David Bowie – My Top 100 Favorite Songs: 80

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I recently witnessed the biggest David Bowie fan I know count down his top 100 favorite songs. These were private posts, meant solely for his Facebook family and friends. Something really cool happened over those 100 days.

I’d like to share that countdown with you. Read along, embark upon Niall Colgan’s personal journey while he narrates some of the most intimate aspects of his life with his undying passion for the art of David Bowie. The vid below is a short intro, scroll directly beneath to read the countdown.

Number 80: Changes

Taken From: Hunky Dory (1971)

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream

By 1971 Bowie had begun earning his dues as an incredible songwriter, but the road to Hunky Dory wasn’t necessarily an easy one. He’d released 3 albums and enjoyed his first real commercial success with Space Oddity, which reached number 1 on the UK singles chart. At this early juncture of his career, Bowie still lacked any concrete artistic direction, he remained unclear as to which  ‘voice’ he should use. He eventually chose to adopt any number of personages as he saw fit; he would use them all.

 

David lived in fear of losing his mental health throughout most of his life; an analysis of his music sheds a fairly bright light on this persistent theme. He grew up around mental illness, as his older brother Terry suffered from schizophrenia.  Were David’s various characters representing the competing voices in his own head? As Bowie’s versatile genius began to emerge so did his fears. He’d tried a number of different styles to little commercial success but remained convinced he would eventually break through. Before very long, Bowie mania swept the world, carrying David with it.

Still don’t know what I was waitin’ for
And my time was runnin’ wild
A million dead end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
How the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

This first verse resonates within my quite powerfully, as it starkly reveals a person who is uncertain of every aspect of his existence. Time races by while the things he thought he wanted aren’t quite as satisfying as he’d have liked. The mirror stands before him but he barely takes the time to reflect upon what he sees.

So I turned myself to face me but I never caught a glimpse 

What makes this line so powerful is the stark humanness with which it ties each of us. The words speak directly to the self-doubt we all face at some point in life, as well as the self-denial it is often accompanied by. The only way David is going to make his life work is if he becomes a different man, he repeats this with persistence. The problem is, how can one become a different man if he doesn’t know who he is to begin with? This speaks directly to David’s experience with his brother Terry’s schizophrenia and how closely it reflected his own fears of losing control.

Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes…

A vow to conquer his own hurricane thoughts, before they conquer him?

Time may change me
But I can’t trace time…

David adopts new personas and keeps changing the voice he uses; it is his way of making this life work for him, even though he has no control over what the passage of time may bring.

Don’t want to be a richer man…
There’s gonna have to be a different man…

These two verses reveal a dissatisfied person, driven by a need which excludes any desire for wealth or fame. David would transform himself to Ziggy Stardust, a short few months later. He would keep changing costumes throughout the 70’s. Was this fueled by a need to provide a platform to the voices in his own head, a manifestation of his fear of losing his mind??

I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream…

Again, we see Bowie using analogy and metaphor to display an understanding of what drove him. Characters develop and find their voice over time, but they can never escape the person under the costume, nor can they replace him.

Wild Is The Wind, Fantastic Voyage and Changes comprise a trio of songs which most starkly reveal David’s precarious state of mind. Despite the countless hours he’d likely spent reflecting, Bowie’s 70’s output reveal a man with a fragmented psyche.

Released on January 7th 1972,  Changes was the only single released from Hunky Dory. Despite its undeniable status as a classic in the Bowie catalog and plaudits from Rolling Stone and other music magazine sources,  Changes failed to chart as a Top 40 single, anywhere in the world!

READ 100, 99, 98… 85, 84, 83, 82, 81

 

Changes

Oh, yeah
Mmm

Still don’t know what I was waitin’ for
And my time was runnin’ wild
A million dead end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
How the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Don’t want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
There’s gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time

Mmm, yeah

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
And so the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
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 goin’ through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Where’s your shame?
You’ve left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can’t trace time

Strange fascinations fascinate me
Ah, changes are takin’
The pace I’m goin’ through

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Ooh, look out you rock ‘n’ rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time