Change was first recorded by Sparks in the mid-eighties as a jagged electropop orgy of orchestra hits, then re-recorded by them in the late nineties as a glorious Kurt Weill-esque chamber pop number. There's also a poignant live piano ballad version floating about (and if anyone has a studio version of this I'd love to hear it). All three interpretations are excellent. It's taken a long time for me and this this song to converge. But like a lot of Sparks songs, it's about proper grown-up issues, and maybe I've only just grown into it.
The narrator begins the song being thrown out onto the rainy street like a dog by his partner, but then somehow he manages to see glimmers of hope - a rainbow in the morning sun - and before he knows it he's off deciding that his golden days have just begun: 'Change - every dog is gonna have his day/every loser's gonna have his way/I don't care what other people say.' Whether this is a deluded flight of fancy it's hard to tell, but there seems little basis for his sudden bout of optimism.
In the next verse he dismisses arguments about the nature of love as trivial, declaring that he has better things to do with his time: mountains that he has to ski, apparently. And the chorus is joined by an even more defiant (and deluded) 'just ignore them and they'll go away'. There follows a series of dramatic declarations about major changes through history: the disappearance of paradise, Greece and Rome, the wild West and vaudeville, all of which the narrator seems to suggest in his grandiose way are similar to either his relationship or his own ability for monumental change.
The last verse has him discoursing on possibly getting back with his partner one day. There seems no grounds for this, there's been no word from the partner since they threw him out in the first verse. Again, the narrator seems to have difficulty separating fact from fantasy.
By the end of the song it's hard to tell whether one should feel sorry for the narrator for being so self deluded, or applaud his mettle in forging ahead. The final verse suggests that his attempts to forge an entirely new future may be so many words, but even so, the energy and delight the raucous chorus rings in throughout the song makes it feel ultimately uplifting. There's a sense that he's a drunk propping up the bar somewhere, alternately maudlin and belligerent. Perhaps he is Walter Mitty, and completely deluded, but it's hard not to love him for it.
It's hard to say why this song has come to mean so much to me. It might be the sense that the narrator is dredging up some sort of self respect from the gutter that is so appealing. The lack of detail makes you put yourself into the song to fill in the blanks. The tune itself is fantastic, and the three versions make it endlessly listenable.
Whatever it is, Change is the song that means most to me at this point in time. Forget those lauded grown-up songwriters like Leonard Cohen, this song is what being an adult is really like: hitting middle age to find you're dragging a whole lot of mixed-up baggage and dreams around with you.