Changes (David Bowie song)

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Single by David Bowie
from the album Hunky Dory
B-side "Andy Warhol"
Released 7 January 1972
Format 7" single
Recorded Trident Studios, London
Genre Pop[1]
Length 3:33
Label RCA Records
Writer(s) David Bowie
Producer(s) Ken Scott, David Bowie
David Bowie singles chronology
"Moonage Daydream"
(Arnold Corns)
Hunky Dory track listing
"Oh! You Pretty Things"
Alternative cover

"Changes" is a song by David Bowie, originally released on the album Hunky Dory in December 1971 and as a single in January 1972. Despite missing the Top 40, "Changes" became one of Bowie's best-known songs. The lyrics are often seen as a manifesto for his chameleonic personality, the frequent change of the world today, and frequent reinventions of his musical style throughout the 1970s.[2] This single is cited as David Bowie's official North American debut, despite the fact that the song "The Man Who Sold the World" was released in North America two years prior.[3] This was the last song Bowie performed live on stage before his retirement from live performances at the end of 2006.[4]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Bowie has said that the track "started out as a parody of a nightclub song, a kind of throwaway".[5][6] The musical arrangement featured the composer's saxophone, Rick Wakeman's keyboards and Mick Ronson's strings, while the stuttering chorus has been compared to The Who.[7][8]

21 second sample from David Bowie's "Changes".

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The lyrics focused on the compulsive nature of artistic reinvention ("Strange fascination, fascinating me / Changes are taking the pace I'm going through") and distancing oneself from the rock mainstream ("Look out, you rock 'n' rollers").[2] The song has also been interpreted as touting "Modern Kids as a New Race",[7] a theme echoed on the following album track, "Oh! You Pretty Things". Rolling Stone's contemporary review of Hunky Dory considered that "Changes" could be "construed as a young man's attempt to reckon how he'll react when it's his time to be on the maligned side of the generation schism".[9]

Release and aftermath[edit]

The composer having agreed to Peter Noone covering "Oh! You Pretty Things", which later commentators have argued was the obvious single from Hunky Dory,[7] "Changes" was chosen for a 45 release in January 1972. Like the album, it generated good reviews but negligible chart action, peaking just outside the US Top 40 and failing in Britain.[7]

The song was a regular feature of Bowie's live performances as Ziggy Stardust in 1972–73, appearing again on the Diamond Dogs tour in 1974 and the Station to Station tour in 1976. According to Bowie, "it turned into this monster that nobody would stop asking for at concerts: 'Dye-vid, Dye-vid – do Changes!' I had no idea it would become such a popular thing."[6] The song is ranked at number 127 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Changes" (Bowie) – 3:33
  2. "Andy Warhol" (Bowie) – 3:58

Production credits[edit]


Chart (1972) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 66
Chart (1975) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 41

Live versions[edit]

  • Bowie played the song for the BBC's Johnny Walker Lunchtime Show on 22 May 1972. This was broadcast in early June 1972 and eventually released on Bowie at the Beeb in 2000.
  • A performance recorded at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on 20 October 1972 was released on Santa Monica '72 and Live Santa Monica '72. This version also appeared on the Japanese release of RarestOneBowie.
  • A previously unreleased live version from Boston Music Hall on 1 October 1972 was released in 1989 on the original Sound and Vision box set, but was not included in subsequent versions of this compilation. The same track was issued, however, on the bonus disc of the Aladdin Sane - 30th Anniversary Edition in 2003.
  • A live performance recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, on 3 July 1973 was released on Ziggy Stardust - The Motion Picture in 1983.
  • A live version from Bowie's 1974 tour was released on David Live; it was notable for Bowie singing the words "children that you shit on" as opposed to "spit on". This version was also released on the album Rock Concert (Netherlands 1979) and as a B-side of the Spanish version of the single "Knock on Wood". Another live recording from the 1974 tour was released on A Portrait in Flesh (Australia 1996).
  • A live performance recorded on 23 March 1976 was released on Live Nassau Coliseum '76, part of the 2010 reissues of Station to Station.
  • A November 2003 live performance from the A Reality Tour is included on the A Reality Tour DVD, released in 2004, as well as the A Reality Tour album, released in 2010.

Other releases[edit]

Bowie hit compilations rarely omit "Changes" despite its lack of chart success – indeed, the retrospectives Changesonebowie (1976), Changestwobowie (1981) and Changesbowie (1990) have taken their titles from the song.

Cover versions[edit]

Appearances in popular culture[edit]

  • Lines from the song's second verse were used in the opening of the 1985 film The Breakfast Club:
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...
  • The phrase "Strange fascination" was used as the title of David Buckley's Bowie biography, first published in 1999.
  • In the Simpsons episode "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge" in 2000, Homer sings his own lyrics to the song while working underneath his car: "Ch-ch-ch-changes! Time to change the oil! Changes! Don't want to be an oily man..."
  • In the Flight of the Conchords episode "Bowie", the duo did a video of a song called "Bowie's in Space" in which a lyric went "Hey Bowie - Do you have one really funky sequined spacesuit? Or do you have several Ch-changes?"
  • "Ch-Ch-Changes" is the name of two television episodes dealing with sex change operations, one in Popular, the other in CSI. It is also the name of an episode of the Canadian show Instant Star, which named each episode after a hit song.
  • It appeared in Shrek 2, sung by Bowie and Butterfly Boucher.
  • It was featured in the last episode of the British TV programme Life on Mars, named after another Bowie song.
  • Lindsay Lohan sang it in the film Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.
  • On social networking site Bebo, the section for updates on users' friends' profiles on the homepage is under the heading 'Ch-Ch-Changes'
  • In the TV series Dexter, the song appears in episode 5 of season 3 while Dexter kills a murderer.
  • Angus Partridge serenades Kit with the song in the episode "Lifeline" of The L-Word.
  • In the second verse of the song "Kiss Me Again (Stuttering)" by the band Ben's Brother, the 'Ch-Ch-Changes' hook is used as a tribute to Bowie:
I know- I know- it's so-
It's so-so-so symbolic of everything-
Of everything that's wrong with me and you
So tell me what I'm s'posed to do
Oh, it's been ages since we've been really honest
But I can make ch-ch-ch-ch-changes if you really want this


  1. ^ Perone, James E. (2012). The Album: A Guide to Pop Music's Most Provocative, Influential, and Important Creations. The Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 87. 
  2. ^ a b Buckley, David (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story. p. 116. 
  3. ^ "Watch that Man" by Tina Clarke, Music Express magazine, March 1990, page 9
  4. ^ Gilmore, Mikal (2 February 2012), "How Ziggy Stardust Fell to Earth", Rolling Stone magazine (1149): 36–43, 68 
  5. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Review of Changes". Allmusic. 
  6. ^ a b Loder, Kurt Loder; Bowie, David (1989). Sound and Vision: CD liner notes
  7. ^ a b c d Carr, Roy; Murray, Charles Shaar (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record. pp. 40–44. 
  8. ^ Blake, Mark (ed.) (2007). "Future Legend", MOJO 60 Years of Bowie: pp.74-75
  9. ^ Mendelsohn, John (6 January 1972). "Hunky Dory". Rolling Stone. 
  10. ^ "David Bowie News February 2011". 6 February 2011. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 


External links[edit]