Last week we in the UK had our local government elections, across much of England and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland too. On the back of the many – mostly self-inflicted – problems our government is currently failing to resolve I and many others were hoping that the results would show an overwhelming desire for change. In some areas they did, particularly in Northern Ireland, but overall the opposition parties had probably hoped to do better. But the good news is that for the first time in a while current events have given me my theme for this week: we didn’t really get it with the elections, but change is a good starting point for some great music.
As one of those problems which just won’t go away, the corruption that is ‘allegedly’ at the heart of much of the government’s contractual dealings offers a good starting point, I think:
What a performer! Money Changes Everything was the opening track on Cyndi Lauper’s debut album, She’s So Unusual, which was released in October 1983 and got to #4 in the US and #16 in the UK, though it did make #1 in Canada and Zimbabwe. The album has been hugely successful and has to date sold more than 6m copies in the US and 16m worldwide. I bought it at the time and have always liked it – the first side, in particular, is incredibly good. This was the fifth of the album’s six tracks to be released as a single, in December 1984. It reached #27 in the US but didn’t make the UK charts – I guess we’d all bought the album by then. Hopefully her royalties were enough to buy a matching pair of shoes, though.
You probably knew that song, and this one might be equally familiar too:
David Bowie has long been a favourite of mine, going right back to his early days. Changes was the opening track on his fourth album, Hunky Dory, which was released in December 1971. The album eventually made it to #3 in the UK and #57 in the US, though it didn’t actually make the charts until September 1972, after the follow up album – Ziggy Stardust – had been a big hit. This song was released as a single in January 1972, peaking at #41 in the US. It didn’t make the UK charts back then, but it did eventually get to #49 in 2016 after Bowie’s death. It was (kind of) the title track of the first compilation album of his songs to make the chart – ChangesOneBowie, released in May 1976 and getting to #2 in the UK and #10 in the US. There have since been two further compilations with this one in their title – clearly a good marketing ploy!
Six months ago I devoted a whole post to the music of John Hiatt – A Quick One Under the Covers, if you want to take a look back. He has gone under the radar for most, but I think he writes wonderful songs and deserves a much wider audience. This is an audio-only one from his most recent album:
Isn’t that lovely? As you can tell from the picture, the Leftover Feelings album is a collaboration with the equally superb Jerry Douglas, whose dobro can be heard to good effect on this track. The album was released in May 2021 but didn’t make the charts in either the US or the UK, though it did do so in an enclave of Europe, getting to #10 in the Netherlands, #25 in Belgium and #28 in Germany. They put us to shame! If you liked this one I suggest you check out the rest of the album – you won’t be disappointed.
My next tune for today is another by one of my favourites. I’ve featured him here before: you may remember him from Tuesday Tunes 101: Retrospective when I played the title track from the album today’s song is on. This is brilliant:
Little Changes was a track on Frank Turner’s seventh album, Be More Kind, released in May 2018. Like almost all of his albums it did well in the UK charts, reaching #3, and also like most of his albums it didn’t do as well in the US, where it only got to #95, though it did make #5 on their Folk chart and #8 on their Alternative Albums listing. There is something about his quirky style that appeals to me, and I love the joke running through this video about the guy who can’t dance and gets everything wrong – which is in keeping with the song’s lyrics.
I am going on an unashamed nostalgia trip for the second half of this week’s tunes, all of which come from the Sixties and Seventies. As befits their vintage I am having to rely on audio-only clips, but the music more than makes up for that. Like this one:
Stephen Stills was still part of CSN&Y at the time this was released, though their existence was a little fluid, to say the least. Change Partners was the opening track on his second solo album, imaginatively titled Stephen Stills 2, which came out in June 1971, peaking at #8 in the US and at #22 in the UK. This song was also released as the lead single from the album, reaching #43 in the US but not appearing in the UK chart. I’ve always loved it and this was one of the albums that was the backdrop to my university days.
The same can be said of my next tune. This a very brief little album closer from another CSN&Y member – they all released solo albums at this time:
Hardly a song, really, but it is from a great album that I also played a lot at that time, Graham Nash’s solo debut Songs For Beginners. The album came out in May 1971, reaching #15 in the US and #13 in the UK. The first single released from that album was the opening track, Chicago, which was combined with this song to make the full single release, getting to #35 in the US. So as not to leave you feeling short-changed, here is that one too, as a bonus:
They don’t come much more iconic than this next one. Again, I’m relying on an audio-only version: I did find a live performance on a tv show, but the band were set in a fake hunting tableau, fronted by a woman holding a rifle, and I wasn’t happy with that for here. But I’m sure you’ll know the song:
You probably don’t need me to tell you that this is a Bob Dylan song, but I’ve always preferred The Byrds’ version, which was released in December 1965 on their second album, Turn! Turn! Turn! This peaked at #17 in the US and #11 in the UK. The Times They Are A-Changing wasn’t a single, which to my mind makes the tv appearance all the more strange – why promote it in such an odd way? The American obsession with guns gets everywhere. If you have a burning desire to watch it, you can find it here, though don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Today’s final tune is from the album which I think I probably played the most of any during my time at university. As classic albums go, they don’t come much better, and this is one of its ten amazing tracks:
As the video shows, that was a track on Steely Dan’s first album, Can’t Buy A Thrill, which was released in November 1972, shortly after I started at uni. It reached #17 in the US and #38 in the UK, but I’ve always thought it should have gone much higher: it is, simply, the best debut album I know. All ten tracks are incredible and it would be hard to pick a favourite, even if my life depended on it. Change Of The Guard wasn’t released as a single, either as an A- or B-side, but the two tracks that were singles were both big hits in the US: Do It Again got to #6 and Reeling In The Years made #11. I still go back to this album often, it is just so very good!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of change songs. I could have chosen several more – Sheryl Crow, Tom Petty among them – but these were all too good to leave out. I’ll be back in a couple of days with a non-musical piece, but if you’re craving more tunes there is always my post New Music from last weekend, if you missed it. Take good care, and I’ll see you soon 😊