Iggy Pop has always been drawn to excess. His career has practically been defined by it. As the elastic frontman of The Stooges, he provoked audiences all across the world with his jittering, apparently uncontainable energy. The group pushed their sound to the very limits of acceptable musicality and then went one step further. Fuelled by the angst-driven guitar playing of James Williamson and the primordial drumming of Ron Asheton, The Stooges’ proto-punk sound burnt a hole in the fabric of American music. It’s no wonder, then, that Iggy Pop’s favourite album by his long-time friend, David Bowie, was perhaps the glam star’s most excessive and transgressive.
Station to Station is David Bowie’s tenth studio album. Released in January of 1976, it is the first clear statement of Bowie’s controversial Thin White Duke persona. Ditching the elaborate costumes and glam-rock style that had defined his The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs era, Bowie now opted for a sleeker approach. His slicked-back hair and impeccable dress revealed his burgeoning preoccupation with intellectuals such as Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as his fascination with the avant-garde music coming out of Germany at the time. Indeed, tracks like ‘Golden Years’ drip with the motoric drive of bands like Can and Neu!, while the whole record seems imbued with the minimalist approach of German proto-electronica pioneers Kraftwerk.
Iggy Pop was perhaps drawn to the album’s faintly psychotic energy. The tracks on Station To Station were all written and recorded at the height of Bowie’s drug addiction, a period in which he was fuelled by an astronomical cocaine habit and lived on a diet of milk and peppers. As a result, Bowie spent the majority of 1975 and 1976 in a state of psychosis. Is it any wonder, the album seems to move at 100mph? At times it feels as though Bowie is running from something just behind his shoulder. Pop recognised the quietly churning momentum which lies at the heart of Station to Station when he said: “It’s a very exciting record. It’s short. All my favourite records are really effing short.” Considering Pop fronted a band who influenced an entire generation of punk acts, it’s almost unsurprising that he praised the direct and uncomplicated approach Bowie took with his tenth album.
Despite being informed by a range of niche and, at times, bizzare influences, Station To Station is today regarded as one of Bowie’s most important and enduring works. However, the stage persona that accompanied the LP has not aged well. At the time, Bowie caused controversy for his apparent incorporation of fascist imagery and for interviews in which he made statements related to supporting fascism. Perhaps the press were also shocked by the unfamiliar strain of nihilism that had worked its way into Bowie’s work during the Thin White Duke Era.
He must have seemed harder, drier, more industrial than he had in previous years. For some, the transition marked the end of their love affair with Bowie. For others, it was just the beginning, with countless fans and critics going on to cite the gritty minimalism of Station To Station as one of the most important influences on the post-punk sound that defined the 1980s.