David Bowie regarded the period recording ‘Station To Station’ as one of the worst in his life, probably due to his excessive whiffing of “naughty salt”. Pretty much all the nightmarish mental side-effects that cocaine induces, David Bowie got. He was so paranoid he thought Satan was living in his LA swimming pool (thank God he had the mental wherewithal to perform an exorcism on it, or else who knows what would have happened… that’s not a joke, he really did perform an exorcism). An “also-ran” list of his antics during this snow-psychosis period includes living in terror that Jimmy Page was going to kill him, calling Adolf Hitler “the first rock star” and greeting the press at London Victoria station with a Nazi salute. Bless him. That never overshadowed his actual work though; not for nothing is he one of the most interesting, loveable and iconic pop stars of the 20th century. ‘Station To Station’ (last year sexed-up and remastered, this year bought by me), is one of his many master-works. It may be over 30 years old but it’s still one of the most consistently rewarding records I’ve heard this last 12 months. It covers a surprising amount of ground for just six songs: the title track is a ten-minute epic that passes smoothly through spatial sound effects, moody guitar and keyboard jams, and funky celebratory classic-Bowie singalong choruses about love and drugs. Then there’s ‘Golden Years’ which needs no introduction, but here’s one anyway; it’s an obscenely groovy twangy anthem that will probably never date and a near perfect pop song that will outlive us all. Speaking of outliving us all, the whole album sounds surprisingly un-dated and the more you listen to it, the better it sounds. Elsewhere in the album there’s a smooth passionate ballad (‘Word On The Wing’), an electrifying piece of I-miss-you-darling funk-rock which could either be about an ex-lover or honking powder once again (‘Stay’) and a spell-binding Nina Simone cover (‘Wild Is The Wind’). Another highlight is ‘TVC15’, a piano-based soul-tempered song whose subject is rumoured to be either a TV that’s more intelligent than the person watching it, a TV which “ate” one of Bowie’s friends during a drug trip, or, most bizarrely, oral sex with Iggy Pop (wtf?).
It’s taken me a few listens to understand what the fuss is all about but right now I’d much rather listen to this than anything else. It’s at once throbbing with life, as well as shivering with nerves and paranoia. It saw Bowie adopt the persona of “The Thin White Duke”, an android-like conscience-free member of the borderline-undead which suits the album down to the ground. The new remastered edition also features an incendiary double-disc live album recorded at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York which further establishes Bowie as one of the most formidable live acts pop music has ever seen. The all-singing-all-dancing “Deluxe Edition” also includes the remastered album and concert on vinyl LP as well as the album on DVD audio with surround sound. If it wasn’t £90 I’d be very tempted, but I’ve stuck with the regular “Special Edition” to give my bank balance a sporting chance. Anyway, overall, do I recommend ‘Station To Station’? Absolutely. Despite the influence it’s garnered, it still sounds like nothing else. A fantastically detailed and lovingly made melting pot of love, death, homesickness and chemically-induced neuroses.
Listen to this: Remastered. It’s worth it.
Key track: Station To Station