Setlist History: In 1971 David Bowie Debuted 'Changes' at 5am

On June 23, 1971, at the crack of dawn, David Bowie took the stage at the second Glastonbury Festival and played an abbreviated set to about 6,000, mostly sleeping hippies, and live debuted what would become one of his best known songs of all, "Changes."

Pink Floyd was to be the headliner that year but their equipment was delayed so they were forced to cancel. The big acts that did perform were Joan Baez, Fairport Convention, Melanie, Traffic, and a pre-Lemmy Hawkwind.

Cancellations were not new to the fledgling fest, a year prior, the show originally dubbed The Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival as was supposed to have The Kinks headline, but they opted out and were replaced by Marc Bolan who was poised to introduce T.Rex to the world.


Legend has it that Bowie took a train to the festival at Worthy Farm that summer day, but got off about 10 miles away and walked the rest of the journey alongside his wife Angie, his manager, and guitarist Mick Ronson (who was a year away from becoming a Spider from Mars).

The singer was feeling particularly low because his most recent album, The Man Who Sold The World, was a dud on the charts in both the US and UK.

So that early morning dawn on the foggy farm, Bowie played mostly new tunes from his forthcoming album Hunky Dory, highlighted by "All You Pretty Things" and "Changes" at what was then called the Glastonbury Fayre.

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“All I can remember is staggering out of the Worthy Farmhouse at some ungodly hour," Bowie told Time Out magazine. "I had been ensconced in there for some of the night, drinking and smoking and such like with the tremendously talented Terry Reid and Linda Lewis. None of us were in the best of shape. No curfew in those days so I was playing to a mainly sleeping crowd. They awoke benignly enough and gave me much encouragement as I fumbled through about nine songs.”

It was 10, David, but who's counting?

Those who were awake to catch the live debut of "Changes" heard a version they'd probably never experience again as the Thin White Duke performed the set solo without his band. While that unplugged-esque presentation was probably fitting for the wee hours, Bowie did not think it represented him properly and refused to allow his set to appear in the documentary film that was released shortly after the event.

Yes a documentary film was made of the 1971 show. Good luck finding it though.

A recording of the music he played that morning was captured, however, and fit nicely into this BBC piece, which includes interviews from some lucky attendees.

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While "All You Pretty Things" at Glastonbury was not its live debut, it was just the second time Bowie performed it in front of an audience. The first time was on the singer's birthday the previous year at the Speakeasy club in London.

The question is, with these lyrics, why didn't he open with it that morning?

Wake up you sleepy head
Put on some clothes, shake up your bed
Put another log on the fire for me
I've made some breakfast and coffee

UDavid Bowie only performed "Oh You Pretty Things" three times in 1971. One was at Glastonbury. But this recording is so clear it was probably the visit he made with David Peel at the BBC on Sept 21.

As beautiful and crowd-pleasing as "Pretty Things" was, Bowie only played it a handful of times in the early '70s and then never again.

"Changes," however, became a song he performed nearly 400 times, more than "Young Americans," "Let's Dance," or even "Under Pressure."

How did Bowie feel about his set that morning in and the audience's reaction? Really good.

“I just want to say that you’ve given me more pleasure than I’ve had in a good few months of working," he told the crowd that morning before leaving the stage. "I don’t do gigs any more because I got so pissed off with working, and dying a death every time... It’s really nice to have somebody appreciate me for a change.”

A Hunky Dory tune, Bowie didn't perform at Glastonbury '71 was "Life on Mars." He made up for that when he returned to the farm in 2000.

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Last updated: 25 Feb 2024, 18:57 Etc/UTC