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Music / Changesonebowie

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"Time may change me, but you can't trace time."

Changesonebowie, released in 1976, is the first Greatest Hits Album by British rock musician David Bowie. Issued on Bowie's then-current label RCA Records, the album contains various hits spanning from Bowie's second Self-Titled Album from 1969 (better known today as Space Oddity) all the way up to his then-most recent album, Station to Station from earlier in 1976.note  As Bowie had only just recently broken into the American mainstream with his 1975 album Young Americans, the compilation is an obstinately British-oriented one; later compilations would add in hits that managed to hit it big in the US as well as the UK.

Changesonebowie was a commercial success, peaking at No. 2 on the UK Albums chart, No. 10 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, and No. 8 on the New Zealand Albums chart, and being certified Platinum in the United States just 5 years after its release. Changesonebowie was enough of a success for RCA to release a follow-up compilation, Changestwobowie, in 1981 that focused on songs left off of the first compilation plus newer hits from after 1976. A later compilation called Changesbowie was put out by Rykodisc in 1990 that acted as a distilled combination of both Changesonebowie and Changestwobowie with some newer hits from the EMI America Records years and a new remix of "Fame" thrown in (a 1996 reissue of Changesbowie would omit the remix in favor of the original 1975 version). Changesonebowie and Changestwobowie would be taken out of print while Ryko had the rights to the Bowie back-catalog, but would later be put back into circulation once that deal ended (with Changesbowie in turn going out of print).


Side One
  1. "Space Oddity" (5:14)
  2. "John, I'm Only Dancing (Sax Version)" (2:43)note 
  3. "Changes" (3:33)
  4. "Ziggy Stardust" (3:13)
  5. "Suffragette City" (3:25)
  6. "The Jean Genie" (4:03)

Side Two

  1. "Diamond Dogs" (5:56)
  2. "Rebel Rebel" (4:30)
  3. "Young Americans" (5:10)
  4. "Fame" (4:12)
  5. "Golden Years" (3:59)

I saw you troping from the stairs, you're everyone that ever cared:

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: The song "Ziggy Stardust" itself, which is sung from the point of view of his Spiders from Mars band-mates, claims Ziggy grew egotistical once he became famous. Two of Bowie's actual band-mates from this period, Trevor Bolder and Woody Woodmansey, claim this actually happened to the real Bowie — that he spent less and less time off-stage with them and other old acquaintances as his star rose — and Bowie later admitted that he wrote the song partially as an apology to his loyal bandmates for his behaviour during the recording of Hunky Dory.
  • Alliterative Title: "Diamond Dogs", "Rebel Rebel"
  • American Title: Of the ironic variety with "Young Americans", a rather cynical portrait of ennui and disappointment in America in The '70s.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Golden Years", which contrasts seemingly encouraging lyrics with a downright clinical melody, instrumentation, and vocal delivery, tying in with the Thin White Duke's nature as The Sociopath.
  • Audience Participation Song: "Young Americans" to a mild extent; on the album, there's a slight pause after "ain't there one damn song that can make me—" and the following phrase, "—break down and cry?" In live performances, Bowie would take an even longer pause after the first phrase, before letting the audience finish the line in his place.
  • Beast Man: The Diamond Dogs are man-dog hybrids.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: A post-apocalyptic New York City is described in "Diamond Dogs". Halloween Jack, according to the track, "lives on top of Manhattan Chase".
  • Blues: "The Jean Genie" is done in this style.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "The Jean Genie"
    He says he's a beautician and sells you nutrition and keeps all your dead hair for making up underwear.
  • Call-Back: The border surrounding then-present day Bowie in the video for the 1990 remix of "Fame" (included on Changesbowie) consists of a bunch of little screens. Several of them are showing looped montages of stills of Bowie over the years (both his music and acting careers) or clips from previous videos and TV appearances. In fact, one screen simply runs Bowie's 1975 performance of "Fame" on Cher's variety show!
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: The point of "Fame".
    Fame, puts you there where things are hollow
  • Continuity Nod: "Space Oddity" is the first song where Bowie dwells into space imagery, a theme he would elaborate further on with "Life On Mars?" from Hunky Dory in 1971 and the entire The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album from 1972. Bowie would later revisit the Major Tom character in the song "Ashes To Ashes" from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) in 1980, providing an in-universe Alternative Character Interpretation of the astronaut as a hopeless drug addict.
  • Darker and Edgier: "Golden Years" takes the "plastic soul" of "Young Americans" & "Fame" and directs it in a more dour, brooding direction with heavier emphasis on experimentation and occultism. The Thin White Duke, who narrates the song, was also a much, much more unpleasant figure than any of Bowie's other personae; getting Lost in Character and saying things he would later end up regretting was one of the reasons Bowie stopped creating such characters.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The cover art is shot in black and white, with mostly black text atop.
  • Doo-wop: "Golden Years" is sung in this genre.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: One of the running themes behind "Golden Years" and its parent album is the Duke, who has no capacity for love or for any real emotion, struggling to grasp and convey romantic sentiment; there's a certain hollowness behind the surface emotions of the song which exposes the Duke as The Sociopath.
  • Face on the Cover: A black and white glamour shot of Bowie by photographer Tom Kelley, best known for his 1949 nude calendar photographs of Marilyn Monroe.
  • Folk Rock: "Space Oddity" is performed in this style.
  • Funk Rock: "Fame" and "Golden Years" are done in this style.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: The title track features Ground Control instructing Major Tom to "take your protein pills."
  • Gender Bender: "Rebel Rebel".
    You got your mother in a whirl
    She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl
  • Glam Rock: The majority of tracks on the album are taken from Bowie's period of spearheading this particular movement in British rock.
  • Gratuitous German: "Fame"
    Fame, "Nein! It's mine!" is just his line
  • Greatest Hits Album: The album focuses primarily on singles that were commercial successes in Bowie's native UK.
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art: The album cover is designed as a pastiche of that for Station to Station, released earlier that year, featuring a monochrome photo of Bowie with the title and artist name written at the top as a single compound word (though Station to Station generally isn't referred to as Stationtostationdavidbowie in the way that this album is called Changesonebowie). This style would be repeated with Changestwobowie (though with a color photo this time), Changesbowie, Rarestonebowie (a semi-official rarities compilation released by Bowie's old management firm without his approval), and Changesnowbowie (an album consisting of an acoustic BBC Radio session from 1997).
  • Intercourse with You: It's hard to imagine any other explanation for the "Aaaaawww wham bam thank you ma'am!" in "Suffragette City.
  • Isn't It Ironic?: "Space Oddity". It's about an astronaut lost in the empty space forever - or rather until his eventual cremation by re-entry— sung in a tone quite appropriate for describing such a fate, and the Ground Control guy sounds plainly hopeless by the end. Despite that:
    • The BBC used "Space Oddity", when it was originally released in 1969, as part of its coverage of the moon landing. A car commercial by Lincoln used a cover of "Space Oddity" by Cat Power. The ad proper pushes the technology of the car and how "futuristic" it looks. It cuts off after "you've really made the grade".
    • Another in the same series of commercials uses the cover of "Major Tom (Coming Home)" by Shiny Toy Guns (originally recorded by Peter Schilling), and it cuts off right after "Earth below us / Drifting, falling..." While it's a very cool commercial, you just have to say, "Uh, you know that song doesn't end well, right? "Across the stratosphere / a final message / 'give my wife my love' / then nothing more..." it's only even sadder after that, and that "drifting, falling" part becomes an Ironic Echo— the same words meant something totally different on the way up, didn't they?
    • Astronaut Chris Hadfield released a video of himself performing "Space Oddity" in the International Space Station. As mentioned above, the song... does not have a happy ending. The Downer Ending verses were changed/removednote , but still, it's sort of Tempting Fate to sing that song when you're actually in space. Hadfield, for his part, acknowledged this; when he appeared on Conan to talk about it, he said he expressed concern about singing the song up there in space due to how dark the lyrics are, and he only agreed to do it were they modified.
  • Last-Name Basis: The front cover just credits the album to "Bowie".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Young Americans", an upbeat-sounding soul anthem about the degradation of American society, with such cheerful lines as "we live for just these twenty years, do we have to die for the fifty more?"
  • No Ending: "Space Oddity": last thing we know is Major Tom and his Mission Control lose communication, no clue is left as to what happens after that. "Ashes To Ashes" from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) in 1980 later reveals that Tom may have survived.
  • Nostalgia Filter: "Golden Years":
    Nothing's gonna touch you in these golden years
  • One-Word Title: "Changes", "Fame"; the album title may also count if you read Changesonebowie as a single compound word rather than as "Changes One Bowie".
  • Pep-Talk Song: "Changes:"
    Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange
  • Porky Pig Pronunciation: "Changes:"
  • Post-Apocalyptic Dog: This is what you would call the Diamond Dogs.
  • Product Placement: "Young Americans" makes mention of a Barbie doll, a Caddie and a Chrysler, all of which ended up getting the song blacklisted from airplay on BBC Radio (thanks to the Beeb's strict policy against this trope as per the Ofcom Code).
  • Pun-Based Title:
    • "Space Oddity" is, of course, a pun on 2001: A Space Odyssey.
    • "Rebel Rebel" sounds as if the same word is repeated twice, but it's actually meant as an order addressed to a rebel. The first "rebel" is a noun in that regard and the second a verb.
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • In 2003, "Rebel Rebel" was remixed with "Never Get Old" from Reality and released as a single as "Rebel Never Gets Old"
    • "Space Oddity" was remade as an acoustic number in 1979, as a prelude of sorts to Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)'s follow-up song "Ashes To Ashes", the single edit of which would find its way onto Changestwobowie in 1981.
  • Rock-Star Song: "Ziggy Stardust" is about the rise and fall of the titular rock star.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Ziggy becomes a hedonist as his star rises.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Space Oddity" is a shout-out to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
    • Going the other way, Naked Snake's Mission Control, Zero, takes on the codename "Major Tom" during the Virtuous Mission and Operation: Snake Eater.
    • A Clockwork Orange was a key visual inspiration for Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and the term "droogie" is dropped in "Suffragette City".
    • Ziggy Stardust himself was inspired by The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, where Bowie took the name from.
    • The punk band Crass took its name from the line "the kids were just crass" in "Ziggy Stardust".
    • Ziggy playing guitar left-handed is likely a reference to Jimi Hendrix.
    • Bowie wrote "The Jean Genie" about Iggy Pop. He says on some level he was probably thinking about Jean Genet too.
    • "Diamond Dogs" references Tod Browning's Freaks and Salvador Dalí:
      With your silicone hump and your ten inch stump
      Dressed like a priest you was
      Tod Browning's freak you was
      Her face is sans feature, but she wears a Dali brooch
    • "Young Americans" gives a nod to "A Day In The Life", with the line "I heard the news today, oh boy!". The song also references both Barbie and "your President Nixon", who resigned while the album was being recorded.
  • Sequel Song: "Ashes To Ashes" from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) is a sequel song to "Space Oddity". The Pet Shop Boys' remix of "Hallo Spaceboy" from Outside in 1995 too.
  • The Sociopath: The Duke, who narrates "Golden Years", has no capacity for emotional arousal, and spends the song attempting to comprehend love and other stimulating emotions through cognitively (and sometimes physically) twisted means that are blatantly cold and calculated.
  • Special Guest:
    • Rick Wakeman from Yes performs piano on "Changes".
    • John Lennon on "Fame", which he also co-wrote.
  • Splash of Color: The word "one" is written in red on the front cover logotype, in contrast to the Deliberately Monochrome nature of everything else.
  • Spoken Word in Music: "Space Oddity" starts off with a countdown in the background of the first two verses.
  • Standard Snippet: "Space Oddity" is often used as a soundtrack to imagery of rockets and astronauts floating in space.
  • Stylistic Suck: The vocal parts on "Diamond Dogs" is intentionally manipulated to sound discomforting warbly, replicating the effect of a very flutter-heavy tape machine.
  • Title Track: "Diamond Dogs" is this for its parent album; played with for "Space Oddity" (which was the title retroactively given to its parent album on the 1972 RCA reissue; previously it was a Self-Titled Album) and "Ziggy Startdust" (which is just part of the much longer title of its parent album, though most truncate said longer title to Ziggy Stardust anyways).
  • Wham Line: From "Space Oddity":
    "Ground Control to Major Tom
    Your circuit's dead; there's something wrong..."
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: An overarching theme of "Golden Years", courtesy of the downright sociopathic Duke.