"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. 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. This was the last song Bowie performed live on stage before his retirement from live performances at the end of 2006.
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"). The song has also been interpreted as touting "Modern Kids as a New Race", 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".
Release and aftermath
The composer having agreed to Peter Noone covering "Oh! You Pretty Things", which later commentators have argued was the obvious single from Hunky Dory, "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.
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." The song is ranked at number 127 on Rolling Stone magazine's 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
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 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.
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.
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?"