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Week 15 | CHANGESTWOBOWIE (1981)

Coincidentally, I came across CHANGESTWOBOWIE for sale at a bookstore in Albany on June 16, 2018.


To establish the obvious, CHANGESTWO is not CHANGESONE. If CHANGESONEBOWIE both reflected and reinforced the idea of Bowie’s greatest hits to date (that date being 1976), CHANGESTWO seems more like an almost random selection of ten Bowie songs. This album does not pick up where its predecessor left off (Bowie released four studio albums between 1976 and 1981, 18 singles plus the live album, “Stage,” so it wouldn’t have been too difficult to arrive at a 10-song collection).

Take the singles from this period- imagine, in the days before iPods, a best of album was released with these – or some of these songs: Sound and Vision, Be My Wife, Breaking Glass (studio and live versions), Heroes, Beauty and the Beast, Boys Keep Swinging, DJ, Yassassin, Look Back in Anger, Alabama Song, Crystal Japan, John I’m Only Dancing (Again), Ashes to Ashes, Fashion, Scary Monsters, Up the Hill Backwards, and Under Pressure. Those were Bowie’s post-CHANGESONE singles.

Only five of these songs appear on this compilation. His next single was “Wild is the Wind,” originally from Station to Station, but released in support of CHANGESTWOBOWIE.

The songs that do appear, dating back to 1971’s “Hunky Dory,” (once again ignoring Bowie’s debut, “David Bowie,” and “The Man Who Sold the World”) are not in chronological order. They don’t seem to be in any logical order. While songs from albums that also provided songs for CHANGESONE, are good songs, is the implication that they are “second best of?”

For an album of only ten songs, two selections stick out as particularly odd: First, the opening song is, “Aladdin Sane.” The avant-garde “Aladdin Sane” is a good song, but its not the type of song to start a party. Bowie didn’t perform it much and I don’t think I have ever heard it on the radio. Perhaps best known because it shares the name of one of Bowie’s better albums, the selection of this song at start the compilation establishes that whatever it is, it isn’t a collection of greatest hits.

The second odd inclusion is “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)”. When “John, I’m Only Dancing” was included on CHANGESONE, it had not yet appeared elsewhere in the United States. It was the hook for fans who already had the other songs on their original albums. This updated version, different enough to be a distinct song, was also an extra of a sort because it had not appeared on any previous album. But why include it here? Is the unifying theme of the two CHANGES albums the refrain, “John, I’m Only Dancing?” It isn’t “Changes,” which makes no appearance on CHANGESTWO.

A glaring omission is the song, “Heroes,” or anything at all from from the album of the same name.

So, I’m not sure what this album was trying to do. Its kind of a mix tape committed to vinyl. Not the first and not the last Bowie-related oddity.

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