By Craig Bechtel
To paraphrase the late Sam Cooke, a change has come, and now that changes have occurred, we can either embrace the changes or rail against them, or perhaps a combination of both might be appropriate (if such a thing is indeed possible). As they say in Chicago (and most other places, it turns out), if you don’t like the weather, wait. The Beatles may have argued that nothing was gonna change their world and They Might Be Giants swore that nothing was gonna change their clothes, but the truth (and there is still such a thing) is much more difficult, although ironic—the only constant in the known universe is change.
The Byrds’ version of Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!” still holds the record for oldest lyrics in a number-one single (given that it was adapted from Ecclesiastes), so reconciling with change is as old as at least King Solomon.
“Turn and face the strange,” indeed. Nobody in rock embodied change (and embraced the strange) like the late lamented chameleon David Bowie, so his inimitable “ch-ch-changes” definitely deserves a spot here. Let’s hear The Muffs reinterpret “Changes,” from “A Salute To The Thin White Duke.”
Actor Zooey Deschanel and indie-rock veteran M. Ward’s first record as She & Him was packed with sublime moments, but for my money the winsome and aching “Change Is Hard” was the highlight.
New York soul obscurity Mighty Doug Haynes never got the recognition he deserved for his stellar solo record of the mid-1970s, but his version of “Honey” has been sampled by hip-hoppers and his rendition of “Can I Change My Mind?” received a renewed spotlight when it kicked off the 1999 Westside compilation, “We’re a Lover / Brunswick and Dakar’s Brothers of Soul: A Chicago Rhythm and Soul Compendium 1966-1976.”
Former leader of Chicago bands Sarge and The Reputation, Elizabeth Elmore knows about change—she now calls the Hague home, serving as Assistant Appeals Counsel, Office of the Prosecutor at United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. And you thought her personal lyrics were heavy! The demo version of “End Of July” concludes the posthumous Sarge collection, “Distant” and is stripped-down, acoustic and retitled “All My Plans Changed… .”
Rather than the hoary clichéd metal ballad in the form of The Scorpions “Wind of Change,” how about Toronto’s folk-rock ensemble Great Lakes Swimmers performing a lovely orchestral pop weather-based rhapsody, “Changes With The Wind?”
Bad Religion began with their 1989 “No Control” record with “Change of Ideas,” a nifty statement of intent for their high-IQ punk clocking in at under a minute.
Kathleen Edwards’ single “Change The Sheets” came from her “Voyageur” record which she produced with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. With references to Santa Fe and margaritas, it’s a safe bet that these “sheets” are a metaphor, and don’t really reflect Edwards’ love of clean linens.
Modern pop music may have changed in terms of sound, as one can tell from Tears For Fears’ synth-heavy, xylophone-driven “Change,” but the theme is still a relative constant.
In one part of “Change It Up,” Henry Rollins tells the listener, “Don’t try to justify your complacency to me.” On his first record using Mother Superior as his backing band, released in 2000, Rollins continues to argue that life is too short to dwell on the past, one of the reasons he’s pledged not to reunite with hardcore punk legends Black Flag.
LCD Soundsystem and their leader James Murphy brought their electropop sensibility to the twenty-first-century ennui confrontation “I Can Change.”
Jay Farrar’s post-Uncle Tupelo band Son Volt cried some “Tears of Change” into their beers at the bar of their “Honky Tonk” album.
When Peter Brady’s voice changed right before the Brady Bunch were supposed to record, necessity was once again reborn as the mother of invention, and his older brother Greg wrote a song, “Time to Change,” that became an anthem of the seventies, or at least made a few teenagers learn to laugh through puberty.
Montreal’s Stars explores the logical impossibility of neither embracing change nor the status quo, depicted in their NSFW video for “Changes.”
Black Sabbath’s “Changes” was always an aberration; a wan wisp of an idea that stuck out like a purple thumb on their fourth record. But when veteran soul crooner Charles Bradley redid it as the title cut to his 2015 record, the track was revealed for the soul burner it should have been from the beginning.
Carol van Dyk has always been an underrated vocalist as the leader of Dutch group Bettie Serveert, and the spare, acoustic ballad “You’ve Changed” from the 2005 release “Attagirl” showcased her breathy yet nuanced delivery.
For a metaphysical consideration of the concept of change, the Pacific Northwest’s Screaming Trees provide the psychedelic guitar maelstrom of “Transfiguration.” While the band is no more, lead singer Mark Lanegan has since crafted a remarkable solo career that stands on its own.
No consideration of change songs should be attempted without a nod to Bob Dylan’s classic folk meditation, “The Times They Are-a-Changin’” and he performed the song live at The White House as part of a tribute to songs of the Civil Rights Movement.
It’s never been clear if Albert Ayler’s “Change Has Come” was intended as a response to the Sam Cooke classic, but if Cooke’s soulful number was intended to unite the world, it seems like Ayler’s skronky sax undergirded with strings and almost contained by bass and drums was created to capture the chaos of things falling proverbially apart.
Dan Deacon brings us back to the twenty-first century and brings this list to a bouncy, motivational end with “Change Your Life (You Can Do It).”