Before there was Ziggy Stardust, there was Arnold Corns…

Thanks to a legendary performance on Top Of The Pops 50 years ago, “Starman” became Bowie’s first hit since “Space Oddity” and proved he wasn’t a one-hit wonder. In this episode, we dig into the history of this song and the origin of Ziggy Stardust.

“Starman” (David Bowie) Copyright 1972 Chrysalis Music Limited, EMI Music Publishing Limited & Tintoretto Music/RZO Music

Here’s a few more Bowie episodes for your listening pleasure:


Are you freaked out in a moon age daydream? Well, you better hang on to yourself, because here comes another episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast Network. I’m your host, Brad Page, and on this show, I pick one of my favorite songs and we listen to it together to discover all of the nuances and elements, those special moments that make the song work.

David Bowie is one of our favorite subjects here on this show, because he’s one of my favorite artists. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the song that introduced Ziggy Stardust to the world, and launched David Bowie into stardom. So let’s celebrate the release of that iconic single from April 28, 1970, 250 years ago. This is David Bowie with “Starman”.

By 1971, David Bowie had been making records for eight years. But critical acclaim eluded him. He had tried being a blues singer. He had tried being a folky. He finally had a taste of real success with “Space Oddity” in 1969, but he was on the verge of being a one hit wonder.

As a teenager, he worked for an advertising agency in London. He only lasted there a year, but he was there long enough to pick up some basic advertising and marketing skills that he would later put to good use. He knew how to present an image, and he believed he had finally landed on the right product: the ultimate rock star. He just needed to do some market testing.

In 1971, along with his own recording contract, he was also working as a songwriter for a publisher, trying to write hit songs for other people. He had recorded a couple of demos that he wanted to release, but because he was under contract to a different record label, he couldn’t release the songs under his own name. So, he invented a character and a band to go along with it. But it’s not who you think.

The name of this band was Arnold Corns, and their lead singer was named Rudy Valentino. Neither Arnold Corns nor Rudy Valentino really existed. Bowie had met a 19-year-old fashion designer named Freddie Burretti. Bowie thought Freddie had the look of a rock star and would be the perfect guinea pig and front man for this new fake band. The fact that Freddie couldn’t sing, that was no problem– Bowie would provide the voice.

So David gave Freddie the stage name of “Rudy Valentino” and created the fake band Arnold Corns to back him up. Bowie hyped them up in the press, saying that the Rolling Stones are finished and Rudy would be the next Mick Jagger. So Arnold Korns released two singles. One of them was “Moonage Daydream”, backed with “Hang On To Yourself”. Here’s a little bit of Arnold Korn’s version of “Moonage Daydream”.

And here’s some of the Arnold Korn’s version of “Hang On To Yourself”.

You can really hear the Lou Reed influence in that version. Well, fortunately for the Rolling Stones, Arnold Corns was no threat. Both singles flopped and sunk without a trace.

This experiment was not a success, but Bowie would learn from it and revisit it later. In the meantime, Bowie released the “Hunky Dory” album in December 1971. Still, I think one of his best albums, “Hunky Dory”, was a leap forward in his songwriting and another rung up the ladder of success. But Bowie still had bigger ambitions. He revisited his concept of the ultimate rock star and drew inspiration from Elvis Presley to Howard Hughes, from the legendary Stardust Cowboy to the self-destruction of Hendrix and Joplin, and from novels from Van Daniken’s “Chariots of the Gods” to “I Am Still The Greatest, Says John Angelo” by Nick Cohn.

He wrote new songs and resurrected old ones like “Moonage Daydream” and “Hang On To Yourself” to create the album that would finally make David Bowie a legend, “The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”.

The Ziggy Stardust album has been called a “concept album”. Fair enough… It has a concept, but not much of a coherent story. Essentially, it’s the ascent and decline of a rock star who may or may not be an alien. Bowie, of course, plays Ziggy Stardust, and in doing so, he’s commenting on the role of the rock star in our culture and challenging the ideas of authenticity.

The album was released in June 1972. Before the album was released, “Starman” was issued as a single on April 28, 1972. “Starman” was the introduction of Ziggy Stardust to the world.

“Starman” was one of the last songs written for the album. It’s a classic example of a record label executive saying “I don’t hear a hit” and forcing the artist to go back and write something new for a single. Luckily, Bowie delivered.

It’s possible Bowie might have been inspired by science fiction author Robert Heinlein’s book “Starman Jones”. Bowie’s real name, after all, was David Jones. Musically, he drew inspiration from a few sources, and we’ll explore those. “Starman” features the Spiders from Mars, Trevor Boulder on bass, Woody Woodmansey on drums, and the great Mick Ronson, one of my real guitar heroes, on guitar and backing vocals; David Bowie played acoustic guitar as well as lead vocal, and Mick Ronson also played mellotron and wrote the string arrangement. The song was produced by David Bowie and Ken Scott.

The song opens with Bowie’s twelve string guitar.

All right, let’s get into it. David’s twelve string guitar is in the right channel. There’s also a keyboard, probably that Mellotron holding a single note, one bass guitar note, a single strum of another guitar and guitar and bass again. David is singing there, but it’s just nonsense syllables. Though he did take the time to overdub a harmony on the first one. Then Woody Woodmansey’s drum fill kicks off the first verse.

Listen to how dry that drum sound is. No reverb on that at all. The instrumentation is pretty spare on the verse, just bass, drums and two acoustic guitars panned left and right.

Woody Woodmancy is laying down a nice groove on the drums. Let’s check that out.

I guarantee you David Bowie did not talk like that in real life. He’s channeling a character here.

Now, at this point, there’s a short transitional piece of music that links the verse to the chorus. Sounds like Morse code, or an old telegraph. It evokes the idea of messages being beamed through space. Could be the Starman letting us know he’s here. It paints an audio picture. Bowie actually got the idea from another song, “You Keep Me Hanging On” by The Supremes. Here it is.

Now let’s go back to “Starman” and hear how this section joins the verse and the chorus together.

That one, no DJ. That was high as it cosmic time.

Mick Ronson and David are singing the harmonies. The instrumentation is still just bass, drums and acoustic guitar, but the string section is added on the chorus and it’s filling in a lot of empty space.

“Let the children boogie”. Around this time, Mark Bolan and T Rex were probably the hottest act in the UK. T Rex were known for playing their own brand of boogie rock. Bolan was definitely bigger than Bowie at this point. They were friends, but they were also competitors, and Bowie clearly had Bolan in his sights when he made this album.  After Bowie says “let the children boogie”, the band goes into a riff that would have been right at home on a T Rex record. It’s a nod, a tip of the hat to Mark Bolan, but it’s also a little bit mocking and somewhat ironic too, as “Starman” marks Bowie’s ascent, the point where Bolan had plateaued and Bowie was about to eclipse him.

Notice the hand claps after the guitar boogie section, we have the second verse. The electric guitars disappear. It’s just the acoustics again. And Bowie turns in a restrained, almost delicate vocal as compared to the chorus. Where he’s really belting it out.

Trevor Boulder plays a nice bass part during the verse, so pay some attention to that.

The chorus begins with some vocal gymnastics by Bowie. From the word “star”, his voice leaps a full octave to the word “man”. Generations of songwriters have used that technique, as it immediately adds a sense of drama, both a literal and a figurative rise in the song. And Bowie was particularly inspired here by this classic song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, performed by Judy Garland and written by Harold Arlin and Edgar Harburg for “The Wizard of Oz”. I mean, it’s one of the greatest songs ever written. Of course, Bowie as a songwriter would be inspired by that. Here’s that same octave leap again.

Now, you might think that this is all speculation and that Bowie could have come up with it on his own, or he borrowed it from somewhere else. But listen to this version of Bowie performing “Starman” live at the Rainbow Theater in August 1972.

So there you go. In fact, you could add Judy Garland to the list of those who inspired the creation of Ziggy Stardust, another star whose rise and fall mirrors that of Ziggy. Judy Garland died of an overdose in 1969, less than three years before “Starman” was written.

They repeat the chorus here.

The boogie section is the only time electric guitars are featured in the song. There are two electric guitars here, the solo and the rhythm part in the left channel. And there’s still one acoustic guitar on the right.

 Here’s where everybody gets to sing along, where the listener becomes part of the experience.

Mick Ronson plays some lead guitar in the background and we begin a long fade out, which makes it feel like this sing along could go on forever.

In July 1972, Bowie appeared on the British tv show “Top of the Pops” to perform “Starman”. It was a watershed moment. Watching it now, it all seems so tame, but at the time it was almost revolutionary. Bowie, dressed in a multicolored outfit and that flaming red hairdo that is so identified with Ziggy now, but that was a brand new ‘do at the time. He never mugs for the camera in this performance, but he smirks and grins and just looks like he’s having a great time. When Mick Ronson approaches to share the mic with him, Bowie throws his arm around Mick and pulls him close. And that one move sent a shockwave across England. It seems so innocent now. It’s hard to believe something like that could ever be controversial, but for parents across the UK, the gay subtext was just too much. They were shocked. But for millions of kids watching at home, they saw something liberating. They saw freedom.

When he sings that line in the second verse, “I had to phone someone so I picked on you”, he points into the camera, and all those kids watching at home felt like he was singing directly to them. Robert Smith of the Cure, Bono, Gary Newman, Siouxie Sioux, Mick Jones of the Clash, Boy George. Adam Ant, Noel Gallagher of Oasis, Johnny Marr… seems like everybody who formed a band in England remember seeing Bowie on “Top of the Pops” and consider this a pivotal moment in their lives. If you’ve never seen this clip from “Top of the Pops”, go watch it now. Bowie is absolutely magnetic in this performance. He’s every bit the ultimate rock star.

Thanks for listening and for being a part of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. You can continue the discussion on our Facebook page. Just search for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast and you’ll find us.

You can listen to our previous episodes on David Bowie, as well as the dozens of other songs and artists we’ve discussed on this show, on our website, And there are plenty of other great music related podcasts on the Pantheon Podcast Network, so check those out too.

We’ll be back in two weeks with another show. Thanks for joining us for this episode on David Bowie and “Starman”. And remember to support the music you love by downloading it, streaming it, or buying it from wherever you find great music.


David Bowie

Hunky Dory album

Space Oddity

Robert Heinlein

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album

Chariots of the Gods by Erich Von Daniken

Judy Garland

Top of the Pops

You Keep Me Hanging On” by The Supremes

Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland

50 years ago today — July 16, 1969 — Apollo 11 was launched and human beings first stepped on the moon.  Let’s celebrate that occasion with the most famous song about space travel: David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, a song that exploits our fear and wonder of the final frontier. 

In lesser hands, this track could’ve been nothing more than a goofy, one-joke song for the Dr. Demento crowd, but the clever songwriting, brilliant production and a vocal performance that captures Bowie’s innate other-worldly, alienated style makes this track so much more than a novelty song.

“Space Oddity” (David Bowie) Copyright 1969 Onward Music Limited


Take your protein pills and put your helmet on– it’s time for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. On July 16, 1969–50 years ago today– NASA launched Apollo 11 and humans set foot on the moon for the first time. For the 50-year anniversary of one of the greatest achievements of our species, let’s listen to the most famous song about space travel, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

My name is Brad Page, and what I try to do on each episode of this podcast is to get inside of a great song, to listen closely and uncover the elements that make a song work. We don’t get into music theory here, so you don’t have to be a musician to enjoy this podcast. We’re focusing on the performances, the arrangement, and the production choices that make a song great.

“Space Oddity” was released on July 11, 1969, five days before the launch of Apollo 11. The story of an astronaut marooned in space was always a common science fiction trope, explored in countless Sci-Fi novels, short stories, and films. “2001 A Space Odyssey” was obviously a major influence on this song. Clearly the source for the song title, “Space Oddity”.

Left alone, Major Tom drifting in space, the song is a meditation on alienation and isolation. Though Bowie is credited as the sole songwriter on this track, he was working with a musical partner named John Hutchinson at the time, and you can detect some of Hutchinson’s influence in the composition of this track. In fact, when the song was first recorded in February of 1969, it was a duet between Bowie and Hutchinson, with Hutchinson portraying the ground control parts, while Bowie played the role of Major Tom in space. Here’s a sample of that original version.

That’s Hutchinson on the lead vocal, with Bowie providing the harmony.

By April of ‘69, Hutchinson had left, and Bowie was back to being a solo act. He signed a record deal with Phillips Mercury Records in June, and the song was re-recorded as the version we know today. Bowie had been working with producer Tony Visconti, who would eventually produce many of Bowie’s classic albums. He was producing this album for Bowie, but Visconti declined to work on the song “Space Oddity” because he thought it was a lame novelty song. So, a producer named Gus Dudgeon was brought in to produce just this one song, and he did a brilliant job.  By the way, Visconti would eventually regret that decision.

Dudgeon mapped out the song on paper. Since he couldn’t read music, he used color-coded sections to indicate where certain instruments or the string section would come in. Paul Buckmaster created the actual string arrangement, translating Dudgeon’s color-coded pages into actual string charts for the orchestral musicians.

Bowie plays acoustic guitar on the track, along with Herbie Flowers on bass, Mick Wayne on electric guitar, Terry Cox on drums, and Rick Wakeman on Mellotron. Wakeman would go on to become one of rock’s greatest keyboard players with Yes, but at this time he was relatively unknown.

The song begins with Bowie’s acoustic guitar, I believe it’s a twelve-string, slowly fading in, primarily in the right channel. The bass will slide down from a high note. Then we get some militaristic snare drums and harmonics played by the electric guitar. Bowie also plays an instrument called the Stylophone on this track. Invented in 1967, the stylophone is a tiny keyboard that you play with a stylus. It was primarily sold as a children’s toy. And it sounds like this.

Let’s remove the bass, drums and guitar so you can hear the stylophone more clearly.

They’ve added a harmony vocal along with that lead vocal. And now we’re going to hear a voice in the background doing the countdown as we approach liftoff.

Notice how the lead vocal shifted to the right channel.

Now we’ve reached liftoff, and we get the sense of taking flight as the instruments climb in pitch. I’m sure this section was inspired by the middle of “A Day In The Life” by The Beatles.

Let’s listen to what some of the individual tracks are doing in this section. Check out the guitar part. I bet he’s using a bottleneck slide here to get that sound. This is also the first point in the song where the string section comes in. So let’s hear what they’re playing in this party.

Pure Bowie. The line about Major Tom making the grade and the papers all wanting to know whose shirts he wears. Bowie was always keenly aware of the power of advertising and the influence of media. As we play that part back, notice how the string section has been replaced by the Mellotron, which is emulating the sound of a string section. In essence, we’ve replaced a real human orchestra with an artificial reproduction. As we move further into space, we leave humanity behind.

I also want to listen to the bass guitar part behind the second verse. Because Herbie Flowers is doing some great stuff on the bass here. At this point in the second verse, the perspective changes from ground control to Major Tom. And we begin to see things from his point of view.

I always like how he says the word “peculiar” there.

This is the bridge, and it shifts to a different feel here. These chord changes, in conjunction with the arrangement, really give you the feeling of floating freely, untethered. It’s almost disorienting in a way.

Let’s have a closer listen to some of these parts. Here’s the vocals with the strings. And this time it’s the Mellotron. That’s replaced by the orchestra as soon as we hit the first chord of the bridge.

Now let’s hear what the bass and drums are doing during the bridge. That is some pretty cool stuff. As we come out of the bridge, there’s a break for an acoustic guitar part. Which leads into the guitar solo.

Hand claps. That’s Mick Ronson on the guitar solo. The guitar solo ends in dramatic fashion. And we’re into the third verse.

That’s my favorite line in the whole song. I think it’s the most human moment in the song.

You can really hear the stylophone there, too. I really like those little guitar touches there, those chords. Let’s see if we can listen to those. And there’s the stylophone. Sounds like it’s tapping out Morse code. Okay, let’s go back and listen to that in context.

This time there’s a seamless transition between the verse and the bridge.

The acoustic guitar break returns one last time before the final long fade. The solo is kind of buried in the mix, so let’s just listen to that for a bite.

Major Tom drifts off into the void, and the song follows him.

David Bowie – “Space Oddity”

 “Space Oddity” peaked at number 5 on the British charts, making it his first top ten hit. But it wasn’t a hit in America until 1972. Major Tom was also Bowie’s first successful mythic character, years before Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke.

David Bowie, always contradictory, even about his own work, said he wanted “Space Oddity” to be the first anthem on the moon. But in the same interview, he also said the song was an antidote to “space fever”.

I was five years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. “Space fever” was a real thing. Everyone was caught up in the excitement. It was like the complete opposite of September 11. The country, the whole world really, was united by hope and what we could do together. For that brief time, it seemed like anything was possible.

Thanks again for sharing your time and listening to the podcast. Please join me again soon. There’s another “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast right around the corner. In the meantime, you can email me at Or find the podcast on Facebook– just search for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast.

And please, it really helps the podcast if you leave a review on iTunes, Facebook, or wherever you listen to the show. So thanks.

Let’s celebrate the 50th anniversary of man’s first journey to the moon with David Bowie and “Space Oddity”.

To listen to the song again, complete and uninterrupted, stream it, download it, or buy it and support the music you love.



2001: A Space Odyssey

David Bowie

Tony Visconti

Gus Dudgeon

Paul Buckmaster

Rick Wakeman



Beatles ‘A Day in the Life’

Yes (Band)

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


With this song, David Bowie practically invents the Goth-Punk-Cabaret genre.  It’s an epic song with brilliant piano by Mike Garson.  Let’s explore the track and see what makes this masterpiece tick.  And if you like the podcast, please share!

“Time” (David Bowie) Copyright 1973 Tinoretto Music (BMI) administered by RZO Music Inc Screen Gems-EMI Music Inc (BMI), Chrysalis Songs (BMI)  (phew, that’s a mouthful.)