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30 Years Ago: ChangesBowie is released

SDE looks back at the 1990 Bowie compilation


Rykodisc’s Sound + Vision box set may have officially kicked off David Bowie‘s reissue campaign in September 1989, but it was the CHANGESBOWIE compilation album and the ‘Fame ’90’ single that preceded it, that caught the eye and ear of the general public and served as a preface the album reissues and the world tour.

This would be the first compilation to mix David’s EMI output and the RCA years and it was issued on 2LP vinyl, cassette and CD (it later was issued on minidisc). The 21-track selection was cut down to 18 songs for the CD and while trying to fit a ‘best of Bowie’ onto one disc is everybody’s nightmare, the editing process was brutal and ended up removing some classics. ‘Starman’, ‘Sound and Vision’ and worst of all, ‘Life On Mars’ were all removed from the CD, meanwhile ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ and ‘Suffragette City’ remained.

There was nothing from 1987’s Never Let Me Down album (it was probably too recent and to fresh in David’s memory to go back there) while 1984’s Tonight was represented by just ‘Blue Jean’ rather than the superior ‘Loving The Alien’, indicating that commerce and not art was what CHANGESBOWIE was all about. Or was it? Some of the decisions are curious. ‘Changes’ didn’t chart anywhere but the US and it still gets the nod, while ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ wasn’t released in America at all and only got to number 12 in the UK but still supplants ‘Starman’ on the CD, a song which was issued in both countries and was a bigger hit in Britain (#10).

The aforementioned ‘Suffragette City’ was the B-side to ‘Starman’ (as well as being on the Ziggy studio album, of course) and still appears on the CD ahead of the A-side. Okay, ‘Suffragette City’ was eventually issued as a single to promote CHANGESONEBOWIE in 1976, but it wasn’t a hit anywhere.

On the CD of CHANGESBOWIE one song represents the entire ‘Berlin Trilogy’. That song is ‘Heroes’, which peaked at number 24 in the UK. The number three hit ‘Sound and Vision’ isn’t on the compact disc (but does appear alongside ‘Heroes’ on the vinyl and cassette). So is this compilation about ‘hits’ or about recognition factor, or what David himself considered to be ‘representative’?

The inclusion of ‘Diamond Dogs’ always felt superfluous. It’s a great opener for a great album, but always felt like a plodder as a single and it unsurprisingly failed to break into the UK top 20 (and wasn’t issued at all in the US). ‘Rebel Rebel’ does a good enough job of representing the Diamond Dogs album and on reflection CHANGESBOWIE really does badly neglect the second half of the 1970s. The near five year gap between ‘Golden Years’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’ is bridged by just ONE SONG on the CD version (‘Heroes’) and even on the cassette and vinyl LP it’s only two songs (with the addition of ‘Sound and Vision’). “But he didn’t have any hits during this era and this is a ‘greatest hits’ album,” I hear you cry. Well, for all the artiness of the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ those three albums still delivered five top 40 hits in the UK, two of which were top ten singles.

The lack of anything from Lodger (‘Boys Keep Swinging’ reached number seven in the UK chart, after all) seems particularly harsh. I mean, Low and Lodger both delivered top 10 singles in the UK something which Young Americans FAILED TO DO, but Young Americans gets both its singles on the CD while Low and Lodger are entirely ignored. What’s going on there? If CHANGESBOWIE is purely about ‘hits’ the title track of Young Americans does not deserve to be included ahead of ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ and ‘Sound and Vision’ (albeit the latter is on the tape/vinyl).


The US CD single of Fame 90 including a 14-minute remix not issued in the UK (click image to enlarge).


Of course, Bowie had selected ‘Fame’ as the song to be reissued as a single to promote the compilation (even though it had already topped the chart in America in 1975). This led to an entertaining four-track CD single in the UK, which I played to death at the time. It comes across as a bit dated now, I guess, but I loved the ‘House Mix’, ‘Hip Hop Mix’ and yes, even the Queen Latifah version of ‘Fame’. Best of all was the 14-minute ‘Absolutely Nothing Premeditated/Epic Mix’ which appeared on the US CD single. British fans were denied this variant and it still remains unreleased in the UK to this day (boo!).

Back to CHANGESBOWIE though. One of the challenges for Rykodisc was that the early part of the 1970s are full of Bowie ‘signature’ songs which weren’t necessarily big hits while songs like ‘Drive-In Saturday’ (which was a big hit) don’t necessarily have the same resonance with the general public. The latter wasn’t included on any version of CHANGESBOWIE despite only ‘Jean Genie’ being a bigger hit in the UK in the first half of the 1970s!

The collection is certainly an interesting attempt to pull together ‘the best’ of David Bowie as of 1990, but CHANGESBOWIE was in the end a bit of a mish-mash of actual hits and perceived ‘best of’ tracks. Rykodisc and Jeff Rougvie who managed this process would have been well aware of the compromises required and only three year’s later delivered, with the luxury of a two-CD set at their disposal, The Singles 1969 to 1993 – arguably the best ever David Bowie compilation.

CHANGEBOWIE entered this UK albums chart at number two this week 30 years ago. The following week it would hit number one and then remained in the UK top ten for four more weeks. What do you think of this compilation? Leave a comment.





1. Space Oddity
2. Starman (vinyl and cassette only)
3. John, I’m Only Dancing
4. Changes
5. Ziggy Stardust
6. Suffragette City
7. The Jean Genie
8. Life on Mars? (vinyl and cassette only)
9. Diamond Dogs
10. Rebel Rebel
11. Young Americans
12. Fame 90
13. Golden Years
14. Sound and Vision (vinyl and cassette only)
15. “Heroes”
16. Ashes to Ashes
17. Fashion
18. Let’s Dance
19. China Girl
20. Modern Love
21. Blue Jean

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129 Comments

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Daz

Hi paul thanks for making me revisit my rykos, i have always thought they sounded better than the overated rca’s, just wanted to give a shout for the iselect compilation that was given away in sunday newspapers some years ago, after all how many bowie comps have sweet thing, lady grinning soul, fantastic voyage, win and teenage wildlife on them!

Reed

When this album was originally released, I remember being underwhelmed by the track list and by how many of the cuts were radio edits. Ugh. But if I had known then how many more “best of” sets would be attempted in the decades following, I likely would have been more secure in knowing the record companies would get the song selection right eventually.

The CD Single for Fame ‘90 was fascinating. The Gass Mix (the one that received all the airplay and the version most are familiar with) wasn’t even called that on the original pressing, so it was a struggle trying to find “the one I heard on the radio.” Also, I don’t know what record exec recommended the Queen Latifah collaboration, but he must have been laughed out of the business soon after.

David Fisher

Being a Bowie nut I bought the CHANGESBOWIE CD as soon as it came out but having all the albums anyway I never paid it that much attention. I remember thinking the track listing a little odd at the time. I preferred the budget K-tel BEST OF BOWIE LP from ’81 which I had played much more. The cover art was so much better than the dog’s dinner of the Ryko compilation. The CHRISTIANE F. soundtrack from the same year, although a few tracks overlapped, covered the Berlin trilogy nicely. Back then I still didn’t have Bowie’s complete catalogue so they did introduce me to new sounds at the time. Much later I picked up a clear vinyl Ryko pressing of CHANGESBOWIE which was so much better for the addition of “Starman”, “Sound and Vision” and “Life on Mars”. I never play the CD these days but the vinyl does get the occasional spin. As for the “Fame” remix, I hate the brutalist 80’s production techniques and I did at the time. It just hurts my ears! When everyone at school was listening to 80’s bands I was turned on by albums by The Monkees, Captain Beefheart and The Beatles but then I’ve always swum against the tide…

RJS

“The Beatles but then I’ve always swum against the tide…”

Listening to the most popular music act ever. Definitely swimming against the tide there!

Albert

Five great best of compilations…

New Order – Substance 1987
The Jam – Snap
Scott Walker – Boy Child 1967-1970
Bread – The Sound Of Bread
Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady

Dave H

I think the one that seemed to outsell everything else was Queen’s Greatest Hits. It was one of those albums that seemed to please a generation that didn’t necessarily buy singles but were happy to buy an album full of singles.

Arr Gee

I would add

Bob Marley – Legend
Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music – Street Life : 20 Great Hits

I think The Jam Snap! is possibly the best compilation ever as it gathered all The Jam’s singles together many of which never appeared on LPs. And it also has the best version of That’s Entertainment.

John McCann

Whats the panels views on the best of bowie dvd, I’ve got it, seem to play disc 1 a lot more than disc 2,not a huge fan of the guy to be honest,but he did come up with some classics,ashes to ashes probably my favourite,was a big visage fan and Steve strange in the video was great, amen.

SimonP

A friend gave me his copy of this after upgrading to the Best of Bowie. I did the same shortly afterwards. He did too many good singles to fit on a single disc.

Fuller

Firstly as a music fan of over 50 years standing, and with a huge love of anniversaries and recollection, thanks Paul for reminding us all of the 30th anniversary of this album, which I bought on vinyl on the week of the release in March 1990.
I’d been a Bowie fan ever since I saw David and his band perform Starman for the first time on TOTP in 1972 as an 11 year old lover of Marc Bolan and T. Rex and all things glam rock. Firmly stuck in my mind to this day.
Why the vinyl version? Well I was big into HiFi then and more than one dealer and magazine told me that vinyl was still way superior to CD, so after a few demonstrations I sold my CD player which I’d previously purchased in 1987, and bought a Linn LP12, also pre/power amps and floor standing speakers. Anyway the vinyl sounded great, still gets a spin here now and again.
Would be interesting to see the CD v vinyl sales figures in that period of this albums release, vinyl had nearly had its day then and CD was King.

DiscoDave2000

I can’t believe no one mentioned the gorgeous green tinted jewel cases that most Rykodisc CDs were issued in. They were super cool/looked like glass. Perhaps they weren’t the green ones for the David Bowie catalog campaign? I liked this comp. Up to this point I only had Let’s Dance and Low CDs. This comp had pretty much everything that American classic/alternative rock radio played by Bowie, so it made the mark.

Michael

The only compilation I listen to sometimes is Carpenters The Singles: 1969–1973.
That’s a pretty flawless album. Otherwise I just make my own. Sometimes with compilations the sound quality is not good. Or they choose edits. Or non hits. All the above seem to be the nom. This is the Bowie one I made.

Space oddity
Changes
The jean genie
Sorrow
Rebel rebel
Fame
Golden years
Sound and vision
Heroes
Boys keep swinging
Ashes to ashes
Fashion
Under pressure
Lets dance
China girl
Modern love
This is not America

Gregers Kirkegaard

The doublevinyl was so supreme, it did the job as a near setlist of the 1990 Sound and Vision tour. David brought Adrian Belew with him on that one and the so called farewell to his past really triumphed. The CD in that perspective was quite amputated especially because Sound and Vision was missing not to mention Life in Mars ;)

AndyB

Saw it in Philadelphia. I was so stunned and awed to see the man in person that I can’t remember if the show was any good!

Daz

First time I saw bowie live was the sound and vision tour and I thought his voice did not sound to good but when I saw him in 2003 on the reality tour he sounded great!

Steve

I saw the show in Edinburgh, I agree Paul Young Americans was not well served. We also didn’t get the full projection etc.

Vic

I think the track listing was driven not by single releases or chart sales, but by US rock radio AirPlay at that time. It’s a solid reflection of the top twenty or so Bowie songs that my favorite stations kept in their rotations in 1989, understandably omitting the “not just Bowie” songs “Under Pressure” and “Dancing in the Street.” (Okay, maybe they played “TVC 15” a little more and “John, I’m Only Dancing” and “Sound and Vision” a little less, but it’s pretty close.)

Quante

Firstly, well done Paul on writing the David Bowie article and opening up an interesting set of views on the Bowie best of compilations.

It all depends on when you jumped on the train with an artist as to what records are most important / influential to you. With Bowie, I grew up a young boy listening to my sister, five years older than me, repeatedly playing Bowie Changes One, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and The Beatles 1967-70 Blue Album. You can find beauty (or misery) in any set of songs if you hear them 100 times, and as a nine / ten year old I knew those albums inside out. I’m sure if I’d been older and had already enjoyed Hunky Dory, Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, Young Americans etc. I’d have not been bothered about Changes One; but I hadn’t, and I was.

Changes Two Bowie came out not so long after Bowie’s mega hits off Scary Monsters. As it went back to the early albums as well, I got to hear tracks like Aladdin Sane, with that stunning piano playing, that I’d still not heard before Changes Two came out. As with the first Changes album, the second one became a firm favourite.

When ChangesBowie came out it looked to me like a rehash of Changes One and Two with some newer hits added on. It meant nothing to me in the fashion that the the earlier two compilations did.

The more exciting compilation was iSELECT that unbelievably was given away as a freebie in a paper in 2008. Bowie selected the tracks. I’m sure I read somewhere that this compilation, without the tracks included from the later years, was what was going to be released around the time of Changes Two? Does anyone else recall this?

On the question of the best greatest hits, some greatest hits almost become the definitive album of certain artists:

Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits (1972)
Bill Withers’ Greatest Hits (1981)
The Carpenters The Singles 1969-1973
Madness Complete Madness

When record companies then re-release umpteen alternative greatest hits alternatives to the likes of the above versions, they generally lack in impact and just dilute the quality of what is already perfect releases.

Some artists just don’t suit a greatest hits format. I agree that Kate Bush’s The While Story is a waste of space, but I don’t think any future greatest hits compilation is worthwhile for Kate’s music. It’s just better to enjoy each album. A bluray update of the video compilation of her hits a la The Singles File + her later videos, now that’s a different matter – it would be essential.

Prince is another artist who’s greatest hits albums don’t work. The regular albums are so strong and era specific that it somehow doesn’t work when the singles are compiled together. I love the b sides disc on The Hits / The B Sides triple cd, but I never play the actual hits discs. 4Ever was better, but still goes unplayed. Nothing Compares 2 U with Rosie Gaines doesn’t work – an inferior version of the monster hit Sinead O’Connor made of the song. They’d have done better to realease the version that came out in 2018, after Prince’s death.

WILLIAM ENGLAND

OK, so, I was reading this yesterday, not because i’m a fan of Bowie (which I am), but because i’m firstly interested in Paul’s take on things (and although his knowledge does span a few decades, him being quite a bit younger, often has a completely different take on the subject at hand) but also what subscribers have to say in response and probably more importantly their knowledge too.
Now Chris Squires response mentioned Gerry Rafferty, and I, like many others, only really knew Baker Street, but this piqued my interest, so going to Spotify (free subscription which I will be cancelling before it renews) and listening to the first three albums. I realised that I knew quite a few songs without realising that it was indeed him, and as I thoroughly enjoyed them this translated to 3 cd purchases on Amazon.
So a big thank you to all the subscribers here that make the effort to respond in a constructive manner – your wisdom is much appreciated.

Bill Ristic

I have it on cassette…been a Bowie fan for 45 years…have all his stuff on whatever format it has been offered on actually…plus bootlegs from the ’70’s

John McCann

City to city and night owl are absolutely fantastic, every song a classic,no filler, the last time i was in fopp they had both albums on a double cd pack for a fiver,

Bruno

Hi Paul – this is one of very few compilations that I bought so I was amazed to see your review. It opened the world of Bowie to me. Your comment on the balance is right but it is still one of my most played cd’s and would not change the track listing for all the tea in china !

Poptones

Lots of comments about the aim of this compilation (Greatest Hits? Best Of? Career Retrospective? Singles?).

Yesterday I mentioned the Berlin trilogy remasters were released by Ryko in 1991. After looking at my other CDs, Bowie albums from 1969 to 1974 were released in 1990. Albums from Young Americans (1975) to Lodger (1979) were released in 1991, Scary Monsters in 1992. Looking at the tracklisting, you have 10 tracks from the period 1969-1974 (1990), 7 tracks from 1975-1980 (1991) and 4 tracks from 1983-1984 (Ryko didn’t own the rights for the albums Let’s Dance and Tonight).

Tracklisting can be explained by the fact Ryko launched the Bowie remasters campaign in 1990 with ChangesBowie (Sound + Vision box set was released a year earlier in 1989) and Bowie’s first 7 studio albums (from David Bowie aka Space Oddity to Diamond Dogs). I guess that’s why they’ve put the emphasis on that period by selecting 10 tracks from that Bowie era). Even if they didn’t own the rights to Let’s Dance and Tonight, they absolutely needed Let’s Dance, China, Modern Love and Blue Jean to be included in that compilation because most teenagers only knew these hit songs from Bowie in 1990 and record labels mainly target young people (13-25). I think this compilation was for people aged 13-25. They didn’t need to preach to the converted. Probably a marketing strategy but it’s still a great compilation.

Dean

I disagree with most of that, Paul. I suppose it depends on how they framed the release. If it were a “Greatest Hits” package, then you may have a point (except Blue Jean is better than Loving the Alien, imo) but clearly that’s not what they were going for. Instead this serves as a sampler of Bowie’s catalog, with a healthy dose of deep cuts sitting alongside hits.

We’d already had actual hit compilations in ChangesOneBowie and its follow up. So in making this one they likely felt they had to do something different. Of course, with someone like Bowie there are a million threads to pull on, so we could argue one way or the other on any given track. That said, your article seems to suggest they skipped over the hits (or at least some of them) when I think it’s clear that wasn’t the goal here. If they had wanted a hits package, then they could have just done ChangesOne and be done with it.

In the end, I applaud they did something different. It’s a fine teaser for what was to come, including a hint of the bonus tracks (with John, I’m Only Dancing). For the record, I don’t buy compilations and I certainly steer clear of Greatest Hits packages. So this release was largely academic.

MARK LEVY

Another really great Bowie compilation is the Platinum Collection. Still only available on CD.

Brian

I was in my teens when this came out – my older brother bought it on cassette.

Up until that point my Bowie references were few – Let’s Dance had been Number 1 and everyone in the household loved that. For Ashes To Ashes, it was the video that I recalled more than the song. And I knew Space Oddity, Absolute Beginners, and Dancing In The Street. Other than that Bowie had only brushed the charts with a few late 80s singles that didn’t make much of an impact on me. That all changed with ChangesBowie.

I guess at the time I never saw it as a ‘Best Of’ or ‘Greatest Hits’ collection. I took the title at face value – it was a selection of the songs that captured the changes in musical style and direction that he had taken. A curated retrospective rather than an essential selection. What it did for me was showcase his development as a songwriter and singer, and the bold choices in studio technique and production. It was my doorway into his catalogue, which shortly after I would delve into. And what a treasure trove that proved to be.

I also went on to pick up the Singles collection a few years later, but I always preferred ChangesBowie for its conciseness – even though it skims over other more successful tracks or songs which were better representations of his work.

Love the article though – took me right back to sitting down at my ghetto blaster, dropping the cassette in out of curiosity and pressing play…

Phil G

Begs the question – what are examples of a perfect best-of compilation?

It’s a very subjective question but it would be interesting to know which ones have the greatest consensus of opinion…

Chris Squires

Three monsters spring to mind.
Abba Gold
Queen – greatest (I)
Police – Every breath – The Singles

The only downside of the latter is the ‘86 remix. Which I know some people quite like, but rather like Wuthering Heights (new vocal) there is nothing wrong with the original.
But Abba gold, for what it is, is rather brilliant. There are at least half a dozen tracks on More Abba Gold that I love (The day before you came and oddly I adore Under Attack and the perennially beautiful Eagle) the problem that remains is which of the 20 tracks on Gold to knock out. A decision I would not wish to have to make.
For obscure compilations two I think are above average are The Lilac Time – Compendium and I’m your Fan – The songs of Leonard Cohen.
Being a Kate Bush fan you might think I would mention The Whole Story, and I will. I hate it and NEVER play it.

David Mcintyre

squires. The Lilac time compendium is tremendous apart from the shoddy back sleeve. The copy I have doesn’t have enough room to list all the songs on disc 2. Apart from that a great set. I also think Prince the hits/besides 3disc set is pretty damn good even though it misses quite a few dingles in place of what I think are inferior tunes.

PD2D

Blur – The Best of did a pretty decent job of selecting some of their best tracks from a broad selection of their albums

Tom Walsh

Three classic Smiths compilations:
The legendary Hatful of Hollow,
The World Won’t Listen,
Louder Than Bombs…

RJS

“what are examples of a perfect best-of compilation?”

The Cure’s 1986 compilation Staring at the Sea. The cassette version had a dozen B-Sides too.

Chris Squires

Yesssss indeed, after I wrote wot I wrote above, this is the one that sprang to mind. Staring at the sea, an excellent compilation album.
And talking of cassette extras, which RJS was, the Japan compilation “Assemblage” is terrific in it’s extended long play cassette format.

RJS

Also New Order’s 1987 collection Subsbtance which again, had a load of B-Sides on the cassette and CD releases (including 1963, which subsequently became on A-Side a few years later).

John McCann

The autobiography,supertramp great compilation,but you still need crisis what crisis to go with it.

Poptones

Good question. Obviously a good compilation is only good at the time of release if the artist (or band) is still active. Examples given like ChangesBowie, The Whole Story, Staring at the Sea, etc. were great compilations at the time but mostly obsolete now (except for collectors).

I’d say compilations are usually great when the title says it all. For example, the Story of the Clash (released in 1988) is still the best Clash compilation to date. It was released 2 years after they disbanded and 5 years after Mick Jones was fired. There was no track from Clash’s 1985 album Cut The Crap (as it was disowned by Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon). This is a a double album and double CD and it’s really The Story of the Clash in 28 tracks. I like Substance (Joy Division) too, once again title says it all about the compilation.
I also like Everything and Nothing by David Sylvian, 1980-2000 retrospective album including new, remixed and previously unreleased material. It resembles David Sylvian to include new, remixed and unreleased tracks). Staring at the Sea – the Singles (Cure) was indeed a pretty good compilation at the time in 1986.

Another way to do it is by period or era like Queen with Greatest Hits I, II and III. The first two volumes of Greatests Hits are amongst the top 10 bestselling albums ever in the UK.

Rowly75

Is it just me or is the single version of Fame90 class?? I’ve still got it on 7″

MiG

I don’t think the CD omissions are a mystery. The first 11 tracks of the CD exactly duplicate the contents of “ChangesOneBowie” (though in a different order). The CD even includes the original “Fame” rather than the remix.

Snowy

Lots of Bowie compilations….it would be an interesting exercise to collect them all together and actually see what tracks are used most (of course some compilations are/were put together as rare tracks etc.!)
I’m a big music fan and David Bowie would be up with my favourites. I have most of his music, albums and singles (as well as several compilations LP’s and CD’s).

Stephen BC

My recollections of ChangesBowie and the following singles compilation was that they messed up the single edits of Let’s dance, China girl and Modern love. I didn’t mind China girl so much, but couldn’t listen to the other two, especially Let’s dance with the stray guitar lick 3 minutes 37 seconds into the song. It’s something very hard to unhear. At least the original single edits were recreated for Best of Bowie.

Drew

I bought ChangesBowie on cassette and loved it. Ah, 1990. Good days.

Wayne Olsen

The greatest invention of mankind was the C110 blank cassette. I made many best-ofs and had a ball doing it. I think with My Bowie comp there were still songs I hated to leave off.

MichalisT.

It might be a kind of…blasphemy, but I loved The House mix of Fame 90!! It was a favourite of mine at the clubs at the time (cue Queen Latifah shouting “Everybody get funky”), along with Vogue, probably and, more importantly, it was the very first cd I ever bought (I was in high school at the time). I never bothered with the ChangesBowie compilation, but I did buy the next one with the 2 cds, which basically was the one that introduced me to David’s output besides his 80s stuff. The rest is history.

Gisabun

When he was alive, Bowie didn’t cater to what people liked as much as what he liked. Which is why most of his compilations tend to include the lesser known tracks.
As for the recent post Black Star releases, someone is milking his catalog.

Ben Williams

For me, ChangesBowie is a much loved compilation as it the very first album I ever bought of his – I even found the LP version for £1 about 13 years ago now – and played it to death ever since.
It remains a good place to start and I’d say forces the listener to buy the other albums for which songs are missing, eg Starman, Life On Mars, Sound & Vision from the CD version.
And I finally bought a copy of The Singles Collection a couple of days ago. Love the mastering of both compilations.

Tom

I remember this release well as I was a buyer for a large music store chain based in Atlanta at the time and Rykodisc gave me a “ChangesBowie” gold album to commemorate their first release to sell 500,000 copies. Still have it somewhere…

Tony

I still have my K Tel Best of cassette, it’s in a little Ikea case in my hallway, I remember getting all my Ryko CDs from Key Mail order via Record Collector, my copy of this is the Ryko version which came shrink wrapped with a Fame 90 cd single & a black cd rack, the Tech unit that came with the Berlin era CDs is still knocking about somewhere, I remember having to throw away the long box packaging of the Ryko CDs when I had a studio flat & had to slim my collection down, nice bit of nostalgia, 30 years, blimey.

Spencer

Great article which brings back fond memories. When I first got this cd I listened to it EVERY night before I fell asleep. My go to BOWIE is now Heathen but I still pull this disc out every once in a while to get my BOWIE greatest hits fix. Music is a fine distraction to all that’s going on now around the world so thanks Paul for all your hard work. Blessings

Phil O.

Classic compilation, and my gateway to all things DB when I purchased this on CD in 1991. (I didn’t realize the cassette had more songs until much later). Same year I got my drivers license – a big year for me!

I agree thought that Singles 1969-1993 was a superior compilation, and the Ryko US version is still, as you write, probably the best DB compilation yet.

Wayne

I bought the cd at the time. Also have the sound and vision clear vinyl LP set. Agree the 1969-1993 comp cd is the best. I have a version with a 3rd cd which only has peace on earth/little drummer boy on it. Collected all the ryko disc releases with bonus material. The Ziggy version l have comes in a box with a seperate cd size booklet in it too. Not sure if that is common?

Timm Davison

My Ryko CD version of Ziggy came in a cardboard slipcase with a CD sized booklet with info and ephermera regarding the Ziggy album. Maybe later pressings replaced the cardboard slipcase with a different type of box?

Timm Davison

I still have the original Sound & Vision Ryko 3-cd box set with the ‘bonus’ single and the booklet…the large-format LP-sized boxset version. I also still have the Sound & Vision metal molded cd-holder, designed to house all the Ryko cd reissues. I don’t remember which cd this came ‘sold’ with…maybe Stage. Either way, hard to believe it’s 30 years on now!

Aaron

It’s officially called the “Bowie Tech Unit” …but the metal CD holder thingy works just as well!

AudioDile

Being a Bowie fan, albeit only 16 when Changesbowie came out, I bought this, but living in the US and being young, most of what I knew were his later period songs from the late 70s onward.

It was a no-brainer to upgrade to 2002’s Best of Bowie later, especially since almost every region saw a slightly different tracklist, allowing me to examine every available version and select the one that had most of my favorites (it was the New Zealand edition, the only one to have Magic Dance on it).

Michael McA

Bloody awful artwork …….

Dean

Michael: Yeah, looking at it now it does look like a dogs dinner, doesn’t it. Take about slapdash….

eric

A lot of great memories from this era. I was already a huge fan and had just seen him a little over a year before this was released on the Glass Spider tour here in the US. The radio station I worked at received a promo copy of the compilation and we were all VERY excited when our tiny local record label, Rykodisc, scored a contract to reissue his catalog WITH bonus tracks. I bought them all … and many years later got limited run of vinyl pressings. Like so many things, the compilation was an reminiscence of the past as David was on the cusp of another one of his famous reinventions with Tin Machine right around the corner.

R. Michael Cox

I think Rykodisc did one of the best reissue campaigns. I never did give much thought as to what was on the ChangesBowie disc. The real treat was the box set that I used as “a gateway drug” to Bowie’s other albums (of which I really knew very little). I anxiously saved my money at the time to buy each album as they were re-released. That was a fun ride!

Jeff

Loved your comment… as i read this i felt as if this was already subconsciously by me. You summed up my early 90s experience surrounding the phenomenally executed Ryko reissue program of the late andgreat David Bowie.

First ChangesBowie, then the box set, then every album along the way as they got released. At the time, no other company had approached an artists catalogue that way before and evenmy 15 year old self knew this was something special and was ready to hop on the the train and explore! Great memories of my early high school years. Thank you Mr. Bowie and thank you Ryko!

Jon

I was 18 when this came out and was just getting into Bowie in a big way! I too saved for the ryko reissues – I was gutted when it got to Stage and Scary Monsters cos I was collecting vinyl and they stopped at that point for a reason that I never found out – no internet to look it up on in those days!

Tony walton

I have the rykodisc sound & vision boxset my mate brought it back from America for me….I have changesbowie cd and I’ve got the cassette changesbowie too….

wahmbeck

What should I say? CHANGESBOWIE ist my first Bowie CD/LP/Single. At that time I only knew 2 songs by Bowie: “Let’s Dance” and “China Girl”.
After listening to the album several times it was 3 songs that made me a Bowie fan:
“Space Oddity”, “HEROES” and…. “Suffragette City”. In the next few months I bought the 3 corresponding albums: “Space Oddity”, “HEROES” and.. “Ziggy Stardust”.

Today I’ve got more than 50 CDs, 35 Maxi CDs, 8 DVDs and 5 Boxes from Bowie.
So I think, taking “Suffragette City” on this compilation was a very good idea ;-)

Andrew

I still liked it as a compilation though. Being limited to that 74 minute length, I guess the just went with the best known tracks, for me I was just glad it had all the tracks from ChangesOne on there, the only grip was replacing Fame with Fame ‘90. Ryko’s Gold AU-20 CD release kept the original Version of Fame on it.

The later Singles Collection 69-93 was great, I much preferred the Ryko Edition, as it was a better selection of tracks and covered a longer period than the EMI version. The Best Of Bowie compilations with different track listings in different countries was an interesting Idea, but bloody expensive for those Bowie fans that collect every different release. No compilation will ever cover everything though, there will always be a ‘what about this song’ question. The 3CD ‘Nothing Has Changed’ compilation is great, but once again there are some glaring omissions.

With the rate they are pumping out Bowie re-issue, I wouldn’t be surprised if the push out ‘Fame & Fashion’ & ‘Golden Years’, along with ‘Rare’ to cash in on the old RCA compilations as well.

Kevin

Some of the choices can be explained by Ryko being a US label. “Suffragette City” and “Changes” were staples of AOR radio, whereas “Starman” and “Life on Mars” didn’t get much airplay at all. Similarly, the Berlin trilogy albums were seen as too weird. And, in the new MTV era, the radio-friendly “Blue Jean” was prominent on the channel, with the ‘live’ version premiering during the Video Music Awards broadcast.

Of course, nothing explains “John I’m Only Dancing”, a song I’ve never liked, but which invariably gets included on these compilations.

Andrew Miles

I think JIOD was included because the wanted to include all the tracks from RCA’s ChangesOneBowie, (although only the Gold AU-20 CD included Fame, and not Fame ‘90).

Personally I was just glad to get those tracks on CD, everything else was a bonus. The RCA CD of ChangesOne was very hard to find back then.

MARK LEVY

Give this a 30th anniversary re-issue with extra tracks that weren’t on the original and a vinyl version aswell.

Keith Brittain

I disagree on “Diamond Dogs.” It is a key rocker and was included on the original “ChangesOneBowie” vinyl compilation in 1976 (and was a smashing hit). My only substitution in the 1990 “ChangesBowie” set would have been “Time Will Crawl” (from “Never Let Me Down”) for “John I’m Only Dancing.”

Poptones

I was 13 when Let’s Dance was released in 1983 and became a huge hit. Ashes to ashes and Let’s Dance were the only songs of Bowie I knew. At the time, as I was a teenager, I didn’t know his 70s singles and albums. Remember there was no streaming, no mp3 at the time. Only tv and radio. Even if you wanted to know more about a singer or a band you had to buy the albums or know a friend or someone who could dub the album on a tape for you.

When ChangesNow was released I only knew his 80s albums and never had the chance to own or listen to his 70s songs (Bowie was even considered a “has been” at the time by the press). That’s why I immediatly bought ChangesNow when it was released. It was the Ryko Gatefold Double LP, 18 tracks (and not 21), clear green vinyl, obi strip “Sound + Vision Greatest Hits, Ryko Analogue CDQ. A few weeks later, I bought the Ziggy Stardust album, it was a beautiful cd box set (I still have it in my collection). After that I bought all other Bowie 70s albums. I thought they were Ryko discs, I didn’t notice at the time but I just took a look in my collection and while most of them are Ryko releases, Space Oďdity and Ziggy are EMI releases. I thought Ryko had the rights worldwide for that early 90s Bowie remastered campaign but it was only for North America, in UK and Europe it was EMI. I thought EMI was only behind the 1999 24bit remastered campaign. After looking at my cds, the early 70s albums were released in 1990 and the Berlin trilogy in 1991.

Anyway, thanks for that post, I disagree with some comments here, I love that ChangesBowie compilation. As you mentioned, there’s only Heroes from the Berlin Trilogy but Bowie used to release one album per year at the time (two albums in 1977) and cowrite/mix/produce albums for other artists (like Iggy, Lou Reed, Mott, etc.). Unbelievable creativity. There’s no Under Pressure (with Queen) on that compilation either. It was a good starting point compilation for people like me who only knew Bowie’s 80s albums back in 1990.

Andrew Miles

Ryko releases US & Canada only. Ryko did all the work with Remastering and designing the packaging, the EMI releases for the rest of the world were almost identical to the Ryko issues, other the the company logo. The only one that differed was the Singles Collection 69-92, which had a much different track list for the Ryko release than it did for the EMI release.

EMI put out the ‘99 Remasters, but the US releases were on Virgin.

GentleRabbit

It’s true, making a comprehensive Bowie compilation with anything less than, I don’t know, 3 discs at least can and will drive one to the point of madness.

I think my earliest impressions of Bowie might have been spying this several times a week in the local Italian restaurant’s cafe/pool hall jukebox… it was a cause for much fascination.

My personal first LP was a second-hand copy of the beautiful, if extremely short, K-Tel-issued Best Of Bowie compilation, which I seem to remember granted more time to the Berlin-era material, including the likes of both Breaking Glass and Boys Keep Swinging as well as “Heroes” and Sound And Vision, if memory serves me correctly.

I then graduated to the two also-glorious aforementioned The Singles Collection CD volumes (the memory of all of these discoveries still gives me chills), which was a far-deeper delves to Bowie’s journey up through the late 80’s (the 3CD version was an import only and thus out of my price range, but that fatbox jewel case (is that what they call them?) was mouth-watering. From there, it was a journey through the albums, most on second-hand vinyl. It was quite the thrill unboxing the recent career-spanners and holding pristine versions in my hands after all these years.

What a journey, and it’s not over yet. Thank you Paul and friends for the article and personal accounts.

Mark

I think you’ll find that the three tracks that didn’t appear on the CD version were not omitted, rather they were added to the vinyl version. This was because the CDs that were to be issued were considered the preferred format. The Ryko vinyl version of this album in the US contains only the 18 tracks on CD.

The tracklist was basically supposed to be CHANGESONEBOWIE plus later tracks, albeit featuring the remix of Fame rather than the original. The UK cassette also featured the three bonus tracks, but the US cassette did not.

stephen king

I actually played this a couple of days ago in the car and the omission of Sound And Vision from the CD is by far the biggest error. Fame 90 didn’t sound as awkward as I had remembered. It also contains the original recording of John I’m Only Dancing which is my favourite of all Bowie’s songs. I managed to mentally compile a list of “essential” singles whilst listening to it but that would have filled around 3 CDs and none of the existing compilations manage to fit in everything I would hope to see but they do all have their good points.

Lou

This was my intro to Bowie. Got it as an import here in the USA, and soon after I also bought the Beeb box set, which remains one of my most treasured collections to date.

Blakey

A best of surely means an artist at their best? Zeppelin never had one hit single in Britain (they didn’t release any). But a Zep best of like Remasters or Mothership is brimming with classics and tracks we all know and love. Same with Faces (no ‘The’). Stay With Me, Cindy Incidentally and Pool Hall Richard were the only real hits, but their best of is guaranteed to be great because they were. But certain tracks are surely a given in these situations? That’s where the Beatles ‘1’ cocked up. Every Number One from the UK and US, yeah. But no Please Please Me, no Strawberry Fields Forever, no I Am The Walrus? And it’supposed to be a Beatles best of? These type of compilations are never going to please everyone. But a Bowie best of without Starman, Life On Mars? or Sound & Vision? Nah!

Daryl

‘1’ wasn’t a supposed to be a Beatles ‘best of’.
It was supposed to be a compilation of their number ones…

GentleRabbit

Yeah, but those omissions just make it feel glaringly incomplete. A Day In The Life, too. It is amazing, though. Still feel that the Red & Blue albums are the ideal introduction for a Beatles novice.

Blakey

And they left For You Blue off ‘1’ too. It was a double A side with The Long and Winding Road in the US in 1970, so it qualifies as a USA No 1. And the Aussie No 1s like Ob-La-Di and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I dare say quite a few in Australia thought ‘where are they?’ when they bought or heard ‘1’. Please Please Me was a massive single for the Fabs and its absence, as you rightly say, is glaring.