1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 363

Station to Station, by David Bowie
Suggested by Liberty Dent

“State of them!” I laugh, as a trio butcher a song in front of the X Factor judges. “Even I could do better than that!”

“Yeah?” says Sarah, eyes gleaming. “Why don’t you audition then, big shot?”

I pause.

“Okay.”

Eight months later, seven in the morning. Sat in my Corsa, in the Old Trafford car park. There’s a crowd, cold and milling in the March air. Queueing, English. I exhale. No going back. I open the door, and step out.

(He’s a genius, apparently. I can’t argue that. Willow thin, beautiful, alien. I know the classics, sure, the Heroes, the Rebels, the Ashes, the Changes, the Life on Marses. So many songs. Station to Station? 1975, while his Dukedom was at its thinnest and whitest. Checking the tracklist, I’ve no spark of memory. Neither did he, thanks to cocaine.)

My wristband, pink, says 7264. A second queue forms, behind the first. Twenty thousand, they say, days later. Dermot walks past, flanked. He’s small, I think. Soon we’re clapping, and screaming, and waving our arms, silently. Establishing shots, we’re told. Then I file forward, an hour-long shuffling walk. We fill half the ground. I wait for my shot.

(The album is a six-track journal of a man losing his mind. The titular Station to Station introduces the Thin White Duke, and discusses occultism, paranoia and more, honing on Bowie’s mental fixations. It’s a slow build, akin to Krautrock like Kraftwerk or Neu! These mental and musical themes pervade other tracks too: Word on a Wing chronicles his spiritual despair and psychological terror. It’s not a rabble rouser.)

I’m patient. Sections are shifted, Tetrissing from the back to the pitchside queues, to the open booths with bored show execs judging the single-filing masses. It’s open plan, everyone in earshot. Thumbs up? Follow the signs to Stage Two. Thumbs down? Thanks for playing. I sit, and wait, for hours. I wish I’d brought my Kindle.

(Golden Years is my highlight. It’s called a bridge between his older material and the Brave New World he looked to create. It’s funky, it’s disco, it’s catchy. It’s nothing like the rest. TVC 55 is an upbeat fantasy concerning a holographic human-eating television, inspired by an Iggy Pop drug binge. They say write what you know, I guess.)

It’s dusk now. The final queue. A familiar fear is there, fluttering. It’s suddenly real. Next, movement. I’m called to my judge. She smiles, we shake hands. “Craig Stevenson,” I say. “Milk planner… Thirty-eight… Leeds. Well, Merseyside, originally… David Bowie, Life on Mars.” She motions I start. Closing my eyes, I breathe deep, and sing.

(The album. Enjoyable? Yeah. Maybe. Memorable? Culturally yes, musically no. Golden Years aside, there’s little that grips and grapples. There’s more fun to be had in the reading, the backstory, than in the listen. My score? 5/10. Intriguing, but not electrifying. Genius? The jury’s out.)

I drive home. Verse two, I think. She looked away. That’s where I lost her. I switch on the wipers to fight the strengthening rain.

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