Segarini: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine. ~Robert C. Gallagher

We all know that change is the only constant in this life, which makes it so surprising to me that so many of us absolutely loathe change of any kind.

I still think milk tasted better in glass bottles, Swanson’s TV dinners tasted better when they first started out in aluminum trays, McDonald’s hamburgers were way more tasty when they were 15 cents, and why on Earth did Canada Dry quit making their Collins Mix, possibly the most refreshing and tasty soda pop of all time. Even Squirt, the next best soda, has disappeared from grocery store shelves. Why? Apparently we didn’t want those things anymore, or not enough of us did, or…somebody decided it was time for a change. Mostly, we shrug change off and carry on, or at least we used to. Now, however, we can all speak out about any and every thing that wets our pants. Music, television, movies, comic books, even Facebook, nothing is sacred, and none are immune to change

When you are through changing, you are through. ~Bruce Barton

When David Bowie wrote Changes, he was about to become one of the biggest ones to hit the music world in years. After three British released LPs, 1967’s David Bowie, ’69’s Space Oddity, and ‘1970’s Man Who Sold the World, Bowie went into the studio and recorded what I consider to be his masterpiece, and, ultimately, one of the most influential records of the time, Hunky Dory. He was without a label at the time. At the end of a visit to Eureka, California to hang out with The Wackers, Elektra Records president Jac Holzman tossed a cassette to Rand Bishop and I and said, “Give this a listen and tell me what you think. I’m thinking of signing this guy”. It was a cassette of Honky Dory. Neither one of us had ever heard of David Bowie at this point. We called Jac a few days later and told him he HAD to sign Bowie. It was too late. RCA had scooped him up.

For someone like Bowie to write Changes makes the song even more compelling than it already was. In just a few short years, he had released 3 albums, (Hunky Dory would be his fourth) and none of them were remotely similar. Rubber Band, from his first album sounds more Broadway show tune than cutting edge pop, influenced by Anthony Newley and London’s West End stage productions. Bowie always considered himself an actor, and in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what he has been all these years.

The second LP produced the classic Space Oddity, but it also contained the first track Mick Ronson ever worked on with Bowie. Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud still smacks of Broadway, with Bowie chewing the scenery with a 50 piece orchestra egging him on. Even Space Oddity didn’t enter the mainstream spotlight until after the success of Bowie’s 5th album, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

The last album before Hunky Dory was the odd, almost heavy metal The Man Who Sold the World. The title track even got a cover version by Nirvana. It was also the first LP with a cover that pointed directly to Bowie’s penchant for dressing up and confusing the shit out of everyone. It would be he and Marc Bolan who would introduce androgyny to the mainstream, and create a whole new species of rock called Glam. Hunky Dory would be the record that got Bowie noticed, but even these great tunes wouldn’t get real life pumped into them until after one more change…Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars ushered in the Glam Rock movement, and made Bowie a certified superstar., but I will always be a fan of Hunky Dory‘s songs, from the free fall bounce of Oh You Pretty Things to the hauntingly beautiful cinematic landscape of Life on Mars, this album is a benchmark, and even though it seemed a good place to stop, Bowie continued (and still continues) to change. If you stop to think about it, that is what all our greatest artists have done. Change. Were there ever two Beatle albums that sounded the same? Hell, were there ever two Beatle songs that sounded the same. Our current top 40 acts should be ashamed of themselves.

Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history. ~Joan Wallach Scott

When it came to music, we all loved change. We could hardly wait to see where our favourite artists were going to take us next. What new adventures would they have in store for us, what musical ground would they be breaking? The great artists, the career artists, embraced change, and in so doing educated and entertained us, their fans, leading us away from the past and into the future, opening our eyes and our ears to the possibilities that lay ahead. Risking failure and working without a net were how we liked our heroes. They took chances, they stood their ground, and we all benefited from their honesty and their bravery. We bought albums unheard, knowing that whatever was contained in the grooves would present itself to us with repeated listenings, the need to hit the listener over the head immediately was not a consideration. The music grew on us, involved us, inspired us to keep listening, and we did. We had patience, and we had faith in our artists, and they (the great ones) delivered on that faith. Over the years, this interaction between artist and fan has changed (see…change is inevitable) and certainly not for the better. The relationship wasn’t changed by the participants, it was changed by the middlemen. The record labels, the radio consultants, and the managers. They decided that if an artist was successful, they should keep doing the same thing. Over and over. Eventually, the theory became, when the audience got tired of the same thing over and over, the artist could simply be replaced with something new. As long as it sounded very much like what it was replacing. Tragically, this train of thought gained a following…and here we are. The one place in pop culture that thrived on change, music, has been denied the ability to do so. Music is changing though, change is impossible to stop through edict or rules. Change will find a way. Go online and look for new music. Go to the clubs and hear new music. What’s coming is already here….

If you want to make enemies, try to change something. ~Woodrow Wilson

Meanwhile, change is all over the place in the rest of pop culture. For example, over in the wide, wide, wonderful world of comics, the two major players, DC and Marvel have been busier than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Marvel has created an alternative Universe (Ultimate) where heroes can die (Ultimate Spiderman/Peter Parker is deader than George Bush’s soul, and in the regular Marvel universe, the Human Torch (Johnny Storm) is no longer on the right side of the lawn. Both Marvel and DC have broken up long term relationships, (Spidey and Mary Jane, Supes and Lois), and DC has gone so far as to totally re-invent their entire lineup.

In the new Action Comics, Superman is running around in a pair of jeans, a Superman t-shirt, and a pair of Timberland work boots, and his cape is the only remaining article of clothing from the ‘good old days’. His powers have been reduced, most people don’t trust him, and he doesn’t even work for the Daily Planet anymore. In the new Superman movie, (and the Superman comic) his old outfit has been redesigned and they finally put his bright red underwear on the inside of his pants where they belong. Superboy is now a clone-hybrid created out of Kryptonian and human DNA, Aquaman is a bad ass who is trying to find out who sank Atlantis (apparently no longer a natural disaster) and who everybody makes fun of, just like real life, and Catwoman is an out and out slut who basically rapes Batman in the first issue of her new book…and that’s just for starters. Personally, I’m liking what I’m reading. It’s fresh, it’s exciting, and it’s a pretty ballsy move on Warner Brothers part. Still, there are a slew of readers who are absolutely beside themselves with horror. Thankfully, the old comics are still out there, DC and Marvel didn’t go door to door and burn them all, so disgruntled comic book fans have an out. Sadly, Facebook has not afforded its users that option.

It’s the most unhappy people who most fear change. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, 1966 

I have come to the conclusion that Facebook is the closest technology has come to inventing virtual heroin. It is more of an addiction than most people are willing to admit. There are constant posts from people sharing their life online, most of the time with no context; “Wow that was great, better than the last one!” which will show up in the news feed and be completely confusing. Are they talking about a movie? A sandwich? A bowel movement? Fuck if I (and the other 750 million users) know. Then you have the Chicken Little crowd. ‘The sky is falling’ has been replaced with various bits of fabricated nonsense which a few seconds on Google or just plain common sense would quickly eliminate as truthful in any way, so Betty in Pittsburgh and Jack in Portland would be saved the embarrassment of posting and re-posting rumours, clogging the news feed and annoying the shit out of guys like me who took the time to find out that Facebook is not going to ban left handed Mormons, start charging money, or sell all your photographs and personal information to the CIA. That said, the changes in Facebook recently seem to be addressing these types of petty annoyances. You can now control what shows up on your feed and on your wall…you just have to learn to navigate the site and make the changes you desire. And speaking of all the recent and ongoing changes to Facebook…

I have no doubt that they are doing their best to make it a more enjoyable experience. I don’t believe people change, I believe we grow. We learn from experience and adjust our behavior. Things, however, change constantly. It is inevitable. Change can be good as well as bad, but in Facebook’s case, I think the changes are for the benefit of the people, not for Facebook, but there is a learning curve.

By the amount of impassioned complaining popping up in the newsfeed, you’d think these changes were the equivalent of Mark Zuckerberg kicking down your front door and setting your cat on fire. Hopefully the roar of disapproval and mistrust will die down and people will quit having panic attacks and start posting videos of piano playing cats and their favourite Led Zeppelin songs for the rest of us to enjoy. Maybe people will stop threatening to leave in protest (as if they could) and actually learn how to use the tools Facebook has given us to customize and personalize the experience. I love Facebook. It’s fun, it’s a great tool. It is informative and entertaining in the extreme. So much so that I can forgive the constant barrage of people wanting me to copy their status and use it as mine, join their causes against bullying, cancer, wall street, rap music, and those pesky aforementioned left handed Mormons…I already have some of them as my causes, and don’t need to join in. I’m already doing what I can. Just like most folks.

So we are able to block the games and the rumours, the pleas for re-posting some grandmother’s wisdom, the chain letter threats, the heartwarming story of the child/puppy/garden gnome that gave it’s life so that a kitten/stripper/Frenchman could walk again that was probably written by a first year creative writing student and posted to see how well they did, and just cherry pick that which engages us. Facebook has made it possible (and continues to do so) to fine tune their social network to fit our individual needs. I say we all relax and learn how to adapt to these changes and continue to enjoy this wonderful tool to the fullest. Facebook might even become a better experience for all of us. On the other hand, change all but killed MySpace.

Change is the only evidence of life.~ Evelyn Waugh

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Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

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