Saturday, March 15, 2008

Everybody's a Star -- the real story

We get so many visits to the Village Green from folks looking for more information about the Kinks song Everybody's a Star, I thought it would be helpful to post the actual track from Soap Opera for our Saturday night rock out.

This song was NOT created to sell a certain brand of sneakers. Everybody's a Star is the opening number in a witty and timeless piece of rock and roll theatre. The plot concerns a pretentious rock star who decides to trade places with a perfectly ordinary man, in order to get material for a new song. The rock star approaches "Norman" with the promise that he can make anybody into a star. The song cleverly makes reference to Shakepeare's "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players."

We all read lines and we all act a part
We all need a script and an audience to play to
No matter what you do or who you are --
Everybody's a star!

So our rock star trades places with Norman, living the ordinary life with an ordinary wife (Ordinary People) and a boring job in the city. He gets up in the morning to face the awful commute by train (Rush Hour Blues), puts in his hours at his dull job (Nine to Five), takes the same train home every night (When Work Is Over), and stops at the pub for endless drinks (Have Another Drink). He wanders home in the wee hours (Underneath the Neon Sign), his life a pitiful and drab repetition day after day. He day dreams of a romantic adventure (Holiday Romance) but even his fantasies end in failure and rejection.

At home, he sings a wry duet with his wife about how happy they make each other, but the reality is -- he cannot stand her cooking (You Make It All Worthwhile). A final flare up ensues:

After dinner Norman becomes depressed.

Norman's office got on my nerves to-day.

What do you mean? You are Norman!

(Shouts) I am a star!

You're not a star Norman. You're
just a plain ordinary little bloke and
even if you walked down the street in
a silver suit people still wouldn't
recognise you. You're dull, ordinary
and uninteresting! You're a drag!

Star rises from his chair and smashes
the dinner plates to the floor.

I hate this house and I hate you, but
more than anything else I hate those

Don't you touch those ducks Norman!
They were a present from my mother.
Look, Norman, I've had enough of you
and your ridiculous fantasies. First of
all you wanted to be a painter, then
you wanted to be an astronaut, then
a footballer and now you're playing at
being a rock singer. If you touch those
ducks I'm leaving! (Ducks On The Wall)

At this point in the show, we realize that there are several layers of fantasy going on here. The so-called rock star may have been ordinary Norman all along. Perhaps all the songs we'd been hearing were merely Norman's fantasies created to cope with his miserable life.

When I saw this show performed by the Kinks way back in 1975 at the Akron Civic Theatre, the audience became very distraught during the following song (A Face in the Crowd):

Our Star doesn't know who he is any
more. Is he the starmaker, the image
maker, looking for material or is he
just plain boring little Norman after
all? Perhaps he should accept that he
is a plain ordinary bloke and not try to
be something he is not.

(A) Face In The Crowd

I've got to stop faking it,
I've got to start facing it,
I'm going to take my final bow
Then I'm going to take my place in the crowd.
I know I'll get used to it,
I've got to stop acting like a clown.

I've gotta start facing up to what I really am.
I've got to realise l'm just an ordinary man.
I think that I'll just settle down
And take my place in the crowd.
I don't want to lie to myself any more.

It felt like Ray Davies who was playing the part of "The Star" was telling us that he didn't want to continue to be our star. That he wanted to live the ordinary life. The emotions were palpable -- I remember quite clearly standing up and shouting "Don't stop Ray!" along with all the other fans there.

But then came the final number (You Can't Stop the Music) with it's ironic reassurance that :

Singers come and go,
And stars fade away.
They vanish in the haze
And they're never seen again,
But the music just keeps playing on.

Themes developed in this musical have been continued throughout Ray Davies' writing career. In fact, in his latest CD -- Working Man's Cafe -- the song In A Moment takes me straight back to Underneath the Neon Lights. The metaphor of wakefulness in the odd hours underneath artificial lights is a recurring theme in Davies' lyrics. (See too: Artificial Light).

So think of Norman the next time you see that shoe commercial. If you really think that putting on a certain brand of sneakers is going to make you a star -- well, maybe in the sense that:

No matter what your occupation is
Everybody's in showbiz.


Anonymous said...

nice. Thanks.
BP, The Boinks

Anonymous said...

As a Converse-wearing Kinks fan, I must say that commercial is one of my favorites.

I only wish they would have figured out a way to fit in Dave Davies' truly wicked guitar solo.

Richard said...

very insightful..brought back some heavy ,deep menories..thx.