Reissues: Changes

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So there’s been interest in reprinting some old entries that weren’t read much way back when. Why not start with the credo song? (see Momus’ original comment.)

This entry was substantially revised in the book, to the better (one hopes): the personal narrative got axed but there’s a more accurate and sharper analysis of the music (one hopes). Nick Drake wound up in it, and I also address the version that DB sang on with Butterfly Boucher in the early 2000s, which I find charming.

As with all of these older entries, keep in mind that if you find inaccuracies, I likely corrected them in the book. I was also snarky and glib at times, which I regret. Well, sometimes.

This piece now seems a remnant of a lost time, when I hadn’t figured out the voice of the blog yet. I still have no idea where Mark M. is these days.

Originally posted on April 6, 2010: ch-ch-ch-Changes.

Changes (demo).
Changes.
Changes (live, 1973).
Changes (live, 1974).
Changes (rehearsal, 1976).
Changes (live, 1990).
Changes (live, 1999).
Changes (live, Glastonbury, 2000).
Changes (A&E Live By Request, 2002).
Changes (live, 2002).
Changes (Ellen, 2004).
Changes (Butterfly Boucher with David Bowie, 2004).
Changes (with Mike Garson and Alicia Keys (Bowie’s last performed song), 2006.)
Changes (Cristin Milioti, Lazarus (fragment), 2015).

I’ve seen David Bowie perform only once: Hartford, in the summer of 1990. This was the “Sound and Vision” tour, whose premise was that Bowie would be playing nothing but his hits…for the last time ever. The ultimatum caused a lot of fuss at the time, though the idea that Bowie would never sing something like “Young Americans” again for the rest of his life seemed ludicrous on its face. Bowie was back to the hits again in a few years.

I went with a friend from work. It was a friendship of happenstance and convenience, one our mothers seemed to have arranged. “Mark, you like the New York Dolls—here’s the only other kid in our town who knows who they are.” Mark was two years older than I; he was cutting, brutal, handsome and drove an enormous white Ford LTD. Strangers at stoplights would challenge him to race. He once went so fast on Rt. 11, a dead-end Connecticut highway that the cops neglected, that the needle had circled around to 0 mph. [VOICE OF 2016: Or so M. said.]

On the way to the show Mark said, “All I know is, Bowie better play ‘Changes’.” Bowie opened with “Space Oddity” and went on through his basics, all except “Changes.” He went off stage. Mark sat in ominous silence. “Oh well, you know it’s the encore,” I said. Encore, no “Changes.” “Well, it’s gotta be the show-ender,” I said. Second encore, another strike-out. The house lights coming on felt like a slap. Mark drove home with an inspired recklessness, sharking the LTD across lanes. It was bleak inside the car. All Mark said during the drive was, “Why didn’t that fucker play it?! Fuck Bowie!”

I also felt at odds, the passive victim of an injustice. “Changes” was Bowie’s teenage anthem, where Bowie, usually such a cold, unknowable artist, had met us halfway: “Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it!!”. Sure, part of “Changes”‘ resonance was because lines from the second verse were the preamble to The Breakfast Club (oh you know, “these children that you spit on/as they try to change their worlds…”), but the song also still sounded current, its angst unresolved. While cut the year before I was born, “Changes” didn’t feel like a hippie leftover—it wasn’t “Both Sides Now” or “Hey Jude”; it didn’t have the clammy taste of forced nostalgia (it even seemed anti-Boomer: “Where’s your shame? You’ve left us up to our necks in it!”). While it was played regularly on the radio and even my grandmother probably would have recognized it, “Changes” felt somehow as if it had sneaked through.

Listening to the song 20 years later, I’m struck by how personal and how odd a track it is: “Changes” isn’t far removed from “Quicksand” in that its lyric reads like a transcribed Bowie internal monologue. The few lines Bowie offers to make the song more universal just serve as bait, in the way the song’s hooks distract the ear from its bizarre construction. “All the Young Dudes,” by comparison, is far more solid and enduring an adolescent hymn. “Changes” is something of a cuckoo’s egg.

Did it matter, really? Not then, likely not now. As Levon Helm once sang, you take what you need and you leave the rest.

Bowie was becoming more shrewd about his work’s commercial viability, and knew he had something with “Changes”: he led off Hunky Dory with it, chose it as his first RCA single, and made it the centerpiece of his tours (er, except Hartford ’90) and greatest-hits albums. Its lyric begins as reminiscence (Bowie recalling his career’s various false starts (“a million dead-end streets”), flops, trend-hops, self-reinventions), expands into Bowie trying to fix his current state, as if plotting a cloud’s progress on a map, and finally rewards its adolescent audience with a few identification lines.

The straightforward lyric is set against a twisted harmonic backdrop (parts of the song are even “anarchic,” Wilfrid Mellers wrote [VOICE OF 2016: not really true; more in the book]). It opens with a 9-bar intro moving from Cmaj7 up to F7, and whose main hook (two of five alternating bars of piano and bass) doesn’t appear again until after the chorus, then never heard from again. (Nothing in the song is evenly-constructed: both the chorus and verses are 15 bars, while the outro (which features Bowie’s first-ever saxophone solo) is seven). Its chorus sways between 4/4, 2/4 (on “different man” or “necks in it”) and 3/4 time (starting with “time may change me”), while its chord changes are relentless (the “I can’t trace” bar has a different chord for each of three beats—C/E, G/D and F/A).

Bowie makes it go down easily by layering in multiple hooks: the stuttered “changes,” or the way Trevor Bolder’s bassline, descending a half-step with each two notes, echoes the vocal harmonies, or Rick Wakeman’s piano that serves as the chorus’ rhythmic engine.

And the chorus is the accessible part! The verses are even wilder: irregular sets of 15 bars that seem to expand and contract at whim (the second bar “waiting for, and my…” is only five sung notes, while its counterpart, the sixth bar, has six notes but just feels much longer: “got it maaaaade, it seemed the…”). Bowie delivers the lines freely, in a conversational tone, making rhymes out of shadows—the way he mates “glimpse” with “test,” or the internal rhymes of “time” and “wild.” And sometimes the lines don’t even scan—take how Bowie has to swallow the “the” in “how others must see the faker,” or sing “Strange fascination fascinating me” as “fass-ating me.” (Singing “Changes” live, especially in the last Ziggy Stardust shows of 1973, Bowie went further, reciting the verses like beat poetry over free-form piano.)

This relentless strangeness, the way the song’s structure seems intent on upsetting the lyric, and yet weaves everything together to form one of Bowie’s more melodic choruses, may lie at the root of why “Changes” has never quite become a classic rock warhorse. It promises, it flatters, it offers you back your own thoughts, but the song remains unknowable. It seems to be speaking to you, but is instead conversing with the mirror. It recreates its listeners in its own image, casts them off, reclaims them.

Changing

The studio demo (with Mick Ronson singing harmonies) and the LP cut are from June-August 1971, while “Changes” was released as Bowie’s first RCA single in January 1972 (RCA 2160). While it initially flopped both in the UK and the US, “Changes” would eventually become Bowie’s official theme song. How many TV rock retrospectives have featured a montage of Bowie, cutting from Ziggy to Soul Bowie to Thin White Duke to “Modern Love” Lothario, set to the “Changes” chorus? The literalness of it all makes you weep: look, he keeps Ch-ch-Changing! Live versions were recorded in 1972, 1973 and 1974 (the latter, from David Live, was the B-side of “Knock On Wood”), [VOICE OF 2016: and many more times, see links] while covers range from Ian McCulloch to Lindsay Lohan.

The Bowie concert would be the last time Mark and I hung out, as I went off to college a few weeks later and I never saw him again. “Changes,” in its absence, was our epitaph.

85 Responses to Reissues: Changes

  1. igamoore says:

    I never quite understood the appeal of this one. I spent months obsessing over Ziggy before I moved on to Hunky Dory, and it just seems tame in retrospect. I wonder sometimes if I’d appreciate it more had I worked through his discography chronologically.

  2. Patrick says:

    ” I watch the ripples change their size
    But never leave the stream
    Of warm impermanence”

    Couple of Buddhist references there, as well as “impermanence” , “stream entry” is the term for first of the four paths to enlightenment.

    My favourite line is “pretty soon you’re gonna get older”.

    I wonder though if beign as you say a Teenage anthem, there’s a nod to the Who’s My Generation , “”Hope I die before I get old” and the stuttered delivery….”f-f-f fade away”.

  3. s.t. says:

    I love how absolutely gay this song is. Not in its lyrics, but how it basks in the most flamboyant, un-rock ‘n ‘roll sounds of Broadway cabaret, certainly gay signifiers of the time. When I hear it I often picture Bowie sprawled on Wakeman’s piano, stroking a feather boa and gazing up to the heavens as he begins his tale. Maybe that sounds too close to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but where do you think Richard O’Brien took his inspiration?

    Like much of Hunky Dory, there’s anger and darkness in the lyrics, but also an embrace of camp theatricality, even goofiness, that brings so much charm and personality to this album. “Changes” is overplayed to the point of numbness, but it’s still magical to me.

  4. ERayLankester says:

    I wonder to what extent impending fatherhood played in the genesis of ‘Changes’, and ‘Hunky Dory’ as a whole?

  5. Lux says:

    The stream of warm impermanence line reminds me that I love everything about the song but the chorus. It’s definitely the go to song for clueless TV news reports about Bowie, for that it’s grating. Now I’m wondering what (Assisted by the Actor) under Produced by Ken Scott means.

  6. Deanna says:

    EMBARRASSING STORY TIME!

    I’m very much a millennial (I was born in the year Outside came out). As such, my first introduction to many 70s things were in references and nostalgia reboots rather than the original products themselves.

    I first heard ‘Changes’….(sigh)

    …In Shrek 2.

    To give myself a shred of dignity here, I really liked it! It bounced around in my head for years afterward, though I never knew who sang it or even what the lyrics were exactly.

    One morning before school in senior high I came downstairs to some horrible, clunky, weird version of the song on the radio. I asked my mom what the hell was playing.

    She told me it was ‘Changes’, by David Bowie. I didn’t realize the original was so awful! I left for school in disappointment in Mr Bowie. And that was the last I thought of him for five years.

    Of course I love the song now… I even learned to play it on the piano. I’m not sure what was wrong with me but I got over it.

    In hindsight, a low of my very early thoughts of Bowie were ones of “wtf is this”. Funny how things change.

    (I still love the Shrek version! It’s a really strong performance)

    • s.t. says:

      I think so much of Bowie’s music–even his best work–has elements that can be somewhat cringeworthy. There’s a reckless abandon which can come sometimes off as amateur, unpolished, dorky, and/or aesthetically confused. Of course, those same elements so often make the music exciting, charming, daring, and inimitably Bowie.

      Hunky Dory was my first proper exposure to Bowie. The Breakfast Club quote had certainly been seared into my head before then, but early on I had assumed that he was the one singing “Don’t You Forget About Me!” When I heard songs like Changes and Life on Mars in high school, there were elements of dorkiness that made the nascent-wannabe-punk in me cringe, but my inner dork/dreamer was completely transfixed. As I went from album to album, it was common to dislike songs before eventually having my eyes opened to what made them great. And ultimately his vision of outsider music resonated with me far more than bands like Black Flag. His music just feels more complicated and interesting to me. Cool and uncool, distant and earnest, calculated and impulsive, transgressive and catchy, singular yet influenced by everything around it, just generally more lived in and more representative of the different aspects of human experience.

    • steven says:

      I find the Shrek version a slog, with the sub-Vanessa Carlton lead being a tough proposition. Bowie however sounds so good on it, makes me think the mooted road-hardened Reality follow-up could have been very, very hot.

      I listened to TND last night for the first time straight thru in a long while and his voice doesn’t compare to this, on the whole, certainly not on the more directly comparable parts of the album where he seems to really try and go at it. He seemed a lot more comfortable and confident on Blackstar.

    • MikeB says:

      I’ll never forget passing Anaheim Stadium in 1983 on the way to get my braces straightened and seeing the marquee for Bowie, Madness and the Go Go’s and telling my mom “I hate that guy”.

      Teenagers can be dumb🙂

  7. MC says:

    Fittingly, of all the canonical Bowie songs, this is the one I’ve ch-ch-ch-changed my mind about the most over the years. I loved it in my earliest stage of hardcore Bowie fandom at age 10 (though the first version I really got to know was the David Live recording), Then, over-familiarity through radio saturation play got the better of me, and I got fairly bored with it, to the point where I’d usually drop the needle on Oh You Pretty Things when playing Hunky Dory. Some years ago, though, when I expressed this to a friend, he said that Changes sounds really good on the radio when you’ve had forty straight minutes of meat-and-potatoes classic rock leading up to it. Really listening to it again for the first time in ages. I saw what he meant. As pointed out above, it’s quite eccentrically structured, and wordy in the best Bowie manner. It manages to rock in its way, far more than something like Fire And Rain does, while still being a soothing balm to the ear. In the end, though, I think I like it best as the beginning of the journey that is Hunky Dory, with its deceptive placidity rubbing up against the wry apocalyptic vision of Pretty Things, and setting the stage for arguably DB’s most personal album.

    • MC says:

      Ok, Chris, I just read the Changes entry in your book (which I just got for Xmas) and I see you make a very similar point to my friend’s on how the song stands out on Classic Rock radio. Shows how great minds think alike, etc, etc.🙂

  8. Jim Baxter says:

    “Assisted by the actor” is presumably an arch reference to Bowie himself as inauthentic and an adopter of guises. This is just speculation but it sounds like the kind of thing you might see in a film or theatre credit, e.g. “costume and make-up by X, assisted by the actor”.

    In retrospect, the “look out you rock’n’rollers” line is the start of a thread of ironic commentary on ageing entertainers – “forget that I’m fifty ’cause you just got paid”, the characterisation of Jareth in Labyrinth, Screaming Lord Byron, etc. – throughout his work. He’s taking the piss out of himself, although it’s not clear whether in this instance he means to escape the fate of the rock’n’rollers by maintaining an ironic distance on the whole thing – by drenching his music in camp cabaret influences, for example.

  9. princeasbo says:

    Rhythmically unorthodox enough to vex the barroom jukebox singalong for sure. I wonder if Bowie picked up this device from J Lennon, who employed the trick a few times when with the Fabs, cf ‘All You Need Is Love’ and ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’.

    • roobin101 says:

      OT perhaps, but the more Lennon wrote on his own the more these odd rhythmical tics found their way into his music. He, apparently, had a really poor sense of rhythm. I suspect he was making a virtue out of it.

  10. MikeB says:

    Just watched the Glastonbury clip and I have to say I’ve never enjoyed the live versions. Something about how he say “changes” grates, and it always plays limper than the studio take.

  11. cansorian says:

    Changes has such an odd construction that a while back when the “I watch the ripples change their size” line popped into my head I got confused as to what song it was from. Had to sing all the way through to the chorus to place it. It never hit me until then what a brilliantly strange creation it is.

    With it’s irregular phrasing, changing meters, obvious cabaret influence, and hooks galore it I always thought it’s fabrication might have been influenced by Bowie’s exposure to the ubiquitous presence of Burt Bacharach’s music in the British pop charts of the 60’s and 70’s.

    Some of those early Bacharach tunes and Bowie’s Changes have common ground in being both almost deceptively bizarre structurally and catchy as hell. On paper they seem like songs that shouldn’t work, but when you hear them they make perfect sense.

    I’ve been listening to Changes since 1972, and unlike some of his other songs that have lost a bit of luster due to overexposure, it still sounds wonderful every time I hear it.

  12. Phil Obbard says:

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the demo of this before. Thank you!

  13. THAT anonymous guy... says:

    This song has lots of great Bowie lines, but this entry has one of my favorite O’Leary lines “making rhymes out of shadows.” I came to the blog around Hunky Dory during my chronological study adventure through Bowie’s catalog and have been reading it ever since. Thanks for the great writing, and, i’m totally going to nick that O’Leary line for a song, one day, as well as Bowie’s lyrical approach.
    As far as the song goes, it’s never felt awkward to me, and I wish there were more jazzy swagger in a lot of still-rocking pop. I agree that when mixed into a meat and potatoes dj playlist this song sticks right out and refreshes the set by offering swerve and organic motion. It’s not a rock song, yet, it rocks. s.t. wrote some cool stuff about the basics of what makes Bowie-music so awesome above. It was simply said by s.t. and I think he nailed it. That’s why the world who liked him, even passively, are feeling his loss so heavily. Not many come along and do those things so naturally and effectively, and, oddly, they are honoring him with top sales and his first number one album, even though, the passive Changes, Let’s Dance, Jean Genie crew might find Blackstar an odd listen. Would it be number one without his death and the allure mixed with honor and nostalgia– i don’t think so, but, does it give Bowie another chance to drag the masses into artier, more humanly interesting territory– indeed it does. I hope it rubs off well on them, even without an endearing, enigmatic, yet undeniable emotionally sly earworm like Changes.

    • Matthew says:

      Not sure what you mean by “passive”. Maybe people who only know the FM radio hits? Something in Bowies music can speak to anyone though, its hard to find someone who doesn’t like at least one track.
      Blackstar was heading for number one here in the UK before monday.

  14. Matthew says:

    Just listened through the different versions, wonder why he breaks into “Just an Old Fashioned Girl” as sung by Eartha Kitt! Bowie did call a song “Thursdays Child” though so maybe he always had a liking for Kitt when groing up in the fifties.

  15. Paul O says:

    Barely a teenager, I first heard this song sometime within the first year or so of its release. Like so many others, I like to imagine that he wrote it for me—in my case, a black kid from inner-city Manhattan attending an elite boarding school in New England as a scholarship student; theater nerd (had probably just performed in a school production of West Side Story or Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris); incipient druggie; Motown fanatic; ancient Latin scholar; soon to be sexually confused and soon to be a prog rock fan. “Changes” was my introduction to Bowie, and it was a singalong song almost immediately. I never considered it odd or inaccessible in any way.

    If I had ranked all my top 30 songs in the blog poll, it probably would have been #3, right behind “It’s Gonna Be Me” and “Stay.”

  16. Matthew says:

    I’d love to claim Changes was my first exposure to Bowie – but no., the first songs I remember are Kooks or possibly The Laughing Gnome. It was a long time ago.

    In my mid to late teens we used to spend evenings dissecting lyrics for true meanings and Hunky Dory was always a favourite. Changes, for most of us, has been viewed with post Ziggy eyes and therefore seems to be a blueprint for what was to come, we bought all the received wisdom. I wonder what i’d have made of it if I could have heard it as a teenager on its release.

    I feel Dylan’s influence on this track as well as some others (notably Cygnet Commitee – Bowie’s Desolation Row). Compare these lines:

    Dylan The Times They are a-Changin’

    Come mothers and fathers
    Throughout the land
    And don’t criticize
    What you can’t understand
    Your sons and your daughters
    Are beyond your command
    Your old road is rapidly agin’
    Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
    For the times they are a-changin’

    Bowie Changes

    And these children that you spit on
    As they try to change their worlds
    Are immune to your consultations
    They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

    Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
    Ch-ch-Changes
    Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
    Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

    Both songs offer a warning to the older generations that they cannot any longer control young people into blind subservience to the status quo.

    Fantastic song, thanks Chris for making me really listen to it again.

    • bsc says:

      Definitely a strong Dylan current in the last four lines of that second verse. It also seems a rather abrupt change from what he’d been writing about earlier; I wonder if he’d said his piece by then and turned to another source to help finish up the lyric.

      I also can’t imagine why he didn’t fix “fass-zating”; I’d never known what he was singing there, after years of listening. I had to look up the lyrics to be sure what Chris was saying was true.

      • Patrick says:

        I think here, and in quite a few Hunky Dory tracks the “wordiness” or verbosity of the lyrics suggest a Dylan influence, contrast that with the cut up , jagged, fragmented economic Burroughs influenced vocal output of the next album, Ziggy and later.

    • Matthew says:

      Bowie, of course, has a much darker tone. Dylan was writing in 1963 when there seemed to be hope for a new and better world, he invites the old order to join with him – even saying please. Whereas Bowie feels the old order despises the youth, spitting on someone shows a total lack of respect and by 1974 he would sing “shit on” instead of “spit on”

      As an aside Bowie namechecks this Dylan song on 1984 as well:
      “The times they are a telling
      And the changing isn’t free”

  17. bsc says:

    I went to see Laurie Anderson’s Home of the Brave in the ’80s when it came out, and one sequence starts with, “Good evening, welcome to difficult listening hour… sit bolt upright in that straight-backed chair, button that top button, and get set for some difficult music…” We all laughed but my friends also turned in their seats to look at me, to make sure I registered that’s what they thought I must do at night.

    While growing up my kids thought much the same of me, but there were points of contact, and this was one. I’d make mixed CDs of music I thought they and I could enjoy, and thus avoided annoying children’s entertainers. This song has discrete enjoyable sections– the verse will float into my mind sometimes, the chorus others– most songs don’t catch equally well both places. I sing the chorus bass line as often as the words, when I’m not paying close attention. Right after the chorus there’s a little boggie woogie passage which is unexpected. And the stutter is another earworm– after the successes of the Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Bowie, it’s surprising that not every pop song has a stutter in it.

    The catchy tune makes it an Everyman’s Bowie song (as with Life On Mars and Space Oddity). There is enough irregularity in it to appeal to the Somewhat Difficult Listeners, like myself, but I think not enough for those who strongly prefer an edgier style. Repetition can work against a song too, but I play Hunky Dory infrequently enough to not get tired of it.

    As far as disappointed Mark M, there was a late ’70s concert where Dave Van Ronk and Arlo Guthrie were both on the bill. Both were bitching backstage about the signature songs they were expected to perform (Dave’s was Green Green Rocky Road– though he does get name-checked by Bowie, he may not otherwise be too familiar here). Arlo shot back, at least yours is only 3 minutes long…

    • ric says:

      Seems to go down well with kids of fans, this one. My second best musical ‘proud dad’ moment* was finding eldest child working this out on a piano. We’d arrived at this point via BBC show Horrible Histories, & their fantastic pastiche songs, in this case Charles Darwin (CH-CH Changes, you get the idea), and breaking out Hunky Dory to illustrate the source.

      *The winner? Having my then 13 year old loudly spotting a Go-Betweens cover at a festival. My work here is done!

  18. Ramzi says:

    This is the only Bowie song my brother has on his iPod.

    It was one of the songs I liked before ‘getting into’ Bowie, so when I did start properly listening to him, I hardly listened to the song. As a result, it really doesn’t rank highly for me, no matter how good it is. Starman suffered the same fate.

  19. Bruised Passivity says:

    It was a warm, sunny afternoon about ten years ago and I was driving around running errands, I had the windows down and I was listening to the local classic rock station. The previous song had finished playing and was replaced by this (overplayed) pop song that had this (then unknown by me singer) stuttering on about Ch-Ch-Changes. Suddenly I got really annoyed and almost shouting said to the radio “ya, ya, ya, enough of your changes!” and promptly switched the dial.

    I still get a little rush of shame over having “ya, ya’d” that day because I have deeply come to love Bowie over the past five years. I have come to appreciate to Changes for the remarkable song it is (I think hearing it in the context of Hunky Dory helped a lot). While it will never be my favourite song, i have developed a sentimentality for it and I now turn it up louder when it comes on the radio.

    As a way to help sooth the grief this past week I compiled my own two disc version of Nothing Has Changed because in a way Everything Has Changed. While logic would dictate that the penultimate track ought to be Lazarus, I just couldn’t end the listening experience with a song that still makes me cry. So I chose to end it with the live 2003 recording of Changes off A Reality Tour. He sounds so happy and vital in that performance, it makes me smile.

  20. Bruised Passivity says:

    Oh, I also can relate with Mark M’s post concert relation, I had a similar reaction when The Rolling Stones didn’t play Paint It Black when I saw them on their Voodoo Lounge Tour in ’94.🙂

  21. Roman says:

    I’ve a question for Bowie chart aficionados. It’s often reported that Changes famously never charted – ignoring the fact that it hit 91 in the US in 1972.

    HOWEVER – in early 1975 it re-charted in the US and hit #41. This fact has been blatantly ignored in every Bowie bio and most chart discussions about the man. This chart entry of 1975 has always been a mystery to me – especially since at the time it would have been a huge success for Bowie (only Space Oddity had charted higher two years previously).

    So, as far as I can tell Changes was not reissued in 1975. Therefore, why did it suddenly re-chart? And surely RCA would have had to print up more copies since it hadn’t been out since Jan 1972.

    I know it’s a bit of an anorak-issue – but I’ve genuinely being perplexed about the background to this mostly-ignored chart success of 1975. If anyone was around back then – or simply knows why it re-charted – please Do Tell!🙂

    • Patrick says:

      My guess is its after the time of Young Americans (released Feb 75) , which was DBs (arguably second) US breakthrough single , so the back catalogue got a revival.

      • Roman says:

        Thanks Patrick. Alas, the dates don’t make sense for that theory. Changes charted in Feb of 1975. But Young Americans didn’t chart until May of that year.

      • col1234 says:

        it’s a good question & i honestly don’t know. Maybe some residual interest from the success of David Live (rel. Nov. 1974, hitting top 10 late in 74)? the Cavett Show appearance in Dec 74? who knows.

    • Patrick says:

      Reminds me and possibly a few fellow Brits of a certain age , of a BBC children’s comedy variety prog Crackerjack of the 1970s where as part of a regular theatrical play type sketch, the cast would tackle one of the latest chart hits with often surreal results.
      Here’s “Golden Years” as you’ve never heard it before:

      • Patrick says:

        Sorry Chris , didnt mean that to embed (but no edit!) . I know you mentioned you preferred a link.

      • Patrick says:

        Sorry double cock up ! that was meant in response to bsc comment

        to bsc commented:

        “Seems to go down well with kids of fans, this one. My second best musical ‘proud dad’ moment* was finding eldest child working this out on a piano. We’d arrived at this point via BBC show Horrible Histories, & their fantastic pastiche songs, in this case Charles Darwin (CH-CH Changes, you get the idea), and breaking out Hunky Dory to illustrate the source.”

      • bsc says:

        Wow, how funny, that manages to undo everything that is good about the song. I feel for the actors— I wonder what they thought of what they were asked to do.

        I saw the Goodies do Wild Thing in that era. I thought it was a great parody of a rock song, written by them. Years later I heard the Jimi Hendrix original but I couldn’t unhear the Goodies.

      • princeasbo says:

        bsc: ‘Wild Thing’ was originally by the Troggs.

      • Matthew says:

        Thank goodness its so short! I remember Crackerjack well but not this thankfully!

      • Patrick says:

        They were all thankfully short, presumably song rights allowed a brief or affordable few lines from a topical hit from the hit parade to keep “down with the kids”. They were usually forced into the narrative something like ” Do you remember our years together, our golden years? ” cue music. It looks like Waiting for Godot meets Station to Station at 78rpm.
        Alas, “Cracked Actor” nor “We Prick you” made the Friday evening childrens slot.

      • danmac says:

        Craig Ferguson once pastiched a Crackerjack version of Ashes to Ashes by singing “Ashes to ashes / Funk to funky / Major Tom’s / A cheeky monkey……”

    • Paul O says:

      According to Billboard online, “Changes” re-charted in 1974 and peaked at #41 the week of February 2, 1975, falling off the chart the week of February 25, a week before “Young Americans” charted.

      “Changes” had (re-)entered the chart on my birthday, December 7, 1974. What was special about that moment in time for Bowie? As Chris mentioned, the final “Philly Dogs” leg of the Diamond Dogs Tour ended on December 1 in Atlanta and his Cavett performance (not including “Changes”) aired on December 5. I can’t imagine people running out in droves to buy an old Bowie single after that show…

    • Vinnie says:

      Discogs claims there to be one of those deplorable “generic” reissues, around 1975: http://www.discogs.com/David-Bowie-Changes-Andy-Warhol/release/2271694

      There isn’t a set date – maybe this was released and appeared in new bins in shops and people snatched it up? (I’d love to see a distributor’s list for a proper release date)

      • col1234 says:

        there was also the UK reissue single of Space Oddity/Changes (that hit #1 later in ’75). So it might have been an RCA catalog push.

  22. Chris says:

    For years and years I thought it was, “Turn and face the strain…” and I followed the instruction. Decades of grinding myself into the dust, working hard and diligently, late nights, early mornings and I then find out that I should instead have been painting my fingernails, sporting a fancy haircut and enjoying myself. Doh!

  23. Galdo says:

    The best singalong song he’s ever made? Maybe? I really like this song, but I’m so familiar with it that I don’t listen to it very much.

  24. fluxkit says:

    I’ve been familiar with “Changes” since I was a toddler, but I never got into it as a song much. I find it pleasant enough, but only recently got into it more for some of the lyrical content, probably thanks to this blog, mostly. Still, it never stands out as a song that I seek to listen to in itself. It can be fun to sing parts to my toddler now when playing the “Bowie Lullabies” album that I use for his naps. “China Girl” is probably more amusing, though.

  25. roobin101 says:

    Has anyone covered this song in a rhythmically straight way, say as a disco number? It may be all over the place in terms of chords and bars but the melody is so sweet to sing.

  26. Matthew says:

    Well funny you should ask, as this Bananarama cover has just turned up online from 1993!! As it’s produced by Mike Stock and Pete Waterman I can’t imagine it’s particularly complex musically.

    Sorry you’ll have to cut and paste into your browser, I have no idea how to make this into the type of link Chris would prefer! Help!

    Thought it would be awful but once they get going it’s not too bad

    • Matthew says:

      Obviously cut and paste comment makes no sense now, I just typed the address as plain text and it did automatically changed when I uploaded. Can someone tell me if this is correct and, if not, how I should post a link. Please

    • Matthew says:

      ok will try to find out how to do that – sorry

  27. comicalArchitect says:

    Off-topic, but I just realized the ingenuity of Bowie’s final two album covers. TND had his face hidden because that’s where Bowie was—hiding out at home, recording from behind a wall. He did no live shows, and if I remember correctly did few interviews. Blackstar, meanwhile, didn’t have his face at all, because he knew that he was about to leave the stage entirely. There is no Bowie on the cover of Blackstar because there is no Bowie. Instead it shows off that symbol, the blackstar, the sign of he who is to take Bowie’s place on the day he dies. We don’t know who the blackstar is yet, but if we have faith in David, we can know he’s coming.

    • Paul O says:

      But for the retrospective Nothing Has Changed, which appeared between the two, Bowie shows his present face in mirrors in two photos—one revealing only half of it, the other all of it—in addition, of course, to seven other “in the mirror” images taken in the ’70s and ’90s.

    • billter says:

      Some people online are saying Kanye West. I’m not necessarily endorsing that concept, but it is true that Kanye is about the only guy out there right now who can make weird mainstream the way Bowie did. (And I mean in the same fashion, not to the same degree–David was always the best and always will be.)

      Kanye himself probably thinks so. Apparently some people are pretty hacked off at the idea of him making an album of Bowie covers, but I say why not? Bowie’s legacy can’t be tarnished, though many will try.

      And Kanye is name-checked on the cover of Ziggy Stardust. So there’s that.

      • s.t. says:

        Ha, nice catch!
        Kanye is definitely a potential new Bowie type. Of late, Grimes seems to be eager to be a new art pop presence as well. Her recent singles are excellent.

      • billter says:

        What I am dreading though is the idea of a Bowie biopic. The only way it would acceptable is 1) if Duncan made it and 2) he used the “I’m Not There” strategy of having many actors play different Bowies. Otherwise, a nightmare. Hopefully the family can use the copyrights to keep a lid on things.

      • col1234 says:

        just no Eddie Redmayne

      • comicalArchitect says:

        He definitely fits the “way up on money, I’ve got game” part, and there’s the obvious skin color reference, plus Visconti outright said that the album had a lot of hip-hop influence. Hopefully he can get around to treading on sacred ground soon.

      • s.t. says:

        Well, as for treading on sacred ground, he already gave us Yeezus.

      • Mr Tagomi says:

        If the “somebody took his place” bit is supposed to refer to his death at all, which I am not at all sure about, given that the video gives a completely different reading of the lyrics, then I think the meaning of “I’m a blackstar” is that the living, human Bowie will be replaced by an incorporeal legendary figure of the same name. He’ll have taken his place among the stars, etc.

      • Paul O says:

        Thank you, Mr Tagomi.

      • Paul O says:

        billter: with regard to that horrifying biopic thought, I give you Dane DeHaan.

      • steven says:

        saorise ronan could play ziggy/young americans era. and give us young thug as iggy pop.

      • steven says:

        nevermind my spelling. saoirse. Also have noticed that Tilda basically seems to be playing a Bowie-type in A Bigger Splash, or whatever that film is called

      • billter says:

        Tilda would definitely be one of the Bowies in my casting. I’m also thinking Eddie Izzard, who has himself transformed from flamboyant to “normal,” would make a good middle-aged version.

        This is a fun game that could easily absorb my whole day if I let it.

      • Patrick says:

        I suspect the Bowie Estate will keep even more of a grip on his legacy after death. He would have known but had some limited tiem to plan what he wanted to happen (or not happen).
        As for lookalikes , as I previously mentioned for the later version we have the UK Labour member of parliament Ben Bradshaw. Just Google for pics.

      • Lux says:

        Has anyone seen Tilda since January 10th? 😳

    • MC says:

      I see there’s also a lot of Illuminati-related speculation on Blackstar’s lyrics. Being somewhat conspiracy-minded himself at one time, I like to think this would have made DB smile.

    • BenJ says:

      Funnily enough I noticed this pattern back when the Blackstar cover was first publicized, and it seemed like David would be with us for years to come. It’s actually a pattern that goes back to when Jonathan Barnbrook first started working on the covers. First you have Heathen – the last of the full headshot covers, with David there but his famous mismatched eyes obscured by alien light. Then Reality – he’s been reduced to an ageless animesque figure on a pseudo-Lisa Frank background. Then TND is just the Heroes cover with his face obscured. And then of course Blackstar removes him from the front cover entirely. I don’t think this was a conscious message at the beginning – when he did Heathen he probably didn’t even predict that he’d retire from the stage within a couple of years. But by the end Bowie and Barnbrook knew what they were doing.

      As to who comes in when his spirit steps aside, I’d say it’s too soon to tell. Kanye shares some qualities in common with Bowie, for example being a former art student. Janelle Monae strikes me as someone who’s going to shape things in numerous ways over the years. But predicting the future is such a tricky business that even the Oracles left themselves an escape hatch.🙂

      • Bruised Passivity says:

        Just a minor point of correction. The eyes on the Heathen cover are actually another one of Bowie’s obscure visual puns. He explained in an interview that they are actually fish eyes representing the ancient Christian use of the fish symbol for Christ and that his adoption of a non traditional use of a Christian-esk symbol was supposed to directly relate to the Heathen theme in the album. Then he laughed saying how nobody was getting it and that just comes across as him having strand or alien eyes.🙂

      • BenJ says:

        Responding to Bruised Passivity, although I don’t know if it will show up like that.

        Thanks. I hadn’t caught that at all, but looking at the cover again I get it now. Sometimes you actually do learn something new every day.🙂

    • Matthew says:

      It’s easier to say what Blackstar is not about than its real meaning and I’m certain it’s not about naming any successor. Reading the lyrics and looking at all the artwork you can see it’s much deeper than that. Please give David a bit more credit.

      Here’s a short extract from an interview with Blackstar artwork designer Jonathan Barnbrook.

      “This was a man who was facing his own mortality,” said Barnbrook. “The Blackstar symbol [★], rather than writing ‘Blackstar’, has as a sort of finality, a darkness, a simplicity, which is a representation of the music.”

      “The idea of mortality is in there, and of course the idea of a black hole sucking in everything, the Big Bang, the start of the universe, if there is an end of the universe,” Barnbrook said. “These are things that relate to mortality.”

      The whole interview is well worth tracking down and reading too

  28. add2add6 says:

    A beautiful, bittersweet story about a friend that time took away, and my favourite analysis of Changes to date. Not even a song I concern myself with till I try to play it on piano (not the simplified band versions of the last couple of tours, but sitting down with Hunky Dory and playing along) and then realise that it’s a fucking weird song to have written at all.

  29. steven says:

    Oh the Cristin Milioti clip you added sounds excellent. The show doesn’t really need selling to me but it does make me wish I could have seen it in NYC.

    Hopefully it transfers to London with at least some of the original cast.

  30. bzfgt says:

    I always thought it was “Strange fascination assailing me…”

  31. Chrissyliz says:

    Your entry reminded me of seeing Bowie on TV promoting the Sound and Vision tour and saying, “after this I will never play these songs again.”, with SUCH a sly look on his face that he may as well have given a big theatrical wink. Didn’t believe it for a second!

  32. Galina says:

    “a better man” instead of “a different man” – since 1973 and quite stable?

  33. what always struck and pleased me re this tune
    is the ‘cinematic’ production: change of sound and feel accomplished between verse & choruses the way they-it fit[s] but …changes
    largely in the vocals– ‘haps change of mics/reverb is the main element accomplishing, sonically creating visual image like a baton-pass ‘tween runners or dissolve between movie scenes
    ….also happens in LoMars

    Q What other Capricornian singer wrote a ‘Changes’?
    [hint -big- Ill Folks]

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