It was a sunny summer day in 1983 and I was riding in the back of Wally and Kathy's brown van with my best friend Kathleen and a bunch of other teenagers from my church, our destination being the Macleod Barn Abbey in New Harmony, Indiana. It was to be a retreat center and we were to help finish the inside construction and clean up the grounds. We prepared for the trip by packing all of our things in used beer boxes so they'd stack better-- no problem as t-shirts and shorts and rubber flip-flops don't take up much room at all. Kathleen brought the music, I brought my big silver metal box tape player which I had saved all my babysitting money the summer before to buy and we had our matching purple and white string bikinis in case we could also get some sun. Kathleen was a brave girl-- short but spunky and always commanded everyone's attention, especially the boys'. She was pretty in a natural way with dark brown short hair, a little like Dorothy Hamill but really all her own and beautiful green eyes. I was her antithesis-- tall, quiet, blonde but also green-eyed and she made me feel like I was special when I was around her. She popped in the Changes One album in tape player. "This is Major Tom to Ground Control..." rode through the wind from the open van windows, mixing with the smell of starburst candy and teenage hormones and I could feel the excitement of leaving the familiar and being propelled into this world of strangeness and wonder and a place that felt like adulthood... or some strange version of it.
The album was released in 1976, the year I remember well as we had just celebrated the bicentennial the previous year and it was loud and colorful and full of polyester matching play outfits from Sears and popsicles in cherry and orange. And it was the time of free love... "Love American Style"... all the shows were about love it seemed. I found it strange that Kathleen brought this tape to a mission trip but I sunk my teeth in and ate it up. "Changes" became our anthem... calling out that this was the time we were going through all the changes of child into adult, not that we knew what that meant exactly but I felt it. Slapping drywall plaster and paint onto walls, covered in sweat and wishing for a Coke to wet our scratchy throats, the only thing keeping us going in 90 degree temps was that tape and "time may change me, but I can't trace time" being belted out among anyone working in the room with us. Ziggy Stardust became the rock song to beat all songs... who was this Ziggy and why did he jam with the spiders from Mars? "Making love with his ego..." The occasional swear word left my cheeks red and wondering how Kathleen had the nerve to play such controversial music at our age. But I loved it. We'd lay out on towels in the grass and listen to the tape over and over... "Rebel, Rebel", "Young Americans", "Diamond Dogs"... nothing else compared to it on the radio.
The rest of the summer was spent on plastic blow up rafts and beach towels at Hueston Woods Lake near Miami University, Oxford whenever we could both get away from our summer part-time jobs, and in some way realizing that this feeling of freedom would not last and was what Bowie was referring to in "Changes", we relished it. Today when I listen to this soundtrack, it brings me right back there to the smell of Coppertone and green grass and the giggling between two teenage girls who had big dreams for our futures, but loved hanging out in cut-off jean shorts and boy t-shirts, letting the wind fly through our hair as we belted out the lyrics to our favorite Bowie songs over and over again. It became the sound of our youth. And it still is.