[From the vaults: a blog for Pop ‘Til You Drop, 2011]

“It’s not the side effects of the cocaine / I’m thinking that it must be love…”

‘Station to Station’. It’s so good, I almost don’t want to talk about it. Like a dark but pleasurable secret that you strain to keep, or a slowly spreading bruise that you can’t stop pressing, it’s hard to resist the ominous plod of those opening seconds. The distant whistle of a train, the sound of Earl Slick torturing his guitar with an E-bow. This is how The Thin White Duke is introduced. And when he finally does sing, the words just leak out of him. Malevolent, exhausted, horny. I am often reminded of an Angie Bowie quote I read years ago: “The guy could poke a hole in a wall”.

‘Station to Station’, at 10:14, is the longest track in the Bowie catalogue, but it’s too artfully structured to ever get boring or indulgent. The band, Dennis Davis (Roy Ayers’ drummer), George Murray (bass) and Carlos Alomar (rhythm guitar), are masterful at bringing order, movement and punctuation to Bowie’s flights of fancy. So, at 5:17, just as our heartbeats are beginning to slow, a typically delicious tom fill announces the second, more uptempo section of the song. I love that refrain, ‘It’s too late to be hateful! It’s too late to be late again!’ and the edge of hysteria that creeps into Bowie’s voice when he sings it. So much going on. The post-‘Young Americans’ locked-in funk, Roy Bittan’s E-Street-style bar room piano, Earl and Carlos: fretboards at dawn. And poor Dave, losing his grip on reality, surviving on ‘red peppers, cocaine and milk’, frightened of his own stage creation – ‘a hollow man who sings songs of romance with an agonised intensity while feeling nothing’. Quite a melting pot.

There have been a few Bowie covers flying around recently that have pricked up my ears. First there was the Mascara version of ‘Golden Years’ from 1979, dug out and re-issued on a seven by Homophono.

Next there was the slightly pointless David Bowie vs KCRW 12″ of ‘Golden Years’ remixes, and then, more recently, there was the Tobor Experiment cover of ‘Station To Station’. None hold a candle to the Duke himself, of course, but I like the way Giorgio Sancristoforo has reworked ‘Station to Station’. You can feel his love for the song. It’s a pretty rendition, wistful and vibey and sung in a strong Italian accent. I used this track on a ‘Bowie-esque 2’ – my recent mix of covers and related stuff from the outskirts of the Dame:

01. Sebastian Tellier – Fantino
02. T. Rex – Cosmic Dancer
03. Blur – Strange News from Another Star
04. Brian Eno – Dead Finks Don’t Talk
05. Jobriath – World Without End
06. Luther Vandross – Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)
07. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
08. The Emperor Machine – Repetition
09. Tobor Experiment Disco Experience – Station To Station
10. David Bowie – When The Boys Come Marching Home
11. Brian Eno and John Cale – Spinning Away
12. Carla Bruni – Absolute Beginners
13. Brian Eno – I’ll Come Running
14. Warpaint – Ashes to Ashes
15. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (Studio Instrumental)
16. Velvet Underground – Rock & Roll