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“We were out of it, all the time”: Inside David Bowie’s Station To Station

David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick reveals the secrets of the Thin White Duke’s quasi-mystical opus Station To Station – No. 5 in our rundown of the Greatest Albums Of The 70s

You might not recognise Earl Slick if you saw him in the street. But you would know he is a rock star. With his spiky, jet-black hair and elegantly undernourished physique, the 63-year-old guitarist is rocking a look somewhere between Ronnie Wood and Derek Zoolander. We meet face to face in a rehearsal complex in North London in a room with no exterior windows. But I never see his eyes, which remain encased behind big, black shades.

He has been summoned to the capital overnight, under conditions of strict secrecy, to perform in a special tribute to David Bowie at the Brit Awards. As we talk, the sound of various Bowie tracks comes drifting through the studio walls. At one point, Bowie’s voice intoning the familiar message ‘Ground control to Major Tom,’ seems to have got stuck on a tape loop, lending a ghostly backdrop to our chat.

Slick was the most longstanding of Bowie’s many decorated guitarists. The New Yorker, who was born Frank Madeloni in Brooklyn, first joined Bowie for the Diamond Dogs tour of 1974 and last played with him on 2013’s The Next Day. In-between, he played on the albums David Live, Young Americans, Station To Station and Reality and took a key role in the Serious Moonlight Tour in support of the Let’s Dance album. He has also worked with Ian Hunter, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, as well as releasing his own albums both as a solo act and in bands including Dirty White Boy and Phantom, Rocker & Slick.

Slick can’t talk beforehand about the Brits tribute (which turns out to be an overture of Bowie’s signature riffs – Rebel Rebel, Ziggy Stardust, Heroes and others – followed by a glorious version of Life On Mars sung by Lorde). But he can and does talk about his time with Bowie, and in particular his part in the making of Bowie’s landmark album Station to Station, released in 1976.

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