The Thin White Duke. Created during the Young Americans tour, The Thin White Duke was Bowie’s last great persona – and his most troubling one. His behavior was extreme even by rock-star standards.
“I just wish Dave would get himself sorted fucking out. He’s totally confused, that lad… I just wish he could be in this room, right now, sat here, so I could kick some sense into him.“
-Mick Ronson, 1975
Interviews published in Playboy and Rolling Stone depicted Bowie surrounding himself with burning black candles and Egyptian artifacts. His diet is said to have consisted only of cocaine, peppers, milk, and cigarettes.
He reported seeing bodies fall past his window, suspected musicians of being FBI agents or vampires, referred to Hitler as the first rock star, claimed his semen was stolen by witches, and engaged in Crowley-influenced black magic, and living in morbid fear of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, owing to his supposed practice of witchcraft. Obviously living in a bizarre state of paranoid delusion and classic signs of cocaine psychosis.
David Bowie: “I’ve had short flirtations with smack and things,” he told Cameron Crowe in 1975, “but it was only for the mystery and the enigma. I like fast drugs. I hate anything that slows me down.”
Tony Visconti (who produced 12 Bowie albums): “During the making of Young Americans  he was taking so much cocaine it would have killed a horse. Cocaine certainly almost killed me. During the making of that album I nearly died. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I worked day and night. He’d come in to the studio at 11pm and work till 11am. One day I said, ‘I have to pack it in, the cocaine isn’t propping me up any more. I cannot stay awake. On the way home my heart felt like it was going to explode. I didn’t want to cause a scandal for him and me by going to hospital, so I took 12 sleeping pills — no suicidal intent, just to slow my heart and it did and I survived. We’d have both been dead if we’d carried on. There was a myth it wasn’t habit-forming back then. Foolishly we believed that. It was a social drug and socially acceptable. You went to any cocktail party and somebody put a line or spoon under your nose and you said ‘Oh, thank you.’ I know people who sold their homes to feed their habit. For us there was no limit.”
A white witch helped cure Bowie of his crippling drug-fuelled paranoia, according to rock journalist Mark Spitz: “he would sit in the house with a pile of high-quality cocaine atop the glass coffee table, a sketch pad and a stack of books. Psychic Self Defense was his favourite. Its author describes the book as a ‘safeguard for protecting yourself against paranormal malevolence.”
“Using this and more arcane books on witchcraft, white magic and its malevolent counterpart, black magic, as rough guides to his own rapidly fragmenting psyche, Bowie began drawing protective pentagrams on every surface.” Bowie told the author, “I’d stay up for weeks. Even people like Keith Richards were floored by it. And there were pieces of me all over the floor. I paid with the worst manic depression of my life. My psyche went through the roof, it just fractured into pieces. I was hallucinating 24 hours a day.”
Spitz adds, “Increasingly Bowie was convinced there were witches after his semen. They were intent on using it to make a child to sacrifice to the devil, essentially the plot to Roman Polanski’s 1968 supernatural classic Rosemary’s Baby.”
A friend hooked Bowie up with New York-based white witch Walli Elmlark.
“Elmlark quickly and successfully exorcised the pool. Angie (Bowie), who was living there at the time, noted that it started to bubble and smoke, and that it only rained outside David’s window while the rest of the L.A. sky was clear. Elmlark wrote a series of spells and incantations out for Bowie as he continued to wrestle with the forces of darkness.”
Station to Station was the climax of Bowie’s love affair with Freud’s ‘magical substance’, he later stated that he couldn’t remember recording the album at all.
As his drug habit ate away at his physical and mental health, Bowie decided to move from Los Angeles to Paris and then West Berlin, where he began recording the Berlin Trilogy (Low, “Heroes”, and Lodger) with Brian Eno and Tony Visconti.
For Bowie himself, The Duke was “a nasty character indeed”, and “an ogre for me.”