Station to Station is David Bowie’s Easter Passion
There is no God but David Bowie and a colleague of mine just pointed out that Bowie’s 1976 song Station to Station is his Easter Passion, which he didn’t even have to explain any further. It immediately made sense to me. I just never realised it.
It has, of course, always been clear to me Station to Station wasn’t just about a train ride, despite the title and the lengthy introduction which is (on the original version) Earl Slick imitating a locomotive on his guitar (perfected, in my humble opinion, by Adrian Belew on Bowie’s ‘live’ album Stage). But what it was really about has always escaped me. I thought it could be about Bowie’s cocaine abuse at the time, personified by the Thin White Duke, a nasty character “throwing darts into lovers’ eyes”.
I always did associate those darts with the sword Jesus claimed to bring, to split families in two: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”
Crucifixion of Jesus Christ
I did a little Google search and discovered that Bowie himself wasn’t exactly secretive about the meaning of Station to Station: “The title drives from the Stations of the Cross and not the railway system”, he said in an interview in 1999. The Stations of the Cross are all the highlights on the day Jesus Christ was crucified, as you can see depicted in any Catholic church on your way from the entrance to the altar.
There’s also a reference to the Kaballah: “Here are we, one magical movement from Kether to Malkuth”. In the video above, a fragment from the 1980 film Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo you can see Bowie make a gesture with his hand moving from top to bottom as he is singing that line. Kether is the top of the Tree of Life in the Kaballah, it means ‘crown’, God, I guess, or Heaven. Malkuth is the physical representation of the divine. In between are eight other ‘Sephirots‘, different manifestations of God. So if Bowie moves his hand from above to below when singing from Kether to Malkuth, he is, I guess, comparing the different levels of the Kaballistic Tree of Life with the stations of the cross.
Saints and sinners
Station to Station is full of religious references to saints and sinners and miracles and especially Jesus Christ. For instance: “Got to keep searching and searching” and “And oh, what will I be believing / And who will connect me with love?” and “It’s not the side-effects of the cocaine / I’m thinking that it must be love” and “Should I believe that I’ve been stricken? Does my face show some kind of glow?”
I really have tried my best but never was able to appreciate Bach’s Matthäus-Passion. No more self-torture for me. From now on it shall be Station to Station every Easter (Not just the song, the whole album with the same name is deeply religious. The song Word on a Wing, for instance, contains one of my favorite lines in world literature: “Just because I believe don’t mean I don’t think as well” and Golden Years: “There’s my baby, lost that’s all / Once I’m begging you save her little soul”). (PB)
Music, 08.04.2020 @ 11:21