THE RETURN MACHINE: Turn around and face the strange… ch-ch-change | return machine

This week, a video of three Gen Z actresses sent a bunch of Twitter geezers into a tizzy, all for the crime of singing David Bowie’s 1971 hit single “Changes.”

Sure, they were all out of tune and seemed only vaguely interested, but at least they helped me remember that Bowie died this week in 2016.

Oh, how I would like you to discover his discography album by album. And don’t think I couldn’t, because his is one of the few I’ve memorized. For the best part, stepping into the music of Bowie means rolling up your sleeves and digging beyond these classic hits to find dozens of buried treasures. But come on, I know how to read the play.

Bowie never made much of a beachhead in our classic meat-and-potatoes rock radio landscape, with the possible exception of “Suffragette City.” Because by the time the 70s were halfway through, he was already so into glam rock on guitar and had already moved on to plastic R&B grooves. And by the end of the decade, he was in rehab in Berlin, churning out edgy art-pop and setting the stage for his well-deserved MTV megahit as the ultimate icon of romantic new pop.

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Even after the hits dried up in the late 80s, his iconic status would ensure that any project he worked on would be promoted. Does anyone remember showing up at Arsenio Hall in a white T-shirt and smoking a cigarette while facing Tin Machine, his hardworking blues-metal band?

Bowie’s music takes me back to that sweet spot of high school, late middle school, and early 12th grade, when those “have you ever listened?” conversations at the back of Madame Sundheim’s French class led to me suddenly being enrolled in a garage band. And folks, once you’ve done that, you’ve pretty much nailed the whole thing to “the high school experience.”

And when, on a PBS documentary on all things, I saw Bowie’s famous music video showing him standing in the middle of a smoky laser vortex and singing his 1977 song “‘Heroes'” (yes, the quotes do is part of the correct title), a song I had never heard before (despite its inspiring ubiquity), I knew right away that I had to have this song in my stereo and in my life, permanently.

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And sure enough, the very next day, I was there at (long gone) Circuit City in Champaign, holding a copy of “‘Heroes'”, on Rykodisc, the label where all their jewelry cases were green, and in fact, I almost mentioned it because… well, what if the rest of the songs weren’t good? It was something that really worried you at the time. Well, what a mistake that would have been.

Because at the time, I was disappointed that virtually all of the songs on “Side B” were ambient instrumentals (I needed lyrics, man!) but it still sparked an obsession with the music of the band. ‘man. Why I didn’t start buying them sequentially from then on, I don’t know. Instead, I just jumped around randomly over the months (and years).

And then a year, it was all over. I had entered that period of young adult life when money was tight and childish pursuits of “buying records” naturally took a back seat. And as time passed, I would sometimes look at my incomplete Bowie collection and see it as a perfect, sad metaphor for goals left unfinished and for those carefree years when those silly personal pursuits were long gone, and to some degree, just like the person I was.

But, as the song said, sometimes you have to turn around and deal with ch-ch-ch changes, no matter how strange and eventually, time flies. And luckily, in my case, it did. Suddenly there I was, wearing professional pants and making professional money. Let me show off that growth, you guessed it, by pulling out my notebook and sketching out the Bowie scrapbooks I needed to finally complete that particular life task.

And what time it was. OK I’m not going to walk you through the soup of trying to fill in those gaps like I did with the very similar jag Lou Reed from a few years ago but I’ll just say it was a nice reminder of the amount of buying new music – OK, new “old” music – was something that kept me alive and vibrant.

And just when I thought I was finally done, The Thin White Duke himself came out of unofficial retirement and released a surprise album on everyone’s head in 2013; then in 2016, yet another album, which was clearly intended as an epitaph as he died a few days after its release.

My parents gave it to me as a birthday present that year, very politely disguising any puzzlement as to why they were still buying their adult son’s music on CD. I unboxed it that day to experience some of the weirdest music I’ve ever heard. Yeah, the guy always had it until the very end.

As I finished this column, I took a moment to look at all those records, lined up on my shelf between Boston and Billy Bragg; all 33, 36 if you count the Tin Machine records scavenged from Mister Music’s cheap trash bin at the time, running my fingers over them all and still feeling like it’s a chart reflecting a lot of positive change , Yes,.

“Time can change me…” the man once sang. Probably true in my case. “But I can’t retrace the time”?

I still don’t quite know what that means. Maybe after buying a few more live albums, I guess.

“The Throwback Machine” is a weekly feature that looks back on items of interest found in JG-TC’s online archives. For questions, comments, suggestions or his “Song of the Day” recommendation, contact him at [email protected]

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