Who is Changes?
A REFLECTION ON PRE-CHANGES YEARS BY NICHOLAS TESLUK
Changes, the duo consisting of R. N. Taylor and Nicholas Tesluk was founded in 1969 in Chicago, Illinois. Though this was the year that they realized they could join forces at song writing, due to Robert's ability to write beautiful poems and lyric poetry, and Nicholas' ability to write melodies, they, in fact, being first cousins, have been together since infancy.
Nicholas was born in Chicago but actually raised about forty miles north in the small idyllic village of Wildwood, Illinois. His family moved there when he was about three years old and at the time theirs (a house that his father built) was one of the very few houses that existed in this area. With mostly farm fields nearby and a small pair of lakes (called "Twin Lakes" but actually two mosquito-breeding ponds which were only about six feet deep in the center) in a wooded area about 100 yards from his house, he and his friends would have joyous times exploring the area like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. One of these little lakes had a small island in the center and they would oftentimes raft across to the island which became their little hideaway. In the winter, which in Illinois were frequently unbearably cold, he and his friends would sometimes play ice hockey in the middle of the night since the main lake had a switchable light to illuminate it. This small-town country setting of Nicholas' formative years gave him a childlike naivete which he fortunately (pretty much) outgrew when later exposed to the "outside" world. During these early years Robert would take the train, as northern Illinois has an excellent rail system, north to visit Nicholas frequently and Nicholas and his family would often drive to Chicago to visit Robert's family. Nicholas lived in this same house until high school graduation at which time he was, as many teens his age, uncertain of what he wanted to do with his life. He finally decided on continuing education at an institute of technology in Chicago. Incidentally, when visited today the same little village of Wildwood in which he was raised is very highly populated and though still in a country setting, no longer resembles the simple place that Nicholas had known as a youth.
Robert, who was born in Chicago and also (as previously stated) raised there, was a streetwise city kid, as opposed to the "country boy" mannerisms that somewhat characterized Nicholas. From an early age, life in the city was predicated on a "survival of the fittest" life and "pecking order" of youths and teens similar to that depicted in many "coming of age" stories in addition to the play/motion picture entitled "West Side Story". Robert, who always kept himself in good physical shape would stand toe-to-toe with any of the other kids, no matter their size or age, and usually come out victorious. He and his friends, all being members of a "street gang", would fight other "gangs" for supremacy. As mentioned in other writings, though this seems potentially dangerous (especially if one thinks of the "drugged-up" punk gangs of today), it was more or less a "romantic coming of age" ritual of the mid to late 50s. Though these were, in fact, violent street fights, there weren't usually guys packing firearms, as today, and the point was not to kill the members of the other side, or someone caught in the crossfire, but instead to reign victorious over the area and become "king of the hill" so to speak. This is not to say that people weren't ever injured or killed but that wasn't the main goal of this form of city warfare. Aside from street life, Robert was always reading books and writing stories and poems and painting pictures. This in addition to the fact that he had great interest and love of history. One remembers when visiting him during his teen years of the large paintings in black line art on his bedroom wall. Two remain vivid memories. One of the stone monolithic faces, Moai, from Easter Island, and the other a life-size standing nude woman seen from behind. This "Renaissance man" lifestyle was most likely the dichotomy which characterized many warriors and artists throughout history. It was the ability to be passionate about and dedicated to everything one undertakes be it art, love or war.
Shortly before Nicholas graduated high school, Robert fell in love with and married a lady who lived on Chicago's west side in an area close to where Robert's family had previously lived before moving to the northwest side in the early 60s. Meanwhile, while attending college in Chicago, Nicholas lived with Robert's mother and father at this northwest side residence (his dear aunt and uncle were like a second set of parents to him) and lived with them for three years. Robert's marriage unfortunately dissolved later in this period and this was a very difficult time for him as he had loved this lady dearly. Robert moved back home for a while and he and Nicholas would get together often when Nicholas wasn't at school and they would go to a movie theater, to downtown Chicago, or in the summertime to beaches to pass the time and forget their worries.
It was also during these years that Robert became heavily involved in the paramilitary organization known as The Minutemen, of which several interviews and articles have been written, so there were usually several months at a time that Robert would be out of state carrying out his organizational and training functions with that group. After most of the dust had settled on these activities and Nicholas had received his degree from college they were together again pretty frequently and again passing time in the summer at the local Chicago beaches playing Robert's acoustic guitar when they happened on their first co-written song. At the beach one afternoon Nicholas developed an interesting chord progression and created a melody to it while Robert spontaneously wrote lyrics to fit the melody. The song was entitled "You're Always With Me" and though actually pretty awful (and will never see the light to one of their albums in any form), it led them to believe that they could, in fact, write songs together. An interesting side note, is that this first song was the only song that they have ever written as a team that Nicholas' music came before Robert's lyrics. On all others Nicholas has developed the music around Robert's lyric poetry. That was the summer of 1969 which turned out to be the beginning of it all for Changes.
[These are Nicholas' memories of some of the early years that developed into the duo recalled from "prehistoric" (Changes-wise) time to the seminal formation of the group.]
Photo of Robert and Nicholas by Barbara Tesluk
Further biographical information and discourses can be found in Info. --History