The return of the thin white duke…
Here are we, one magical movement from Kether to Malkuth.
There are you, you drive like a demon from station to station.
…It’s not the side-effects of the cocaine…
…The European can(n)on is here.
David Bowie – Station to Station (1976)
After Fat White Family yesterday, here’s a Bowie song with a driving groove from a period where he was not only flirting with some questionable imagery but even made some extremely misguided and insensitive comments about the coming of “an extreme right front” to the NME. This wasn’t parody, this was drug-addled (it almost certainly was “the side-effects of the cocaine” after all) method acting gone awry with neither sufficient grip on reality nor the attached political awareness that may have come with it. He’s lost in drugs, interest in the occult and an ill-advised “emotionless Aryan superman” character. Bowie has said he doesn’t even remember the recording sessions for the album of which this is the title track.
It’s almost as if he desperately needed to get away from his LA life as it had become and make a real effort to clean up his act, perhaps also moving somewhere where politics and the history of the 20th century would be acutely apparent each day. Somewhere like West Berlin.
Thankfully that’s exactly what happened, of course. Although, when he moved there (bringing recovering heroin addict Iggy Pop along with him) he hadn’t realised that it was in fact “the smack capital of Europe” at that time… Despite that, they succeeded.
“I made a real decision not to disappear or die. I was very ill but I made a decision to pull myself out of that abyss. Drugs are a major part of the rock experience. I’m glad I did all that but I wouldn’t recommend it. Most of my good albums were made when I was straight. I’m never tempted now. There’s a certain state of mind it puts you in that I don’t want to go back to. I think it might have affected my memory but I don’t think it’s had an awful effect on me. It’s like taking a spaceship – there are great dangers. Be aware that if you get on it, you may just blow up. I went up on the spaceship and got back to earth again. It was exciting but lots of people I know blew up.”