The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.

  1. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Artificial Man.

    stereo mix, recorded Jan-Mar 1974 at Konk Studios, Hornsey, London

    Scene: After his capture, Flash is taken to a secret hideout to have
    his brain cleansed, and his mind conditioned.
    Flash, Mr. Black and the Mad Scientist sing:

    Flash: I can't believe it's happening
    I just want to stay the way that I am.
    I don't want to live a lie in an artificial world.

    Mr Black: Let's build an antiseptic world,
    Full of artificial people.
    Cure all diseases, conquer pain
    And monitor the human brain,
    And see what thoughts you're thinking.
    Observe your feelings,
    Secret fears,
    Controlling everything you say and do
    And we will build a master race
    To live within our artificial world.

    Tell it to the people all across the land,
    We're going to build an artificial man
    With the physique of a Tarzan
    And the profile of a Cary Grant,
    A superior being
    Totally made by hand.
    Throw out imperfection,
    Mould you section by section,
    Gonna make you the ultimate creation.

    Flash: I can visualise the day
    When the world will be controlled by artificial people,
    But I don't want to live a lie in an artificial world.

    Mr Black: Tell the world that we finally did it,
    Made a man that's totally programmed,
    Preconditioned thoughts and emotions,

    Push-button artificial man.
    Did you ever want to live forever?
    Well here's your chance to be a total automaton
    'Cos we've improved on God's creation
    An outdated homo sapien.
    Make you taller if you want it
    Make your hair grow longer if you need it.
    If it doesn't exist then I guess we can breed it.
    There'll be no disagreements,
    We'll dedicate our lives to achievements,
    And organise your life and keep it totally planned.

    Flash: I can visualise the day
    When the world will be controlled by artificial people,
    But I don't want to live a lie in an artificial world.

    Mr Black and Mad Scientist: Tell the world we finally did it.
    Modified the population,
    Put your senses and your mind
    Under constant observation
    Even when you're dreaming.
    Replaced your nose, heart and lungs,
    So shake me with your artificial hand.
    We went and built a master race
    To live within our artificial world.

    Written by: Ray Davies
    Published by: Davray Music Ltd.

    This track ..... well, it is hilarious, sinister, farcical, poignant ..... and probably a dozen other things ....

    It seems that rather than being tried for treason, Flash and his gang are being handed to Mr Black's own Josef Megele, labeled aptly here as the mad scientist.

    So we are told that Flash is going to have his brain cleansed and mind conditioned by Mr Black and his mad scientist, and it seems like Flash may be the first person to go through the ..... reconditioning.... reprogramming ....

    So we open with Flash stating quite reasonably that he can't believe this is happening and he doesn't want to live a lie in an artificial world.
    Then Mr Black starts off on his psychotic rant....
    Here is a really important point to always remember. Any person claiming to be righteous and doing God's work that tries to remove your free will, is a liar, and not doing God's work at all. Free Will is considered incredibly important biblically ...
    Anyway ...

    The full depravity of Mr Black is revealed here.
    Again, I see Ray painting this character as a Hitler type character, and here he is full blown ... with a psycho factor that comparatively makes Norman Bates seem somewhat reasonable.
    Mr Black lays out his plan to cleanse the world ... literally....
    He wants to bleach the minds, bodies and souls of everyone and everything.... but that isn't enough.... he wants to create his own loyal plastic robots, that he refers to as his master race....
    This is obviously psychotic...
    We are all flawed people, even the best and brightest. So by definition, the idea that anyone could create a perfect, or master race is obviously ludicrous.... and anyone claiming they can, or will, needs to be placed in a very soft room, with one of those special hug-me vests.

    So Mr Black rants on and on.
    Then, Flash sings that he can visualise a day, when the world is controlled by artificial people, but he doesn't want to live in an artificial world.

    Mr Black announces that they have done it. They have created a totally programmed person, with preconditioned thoughts and emotions ... even if one thought that this would solve some of the world's problems ... look who did the programming LOL
    Very typically also, after running on a platform of excessive puritanical control, for a "Godly" world, Mr Black reveals that he essentially thinks he is God "we've improved on God's creation" ....

    Mr Black is probably one of the most revolting people to ever be a character in a concept album...

    Interestingly as we look through the lyrics here though, I find a few things really interesting.
    Look, the story is like a high farce. It is exaggerated and somewhat tongue in cheek in places, over the top and all the rest of it, but .....
    "Let's build an antiseptic world....
    And monitor the human brain,
    And see what thoughts you're thinking.
    Observe your feelings,
    Secret fears,
    Controlling everything you say and do"
    This is already being done, via social media platforms and search algorithms designed to direct rather than inform .....
    "Put your senses and your mind
    Under constant observation"
    We're already here as well ....

    Anyway, for me, I will take every single one of you, au naturale, whether we agree with each other on certain issues or not, whether we occasionally annoy each other or not ... no matter what trials or problems, I would rather have an authentic everyone, than an artificial anyone, and all I would ask in return is to accept me on the same terms.

    But what is this like as a song....
    It opens up with this descending progression... and I know we have seen the Kinks use descending progressions a lot, but this is a particularly sinister sounding progression. It has a slow measured beat, and it comes across a lumbering or labouring descending chord progression and beat....
    In some ways it kind of sounds like All The Young Dudes' evil twin, or sinister reflection or something along those lines.

    The band, again, carry this off with aplomb ... all of them....

    We open with Ray singing as Flash, and as has been noted, he has yet another tonal delivery. It sounds a little posh, but it has more than that going on in it, and I look forward to @Fortuleo 's breakdown of that.
    Then when Mr Black's vocal section comes in, we have Dave taking the lead vocal, with backing singers, that almost seems like Mr Black's multiple Personalities harmonising along.

    The opening section is constant in tempo, but something about the way it is played makes it seem like it is slowing, or winding down, but as we come to the end of this section, we have the piano come in at double time, and it launches us into the main body of the song.
    This section of the song is preposterously chirpy and bouncy, and seems to enhance the psychotic nature of Mr Black....

    Ray's delivery of the vocal, and particularly the female backing singers coming in with their "artificial, artificial man" backing, creates lots of visuals for me.
    The way Ray snaps out the words in some sections, and then smoothly slides them out in others is pretty cool. The backing vocals, I can see some girls dressed in fifties cheerleader costumes, doing that side side shimmy that backing vocalists have been known to do.

    Just about halfway through we get another change .... and it sort of makes me think of 10cc, not that it specifically sounds like anything in particular.
    We get a held chord, and then move into this ensemble vocal, over a simplified backing.

    We rev back into the Artificial Man section....

    Then we burst into a reprise of the opening section with Mr Black and the Mad Scientist professing success at removing the humanity from humans. Again it is Dave here on the vocals and I reckon he nails it.

    On so many levels this is a difficult song to try and break down, because it has so much going on, and it is sort of a lyrical sidestep, or perhaps focus point, on the absolute insanity of a Mr Black type character .... In my current brain fog, that's the best I've got lol, and it took me two hours to get that out ..... so have at it folks.

    I find this to be an interesting song. I don't dislike it at all. Lyrically it would be wonderful absurdist comedy, if it didn't actually get so close to reality ... and perhaps that is the thing that makes many struggle with this album. Although Ray has created another great album, with interesting music and lyrics, some serious stuff here, and some humourous stuff there, the themes and lyrics may be just a little too close to reality to be comfortable...

    Another thing, and just tell me to shut up if you like .... but for some reason when I was going through this song I had to look up when The Rocky Horror Picture Show first came out, because something about this section of the album has a Rocky Horror feel to me .... maybe I'm just delusional ... but the first Rocky Horror Shows were staged in late 1973 in London ... So Ray could well have seen one....

    Anyway, over to you, folks

  2. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "Artificial Man"

    It's that double album fatigue again - this is another ambitious multi-section epic.

    Trouble is, by this point in side four I'm all epic-ed out and looking for a nice straight off-ramp out of Preservation World. It's largely passed me by when I've listened to the whole album, but it's a track that definitely benefits from being heard in isolation so you can appreciate the slow build and the changes, and don't need to worry about which bits are being sung by Flash or Black (or the Mad Scientist - where did he come from??).

    Without doubt one of the best things about this track is a rare vocal outing for Dave, singing Dave-style lyrics in the classic Dave style. It really is something special when the two brothers share vocals. Ray gets to use a variety of voices again, and piles up those multi-syllable words again. Is the "I can visualize a day..." part another musical quote from "I Am Your Man"?

    Anyway, things have definitely taken a very bizarre turn in Preservation World now - which the rest of the album doesn't really build on, which makes it a bit of an anticlimax in the end.
  3. hyntsonsvmse

    hyntsonsvmse Nick Beal

    Studio wise, I love their music up to and including Something else. After that I really dont care much for their studio work. The early work is breathtakingly good.
    We saw them in 82 at a small theatre and they were brilliant. I will never forget the stonking version they gave of tears of a clown. Celluloid heroes was the one for the road version with the extended work-outs at either end.
  4. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident


    Let's build an antiseptic world,
    Full of artificial people.
    Cure all diseases, conquer pain
    And monitor the human brain,
    And see what thoughts you're thinking.
    Observe your feelings,
    Secret fears,
    Controlling everything you say and do
    And we will build a master race
    To live within our artificial world.

    Tell the world we finally did it.
    Modified the population,
    Put your senses and your mind
    Under constant observation
    Even when you're dreaming.

    I haven't watched the whole thing so correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't this essentially the outline of humanity's destiny as presented by Mark Zuckerberg (wearing a black top throughout! :eek:) in his recent completely reassuringly utopian 'The Metaverse and How We'll Build it Together' promo film?

  5. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    God, I hated this song when I first heard it but, listening to it now, I actually quite like it! It's still overly theatrical but that goes with the territory, it definitely has a lot of good parts though it's debatable if it entirely hangs together. Very early 70s Bowie.

    Lyrically, Ray appears to be playing it for laughs at times (Cary Grant and Tarzan?), which is just as well as I think it would be pretty dumb otherwise. The vocals also suggest Ray is not being entirely serious, it turns out it's not Brecht after all, it's more Widow Twanky. It's a silly way to end what is has proven to be a rather silly fable. I imagine this was highly entertaining live.
  6. stewedandkeefed

    stewedandkeefed Came Ashore In The Dead Of The Night

    I am sympathetic to the idea that there is a certain amount of fatigue with all of these mini epics of which "Artificial World" is another example. If nothing else, you could say Preservation is quite a feat in terms of arranging songs. But I also find "Artificial World" quite interesting. I am also struck by the literary reference here to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein with the idea of creating a person. Of course, Frankenstein tells a story of technology run amok when there are no limits on what humans might be able to achieve. In 2020, Bob Dylan did the same thing with "My Own Version Of You". I must say that having said I was not that big a fan of Dave's lead vocals, he seems to really hit the spot with his vocal turn in this song.
  7. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    Artificial Man is a really interesting track - I like some bits and don't care for others. I really enjoy Dave's vocals on this, and even the female backing vocals work. Some of the high vocals remind me of what Roger Taylor was doing with Queen from about now on.
  8. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Mmm, talk about pier pressure now… Nah, I can't do it. Too many things at once for my own musical brain to attempt any kind of breakdown (except my own nervous one!). To me, this cubist track sounds something like an inebriated Bowie doing a duet with George Harrison in his full-on coke period (Dave's “doooo-ooo-ooo-oooh” at the 1'00 mark is so George… even though I'll admit Roger Taylor is a great comparison as well!) after too much listening to ELO's first three records, with Elton John on piano and Burt Bacharach's girls singers from the Lost Horizons' soundtrack joining in (even though I'll admit Rocky Horror Picture Show could be an apter comparaison).
    That’s what I hear and my head explodes every time I listen to this track, like a dog hearing ultra-sounds from all over the place. It makes me think of too many other tunes that Ray may or may not quote deliberately, in every corner of the early seventies pop spectrum. Badfinger, T-Rex, Queen, Mott, musicals, solo George, solo John, ELO, even the Kinks, somehow they're all there – and more. Of course, Bowie is the most obvious. Ray (and Dave) do many of his voices on this particular song, with lyrics that could almost pass for a Ziggy pastiche.

    I like/love bits and pieces throughout the track. To be fair, I think I even like/love every single one of them, but it’s clearly too fragmented and all over the place for its own good. Most Preservation elements are here (mini-suite structure, female vocals, theater, rhythmic changes, strings, tympani, Dave guitar-heroing in the left channel etc.), and I find it interesting to note that for this Black vs. Flash number, Ray still decided against attributing “parts” to the various singers: he’s still doing both Flash and Black on most of this song, even though Dave’s also here to sing (extremely well) some of Mr. Black's parts. The Sci-fi bit is ok, still relevant today of course (but hardly “original” even for 1974). But what’s the most striking to me is how it connects thematically with so many older Kinks songs, Apeman, Plastic Man, King Kong, 20th Century Man, God’s Children… probably more, reminding us of the obsessional nature of Ray’s work and concerns in those years. As for @ARL's question about the Mad Scientist (where did he come from??), I think it's fair to say he was there all along : the author of this whole Preservation extravaganza, leader Supremo of the Kinks and megalomaniac in chief, Mr. Ray Davies.
  9. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident


    I love 'Artificial Man'.. I guess it's where the story really goes off the deep end beyond agit prop commentary into pulp sci fi territory.. this last act gear change into the fantastic and ludicrous.. except of course, it's not really sci fi or improbable at all these days, (re: the lines I quoted above as opposed to the sillier stuff about Cary Grant and nose jobs) which is what gives the song such enduring power even as it lurches into a lurid and some might argue desperate final raising of the stakes . The pre internet speculative minds of the 20th century generally imagined such transhumanism to manifest itself as outwardly cyborg like creatures (I have posted a Cyberman from Dr Who above as an example of such but AFAIR if you listen to the audio of the live Preservation show it seems likely that someone dressed as some kind of automaton appeared on stage: would love to see photos of this scene if any were taken!) but we can all see that in reality this is coming/came to pass far more subtly through social media and the internet seeping into every aspect of out lives (he writes from his desktop computer onto a social messageboard)..

    The way the melody descends on 'see what thoughts you're thinking' and especially 'even when you're dreaming' gets me every time: 1984 comparisons are so horribly overused on the internet I hate to add to that steaming huge pile but it reminds me of the end of that tediously over referenced pile 'o paper where O'Brien confirms to Winston that his small rebellion as been monitored all along and there was never any chance of escape.. the fait accompli, the illusion of freedom betrayed.. that free thoughts aren't even possible in your subconscious .. yes these have long been the comforting delusions of a million conspiracy theorists and I used to scoff at such but as technology has progressed seemingly to the Singularity and beyond in recent years I admit I've come to rethink my cynicism about such fearmongering, and a song like this grows less ridiculous :/
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2022
  10. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Btw, usually I wouldn't suggest that such ancillary material get a day to itself, but I was wondering after the album proper is done, if it might be good to discuss the full audio of the Preservation show that's on Youtube? IMO it's so key to making full sense of this project that it needs it's own day in the spotlight.
  11. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Artificial Man
    Having done pretty deep dives into the '70s albums of both Queen and Bowie in recent years, I must be acclimatised to this sort of thing, because this song sounds neither very out there nor surprising to me. What it does sound like is excellent, supremely catchy, and a much more worthy single than the likes of "Money Talks".
  12. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Artificial Man: For some reason I see this scene as if staged in a theater in the round, Flash secured to a chair in the center of the stage, floodlight illuminating him as the song begins.

    Flash’s vocals: this isn’t the Flash we know. Instead, it’s constipated-sounding Flash, I guess, because there’s no vocal resemblance to anything we’ve heard Flash sing before this.

    A lot of stuff going on in the song. I like the horn arrangements and appreciate the inclusion of the female 50s-thing backing vocals (a nice reminder of Flash’s girl-entourage, The Floosies).

    Staging of The Mad Scientist: Black-framed glasses and white coat.

    Best vocal: Dave at the very end.
  13. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    At this stage, in my head at least ....

    Tomorrow we visit the Scrapheap.
    Monday we wind up the album proper, with the final announcement and Salvation Road
    Tuesday although there is a bizarre single release in between, with the Holiday Romance (Soap Opera) A-side and Shepherds Of The Nation B-side, we'll look at Holiday Romance in context with the Soap Opera album.
    We will look at the Preservation single to wrap up the studio recordings of the Preservation related material.

    The bonus track which is the live version of Slum Kids .... it seems like this is the logical place for it, but it seems to have only been released as two live recordings ... one from 77, and the one on the Act 2 cd from 1979... It appears to be a cast off from the project, but I am not sure where else to slot it in.......

    So it seems like Wednesday should be a look at the Preservation concerts, but it may pay for the actual concert to be posted on Saturday afternoon/Sunday Morning, to give folks that want to, a chance to have a listen.
    Then probably Thursday post Golden Hour vol 3, and Slum Kids

    Giving us Friday and Saturday for Dave's two 1975 tracks from Decade, and then on the Monday we dive into Soap Opera....

    So that would leave the next batch looking like this....

    Tomorrow - Scrapheap City
    Sunday - post the Preservation concert for folks to have time to reference it.
    Monday - Announcement and Salvation Road
    Tuesday - Preservation (single)
    Wednesday - The Preservation Concerts
    Thursday - Golden Hour Vol 3 - Slum Kids (live)
    Friday - Dave Davies - Web Of Time
    Saturday - Dave Davies - Mr Moon
    Monday (Jan 24th) - Soap Opera

    How does that look folks?
  14. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    DISKOJOE and mark winstanley like this.
  15. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    As you are much more familiar with the Preservation Concerts, would you like to post the concert with a rough outline or something on Saturday afternoon, or Sunday morning?
    All Down The Line and DISKOJOE like this.
  16. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Sure! Although I wouldn't say I'm that familiar ( I mean, there's people on this thread who actually attended the shows!). But yeah, happy to do so.
  17. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Cheers mate ... I haven't even had a chance to listen to the show yet, and all I know about it is what has been posted as we talked about the album. :)
  18. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Afterthought: A Clockwork Orange came out in ‘71 so Ray may have seen that, too.
  19. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    I always thought Dave was meant to be playing the Mad Scientist. I know the way the lines are apportioned isn't entirely consistent with that, but it seems like that might have been the intention at some point, otherwise why specify an additional character? A shame he didn't get more vocal leads on this LP, given with all the characters there's scope for more of that stuff in theory, but it's great to hear him here.
  20. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    That should right up Vangro’s alley.
  21. Ex-Fed

    Ex-Fed Not Fed Ex

    New York State
    I wish my memories were clearer. The Felt Forum was 48 years ago. On the subject of the "Artificial Man" staging, I do seem to remember someone clomping about--arms out, stiff-legged--like the Frankenstein monster. (This was a widespread trope at the time. You may remember that Sally Simpson, in the Tommy film, marries a rock star depicted as having a flat head and bolts in his neck, for no apparent reason.)
  22. Jasper Dailey

    Jasper Dailey Forum Resident

    Southeast US
    Artificial Man: Yep, this nails it for me. Double albums are like double periods of a class; most attention spans just run out of steam, and that's the feeling I get when listening to this one in the context of the album. But even out of context, I'm not sure it's my favorite track. I do think it's the purest example of Ray doing glam so far, but if I want to listen to a foofy David Bowie sounding guy singing about sci-fi, I'll probably listen to David Bowie. Not sure if anyone called it out (maybe it's so obvious, it didn't need to be called out), but I do like how there's a callback to When A Solution Comes in the middle part (which, if I'm listening to glammy Kinks I'd rather listen to that one). Anyway, not a bad song IMO, but not one that sticks with me.

    I guess I'd just add that from a lyrical perspective, this sort of kooky (near-)end to the whole kit'n'kaboodle is great, and I respect that. Rather than give us some grave, stern epic about why Flash and Black both suck (*ahem Nobody Gives*), we get this wacky outcome that aligns with one of the themes running through Ray's music across the decades; there is no worse fate than becoming "like everybody else". Maybe in light of that, I should soften my stance towards the song as a whole, because it really pulls the entire album together from that perspective.
  23. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Maplewood, NJ
    Artificial Man

    I remember months ago when we were listing out all the "____ Man" songs in the Kinks Katalogue, this song was mentioned as one that we'd be covering down the road. It seemed so far away at the time of Plastic Man and Apeman, yet, so much had seemed to come between those and the likes of Session Man and A Well Respected Man. Yet, here we are. Around the time of that discussion, I had no idea Artificial Man would sound anything like this.

    Another almost montage of songs pieced together, stitched together like Frankenstein's monster. A prog epic here, an acoustic hand there, an orchestral foot over there. With a '50s pastiche background vocal tossed in for kicks.

    This line is just hilarious: "If it doesn't exist then I guess we can breed it" with the "ooh oh" or whatever Ray does after that in the background. It's so over the top, and you miss it unless you are really paying attention.

    I think with a lot of the songs and styles on this album, it's an acquired taste. If you were just jumping right into this, it's difficult to find that someone would love it right away. It rewards repeated listenings, and of course, we have been groomed for these continued transitions in their style bit by bit over the past 3 or 4 months on this thread.

    I'll also just add that this:

    ...could also pass a Ray Davies penned lyric. I can read that sentence using the melody of Shepards of the Nation.
  24. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    Artificial Man

    Did Ray read Brave New World?

    I'm really starting to get @ARL s comments about double album fatigue, but from the other side. I never really could sit through Act 2 all at once. But now, concentrating on just one song each day, I'm enjoying most of them more than before. Rather ironic since these songs are all part of a story, and I'm getting into them more as individual pieces.

    In any case, this one starts out inauspiciously, but develops into another multi-movement, compelling piece with good momentum. I also love Dave's vocals as well as the female backup vocals here. This song is like a perfect Tetris screen, with all the blocks coming together to perfectly fill the screen.
  25. Martyj

    Martyj Who dares to wake me from my slumber? -- Mr. Flash

    Maryland, USA
    Nice insight.

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