“time may change me, but I can’t trace time”
Hello world, I’m back on here after not writing for a month and really the only excuse I have is school work because I will never not care about music but I was also trying to get good grades this semester (but hey, it worked out because I ended up getting the best grades I ever had in college thus far so that’s dope!!) Anyway, I was thinking of what song to write about this week because I have a whole list of them lined up that I want to get to, but I also like writing about songs that are relevant to my life at the time, and none of them really seemed too fitting. So, I decided to put off my list of songs for now and write about “Changes” by David Bowie because it is one of my favorite Bowie songs (tied with “Space Oddity” which I will definitely be writing about at some point), and it’s also been on replay for the past couple of days, due in part to the fact that there is a lot of change happening in my life currently!!
I feel at the end of every semester I always get really reflective, partly because I’m a really sentimental person and it’s kind of hard to NOT get reflective when a chapter of my life is ending and a new one is beginning. I just finished my Junior year of college, marking my third year complete at Geneseo, and seeing a lot of my friends graduate and knowing I only have one year left is kind of starting to hit me. There is a real world out there that doesn’t consist of sunset valleys and cow towns and stores on a one-strip Main Street that close at 5pm. There’s a world of endless possibilities out there that I will soon be thrown into with barely any preparation or warning. The people that I have come to meet and know at Geneseo will slowly peel away from this town and become their own stories that I will never come to know. It’s just weird to think about, but I know it’s also a part of life that is out of my control.
Regardless, I am happy with where I am in life and I am excited for the changes that are soon to encompass and embrace me. I’m always ready to grow and learn and absorb the lessons that life hands me.
Glam Rock and the 70’s
“Changes” was written and partly produced by Bowie and was released as a single in January of 1972. I know I have talked about Bowie being the King of the glam rock era previously in one of my posts, but the early 70’s was the start of the emergence of some of the most influential glam rock artists, including Bowie. “Changes” consists of lyrics that can be interpreted as a revelation and acceptance of the changing reinvention of artistic expression and a deviation from the mainstream rock normative. The early 1970’s in itself were a time of change for many, seeing as the United States was still involved in the Vietnam War and the counterculture youth were protesting, advocating for peace and expressing themselves through the newfound hippie culture of free love and social rebellion. Glam rock was emerging from the idea of these social norm rebellions, and David Bowie was just the guy to represent these ideals.
I’m sure many of you know this song from the Shrek soundtrack, which I love but almost hate, because the song is so much more than that catchy song from Shrek (lol). Of course, what makes it so catchy (to me) is the blend of piano and bassline. The bassline to me is the strongest part of the musicality of the song. In the chorus, the bassline gradually descends and creates a sense of anticipation for change, but also an acceptance for it as the bassline also harmonizes with Bowie as he sings, “time may change me, but I can’t trace time,” reinforcing the idea that change can be harmonious with acceptance because although we change with time and are shaped by the events and circumstances which happen to us, it’s not always up to our control how we change in time, and therefore change must be an accepted part of human nature. As Bowie sings “turn and face the strange,” that’s when the bassline picks up again and starts to descend, again emphasizing those lines and alluding to an exciting anticipation and toleration for change. The piano is also a very prominent part of the song, as it complements the bass in the chorus but also subtly growls in between the chorus and the verses, building up a sense of tension that one often feels with change.
The lyrics in this song are also subtly genius. One of my favorite lines is:
“and these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware what they’re going through.”
This line was actually used in the opening credits of the 1985 John Hughes movie “The Breakfast Club,” and understandably so. The lyric recognizes the counterculture clashes of the early 70’s between the youth and the establishment and embraces the youth and their efforts without explicitly stating so. The lyrics in this song also allude to change as something that follows you as you grow up. One of the subtler lines in the song, but perhaps my favorites is: “pretty soon now, you’re gonna get older.” It isn’t necessarily witty or artistic, but just simply true. And there is something so pure and raw about the straightforward nature of that line that ties the song in so nicely with the idea of change and growing up coinciding.
Bowie also sings the lines of the bridge, “strange fascination, fascinating me.” I think these lines also allude to a juvenile sense of wisdom. When you’re young and things are new and different, they’re strange, yet fascinating. I think the idea of exploring new routes and artistic developments was awe-inspiring and intriguing for Bowie, which he showcases beautifully through his lyrics.
This song also features a famous stutter during the lyric and title of the song, “changes” at the beginning of the chorus. I am not sure the intention of this, if any, or if it was just a stylistic choice, but either way it’s up there with The Who’s “My Generation” and Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” as one of the most famous stutters in rock. Personally, I think it adds a unique element to the song that makes it even catchier. I also just want to talk about the saxophone, which Bowie plays on the track. It ends the song so nicely and fades into the piano at the end and feels kind of like the sunset after a long day. It’s a reassurance that change is okay, it can be beautiful, and it can lead you to better places.
Lastly, I’m just going to leave you with the link so you can actually listen to this beautiful song! Or of course, check it out on Spotify:) I’m happy to be back on here writing! Enjoy the rest of yo Monday!