It’s been just over 40 years since Station to Station was released, arguably Bowie’s (and by definition rock’s) finest album. I realize that it’s not immediately obvious that this work deserves this slot — it certainly didn’t at the time — but somehow we sensed something rather unusual was going on and for Bowie fans (and critics) who by now had been trained up to not be musical fuckwits, this was the first big test and were happy to go along with it. It is simultaneously Bowie’s most philosophically and emotionally desperate (the eponymously named Low was the absolute low point) and warm album going from dissonance to full stretch crooner and much more in between. It is usually cast as a transitional/bridge album, inferring that perhaps it is neither fish nor foul, and in some sense this is true — but taken as a bridge, it can also connote a highpoint. Here is a superb piece of rock journalism by Ben Graham (I don’t know his work but he reminds me of Melody Maker‘s great Chris Welch, from the heyday of rock journalism). Here’s the insiders’ take on STS: “I think David’s too intelligent to try to follow one philosophy.” Anyway, here Ben Graham assesses the album and the circumstances of its coming to pass.
‘Station to Station’ isn’t about trains, despite being written while the notoriously aerophobic Bowie was touring America and Europe by rail; instead, it refers to the fourteen Stations of the Cross, which Bowie also equates to the eleven Sephirot of the Tree of Life in the Jewish Kabbalah- hence, “one magical movement from Keter to Malkuth,” the songs most enigmatic lyric, which refers to the descent from the Crown of Creation to the Physical Kingdom, or from one end of the tree to the other.