The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Funnily enough, I get a similar vibe. Elton's is more epic but they wouldn't sound astray played one after the other.
    4ZZZ made 2JJ/2JJJ sound like commercial drive radio. The Saints and Birdman were as mainstream as they got. In one of their annual "top 100' competitions I remember seeing them laughing at my entry just after I dropped it off!
    Oh dear!
    Never mind cool grandmother, that lady was cool at any age. Then again, I played Blackout to death in 1982 but I wasn't cool...
    Sorry to nitpick, but Dan Lampinski was a taping legend - he held onto his tapes until 2009 and never profited from them.
  2. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    I wish I could afford to get a suit made there!
  3. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    +1 @Fortuleo
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  4. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    I thought you said that!
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  5. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Mr Big Man.

    stereo mix, recorded 17-20 Dec, 1976 at Konk Studios, Hornsey, London

    I remember when you started out,
    You were the best friend I ever knew.
    I tried to meet you when you had your success,
    But you had better things to do.
    Now I bet that you're losin' count
    Of the people that you used.
    But now we're gonna see the vicious side of you,

    Mister Big.
    You've got the say and the power.
    Your minions grovel and cower.
    But I see you, and I see me.
    But you're the big man now.
    You got it, Mister Big.

    Your followers kiss your hand,
    And your slaves all at your feet.
    Your minions serve your beck and call,
    But they don't compensate at all,
    'Cause inside, Mister Big's very small.

    When you were poor and knockin' at the door,
    You were really lots of fun.
    But now you're hot and you're sittin' on the top;
    You've got no time for anyone.
    You schemed and connived.
    You pushed and you lied,
    Till you at last became a star.
    But now we're gonna see the way you really are,

    Mister Big.
    Now your vict'ry is complete
    And your battles are all won.
    Your enemies and foes are all stacked up in rows,
    Eliminated one by one.
    You got it, Mister Big.

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

    This is one of my favourite tracks on here....
    Later on we're going to be looking at Prince Of The Punks, and that is famously a stab at Tom Robinson, and the angle here could well be a similar theme, but possibly more inspired by, than about ... but I'm not sure.
    Tom Robinson was seen by Ray in 1973 in a band called Cafe Society and Ray signed him to Konk and produced their first album. Robinson was annoyed with Ray because their album took a while to make, because Ray had so many commitments.
    Robinson left Cafe Society and formed the Tom Robinson band, and at a gig he saw Ray enter and started doing a sarcastic version of Tired Of Waiting For You.
    1977 saw Robinson have a hit with 2-4-6-8- Motorway, getting to number 5 on the charts in the UK.
    So this is speculation from me, but this may somewhat tie in with the Robinson situation.

    Either way, this is a biting song about someone that has made it big and has completely ignored those that helped him get there.
    This is an aggressive lyric that is quite pointed in its attack on the person in question.

    We open with the idea that this person was a great friend, but when they achieved their success they completely ignored someone coming to pay their respects. It then takes it to the next level and suggests that this successful person is losing count of the people he has used to achieve his current status.

    The second verse goes on to describe the sycophants under his heel and the direct eye contact between the two ex-friends that results in a smug discounting by the new "star", because the singer is in the top spot and everyone is kissing up to them, and the "friend" isn't needed, or wanted anymore.

    The next section is really a showing of true colours.
    We get a flashback to when this idol was poor and knocking at the door, and how much fun they were, but now we have the scenario where they have believed their own hype, and all the pushing and lying and conniving has this person showing their true colours completely.

    For the most part, the lyric here is sarcastic and cutting.
    Some see this as an attack on some manager type figure somewhere, but it is clearly about someone who has used many people to get to their position of pop/rock star, and they are now pretending it was all down to their own brilliance... it really isn't a hard story to believe, as the music industry is full of people who have this kind of narcissistic attitude .... it takes a certain amount of ego to succeed in the music business, and when talent isn't the major factor, there are other methods of getting to the top, but they are somewhat less savory.

    I guess I could understand some folks not liking these lyrics, as they are quite direct, but it isn't like Ray hasn't visited this type of lyric before (Mr Reporter has a similar kind of bite to it)
    Here Ray lets the reflective historian and ponderer of Village Greens step aside as he pulls out the knives for someone that he feels used him up and spat him out, and it was in the guise of a friend, and that always leaves a bitter taste.

    Musically this is magnificent.
    The first thing that strikes me is Andy Pyle's bass. I really like the bass here, with its stabby strut it helps set the stage for the song to be built around it. Of things that are apparently different about this album, I can probably acknowledge that this bass line probably is, but it's great, so I don't really care.

    We open with a dreamy, yet slightly ominous organ, and the drums are pushing a nice beat, with some cool fills, and the bass is, as I say, really driving the groove, with some really nice melodic playing that is an early highlight in the song.
    At the end of the first verse we get some nice grinding guitar come in for a really nice accent on the dynamic lift.
    Again the drums have a sort of soft sound to them... not in the playing, but in the sound/mix/attack.

    This leads us into the first chorus, and Dave gives us some beautifully melodic and engaging lead guitar. The melodic progression here is excellent, and that melodic shift halfway through is brilliant.
    Again Ray uses his vocals beautifully. He uses, nice melody, he uses sarcastic phrasing, and in a very controlled way we get a couple of little shouty Ray bits.... just snippets that add the perfect aggression and it works really well.

    We get these swelling dynamics, somewhat like the singer is wrestling with violence against the narcissist, and it works together with the music really well.
    I have to say Dave's guitar here is just excellent, and for me, even though the lead work is running all through, it never interferes with the song, it only enhances it, for me. I suppose to some degree I hear @Fortuleo 's thoughts on the processed guitar sound here, but to me it is just a smooth distortion with a nice minimal reverb allowing the harmonics to ring a bit.

    We have some great drum fills, even though again, the drums are mixed a little lower in the mix. The bass isn't mixed low, it sits there beautifully, with its plucky attitude and rolling melody.
    The organ has these stabs and rolls that also really give this some wonderful texture.

    We move hesitantly into the bridge, where the singer reflects on this person once being a friend and a lot of fun. It starts off gently, and then builds like a pulsing in the brain, as you allow yourself to get more annoyed at someone who has really pushed their luck with you.
    The crescendo is allowed to come slowly, and again, to me, it speaks to the growing rage you can feel when someone uses you for advancement, but then discards you like a used condom (and yes I mean that the way it sounds)

    Although the tempo here isn't fast, the intensity is super high....

    Another thing, to me at least, to take note of, is the dismissive way that Ray sings "Miiister big", the dismissive sarcasm in that vocal, particularly the way "big" is delivered, is excellent, and really adds to the scorn being sprayed.

    After the, sort of, bridge, we get a short chorus, and the song comes to its end, It is kept short and sweet as an ending, and we get a bit more Dave lead guitar as the chords roll through, and it almost feels like the ending is a way of saying that's enough time spent on you, you aren't worth any more.

    In this song Ray pulls out his claws and he tears this pretender to pieces in a focused burst of sarcasm and disdain that I have rarely heard from Ray, and it is brilliant.

  6. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    An interesting take by Mark on this one - I wondered if Ray was momentarily backtracking and wrote it about Flash or Mr Black! Anyway, I don't skip it, but I find it a bit so-so after the great opener.
  7. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    It was recorded on December 1976 so it's definitely not about Tom Robinson. I can't say I find this song very interesting other than the lyric and the vocals. I can't quite work out who Ray sounds like here.
  8. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Mr. Big Man:

    Am writing initial thoughts:

    Woah, woah, woah..what is this? I’ve got to check the album cover. Is this really The Kinks? Double-tracked vocal, melodic bass lines. What’s going to happen next? A guitar solo?

    I guess so because here’s the guitar solo, right on cue.

    Lyrically, here we go again with the star thing: “You schemed and connived, you pushed and you lied till you at last became a star..”

    Guitar solo has shades of Layla.

    I will say that this song in no way resembles The Kinks. This one is way out there in the non-Kinkdom realm and I don’t care for it.
  9. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "Mr Big Man"

    A bit like "Headmaster", in that I imagine it as longer than it actually is. I'm surprised to find that it comes in under four minutes. It's probably the most straight-ahead rock track on the album, with the "big" chorus seemingly designed for arenas. However, there's much more subtlety about the verses, with the organ and the bassline providing the backing for a restrained vocal from Ray. When we get to "your followers kiss your hand", I think he's starting to affect a bit of Dylan there.

    As for the lyrics, it's an often-told story in rock lyrics of the star who forgets about his friends and where he came from, and no doubt the continuation would be that there is nobody there for him on the way down. I don't know whether Ray had anyone in particular in mind.

    As with the rest of the album, it's very well done, and would probably appeal to people who had never heard of The Kinks before. I don't know what I would have thought of it had I heard it as a fan in 1977, but listening now I can appreciate it for the fine piece of work it is, even if I wouldn't be placing it in any "best of" list.
  10. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    So the contender country kid comes to the big city and starts mingling with the night life, punks, elusive ladies and muscle men. Tough but, hey, that’s the life he chose and soon enough, he’s making it to the top (of the pops). But the “friends” he left behind, the ones he said goodbye to in the first song, they can see him now. And they don’t smile. They don’t ask him what it’s all leading to. No, they come at him in a very nasty aggressive way. Oh wait, no, my mistake ! This is not a koncept album!!! There’s no story to try making sense of. It’s just a collection of random songs. Or is it?

    Oh well, ok I guess. I’ve read a lot of interpretations about this song. On the Internet, some say it’s about Lennon. It could be consistent with Ray living near the Dakota and complaining about the way Yoko’s man ignored him when they bumped into each other in Central Park (he was telling the story in a French TV interview after John died, saying something like “maybe it’s the attribute of geniuses, they can’t be bothered being friendly and polite with us normal people” – typical passive-aggressive Ray!). But was it around that time he lived in NYC? I don’t think so, and I don’t think they ever were friends anyway, so it wouldn’t match. I’ve read it was about Dylan, and indeed, I can hear vocal tones and inflexions that seem to take the piss at Bob. But were they even acquainted? Don't think so either. I’ve read people saying it was about Jagger and that his accent/delivery of the “your followers kiss your hand” line could be a dig at Keith’s cohorts. To each their own, it seems really far-fetched to me. I’ve read it’s about Jimmy Page. But this, I’ll put in the “people obsessed by the You Really Got Me legend” category. Or it could be about this Tom Robinson person I know nothing about. Myself, I wish it could be about Ray himself, putting himself in his “friends” shoes, as a reverse shot to Sitting in My Hotel, as I hinted at above. But it’s clearly not the case, as it does sound like a big mean song directed at someone specific, out of spite and bitterness. The problem here doesn’t seem to be this Mr. having be “vicious” but having made it too big. Bigger than Ray. That same old relativistic and competitive Ray, being ambivalent about success and recognition. His own and everybody else’s. Anyway, for his first first-person song in a long long time, I don’t find this rant very attractive or elegant.

    Musically, I also disagree with our fierce Leader and don't find it exciting at all. To my ears, it’s more banal and mundane than almost anything the band had released since their tepid version of Dancing in the Street. And no, it's not to do with being aimed at the AOR market or anything, it’s just a struggling melody on top of a super basic chord progression. The second shortest on the album but the most meandering and convoluted. Same blandness for me in the bass department, but I'll give Andy Pyle a pass as he will fare much better on Misfits.

    I really wish we knew who this song was directed at, like Paul Simon’s in your face Dylan parody A Simple Desultory Phillipic. It was still a waste of vinyl space, but at least he made his point across. I’m almost certain Mr Big Man’s music has been designed to mock someone, but who ? Similarly, Dave’s guitar is expertly played but too impersonal and unimaginative for him. I can't help but thinking I heard these guitar parts somewhere else, and it's so rare that he must be willingly imitating someone else’s style… At least I hope so! Anyway, in the concept records, whenever I didn't care for a song, I could always put it in context, reflect on how it fitted the general concept, the story arc or the characters. From now on, if I like them less or find them somewhat undistinguished like this one, there's no second level or perspective to help me appreciate them. From now on, yeah, the songs are on their own.
  11. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    It would have been interesting to know what she had listened to as a teen and young adult particularly in comparison to the most popular music at the time that young folk listened to.
  12. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Funny @Fortuleo mentions Lennon: this isn’t a million miles away from brooding Lennon character assassination screeds like ‘How Do You Sleep’ and ‘Steel and Glass’. I never thought of it as being about someone specific, more like part 3 of King Kong into Powerman into this: all big broad archetypes who could be many people.
  13. Endicott

    Endicott Forum Resident

    Mr. Big Man

    My first impression when I initially heard this track was that it was a plodding, lugubrious dirge. I didn't really return to it for a long time -- it was forgettable, and I forgot about it.

    Now over the past week or so as I've gotten re-acquainted with it, I do find quite a bit to like about it. Andy Pyle, in his first released Kinks track as the bassist, expertly sets the scene as if he'd been in the band his whole life. Dave chimes in with some of his bluesiest playing, Gosling provides strong keyboard scaffolding, and Ray's vocal alternates between simmering and open rage at a friend who discarded them once he'd found success. It's a haunting performance all around. For some reason, David Ackles' "The Road To Cairo" kept popping into my head -- it's got a similar atmosphere.

    That said, I still don't regard this as a great song; the tune itself isn't much (oddly enough, the line "I see you and I see me" seems to be a brief lyrical nod to 'Wonderboy"-- one of their most melodic songs ever) and the track pretty much ends where it starts; there's no real resolution to the story. I do like the Dylanesque phrasing of the line "Your followers kiss your hands".

    The song is mostly buildup, without much release. Still, as an album track it's a solid mood piece, and a lot rawer than most of the other selections on Sleepwalker. It's an effective change of pace between the songs on each end of it. I've come to appreciate it.
  14. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    Was Ray friendly with anyone who went on to become a big star? Rod Stewart went to the same school! I am tempted to think it might be a self portrait though.
  15. pantofis

    pantofis Senior Member

    Berlin, Germany
    "Mr. Big Man"

    The lack of melody plus the decidedly un-Kinks organ intro remind me why I never gave this album a chance really. After hearing it 3 times, it kind of grows on me however. I hear a bit of the "Yes Sir, No Sir" rhythmic pattern in some places and a bit of a Dylan-esque inflection in Ray's vocals. But overall I'm not too impressed still.
  16. Ex-Fed

    Ex-Fed Not Fed Ex

    New York State
    The song doesn't strike me as necessarily being about any particular person. There's no real specificity. It's a narrative readymade. The only thing I hear is a dearth of inspiration. Contrast it with "Positively Fourth Street"--that bit of character assassination is surely about a real person in Dylan's life. The details are telling.

    I thought it would be a great thing for the Kinks to move into the public consciousness. But when they did, I had to answer for them. It was a little embarrassing, watching them on TV playing the desultory medley of greatest hits and "Sleepwalker" and "Money Talks." This was not "Do You Remember Walter" or "Big Black Smoke." or "Days." This stuff was lesser. It would have been better, I thought, for the Kinks to remain my private pleasure.
  17. fspringer

    fspringer Forum Resident

    New York City
    Mr. Big Man: This feels like Neil Young, "Old Man" crossed with "Southern Man" with some smoother production. I don't love it but don't hate it. While Ray is good at putting out insults, the clear Dylan vocal affectations acknowledge that no one was going to come near one of Dylan's tirades circa 1965-66. I'm sure I played along back in 1977, but now the track feels a bit dated and locked into that time. Admittedly, it sounds like something that would get played on the radio back then! Thus, it served a purpose. As time would go on, the album would take on this up/down feeling for me, but the up tracks are still some of my Kinks favorites.
  18. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    It would be interesting to reference the ages in terms of the like and dislike here... it feels like a generation gap issue.
  19. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Life On The Road

    Been procrastinating posting as I have nothing new to add to what has already been said.

    It is definitely a scene setting opener and taken at basic face value a mission statement for Ray and the Kinks and whilst ultimately Ray chose a life on the road, i think that at this juncture it also chose him and it was a best option from others with perhaps diminishing returns?

    I prefer the melancholic introduction and reintroduction later of a similarly softer dynamic contrast to much of the song.

    Really enjoy Ray's singing and to that I also include Dave's and some nice instrumental work from he and Baptist Gosling (could they have been sharing his holy water?)

    The rocking out is fine with nothing to complain about nor create great joy in me, it does it's job satisfactorily without being particularly distinctive or should I say distinguished?

    I can't say the Kinks are now suddenly sounding like any one particular late 70's AOR band that has been mentioned but if I just take the bland chorus it sounds to me like something dozens of other mediocre band's or writers could have come up with and sounded very similar in doing so.

    I very much agreed with @Fortuleo 's original post and very much enjoyed and preferred Ray's solo acoustic version which to me showed him off better as a songwriter/performer/artist.

    So there is a pretty good song there but also a slightly better one that's a little obscured that is sometimes peeking out from the inside!
  20. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Mr Big Man
    Like @Mark i like this one. I think it works very well in the context of this album. After the quick-paced opening song, this slow, heavier track slots in nicely. I really like Shouty Ray, Dave's guitar work (and so what if it's not groundbreaking - I'm after a good time here) and Andy Pyle's busy bass. On reading about Pyle's (ultimately unhappy) time in the band I was surprised to see that this song formed part of his audition: Ray saying to him "play anything you like" and then snipping together the bits he liked into the final version of the song!
  21. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    :D I started, and deleted, two posts about this reference. Ended up tucking a comment in my post for tomorrow’s song (which I’ve already prepared).
  22. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

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  23. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Have you dealt with the Aftermath?
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  24. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    A ggresive
    R ay
    L inguistics
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  25. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I like Aftermath, Out Of Our Heads... and frankly the other early albums too, but Between The Buttons feels like the first whole album to me

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