel’ since the Glass Spider thing. It felt odd then and it feels odder now, placed in with a lot of other songs that I have no problem with, like ‘TVC 15’, ‘Station To Station’. Those things fit like a glove, I feel like I could do those forever.
David Bowie
Q Magazine, April 1990

It was also played during the summer 2000 dates, and his final A Reality Tour in 2003-4. A recording from the former is available on Glastonbury 2000.

The release

‘Station To Station’ was the lead song on the album of the same name, released on 23 January 1976.

An edited version lasting 3:40 was prepared for single release in France by RCA, with ‘TVC 15’ on the b-side. It is likely that the single, which kicked off with the “Once there were mountains” section, was only circulated to French radio stations.

The single version was included in the 2010 Deluxe Edition of Station To Station, along with similarly shorter edits of ‘Golden Years’, ‘TVC 15’, ‘Stay’, and ‘Word On A Wing’.

It was also the b-side of the 2015 ‘Golden Years’ picture disc, and on Re:Call 2 in the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) box set, where it was called the Original Single Edit.

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