I was on the air, midway through broadcasting my Sunday night radio show on KCRW, when the news broke about the passing of David Bowie. Stunned by the revelation and reeling a bit from the impact, I immediately scrapped whatever show I had planned and decided to play all Bowie for the remaining hour. And, almost instinctively, the first album I reached for was Bowie’s Station To Station, the first of his albums I ever bought and easily my personal favorite.
When I was 14, I was in the midst of a transition from full-time hardcore skate punk to sullen post-punk goth kid… probably not a smooth transition, at that. And despite reading about my obsession-of-that-moment Bauhaus singing the praises of David Bowie (not to mention their faithful, fantastic cover of his “Ziggy Stardust”), I was most likely having trouble separating Bowie from my image of him as the glossy, giant suit-wearing pop crooner that he had become during the early MTV-era (exemplified by videos like this). To me, Bowie was not cool.
Around that time, my friend Andy Aubry got his mitts on a cassette version of David Bowie’s Stage, the lesser-celebrated Bowie live album from the ’70s… although I would not have known that at the time. All I knew is that it jumped out of the cassette deck and shook me up in a way that I didn’t expect. This was not the Bowie I was accustomed to… this stuff was dark, edgy, nervy, otherworldly. I believe I “borrowed” the tape from Andy that way that teenagers borrow things with no intention of returning & listened on repeat. One track from Stage that I was drawn to in particular was “TVC15,” an amphetamine-fueled rocket of a song that made me bounce off my bedroom walls. I was hooked.
Soon thereafter I wandered down to my local record store (RIP Union Records & Tapes, Eau Claire, WI) looking for the record version of Stage, as my tapedeck sounded like shit, as tapedecks most often do. Although they didn’t have it, one of the ever-knowledgable store clerks informed me they did have a copy of the album that “TVC15” came from, which was Station To Station. I began an instant love affair with an album that has only grown over the years.
Station To Station feels like the album that offers the most complete overview of the various styles he immersed himself in throughout his career… it has one foot planted where he came from and the other moving in the direction of where he was going. Sure, it has rockers like “TVC15” and the drop-dead-gorgeous acoustic ballads like “Wild Is the Wind.” But it also showcases his recent transition into soulful pop with his beloved hit, “Golden Years,” as well as the icy disco of “Stay.” Not to mention the epic title track, at once exhibiting the alien grandiosity he had already dabbled in earlier records, while sounding completely futuristic with production innovations he would later further explore with the three Brian Eno-produced albums.
And then there is the closer “Word On A Wing.” A bittersweet serenade draped in religious imagery, it is perhaps Bowie’s greatest love song and remains one of my favorite songs ever. For years, I was worried I would physically wear out the grooves of this record from so many spins, but it miraculously has held up. I’m guessing it will continue to do so…