"Station to Station" as written by and David Bowie....
The return of the Thin White Duke
Throwing darts in lovers' eyes
Here are we, one magical moment, such is the stuff

From where dreams are woven
Bending sound, dredging the ocean, lost in my circle
Here am I, flashing no color

Tall in this room overlooking the ocean
Here are we, one magical movement from Kether to Malkuth
There are you, you drive like a demon from station to station

The return of the Thin White Duke, throwing darts in lovers' eyes
The return of the Thin White Duke, throwing darts in lovers' eyes
The return of the Thin White Duke, making sure white stays

Once there were mountains on mountains
And once there were sun birds to soar with
And once I could never be down

Got to keep searching and searching
Oh, what will I be believing and who will connect me with love?
Wonderful, wonderful, wonder when

Have you sought fortune, evasive and shy?
Drink to the men who protect you and I
Drink, drink, drain your glass, raise your glass high

It's not the side-effects of the cocaine
I'm thinking that it must be love
It's too late to be grateful

It's too late to be late again
It's too late to be hateful
The European cannon is here

I must be only one in a million
I won't let the day pass without her
It's too late to be grateful

It's too late to be late again
It's too late to be hateful
The European cannon is here

Should I believe that I've been stricken?
Does my face show some kind of glow?
It's too late to be grateful

It's too late to be late again
It's too late to be hateful
The European cannon is here, yes it's here

It's too late
It's too late, it's too late, it's too late, it's too late
The European cannon is here

It's not the side-effects of the cocaine
I'm thinking that it must be love
It's too late to be grateful

It's too late to be late again
It's too late to be hateful
The European cannon is here

I must be only one in a million
I won't let the day pass without her
It's too late to be grateful

It's too late to be late again
It's too late to be hateful
The European cannon is here

Should I believe that I've been stricken?
Does my face show some kind of glow?
It's too late to be grateful

It's too late to be late again
It's too late to be hateful
The European cannon is here, yes it's here

It's too late
It's too late, it's too late, it's too late, it's too late
The European cannon is here


Lyrics submitted by saturnine

"Station to Station" as written by David Bowie

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Station to Station song meanings
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  • +7
    My InterpretationThis is actually my favorite song.

    It took me a long time to get into the album STATION TO STATION, as I had always been more into the DIAMOND DOGS style of Bowie music. As Bowie is my favorite thing in the universe, though, eventually I gave the album a shot one morning as I did my makeup. I was spellbound within three minutes.

    The title song, "Station to Station," is one of the most hauntingly freaky and beautiful things I've ever heard. This is my interpretation:

    The beginning of the song, the train-effects and the insistent, pulsing "budu-BUM" riff are really just that: a beginning. Every Bowie album seems to have a kind of "curtain raising." It's the theatricality of his aesthetic I suppose. DIAMOND DOGS had "Furtue Legend"; ZIGGY STARDUST had the percussion of "Five Years"; SCARY MONSTERS had the record changing to bring in "It's No Game." STATION TO STATION has the eerie, almost psychedelic thumping of drums and the roar of a steam engine.

    "The return of the thin white duke/throwing darts in lover's eyes..."

    I've always thought this was part of that "introductory" feeling. Bowie is establishing a persona. In this song it seems more multi=dimensional than that, though; the entire idea of "Station to Station" is to be a tongue-in-cheek, somewhat desultory comment on "love." But to deal with the very real pain and fear Bowie was dealing with the time, he creates the character of the Thin White Duke--a cold, almost fascistic character who lives on cocaine and his own cynicism--to distance himself from the reality of what was going on in his life, but ultimately, and ironically, winds up painting a painfully clear picture of himself. Art imitates life imitates art, I suppose.

    "Here are we, one magical moment, such is the stuff from where dreams are woven...
    Bensing sound, dredging the ocean, lost in my circle,
    Here am I, flashing no colour, tall in my room overlooking the ocean."

    This section reminds me of the story-style of "Cracked Actor" or "Time," both of which come off of another dark, moody, although musically-upbeat album: ALADDIN SANE. I've always thought that Bowie is a bit like the Emcee in Cabaret; he is bringing us into another world--and the first thing he has to do is make us feel like we're leaving wherever we are now. I see him sitting in the darkness of a beach house, a bunch of cocaine on the glass coffee table. He's smoking a cigarette and reading THE MASTER AND MARGARITA or Nabokov or something like that. He's jaded as fuck.

    "Here are we, one magical movement from Kether to Malkuth."

    As a practicing Hermeticist, I can tell you that, yes, this is a reference to the Sephiroth (Tree of Life) in Kabbalsim. I could wax FOREVER on the signifigance of this line, but at best I think Bowie was just slipping references in to namecheck the entire IDEA of being "esoteric." A little bit less intriguing, perhaps, but he did the same thing in "Quicksand," another highly-personal song. I think he likes to simply mention a few of his deeper thoughts, rather than having to write a real, dimensional song about just them. It's hinting, but SHALLOW hinting.

    "There are you, you drive like a demon from station to station."

    We all shift and change and flow as life allows us to. Bowie is referring to the deliberate change of situation, venue, persona, religion, whatever--the point is that he's not allowing life to subtly orchestrate his motions or change him: he's taking matters into his own hands. And yes, he is the "you." At this point the whole Thin White Duke/Bowie duplicity has become impossible to divide. He's given up on creating another Ziggy Stardust or Halloween Jack. This is just him now, for better or worse.

    "Once there were mountains on mountains,
    And once there were sunbirds to soar with, and once I could never be down..."

    Life and love used to be easy. This is an idyllic bit.

    "I've got to keep searching and searching,
    And, oh, what will I be believing and who will connect me with love?
    Wonderful, wonderful, wonder when..."

    How does he return to that? CAN he return to that?

    "Have you sought fortune, evasive and shy?
    Drink to the men who protect you and I...
    Drink, drink, drain your glass, raise your glass high..."

    Cheers to love--it was nice. Cheers to faith--it was nice. Cheers to fortune--it was nice. But it's all gone now. And now the most upbeat and, ironically, cynical part of the song begins.

    "It's not the side effects of the cocaine, I'm thinking that it must be love..."

    It IS the side effects of the cocaine. He doesn't even really believe there IS such a thing as love at this point, which is why:

    "It's too late--to be grateful. It's too late--to be later again. It's too late--to be hateful."

    "The European Canon is near."

    I'm not sure what the European Canon is. I think it's one of those things that Bowie is going to keep to himself. I imagine it as the reality he knew back in his Davy Jones days before glam rock and cocaine and America brought him into the surreal place he's found himself in now. He thinks sanity is returning, just because he's allowing himself to be bitter: no analogies, no stardust, no nothing. This is real.

    "I must be only one in a million; I won't let the day pass without her..."

    Cynical again. This means the exact opposite. EVERYBODY thinks their blessed to be in love, and EVERYBODY tastes the bitter part of love eventually. You can't let the day pass without love, even though it's never been returned. It's a tough one, this, and we can all identify.

    "Should I believe that I've been stricken? Does my face show some kind of glow?"

    For the longest time I thought he was saying "woe" instead of "glow," which I think would have provided a still more complex and cynical view to the lyric. As it goes, though, this is the most bitter line in the entire song: should he believe that he's "special" and "loveable" and "in love?" No. Does his face show the languid "glow" (the quotes apply, I think) of love? No. He's given up on love, and happiness in a way too. The song has segued to rocky-disco, but Bowie feels more empty than ever. Not even the progress into "Golden Years" will cheer him up--another somber reflection of ideals.

    After this next, he album progresses to "Word on a Wing," and Bowie tries to reckon with his pain (and God) (and almost succeeds). It's not until the end of the album though, while crooning "Wild Is the Wind" that you truly feel he's made some progress. He's acknoledged that love is fleeting, and that happiness is almost accidental, and now he feels safe and as if he can really just sing a song. He covers Nina Simone, and though the lyrics are about the beauty of love...you can't find the bitterness in them at all. Bowie is ready to move on, and the Thin White Duke is quite dead.



    JourdainBon February 04, 2009   Link
  • +5
    General CommentJust to add that Bowie has always said this song has nothing to do with trains or train stations, despite the sample at the start of the song- he claimed the "stations" of the title referred to the stations of the cross. Which also explains the hebrew religious imagery in "Kether to Malkuth", maybe?
    Appers66on November 03, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWhile I know the Thin White Duke is Bowie's Station to Station Era persona -- I think in this song itself the "Thin White Duke" is partially a symbol of the cocaine itself, or religion, or witchcraft itself -- whatever people use to get by and that subsequently may bloack the possibility of love and or happiness (Hence "Throwing Darts In lover's eyes." The sure white stains can be the trail of a coke line or semen stains on a sheet in other words, the remnants of whatever device was used to get the individual from station to station. Of course with the religious implications of the stations of the cross, Bowie is essentially connecting the acceptance of spirituality and the journey one may go through in pursuing that as a means by which to escape from his troubles. Station to Station, my favorite Bowie album -- despite it's mere 6 songs -- is a bittersweet triumph in that it essentially addresses How Humans Deal With Pain. Golden Years is an olive branch offered from jilted lover to lover -- Word On A Wing is an aknowledgement of guilt and a prayer to seek refuge from one's own devices, TVC15 is a parable on the escape that TV and the media provides and how TVs can nearly be compared to humans in terms of the supposed solace that they offer. The final song "Wild is the Wind" reaches the conclusion that life is like the wind -- meant to be wild and unpredictable and instead of seeking tangibles to cure one's pain, one should look within. It's remarkable that Bowie waxs so forgone when he recorded this album that doesn't remember it and yet it is imbued with a message that he was obviously trying to send himself. Station to Station the song is one of the pinnacles of Bowie. The music is exhilerating, and excuse the cliche but epic. It is a song about the quest -- living in the moment, shunning self doubt and relying on oneself. But at the same time seeking yet another external out -- the European Cannon -- which I presume is either a reference to the Christian faith of which their is a large European cannon or perhaps it is a preclude to his sobering up in Europe, obviously only achievable by the firing of him out a cannon. In the end, the singer is able to reach a peace with himself and learn not to have guilt but to move on to the future. Also a note about the "sideeffects of the cocaine" line -- he is in a way aknowleging that cocaine IS actually a factor in his newfound outlook -- why else would he say that line which in the present tense implies that he is on it right now. The unravelling obfuscation that drugs supplied Mr. Bowie could potetnially have been the neccessary trigger for him to confront his greater issues of control and/or letting go of oneself.
    davidbeauyon October 23, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentMy favorite Bowie song!
    Also, it has one of the lyrics ever:

    It's not the side-effects of the cocaine
    I'm thinking that it must be love
    pinklemonadeon August 24, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentHeart wrenching song for me. While the beat is all high and fun, im getting chills!

    I dont have a comprehensive interpretation of the song, although emotionally it makes sense to me. I think its about his soul, about his longing for love. He's aware of his addiction but treats it like a disease that can have side-effects, not like the ruler of his life. I dont think that in this song he found someone to be inlove with, rather, i think he wants it and mocks it at the same time. 'Does my face show some kind of glow' - in my opinion its abit cynical.

    I think all the riddly stuff is hallucinations of cocaine, but maybe I just dont understand what he reffered to.
    Aerialon December 24, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentDB is an adept of high tantric magick. Kether and Malkuth are the top and bottom of the Tree of Life, respectively, in Qabbala. This song is about enlightenment through sexual yoga.

    "lost in my circle" and "flashing no colour" are references to a western magickal circle, and the Hindu Tantric tattva method of 'colour flashing' for consciousness alteration... respectively.

    "Its not the side effects of the cocaine"... i.e. a long-lasting erection, 'it must be love' in that it is agape (pure love) that creates a tantric union.

    I must be only one in a million/won't let the day pass without her : when one experience sexual samadhi, one realizes one is only one of a precious few who can or have, and that it is due entirely to one's consort, and the devotion thereof.

    That I've been stricken/some kind of glow : he is 'pinching' himself to verify what he is experiencing. Those in tantric bliss commonly express the feeling that they feel like they are glowing, or have fire coming off them, and expect to see it when they open their eyes.

    It's too late : once at this stage, it is beyond the point of making any amends or correcting one's technique or practices - one has attained already and the problem is now to maintain purity and sanity after having 'seen the light'.

    The european cannon is a tongue-in-cheek kind of pun on the term 'the Pali Canon', which are the scriptures of Buddhism, which David was following at this time (along with Qabbalah). The Pali Canon is the doctrine of buddhist enlightenment - David's 'European Cannon' is the western magickal tradition being brought to life in the 20'th century and thus 'is here'.

    So, yes he was on a lot of cocaine at the time, but he could afford it, and was doing so on the path. The Left Hand Path of red tantra.
    rainwalkon December 03, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"it's not the side-effects of the cocaine."

    oh yes it is =]
    right2interpreton July 08, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentGreat analysis JourdainB. and like your interpretaton of European Cannon flayerhater. I interpret 'drive like a demon from Station to Station' to mean Bowie taking stock of his life up to that point. Physically touring non-stop (Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs, Philly Dogs tours), changing personas (Anthony Newley-esque singer, folk rock singer, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Soul Singer and now the Thin White Duke), and finally in terms of beliefs (buddhist, Christian, fascist, bohemian). I think at this point in life, Bowie was just feeling spent and burnt out. You see this more on his next album Low-where the lyrics are minimalist and he takes time to relax and indulge in ambient instrumental music with the help of Brian Eno.

    The lyrics, 'bending sound, dredging the ocean, lost in my circle' I interpret to mean making music (bending sound), which then morphs into his view on making the music (dredging the ocean of existing music to innovate new music- such as his fusion of soul & rock on this album) as well as 'dredging the ocean to find meaning in life, and finally lost in his circle of constantly making music as well as bein in a general rut in life. Pretty depressing stuff.

    The lyric I'm not sure about is 'making sure white stains'. What comes to mind first is semen stains. This could be his way of expressing cynicism about love- it just comes down to making white stains. Don't think it refers to cocaine as I cocaine doesn't stain- maybe metaphorically.

    Anyway, fascinating a fascinating song overall- complex both musically and lyrically. And though it is hard to interpret because so much of it appears to be so personal to Mr. Bowie- it definitely appears to be quite an impressive and poetic statement of where he was at this point in his life.


    BillyBuddon July 09, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"It's not the side-effects of the cocaine
    I'm thinking that it must be love"

    "I must be only one in a million
    I won't let the day pass without her"

    "Should I believe that I've been stricken?
    Does my face show some kind of glow?"

    I feel this is pure cynicism. From what I understand, he couldn't feel much at all during those years (it is more than just him not remembering his emotions, yeah?). Seems he obviously knows he is not one in a million. Seems he rejects the absurdity of the notion of love, at least for him. I interpret it as him challenging (presenting challenges toward) the mere notion of him having feelings at all. And maybe that imposition of him having feelings is coming from somewhere within. In that case, he is mocking, and subsequently killing, these feelings. His "character" at the time, "The Thin White Duke", which I think is just a manifestation of his true self at the time, was a cold and barren wasteland for any measurable degree of feeling.
    AllanInneson October 22, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"The 'White Stains' invokes one of (Aleister) Crowley's most obscure works, a collection of pornographic poems he'd written under the psuedonym George Archibald Bishop."
    noyeson January 13, 2012   Link

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