Jul 21


Popular33 comments • 3,044 views

#967, 20th December 2003

From one reality TV hit to another – “Changes” wouldn’t have existed without The Osbournes, an everyday story of a loveably decayed rock star and his no-bullshit manager-wife. The show’s surface dynamics played into some hoary old stereotypes of calamitous husbands and hypercompetent wives, but it was still far more watchable than most celebrity vehicles.

In the wider culture, The Osbourne’s main effect was to shift the centre of Osbourne fame from Ozzy to Sharon, the effects of which we’ll come to in time. But it also made not-at-all-reluctant stars of the kids, Kelly and Jack, and coincided with the launch of Kelly’s pop career. This was a great deal less entertaining than the show, and required the iron lung of her celebrity dad to sustain itself – when your first single as a famous kid is “Papa Don’t Preach”, it’s clear what the plan is. A couple of subsequent tracks were more likeable, but less actually liked, and “Changes” is a return to the intergenerational well, a cover of Black Sabbath’s maudlin coke ballad with the lyrics changed to be about parental stress, not divorce.

That sounds desperate as a concept, and it sounds twice as desperate as a record. The original “Changes” achieves a kind of fucked grandeur because Ozzy’s buzzsaw wail suits the song’s indulgent male woe. It’s not a track you’d want to live in, but it plainly has its uses. Kelly Osbourne doesn’t have her Dad’s pipes, and by this point her Dad doesn’t have them either. It’s a ghastly record, both performers flailing around in the song, unable to rise even to the level of conviction this schlock requires, as it asks you to believe Ozzy is falling out with, not bailing out, his daughter. Even the show’s biggest fans – you’d hope – would have reached Kelly’s mawkish yelp of “I love you Daddy” and realised they’d been sold a particularly incontinent pup.



  1. 1
    Shiny Dave on 26 Jul 2021 #

    I once referred to my (terrible and in retrospect surely problematic) charity shop Avril Lavigne drag outfit, complete with wig, as “Ozzy Osbourne raiding Kelly’s wardrobe.” Possibly at the time, actually.

    I think I avoided this record even at the time, and I certainly have no intention of listening to it now. I hadn’t realised it was actually the Christmas #1; the Cowell iron grip on that title in the 00s even extended by retrospective links.

  2. 2
    weej on 26 Jul 2021 #

    This was one of those hits where I felt baffled as to why *anyone* was buying the thing, it doesn’t even work on an ironic level. Was it just a souvenir for fans of the show? Can’t imagine many of Ozzy’s pre-The-Ozbournes fans were rushing out to buy it.

  3. 3
    Gareth Parker on 26 Jul 2021 #

    I must confess my ignorance, that until quite recently I was not aware that this was a version of an earlier Ozzy track (from Black Sabbath’s Vol.4), which Tom alludes to in his write up. As for the mark, blimey where do we go with this one? A generous 3/10?

  4. 4
    Brandon on 26 Jul 2021 #

    Sometimes Popular introduces me to a forgotten gem, or reminds me of something I used to love.
    This is absolutely not one of those times. I think this beats the various Robson and Jerome bores and whatever was going on with Mr Blobby as the worst number 1 associated with a TV show. (I’m counting Pop Idol etc. singles as their own category, they’re music shows where the song is the whole point. I’d say this is closer to, say, Can We Fix It? )

  5. 5
    Lee Saunders on 27 Jul 2021 #

    The single came out the same day Ozzy almost died in a quad-biking accident, so I dare say some of the bewilderment regarding its huge success can be channelled through that.

    On an objective, wiping-my-lenses level I’ll have to sit this one out, alongside several other much-maligned number ones to come. This is a period of life where I’m too close to so many number ones to forge seeing them from a distance. Resultingly, ‘Changes’ sounds far from horrible to me, it sounds – as a lot of 2003/04 hits do – umbilically linked to the peak of my life thus far, and here, Christmas 2003, is the central pivot. That I never play it helps it sustain the strong evocations whenever I do hear it.

    It’s interesting to note that both this and the next number one are at least on the surface but piano, voice and strings.

  6. 6
    Matt K on 27 Jul 2021 #

    Welcome back Tom! I can imagine this wasn’t particularly enticing as the review-in wait … !

  7. 7
    ThePensmith on 27 Jul 2021 #

    I’m just gonna come out and say it. This is by far the worst number one single I can remember in my lifetime. You’ve covered a lot of the reasons why already Tom, but I have to confess some of it is because I’ve never really had time for the Osbournes, either as a family or as separate units.

    For me, they – and their MTV show – represented the epitome of fame for fame’s sake, that was becoming more prevalent and dizzyingly fast the further into the 00s we got. Taking Ozzy out of that context for a second though, and I’m not sure I would care much for Black Sabbath or anything solo of his independent of the TV show.

    Indeed, another scraggly ballad of his, ‘Dreamer’, got released about 18 months before this when the show had only just started airing on MTV, but with little exposure to make an impact at that point, it only made the top 20 before falling. I think it was Channel 4 that picked up the terrestrial option for the show a year later, airing it on Friday nights in the 8:30pm slot before Friends.

    Which leads us to Kelly. With so much of her mum Sharon’s truculence, pushiness and general unpleasantness (something I feel quite strongly on, especially having read Dannii Minogue’s autobiography which documented how mercilessly horrible Sharon was to her when she joined The X Factor in 2007), her first single had the fortune and decency to be buried under a heavy vocal distortion for a sort of comedy Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack take on ‘Papa Don’t Preach’.

    It should have stayed a one off curiosity. Instead, a whole album – which flopped spectacularly – and follow up single was named after the one thing she should have done. Shut up. Quite literally, she – and I dare say Sharon – were the early 00s genesis of the ‘Karen’ meme that does the round on social media today.

    And thus we land here. ‘Changes’ is embarrassingly off key, void of a point or much in the way of redeeming substance, other than who is screeching it, which is why it got where it did. It’s the aural equivalent of someone simultaneously pouring acid in your ears whilst running their fingernails down a blackboard. Horrible, horrible, horrible, abort, abort, abort. 0.

  8. 8
    Stephen Emmett on 27 Jul 2021 #

    Only one more chart topper to go until I get to make part one of my great personal emo confession…

    …but that’s for another Popular entry, which is the next one.

  9. 9
    23 Daves on 27 Jul 2021 #

    A highly unusual Christmas number one for me, as I think I’ve probably only heard it once or twice in my life. I wasn’t tuning into Radios One or Two very frequently at this point and was otherwise very distracted with various changes of my own – early in the New Year in 2004 I was due to move to Australia to work abroad for awhile, and that’s when my relationship with the British charts dissolves almost completely. (That said, while there were very few UK number ones that made no impression at all in Australia, there were some huge Aus Number Ones in 2004 – “Scar” by Missy Higgins, for example, and the bloody awful cover of “Black Betty” by Spiderbait – that didn’t even come close to prodding the bottom end of the UK Top 100).

    Anyway, I digress. “Changes” is a peculiar, uncomfortable and slightly icky concept from the outset. From the impressions I’d gleaned of both characters via “The Osbournes”, neither Kelly nor Ozzy really seemed like the kind of people prone to spraying flowery sentiments all over the place, and the song just feels uncomfortable as a result. They don’t even look confident about the track in the video, which just adds to the feeling that this was a rather forced enterprise – marketing the Osbournes brand into something more universally (and seasonably) relatable rather than building on their actual personalities or abilities.

    Interestingly though, the YouTube video has comments underneath suggesting that it did touch some people, from people whose fathers had died to others who danced with their Dads to it at their wedding, so it obviously did reach some people. It does absolutely nothing for me, though, feeling more like one of those song poems that proliferated throughout the sixties, or perhaps a father and his daughter singing to each other in some kind of ‘make your own record’ booth. It’s rather poor.

    As for Kelly, I actually liked some of her other records. “One Word” may have been more than slightly inspired by “Fade To Grey” but was good enough for me to actually consider buying at the time, which was a huge surprise. Her father was very non-committal whenever asked about his daughter’s pop career, usually deflecting to what her felt were her better qualities (“I think she’d make a cracking actress”) but not all of the results were below par. I have to admit I’ve not listened to her LP, mind you.

    Relating back to the comment at #7, I’d say that she came across as a brattish teenager in “The Osbournes” but as an adult she seems much more mature and empathetic, a view I’ve had confirmed by a couple of people I know who have actually met and had dealings with her.

    Sharon Osbourne, otoh, had to contend with having Don Arden as a father which was neither the best start in life nor probably the most amazing introduction to the music business. Her biography, which I found lying around in a hotel I was staying in, is actually a fascinating and revealing read in some areas, particularly where she talks about Arden’s activities. Nothing to envy there, really. Can’t say I’m aware of her worst behaviour, though (apart from her run-ins with Steve Brookstein, who is no saint himself).

  10. 10
    Stephen Emmett on 27 Jul 2021 #

    @9 This was actually the number one the week BEFORE the Christmas 2003 chart. The actual Christmas number one that year is a Popular entry away, so we’ll just hold that discussion until then…

  11. 11
    James Silkstone on 27 Jul 2021 #

    One of the first number ones I can really remember being number one; it was the one that was at the top of the charts on the December 19th 2003 Top Of The Pops edition which I had watched at my grandparents home and become immediately transfixed with (I may be the one new viewer All New 2003 TOTP enticed) and can remember Kelly being tearfully interviewed by Tim Kash mid-way through the show and I *think* there was a phone-in from a still laid up Ozzy. I had no idea who these people were, all my eight year old mind knew was that the song was bad. Very, very bad. I could not understand how everyone in the country thought this was the best song out that week.

    In the eighteen years since, that hasn’t changed, though I am of course more aware of who Ozzy and Kelly Osborne are and that the British public is more than capable of sending utter tripe to the top of the charts with little rhyme or reason. Possibly the worst number one during my life-time? Certainly the worst I can think of in my time being aware of what the charts are. 0.

  12. 12
    Huw Thomas on 28 Jul 2021 #

    I was 6 in December 2003 but I have no memory of this from the time. I can’t imagine it lasted long on radio playlists.
    It’s not a great record by any stretch of the imagination but I will say that the vocals aren’t off-key. On the contrary, they sound bang-on and pitch-corrected throughout to me.

  13. 13
    AMZ1981 on 28 Jul 2021 #

    Black Sabbath are a band who have gone in and out of fashion but their overall influence is pretty undeniable. Given that this is their only real connection to a number one single it’s worth highlighting that, in spite of everything, their original and classic line up (Osbourne, Iommi, Butler, Ward) are – at the time of writing of course – still alive. Which is something not many classic bands can claim fifty years on (for the sake of pedantry the Let It Bleed era Stones do beat them out by a year but that wasn’t the original band).

    Vol 4 is not the best Sabbath album but for me it is home to the best track they ever recorded. Thankfully, in the context of this chart topper, I’m referring to Snowblind and not Changes which is a passable ballad in an album context but as a Sabbath ballad pales next to the oddly unremembered Solitude from Master Of Reality. Twee, point missing cover versions of classic tracks are hardly rare but the fact that this one features the original singer is truly tragic. It’s a novelty record and nothing more.

    Chart anoraks were probably more interested in the second highest new entry of the week; Santa’s List by Cliff Richard at number five. When, as expected, it failed to climb the next week it gave him his first ever number five hit as not one of his many previous top ten hits had stopped at that position.

  14. 14
    benson_79 on 28 Jul 2021 #

    In one of the more memorable metaphors I’ve seen, dear old Ozzy’s vocals at this time were described as sounding “like all his teeth have been replaced by bees”.

    Sharon, by all accounts, is a truly horrendous human.

  15. 15
    hardtogethits on 28 Jul 2021 #

    Brilliant comments. Over the years I’ve felt increasingly disconnected from the Popular community. I’m prepared to accept it’s an age thing; we’ve simply experienced different things at different times. But here, behold the uniting power of pop! It’s utterly dreadful!

    The only thing I’m inclined to add is that the series (and the Osbourne’s omnipresence) appealed to acquaintances who felt there needed to be an antidote to a certain kind of mainstream ‘reality’ culture. I don’t see it that way, and never have. You don’t like it? There’s the off button.

  16. 16
    23 Daves on 28 Jul 2021 #

    #15 – Yes – and I think it’s easy to forget just how much bafflement and shock there was around The Osbournes when it first launched as well, the sense that Ozzy was cheapening himself and potentially destroying his career as the Dark Lord. For every person who thought it was kooky and cool and an antidote to that, I seem to remember there were also Sabbath fans watching through their fingers.

    In the end, it appeared to do his reputation no harm whatsoever and clearly he (or rather Sharon) judged the public mood perfectly.

    Personally, I did always wonder whether they saw Vic and Bob’s regular sketch “Slade In Residence” and thought “Hang on…”

  17. 17
    Lee Saunders on 29 Jul 2021 #

    #16 Quite possibly because Ozzy, played by Neil Morrissey IIRC, once turned up as Slade’s next door neighbour to deliver a punch to Charlie Higson’s Simon Le Bon.

    Ozzy was also the subject of an episode of Nick Hancock’s You Only Live Once – a ‘twist’ on This Is Your Life dedicated to telling a celeb’s life back to them via only their mishaps – short of a couple of years before The Osbornes began. This episode is still popular online and I imagine, with its BBC One audience, it must have been at the time and tested the waters for what was to come.

  18. 18
    Teenage Ebola Victim on 29 Jul 2021 #

    This is the number-one that sounds most like a charity record which isn’t actually for charity. Essentially it’s a goodwill record, with sales motivated by his serious quad bike accident. Since it wasn’t propelled to number one by the death of the artist, I think that makes it a pretty unique number one. Some seriously unpleasant multi-tracking on Kelly’s weak vocals make it unlistenable.

    Coincidentally, a certain ITV show has been cancelled. Long before we got to discuss it on Popular but in the very week this comes up.

    Anyway, forty-three bunnies and counting, plus one counter-bunny. An incredible haul.

  19. 19
    Coagulopath on 29 Jul 2021 #

    Black Sabbath was always a band with profound weaknesses that they knew how to turn into strengths.

    Everyone’s heard the famous story of Tony Iommi losing his fingertips in an industrial accident, downtuning his guitar so the strings were slacker and less painful, and accidentally arriving at the heavy, sludgy sound that’s been a heavy metal cliche ever since.

    Likewise, they found a use for Ozzy’s limited and weak voice: they buried him in guitar tracks and reverb, creating an eerie effect. The best Black Sabbath songs sound like a pitiful warlock being swallowed by a malign force of darkness he’s summoned but can’t understand or control.

    But then you have “Changes”, their effort at a pop single, where Ozzy’s voice is left exposed against a piano. He actually sounds horrible, and it’s Sabbath’s worst “classic” song by a mile. Just a terrible idea.

    I had a theory that “Changes” was only popular because it makes good “bed” music in movies and TV shows – the “I’m going through changes!” line communicates a character at the bottom of a rebellion/ruin/redemption arc, or whatever.

    But then I went on Wikipedia and I saw that I was wrong. “Changes” has only been used in two TV shows, and it was the recent Charles Bradley cover. Oh well.

  20. 20
    AMZ1981 on 1 Aug 2021 #

    #19 it’s worth remembering that after he left Black Sabbath Ozzy struck out strongly with the Blizzard Of Oz album which took his sound in a more pop rock direction (and remains a terrific listen today). The quality control after that left a bit to be desired but for all his mental instability and numerous disturbing incidents his stock remained much higher than Iommi’s for the 80s and 90s.

  21. 21
    Sausagebrain on 1 Aug 2021 #

    Welcome back Tom! I honestly thought that the previous post would be the last one (and I wouldn’t have thought any less of you if you did decide to call it a day).

    The original isn’t the first Sabbath song I go for when I fancy a change from their signature heaviness (that honour goes to Spiral Architect, from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath). And for years, thanks to this cover, I couldn’t listen to the original ‘Changes’ at all.

    I’m not mad about it still. Even I have to admit that Sabbath’s lyrics could be a bit… basic. But the stark mellotron backing and Ozzy’s wounded wail sure do sound suitably despairing.

    And this version? The strings make it too mawkish by half.


  22. 22
    Mr Tinkertrain on 2 Aug 2021 #

    Only just discovered this entertaining blog, which is a pity as I’d have enjoyed commenting on the number 1s from 1996-2003, since they coincided with my high school years.

    As for this… It’s interesting that when the Osbournes started, Ozzy became known to my generation as a doddery old man, rather than the badass rock star that older generations were more familiar with. When The Osbournes was airing, I was vaguely aware of Sabbath but didn’t know any of their (or his) stuff, so I didn’t pay this song much attention at the time.

    Now (as my username suggests) I’m far more familiar with both Ozzy and Sabbath and a big fan of both, so it’s interesting to re-listen to this after getting used to the original version. And while it’s great to see Ozzy get a chart-topper at last (didn’t this set a record for the longest gap between first charting single and first number 1?), this isn’t particularly. I’m not even that fond of the original, but Kelly and the reworked lyrics add nothing.

    Gets a 4 – I can’t seem to actually register for the site though, is that a long-running issue?

  23. 23
    Ed on 2 Aug 2021 #

    @19 Glad you mentioned the Charles Bradley cover!

    As Tom says, the original is OK. His version is amazing.

    I love the studio take, done as a classic Southern Soul smoulder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T791POjnzAs

    And this live performance is almost unbearably intense: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfaOf70M4xs

  24. 24
    Ed on 2 Aug 2021 #

    I have always thought the genesis of The Osbournes must have come from this fantastic clip of Ozzy making breakfast, from Penelope Spheeris’s The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years.


  25. 25
    Ed on 2 Aug 2021 #

    I have always thought the genesis of The Osbournes must have come from this fantastic sequence of Ozzy making breakfast, from Penelope Spheeris’s The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years.


  26. 26
    Ed on 2 Aug 2021 #

    (Obligatory apology for repeat post: I thought the first one had been lost. Please feel free to delete one if you have a minute!)

  27. 27
    Ed on 2 Aug 2021 #

    (Obligatory apology for repeat post: I thought the first one had been lost. Please feel free to delete one if you have a minute!)

  28. 28
    Ed on 2 Aug 2021 #

    Last one on this. Black Sabbath are unquestionably one of the great world-historical forces in the popular music of the past century, up there with Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Abba, Kraftwerk, and Run-DMC. The entire metal genre does not exist without them. Even today, their inheritors are everywhere, much more than for bigger-selling contemporaries such as Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple.

    It is one of the joys of the UK singles chart, and of the Popular project, that the only time we brush against them here is through this abject TV cash-in, released more than 30 years after Sabbath’s heyday.

  29. 29
    Alexander on 9 Aug 2021 #

    The tell-tale moment in this risible gloop is Kelly’s flat-as-a-pancake delivery of
    ” It took so lawwwnngg to re-a-lize “. Even with her daddy there to hold her hand, this is a young woman facing her limitations. At the time, I just assumed this was a song specifically written for the purpose of the father/daughter pairing. I’m somewhat surprised, then, to find that the original has a certain power with it’s spare arrangement and Ozzy’s reedy vocal. This version, however, has several schlocky add-ons, while Kelly confirms that whatever traits she’s inherited from her father, vocal prowess is not one of them.

    The Osbournes was one of those shows I found myself drawn into, and probably watched more episodes than I was intending to. I can certainly remember several of the quotes
    ( “Oh, look, a Ferrari ” and “Don’t be so disgusting, Sharon ” being two that come straight to mind). Part of the fascination was watching a version of family life so different from your own – These kids went out, without permission, any hour of the day or night. They had their friends over as often as they fancied. There didn’t appear to be any boundaries, no matter how appallingly they behaved – Parents were not only answered back to, but answered back with expletives. If one of the offspring stomped off during a row, their instant return was implored, not demanded. This is a roundabout way of saying that Jack and Kelly struck me as a pair of spoilt brats. This record (and the awful Shut Up) have a definite air of “Daddy, I want a pop career ” about them. We’re going through changes, indeed.

  30. 30
    hardtogethits on 10 Aug 2021 #

    I love the idea, hinted at by Ed at #28*, that there could be some kind of World Heritage of Pop status. I think those are great examples (Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Abba, Kraftwerk, and Run-DMC). I agree Black Sabbath belongs in there.

    However, if that idea holds good, then those with the status should be kept under review. ‘Changes’ and ‘The Osbornes’ are to Black Sabbath what Liverpool Waters is to Liverpool. It’s not that acts we don’t want acts to develop; it’s that we don’t want that development to put at peril the unique aspects that were at the heart of their original creativity. My Ding A Ling, for example, may not be very Chuck Berry. However, it has at its core a seediness that respects that musical pioneers often do it to be well-known and make money. It might not line up completely with the values we choose to admire, but it’s not incompatible with them.

    (I’m biting my own nails wondering if Mamma Mia should mean Abba is stripped of the status. I don’t like to think so, but I can’t argue against it.)

    That’s #28 at the time of writing, before duplicate entries get sifted out.

  31. 31
    keirin on 11 Aug 2021 #

    The references to Chuck Berry and My Ding A Ling in particular, bring to mind an interesting sub group of musicians and bands with long service No 1’s (of variable quality) to their name. Other examples incl Jamiroquai and Stevie Wonder’s early eighties chart toppers. Tho even in this company Ozzy and Kelly rate unfavourably.

  32. 32
    Coagulopath on 18 Aug 2021 #

    #28 “the only time we brush against them here is through this abject TV cash-in”

    Though most metal fans wouldn’t have it any other way!

    Like punk rock, the genre takes pride in its own unpopularity. Tom said in his review of “God Save the Queen” that the song’s almost more symbolically powerful as a failed number one than a successful one. Mutatis mutandis…

    The only actual heavy metal #1 is likely to remain Iron Maiden’s “Bring Your Daughter etc”. You could consider “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “I Would Do Anything For Love” as edge cases, though those feel like operatic rock songs that use metal as a kind of fashion accessory.

    Limp Bizkit just serves as a vivid example of how loud, distorted guitars do not heavy metal make.

  33. 33
    AMZ1981 on 19 Aug 2021 #

    #32 we do have a 2006 bunny that can be termed “metal” and was an almost unique case of a record from that genre getting to the top completely on its own merits (even Iron Maiden were a novelty in some ways, sneaking to the top during a quiet sales period with multi formatting which was not common at that time).

    The problem is that metal and its close relative, hard rock, has been redefined and reclaimed so many times over the decades. I think the bottom line is that the genre has actually produced any number of excellent and versatile bands (not always given their critical due) but with the result that when they break big with an individual song it tends to be from the less rocky side of their output.

    Equally oddly it’s just occurred to me that there was a band who had a huge number of chart topping singles and, after their commercial peak passed, continued to share stages with metal bands and yet are completely forgotten about – Slade.

    Apologies if anybody has mentioned this but another thing that’s been overlooked is Ozzy Osborne’s joint highest charting single prior to Changes (along with Paranoid) which was an uncredited but prominent appearance on Shake Your Head by Was Not Was – which by no standard is a rock record.

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