Among the many high points in David Bowie’s catalog, “Station To Station” stands as one of his most epic compositions.  Written when Bowie’s life was at its most fractured point– having split with his longtime manager, suffering from cocaine psychosis and obsessed with the occult, “Station To Station” transcends the insanity to become one of his most monumental works.

This episode, we’re taking a deep dive into the live version of “Station To Station” from the 1978 Isolar II Tour, as captured on the Stage live album featuring brilliant guitar work from Adrian Belew.

David Bowie, circa 1976, drawing the Tree Of Life, a mystical
diagram referred to in “Station To Station”


Put ​on ​your ​red ​shoes ​and ​dance ​the ​blues– ​It’s ​time ​for ​another ​episode ​of ​the ​“I’m ​In ​Love ​With ​That ​Song” ​podcast. ​ Today, ​we’re ​taking ​a ​deep ​dive ​into “Station ​To Station” ​by ​David ​Bowie.

Hi, ​I’m ​Brad ​Page, ​and ​on ​this ​podcast, ​I ​pick ​one ​of ​my ​favorite ​songs ​and ​we ​spend ​some ​quality ​time ​listening– ​really ​listening– ​to ​all ​the ​nuances ​and ​details ​that ​make ​it ​a ​great ​song. ​No ​musical ​knowledge ​is ​required ​here, we’re ​not ​getting ​into ​music ​theory. ​I’m ​more ​interested ​in ​arrangements, ​performances ​and ​production– ​the ​craft ​and ​design ​that ​goes ​into ​making ​a ​great ​piece ​of ​music. ​And ​this ​time ​we’ve ​got ​an ​amazing ​piece ​of ​music. ​One ​of ​David ​Bowie’s ​masterpieces: ​“Station ​To ​Station”.

So, ​I’m ​going ​to ​do ​something ​a ​little ​different ​this ​time; we’re ​going ​to ​listen ​to ​the ​live ​version ​of ​this ​song, ​rather ​than ​the ​studio ​version. ​Most ​people ​would ​consider ​the ​studio ​version ​to ​be ​the ​definitive ​version, ​and ​I’m ​not ​going ​to ​disagree ​with ​that, but ​I ​just ​really ​love ​this ​particular ​live ​version, ​partly ​because ​it ​features ​two ​of ​my ​favorite ​musicians: ​Roger ​Powell ​from Utopia ​on ​keyboards, ​and ​the ​amazing ​guitar ​player, ​Adrian ​Belew.

This ​version ​is ​from ​the ​album ​called ​“Stage”, ​released ​in ​1978 ​and ​culled ​from ​performances ​in ​Philadelphia, ​Providence, ​Rhode ​island ​and ​Boston, ​Massachusetts, ​from ​the ​‘78 ​tour. ​Along ​with ​Adrian ​Belew ​and ​Roger ​Powell, ​the ​band ​includes ​Sean ​Mayes ​on ​piano, ​Simon ​House ​on ​violin, ​and ​three ​guys ​who ​had ​become ​Bowie’s ​go-to ​rhythm ​section ​on ​the ​last ​few ​albums, ​George ​Murray ​on ​bass, ​Dennis ​Davis ​on ​drums, ​and ​Carlos ​Alamar ​on ​rhythm ​guitar. ​Alamar ​was ​more ​than ​just ​a ​rhythm ​guitarist, he ​was ​Bowie’s ​band ​leader ​and ​defacto ​musical ​director ​during ​this ​period.

The ​song ​begins ​with ​the ​sound ​of ​a ​steam ​train ​pulling ​out ​of ​the ​station, ​picking ​up ​speed ​and ​moving ​faster. ​The ​sound ​slowly ​moves ​from ​right ​to ​left.

​On ​the ​original ​studio ​recording, ​Bowie ​used ​recordings ​of ​an ​actual ​train ​and ​then ​manipulated ​them ​in ​the ​studio. ​But ​here, ​live ​in ​concert, ​Roger ​Powell ​coaxes ​the ​train ​sounds ​out ​of ​his ​synthesizer. 

The ​song ​doesn’t ​actually ​have ​anything ​to ​do ​with ​trains ​or ​train ​stations, ​but ​the ​sound ​of ​the ​train ​could ​be ​taken ​as ​a ​metaphor ​for ​the ​spiritual ​journey ​that ​the ​song ​is ​about ​to ​take ​us ​on

The ​train ​sounds ​build ​for ​over ​a ​minute ​before ​Adrian ​Belew’s ​guitar ​appears, ​mimicking ​the ​sound ​of ​a ​train ​whistle. 

And ​then ​the ​guitar ​starts ​to ​go ​nuts. 

​A ​piano ​enters, ​ticking ​back ​and ​forth ​between ​two ​notes. 

​The ​guitar ​is ​really ​interesting ​here, ​as ​Adrian ​somehow ​wrangles ​sounds ​out ​of ​it ​that ​are ​more ​like ​an ​out-​of-​control ​machine ​than ​a ​guitar. 

​Two ​minutes ​into ​the ​song, ​and ​the ​rest ​of ​the ​band ​comes ​in. ​Listen ​to ​the ​crazy ​stuff ​Adrian ​is ​doing ​with ​his ​guitar. ​That’s ​why ​I ​love ​this ​version ​of ​the ​song. 

The ​first ​time ​I ​heard ​this ​was ​a ​video ​clip. ​I ​think ​it ​was ​on “​Don ​Kirschner’s ​Rock ​Concert”. ​I’d ​never ​seen ​or ​heard ​of ​Adrian ​Belew ​before, ​but ​his ​performance ​here ​made ​a ​huge ​impression ​on ​me. ​What ​he’s ​able ​to ​do ​with ​his ​guitar ​here ​is ​incredible. 

​The ​heaviness ​of ​the ​guitar ​is ​offset ​a ​bit ​by ​the ​groove, ​courtesy ​of ​Alamar, ​Murray ​and ​Davis, ​all ​seasoned ​R&​B ​players.

Finally, ​three ​minutes ​into ​the ​song, ​the ​chaos ​subsides ​and ​Bowie ​enters ​with ​his ​vocals ​for ​the ​first ​time.

“One ​magical ​moment, ​such ​is ​the ​stuff ​where ​dreams ​are ​woven” —  ​that’s ​a ​pretty ​clear ​reference ​to ​a ​line ​from ​the ​Shakespeare ​play ​“The ​Tempest”, ​where ​there’s ​a ​line ​that ​reads, “​we ​are ​such ​stuff as ​dreams ​are ​made ​of” ​in ​the ​play. That ​line ​is ​spoken ​by ​a ​character ​named ​Prospero, ​who ​is ​both ​a ​powerful ​magician ​and ​a ​duke. ​

This ​is ​the ​first ​of ​many ​references ​in ​this ​song ​to ​magic ​and ​the ​occult. 

You ​won’t ​hear ​Simon ​House’s ​violin ​much ​at ​all ​in this ​song. ​He ​spends ​most ​of ​the ​song ​playing ​the ​violin pizzicato; that’s ​when ​you ​pluck ​the ​string ​with ​your ​finger ​rather ​than ​using ​the ​bow. ​You ​can ​just ​about ​hear ​it ​in ​this ​section.

So ​that ​line ​there: “​Here ​we ​are, ​one ​magical ​movement ​from ​Kether ​to ​Malkuth”.

Let’s ​take ​a ​look ​at ​that ​line ​for ​a ​minute. Kether ​and ​Malkuth ​are ​terms ​that ​come ​from ​the ​Kabbalah, ​an ​ancient ​form ​of ​jewish ​mysticism. ​According ​to ​the ​wisdom ​of ​Kabbalah, ​the ​tree ​of ​life ​is ​a ​mystical ​diagram ​where ​Kether ​sits ​at ​the ​top, ​representing ​pure ​consciousness ​and ​absolute ​compassion. ​Malkuth ​is ​at ​the ​bottom ​of ​the ​tree ​of ​life, ​representing ​the ​material ​world. ​Now, ​I’m ​definitely ​no ​scholar ​of ​this stuff, ​so ​I’m ​simplifying ​here, ​but ​Bowie had ​a ​particular ​obsession ​with ​this ​stuff ​during ​1976 ​when ​he ​was ​writing ​this.

Check out how ​the ​bass, ​keyboards ​and ​violin ​all ​hit ​the ​same ​riff ​here.

“There ​are ​you, ​you ​drive ​like ​a ​demon ​from ​station ​to ​station”; ​yet ​another ​magical, ​mystical ​reference. ​The ​stations ​could ​refer ​to ​the ​stations ​of ​the ​cross ​or ​the ​positions ​along ​the ​tree ​of ​life. 

“White ​Stains” ​is ​an obscure ​book ​of ​poetry ​written ​by ​Alastair ​Crowley, ​published ​under ​the ​pseudonym ​George ​Archibald ​Bishop. ​Crowley, ​of ​course, ​is ​probably ​the ​most ​famous ​occult ​figure ​in ​history. ​Most ​of ​the ​poems ​in ​“White ​Stains” ​involve ​sex ​in ​one ​way ​or ​another, ​and ​Crowley ​and ​his ​disciples ​also ​had ​an ​interest ​in ​the ​Tree ​of ​Life. ​Musically, ​here, ​I ​like ​the ​way ​the ​guitars ​arpeggiate ​the ​chords ​like ​a ​retro ​1950s ​song.

Now, ​five ​minutes ​into ​the ​song, ​we ​reach ​the ​bridge. ​The ​tempo ​speeds ​up ​and ​the ​lyrics ​start ​to ​look ​back ​with ​longing. ​“Some ​time ​in ​the ​past, ​once ​there ​were ​mountains ​on ​mountains ​and ​once ​there ​were ​sunbirds ​to ​soar ​with, ​and ​once ​I ​could ​never ​be ​down.”

Bowie ​is clearly ​on ​a ​spiritual ​journey ​here ​as ​he ​sings, ​“Got ​to ​keep ​searching ​and ​searching ​and ​what ​will ​I ​be ​believing ​and ​who ​will ​connect ​me ​with ​love”.

The ​next ​few ​lines ​will ​descend ​in ​pitch, ​and ​then ​be ​punctuated ​with ​rapid ​fire ​chord ​changes ​and ​some ​rhythmic ​changes ​as ​well. ​This ​all ​creates ​a ​sense ​of ​disorientation ​and ​keeps ​you ​off ​balance. 

Then ​very ​quickly, ​the ​song ​normalizes ​to ​a ​straightforward ​four ​four ​groove ​and ​hits ​a ​much ​faster ​tempo ​that ​will ​drive ​us ​through ​to ​the ​finish ​of ​the ​song. ​

He ​begins ​by ​singing, ​“It’s ​not ​the ​side ​effects ​of ​the ​cocaine, ​I’m ​thinking ​that ​it ​must ​be ​love”…  Well, ​​by ​this ​point ​in ​Bowie’s ​career, ​he ​was ​living ​like ​a ​vampire ​in ​Hollywood; he ​was ​barely ​eating, ​living ​on ​a ​diet ​of ​cocaine, ​cigarettes ​and ​milk. ​He ​would ​go ​five ​or ​six ​nights ​without ​sleep. ​He ​was ​paranoid, ​delusional ​and ​experiencing  hallucinations. ​Cocaine ​psychosis. ​By ​the ​time ​this ​live version ​was ​recorded ​in ​1978, ​he ​was ​in ​better ​condition,  but ​when ​he ​wrote ​the ​song ​in ‘76, ​he ​was ​in ​terrible ​shape.  So ​I’m ​going ​to ​say, ​yeah, ​it ​probably ​was ​the ​side ​effects ​of ​the ​cocaine.

“It’s ​too ​late ​to ​be ​grateful, ​it’s ​too ​late ​to ​be ​late ​again, ​it’s ​too ​late ​to ​be ​hateful, ​the ​European ​canon ​is ​here.” 

​Now, ​that ​last ​line ​is ​interesting, ​because ​the ​word “​canon”, ​that ​word ​has ​two ​meanings, ​depending ​on ​how ​you ​spell ​it. ​And ​I’ve ​seen ​it ​written ​both ​ways ​in ​transcriptions ​of ​the ​lyrics. ​C-A-N-N-O-N ​as ​in ​the ​thing ​you ​shoot ​cannonballs ​out ​of, ​and ​C-A-N-O-N ​as ​in ​a ​set ​of ​rules, ​principles, ​or ​a ​list ​of ​sacred ​texts ​that ​are ​seen ​as ​genuine ​or ​definitive. ​I ​think ​that’s ​the ​word ​that ​Bowie’s ​going ​for ​here, ​the “​European ​canon”. ​

After ​finishing ​the ​“Station ​To ​Station” ​album, ​Bowie ​packed ​up ​and ​left ​Hollywood ​for ​Germany, ​settling ​in ​Berlin, ​where ​he ​pulled ​himself ​together ​and ​made ​the ​next ​few ​albums ​in ​his ​career. ​​So ​in ​this ​lyric, ​I ​think ​he’s ​looking ​towards ​the ​sounds ​coming ​from ​Europe ​as ​his ​way ​forward.  ​Working ​with ​Brian ​Eno ​and ​drawing ​inspiration ​from ​bands ​like ​Kraftwerk ​would ​shape ​Bowie’s ​sound ​for ​the ​next ​few ​years.

Listen ​to ​George ​Murray’s ​bass ​part. ​All ​through ​this ​section, ​he ​is ​really ​smoking.

Adrian ​Belew ​gets ​another ​chance ​to ​tear ​it ​up, ​this ​time ​with ​a ​more ​traditional ​guitar ​solo. 

​The ​whole ​band ​is ​really ​cooking ​here, ​and ​the ​backing ​vocals ​give ​David ​something ​to ​bounce ​off ​of. 

This ​is ​a ​great ​drum ​fill.

Check ​out ​the ​descending ​run ​on ​the ​bass ​guitar ​here.

And ​then ​the ​party’s ​over. ​ And ​again, ​listen ​to ​George ​Murray’s ​bass ​guitar. ​What ​he’s ​playing ​is ​simple ​but ​interesting.

David Bowie – “Station To ​Station”, ​Live ​1978

“Station ​To ​Station” was ​the ​longest ​song ​David ​Bowie ​ever ​recorded. ​And ​not ​coincidentally, ​this ​is ​the ​longest ​episode ​of ​this ​podcast ​that ​I’ve ​ever ​recorded. ​But ​the ​song ​is ​an ​epic, ​with ​lots ​of ​elements ​to ​chew ​on. ​So ​thanks ​for ​sticking ​around. ​I ​think ​this ​song ​was ​worth ​the ​time.

Over ​a ​lifetime ​in ​the ​music ​business, ​with ​dozens ​and ​dozens ​of ​albums, ​many ​high ​watermarks, ​and ​iconic ​songs ​that ​have ​influenced ​generations ​of ​musicians ​and ​artists, ​“Station ​To ​Station” ​stands ​out ​as ​one ​of ​Bowie’s ​finest ​works. 

Of ​course, ​David ​Bowie ​died ​in ​2016, ​but ​I ​gotta ​tell ​you, ​not ​a ​week ​goes ​by ​where ​I ​find ​it ​hard ​to ​believe ​I ​live ​in ​a ​world ​where ​there’ll ​be ​no ​more ​new ​David ​Bowie ​music. ​It ​breaks ​my ​heart, ​but ​we ​have ​that ​amazing ​catalog ​of ​Bowie ​albums, ​and ​it’ll ​have ​to ​be ​enough. ​If ​you’re ​not ​familiar ​with ​his ​work, ​please ​go ​explore ​it. ​There’s ​so ​much ​good ​stuff ​in ​there, ​including ​the ​later ​half ​of ​his ​career. ​There’s ​literally ​something ​in ​his ​catalog ​for ​everyone. Go ​check ​it ​out.

Well, ​thanks ​again ​for ​listening ​to ​this ​podcast. ​As ​always, ​you ​can ​find ​me ​at ​, ​or ​search ​for ​the “​I’m ​In ​Love ​With ​That ​Song” ​podcast ​on ​Facebook. ​If ​you ​like ​what ​you ​hear, ​please ​leave ​a ​review ​on ​iTunes ​or ​wherever ​you ​listen ​to ​the ​show. ​And ​as ​always, ​don’t ​forget ​to ​subscribe ​to ​the ​podcast ​using ​the ​podcast ​player ​of ​your ​choice. ​That ​way ​you ​never ​miss ​an ​episode. 

​Now ​go ​and ​listen ​to ​the ​whole ​song ​again. ​Download ​it, ​stream ​it, ​or ​buy ​it ​from ​wherever ​you ​find ​great ​music. ​Support ​the ​music ​you ​love.


David Bowie

Adrian Belew

Roger Powell (Utopia)

Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert

White Stains by Alastair Crowley

The Tempest by William Shakespeare


Aqualung was the album that made Jethro Tull famous, and features 3 songs that became classic hits.  But the song at the heart of the album is “My God”, Ian Anderson’s very personal statement on religious institutions.  It’s the most instrumentally adventurous track on the album and features great guitar by Martin Barre and a flute workout from Anderson.

“My God” (Ian Anderson) Copyright 1971 Chrysalis Music, Ltd.

70 years ago this month (June 2019), George Orwell’s “1984” was first published.  So let’s give George an ol’ Rock & Roll salute by looking at one of the many songs inspired by his book.  Sure, I could’ve done David Bowie’s “1984”, but that would be too easy.  I’m a big Utopia fan, so this is a good excuse to take a look at another one of their tracks.  It’s Utopia in dystopia!

For more 1984-inspired songs, check out Eurythmics “Ministry of Love”, Radiohead’s “2+2=5”, or “Standards” by The Jam, just to name a few.

“Winston Smith Takes It On The Jaw” (Utopia) Copyright 1983 Unearthly Music/Fiction Music (BMI) Terrestrial Music/Fourth Floor Music (ASCAP)

When Brian Wilson heard The Beatles Rubber Soul album, it inspired and challenged him to create an album of his own that would stand as an equal.  And he pulled it off.  Universally considered one of the greatest albums of all time, Pet Sounds is a testament to Brian’s genius as a songwriter, arranger & producer.  

The album includes some all-time classics like “God Only Knows” and “Wouldn’t it Be Nice”, but on this episode, I’d like to focus on one of my favorites on the record– “You Still Believe in Me”.  

Like most of the songs on Pet Sounds, this is a very personal song, a confession of a young man who knows he’s failing as a husband, but can’t help himself.  Brian’s vocal is pure, honest, and perfect.  And when those harmonies come in… I melt.  Let’s listen together.

“You Still Believe In Me” (Brian Wilson & Tony Asher) Copyright 1966 Sea Of Tunes Publishing Company/Irving Music Incorporates, USA, Rondor Music International

Another overlooked song in the McCartney catalog, “Little Lamb Dragonfly” is an emotional piece, composed of 3 sections in different keys that effortlessly moves between each segment.  A wistful, haunting song about loss and the struggle to accept it.  How does this song affect you?  Let me know– write a review, post on Facebook, and share this episode with your friends.

“Little Lamb Dragonfly” (Paul & Linda McCartney) Copyright 1973 Administered by MPL Communications Limited

On this episode, we revisit the Destroyer album and take a look at the song “King Of The Night Time World” to see how it evolved from an obscure track by a short-lived LA band into a teenage anthem by larger-than-life rock legends.  We’ll listen to both versions and hear what changed & what remained.  Come live your secret dream!

“King Of The Nighttime World” (Kim Fowley/Mark Anthony/Paul Stanley/Bob Ezrin) Copyright 1976 Cafe Americana, Inc/Kiss Songs, Inc (ASCAP)/Bad Boy Music/Eighth Power Music/All By Myself Publishing Co Ltd. (BMI)

The Zombies only released 2 albums during their prime, so how did they get into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?  Because one of those albums is a bona fide classic: Odessey and Oracle is widely considered to be one of the greatest albums of the ’60’s, holding its own against classics by The Beatles, the Stones, Velvet Underground, The Who… by virtually any measure, it’s an iconic album.  And it was a complete flop when it was first released, along with its first single, “Care Of Cell 44”.  But over time, it’s been recognized as a true masterpiece.  Let’s give The Zombies their due and take a deep dive into their orchestral pop magnum opus, “Care Of Cell 44.”

Here’s a link to the article I mention in the podcast:

It’s definitely worth checking out!

The Zombies – “Care Of Cell 44” (Rod Argent) Copyright 1967 Verulam Music Company Limited

Welcome to the 25th episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” Podcast!  I thought we’d do something a little different for this episode: I’ve picked a handful of my favorite guitar solos and we’ll take a listen to what I think makes a solo great.  In my book, it doesn’t have to be flashy or technically brilliant (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but it does have to be memorable, it has to fit the song, and it should take the song to another level. 

I’m not saying these are the greatest solos of all time, they’re just a few that I think are pretty special.  So turn it up to 11 and put your guitar face on!

Why this song?  Simple: because Thin Lizzy was as good as a 4-piece rock band could be and this song has everything you want in a rockin’ song– a killer guitar riff, a singable chorus, a great hook for the lyrics, and a perfect performance.  Written by Bob Seger, Thin Lizzy took it to another level and added some of their special sauce to make this song their own.  I truly love this song!  Let me know your thoughts — write a review, leave a comment, share with your friends.

“Rosalie” (Bob Seger) Copyright 1972 Gear Publishing Co.

This is the episode where I try to explain why I think Todd Rundgren’s “Cliché” is the most beautiful song ever written.  Of course it’s all subjective, but I don’t know how anyone could deny the beauty and emotional resonance of this song.  I probably can’t do it justice, but here’s my attempt anyway.

“Cliché” (Todd Rundgren) Copyright 1976 Warner Publishing Corp.