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STATIONTOSTATION
THERETURNOFTHETHINWHITEDUKE1975-1976
1975
OCTOBER

David Bowie starts recording on ‘Station to Station’ in Los Angeles. The band consists of Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick on guitar, Dennis Davis on drums, George Murray on bass and Roy Battin from Bruce Spingsteen’s band on piano.

NOVEMBER

‘Golden’ Years is released and David appears on the top American black music programme ‘Soul train’ to promote it. The show is generally reserved for black artists and Bowie is rumoured to have got drunk in order to do it!

DECEMBER

Bowie does an interview via satellite link with chat show host Russell Harty for UK TV on which he reveals that he will be returning to Britain and starting a world tour in 1976. Bowie announces six gigs for May at London’s Wembley Arena. He will be backed by Earl Slick, Carlos Alomar, George Murray and Dennis Davis.

The ‘Station to Station’ album has been completed and is set for a January release, to precede US, Canadian and European live dates.


1976
JANUARY

‘Station to Station’ Bowie’s 11th studio album is released on January 23 and features a black and white still from ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ on the cover. The record is a top10 hit in both the US and UK.

FEBRUARY

The 35 City, US tour kicks off in Vancouver on February 2. It is Bowie’s first world tour since 1974. Bowie opens his shows with the Salvador Dali/Luis Brunel surrealist film ‘Un Chien Andalou’, most infamous for the scene featuring the slicing of a human eyeball with a razor blade.

The film is the perfect introduction to the stage show, which is based on a continuous run of deliberate staged situations as to capture the quality of black and white photographs (inspired by photographer Ray Mann). David admits he walked around rather stiffly and haughtily. It features the use of pure white lighting, inspired by ‘30’s German theatre and designed by Eric Barret. The floors were painted black and the stage props minimal - a stark contrast to the heavily staged 1973 ‘Diamond Dogs’ tour.

During performance, the white lights sweep over Bowie, highlighting his presence, but also casting atmospheric and disturbing banks of shadows. As a result of this, the tour is most often referred back to as the “White Light’ or the 'White Light, White Heat' tour. Even the road crew was stripped down to just 20 personnel from the previous 60. Says Bowie: "It's more theatrical than Diamond Dogs ever was, it's by suggestion rather than over-propping. It relies on modern, 20th century concepts of lighting."

David Bowie is now the Thin White Duke - an emotionless edifice in white shirt, black waistcoat, slicked-back fire-blond hair, and a packet of French Gitane cigarettes. The shows kicked off with the song ‘Station to Station’ to introduce its central character. The concerts hinge on the stripped-down, black-funk-meets-white-noise of 'Station to Station'. Bowie repeats continuously that it is the ‘return of the Thin White Duke’. Gone are the Soul sounds of 'Young Americans'.

The set list is therefore based on his more recent material to date, in fact, it only incorporated two songs from 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars'.

Earl Slick drops out of the band and is replaced by Canadian guitarist Stacy Heydon. Bowie talks about his new interest in electronic music. It seems like the minimalist approach to the tour signals a return to simplicity and closure before the looming beginning of Bowie's 'Berlin period'.

APRIL

‘TVC 15’ is released as a single.

MAY

Bowie returns back to Britain, for his Wembley concerts, the first time in years, and arrives by specially chartered train from Dover to Victoria Station. Thousand of fans turn up to greet him, but the national press are far more interested in a ‘quote’ from the Thin White Duke in which he’s reported to have said that Britain needs another Hitler.

Bowie, wearing black shirtsleeves and tight black jeans, with is hair slicked back, stands up in the back of his chauffeured open-top black Mercedes and waves cheerfully to his fans while his entourage work at fixing the faulty PA system. The press goes crazy the next day alleging that he did a ‘Nazi salute’, with a photo to prove it. Nobody claims to have seen Bowie ‘saluting’ and the photo is most likely one captured of David going out of a wave.

Nevertheless, the Wembley dates are a complete success. The European leg of the tour ends with dates in Holland and France. After the tour David leaves for Switzerland. On 20 May 1976, RCA releases the firs-ever Bowie compilation called ‘Changesonebowie’, to enormous acclaim. Once again, there was an imminent sense of closure, the clearing of the decks for a new product.

SEPTEMBER

Bowie heads off back to the Chateau d'Herouville Studios in Pontoise, France for two and a half months where he lays down eight tracks (the majority of 'Low'). Bowie then moves to Berlin and leases a flat where he will live for the next two-and-a-half years. His dangerous drug-influenced life in America is threatening his health and his sanity, and besides, Bowie had quickly grown tired of the superficial life of a pop star living in Los Angeles.

He has few fond memories of life in Hollywood and later assess it as “One of the worst periods of my life. I got into a lot of emotional and spiritual trouble there and so I decided to spilt and discover new was of relating to the music business - I wasn’t sure what I was in it for anymore.” In retrospective, he says he didn't like the Duke very much. Bowie is heading back to Europe. There is new music to be invented.

Bowie steps gets off the train and bids the Duke goodbye. In the end, the Thin White Duke proved so icy and negative that when the skin dropped off, it left behind a desolate and lonely man to pick up the pieces. This hallow persona had to be filled in before the person underneath caved in for good. The Thin White Duke is put to rest permanently on ‘Low’, a therapy album for Bowie’s damaged soul, but not before he makes a last appearance on the front cover.


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