Friday, January 22, 2016

40 Year Itch : From Kether to Malkuth

David Bowie : Station to Station

    Immersed in music four decades old does have its benefits. In my world, David Bowie is still alive. He's coked out of his mind and paranoid as hell. But he's alive. The man who fell to earth is now hallucinating that corpses are falling past his windows. But he's alive. He's not sure what's worse: the witches trying to steal his semen or Jimmy Page making plans to kill him. But he's alive. 

    And David Bowie is releasing another great album, Station to Station, which bridges his funky Thin White Duke era that began with Young Americans with the Berlin trilogy, inspired by the krautrock/art rock sounds of Neu, Can and Kraftwerk ( whose "Radio-Activity" Bowie cranked up as audiences entered his 1976 concert venues.) It's an album Bowie apparently doesn't remember making thanks to his dark time recovering from his haunting role in The Man Who Fell to Earth with the help of a self inflicted California snow storm (sniff).

  The opening track, "Station to Station", begins with a Krautrock motif: the mechanical rhythms of a locomotive on the move ( Kraftwerk would record Trans Europe Express in the Summer of 1976) and ends with the kind of funk that would get Soul Train dancers out on the floor. And in between, we hear Bowie 's line:

Here are we 
One magical movement from Kether to Malkuth

indicating his interest in Jewish Kabbalah--beating that other rock chameleon Madonna to this school of thought by two decades.

"The "Station to Station" track itself is very much concerned with the stations of the cross, "Bowie told Q magazine. "All the references within the piece are to do with the Kabbala. It's the nearest album to a magick treatise that I've written. I've never read a review that really sussed it. It's an extremely dark album. Miserable time to live through, I must say."

  The first single from Station to Station, "Golden Years",  was climbing the Top 40 the week the album came out. Borrowing a riff from George Benson's "On Broadway", with hopes that the man who shared his birthday, Elvis Presley, might record it, "Golden Years" would peak at #10 in April. The follow-up single "TVC-15" is another classic. ( More on that, later this year)

   The album was released originally to mixed reviews: "the obsessively passionate conviction of his earlier works is missing," bemoaned Rolling Stone's Teri Moris. Always looking at the potential sales figure, Billboard's critic writes "The lyrics don't seem to mean a great deal, and the 10-minute title cut drags. But as a disco dance album, few faults can be found."
   Station to Station peaked at #3 in the US charts. 
  As the years passed, the album's status has grown. In 1999, Brian Eno called it "one of the great records of all time" and the collaborative community of music lovers who make up Rate Your Music have voted Station to Station the best album of 1976 ( over Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life and the Ramones debut).

  Many of the critics looking back at Bowie's astonishing legacy have hopscotched from Ziggy to Young Americans straight to Low. Make sure you don't overlook Station to Station, a cry from deep inside this great artist's temporarily damaged psyche.

1 comment:

  1. My favourite Bowie album. Wild Is The Wind is probably the great man's finest ever vocal. Utterly astonishing. There's a lot to be said for rock stars on drugs...