The story behind the David Bowie song 'Changes'
David Bowie - Changes - RCA - France - 1972 - Front


Album: Hunky Dory

Released: 17 December 1971 (Album) / 7 January 1972 (Single)

B-side: Andy Warhol

Recorded: Trident Studios, London, England (during the summer of 1971)

Length: 3:34

Production: David Bowie, Ken Scott

Musicians: David Bowie (vocals, saxophone), Mick Ronson (string arrangement, mellotron),  Trevor Bolder: (bass guitar), Mick Woodmansey (drums), Rick Wakeman (piano)


The story behind ‘Changes’

One of Bowie’s most significant recordings, ‘Changes’ marked a major shift in musical style and lyrical sophistication. Now one of his most popular songs, it failed to chart when released as Bowie’s first RCA single in January 1972, despite being (apparently much to Bowie’s distress) Tony Blackburn’s record of the week on BBC Radio 1.

The song is also notable in that it was written on the piano, and an early demo features Bowie accompanying himself on piano with more enthusiasm than accuracy. He later revealed onstage that he didn’t know the chord changes on guitar, but he didn’t know them on piano either – the song was built around Bowie’s experimentation on the keyboard.

The obvious lead single from Hunky Dory was ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’, but as this had already been covered by Peter Noone the previous summer, ‘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 to chart in the UK.

‘Changes’ became 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 Isolar/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 ranked number 128 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is one of four of Bowie’s songs to be included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. On 27 November 2016, the Grammy Hall of Fame announced its induction, along with another 24 songs.

It charted for the first time on the UK Singles Chart on 15 January 2016 at number 49 following Bowie’s death.


Performances of ‘Changes’

At the Hammersmith Odeon in London on 3 July 1973:

Isolar tour rehearsal in Vancouver, Canada on 2 February 1976:

At the Elysée Montmartre in Paris on 14 October 1999:

A&E Live by Request show at the Sony Music Studios in New York on 15 June 2002:

At at Olympia in Paris on 1 July 2002:

On NBC’s The Ellen DeGeneres Show recorded on 20 April 2004, broadcast on 23 April 2004:


Album version

Single version (mono)

BBC Radio 1 session recorded on 22 May 1972

Live in Santa Monica on 20 October 1972

Live at Hammersmith Odeon on 3 July 1973

Live in Philadelphia on 10 July 1974

Live in Uniondale on 23 March 1976

Live in Dublin on 22 November 2003


‘Changes’ Lyrics

I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
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
Of 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)
Turn and face the strain
Don’t have to be a richer man
Ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)
Don’t want to be a better man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But the days still 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 going through

Ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)
Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)
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 fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace I’m going through

Ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)
Look out you Rock’n’ rollers
Ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)
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


‘Changes’ Artwork

The artwork for the single reused the Hunky Dory album image, which was based on a photo taken by Brian Ward.

UK single cover

David Bowie - Changes - RCA - UK - 1972 - Front

France single cover

David Bowie - Changes - RCA - France - 1972 - Front