Station to Station is the opening track on David Bowie’s classic 1976 album of the same name. Clocking in at over 10 minutes, Station to Station is Bowie’s longest studio recording and is seen as a pivotal landmark in Bowie’s musical development in the 1970s. That decade was a seminal epoch for many influential rock genres and Bowie had his finger on the pulse of most of them!
The song opens with train-like sound effects with a cold metallic sheen reflecting the early influence of German electronic bands like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, inspirations which would properly flower on the so-called Berlin albums.
Station to Station is structured like a classical suite with various movements, similar to the progressive rock anthems that was popular at the time. The first movement after the effects-laden introduction begins with “the return of the Thin White Duke” as Bowie presents yet another persona to the general public. The sound here is repetitive, minimal and strident. We hear guitar feedback swirling around as the rhythm section marches on almost military-style.
The second movement commences as the band transition into full prog mode as Bowie sings, “once there were mountains on mountains”. The melodic and harmonic progression is more ambitious as Bowie pushes the band into sharp rhythmic shifts. A distinctive contrast from the first movement as Bowie and the band positively soars.
But then abruptly without warning, the song shifts into the final movement, which is pure, undiluted rock ’n’ roll, Bowie’s own interpretation of Chuck Berry, one might suggest. “It’s not the side effects of the cocaine” open this section before Bowie repeats the mantra of “it’s too late” as the song drives headlong into seeming oblivion.
Guitarist Earl Slick delivers a taut yet dynamic solo in this section – one of my all time favourites. It’s hard not to swept away by the irresistibly hypnotic pull of this final movement as the listener wills the song to never end … “it’s too late” …
… still there’s more …