Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.
Aquaman.. The Kunks take on todays song!
The Next Day/Better Things
At The Picture Show/Come Dancing
Superman: The dreaded disco single! There's surely a good compilation to be made of this late 70s trend of rock bands performing their one disco song. Kicked off by The Bee Gees and Stones, reinforced by Rod and Blondie. Thing was, each of those instances was brilliant in some odd way, capturing and defining a moment in time, Blondie especially. For the bigger 60s bands, it was a bit of a perverse kick to do this. Their fan base wasn't going anywhere, so, why not. For all the outcry over Rod Stewart "going disco" ... his fan base seemed to grow exponentially. (He was smart enough to make that album, Blondes Have More Fun be a real interesting mix of past and present influences, a strange album to say the least.)
Admittedly, when I first heard this new Kinks single earlier in 1979, I cringed. Oh, no ... not The Kinks, too! If you didn't live through those times in America, you're not fully grasping how despised disco was by rock fans. I've seen cases made for racism and homophobia, and I recall more than a few unkind comments towards The Bee Gees' hair styles and clothing choices, but the over-riding reason? Disco was a smothering cultural presence after the Saturday Night Fever phenomenon. It was everywhere, all the time. For the love of God, Pete Rose and Ethel Merman had disco songs! I recall the high school forcing us to do two types of dancing in gym class: square dancing and disco dancing ... in a misguided attempt to get hip with the kids. You can imagine how this went over with straggly, disconnected kids in Black Sabbath and AC/DC concert shirts!
But you know what? The Kinks had fun with it, turned the concept on its head. Instead of detailing the lives of strutting flamingos on the dance floor, they describe some weak loser sensing his place in a world gone wrong and wishing he could fly away like Superman. I didn't fully grasp the song's brilliance at the time, but it grew on me over the years. Ian Hunter would do the same thing thereafter, figuring if he was going to do a disco song, he ought to have fun with the concept, in his case a first-person account of a rock-and-roll guy being dragged to a disco by his nagging girlfriend (played expertly by Ellen Foley) and hating every minute of it.
Kudos to Mark for posting the Disco Purrfection version. There are a few youtube sites like that, creating their own disco remixes of songs that pre-dated that 80s trend of extended remixes of dance tracks, and I find myself using my various youtube download apps to get the audio. Sometimes the results are amazing.
On Superman The Kinks out Moroder Moroder, the influential Italian producer Giorgio Moroder whose production style I hear all over the track. I hear another Blondie track here as well the Moroder-produced Call Me which came out a year later. Moroder along with engineer Reinhold Mack produced most of Donna Summer's biggest hits. He also owned Musicland Studios where bands like the Stones, Zeppelin, and many others recorded.
Funny Kunks! And the guy was named John Dunbar like, well, like John Dunbar ? Just laughed out loud and spilled my coffee @Zeki-style because of the Charlie Watts intro, the guitar gimmick in the Old Fashioned one and the State of Connecticut title in the biography. Of course, they're no match for the Rutles but no one can beat Neil Innes at this little game. At most games, really…
It's your thread, my friend! I think we'll all agree you're allowed to get the occasional passionate outburst, to take offense now and then and take things too much at heart sometimes. You should even be allowed to troll some, once in a while. But just you ! Well, you and @Vangro, of course!
Here's Ray talking about Superman, a song he clearly loves.
Funny lyrics, great singing, great beat, great guitars, great chorus. It's great I'm telling ya. It's enough to turn me to disco metal.
(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman
The Kinks finally hop on the disco bandwagon! Or do they really?
Disco music was so dominant in the late seventies that a lot of veteran acts tried to get in on the action. The Bee Gees completely reinvented their sound and achieved stunning success in the process. Johnnie Taylor, Diana Ross, the Four Seasons, the Stones, and Rod Stewart, among others, got Number One hits out of their dalliances with disco. It was a big part of the soundtrack to my adolescence, and many of those songs still proudly populate my itunes, and I still jam to "Turn The Beat Around" and "Don't Leave Me This Way" and dozens of others. Those records were -- and are -- pretty damn awesome.
So I have no problem with the Kinks trying their hand at it. Except this wasn't the kind of string-laden disco record that one usually associated with the genre -- "Superman" was every bit as much a rock song as a disco song. It was much closer to Donna Summer's rock-oriented later hits ("Hot Stuff" and "Cold Love") than it was to Gloria Gaynor. Dave's trenchant guitar is the jet engine that makes this track soar like the superhero it's named after. And the driving beat makes this a club classic, a dance-floor filler. It sounds great, but it was probably a bit too ahead of its time -- it peaked at a cruel #41 on Billboard as radio program directors probably didn't know what to do about a dance track with such piercing guitar. A few years later ZZ Top would score big with tracks like these on Eliminator.
"Superman" is basically a disco version of "Complicated Life", as Ray catalogues the frustrations of everyday existence and one's dream of leaving them all in the dust eventually. It's yet another Low Budget track with a wink to one of their British Invasion partners in crime (the Animals this time), and it's cute how the song picks up on the, er, calisthenics theme of its predecessor, but our narrator remains unhappy with his sunken physique. You know you can't win.
Outstanding capper to the first side.
(I Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman:
Who can resist this hypnotic beat, clever lyrics and overall good song? Not me. I’m in that sub-set that reacted (back in the day) harshly against disco music…though maybe not quite as fanatically as some (as I always liked ‘Miss You’ and ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’…though was appalled at ‘Touch of Grey’). But I don’t recall thinking this was anything other than a cool song then and now.
This is the second track that goes onto my playlist from the album.
Pigeon chest: I think this is the second time now that Ray has used this term in a lyric. Always makes me laugh.
Didn’t catch it at first.
What song is this?
So I'm up reading ths thread at 6am my time and there's already three new pages of posts on this morning's song. Not much left for me to say. Just a few quick personal obs:
Another Davies miracle... I usually don't go for first person sad sack songs, but I love this.
I never thought of this song as disco. It has some of the superficial trappings, but that's it. I hear The Kinnks through and through. Of course, like so many songs, that association (or lack thereof) may be colored by my primary association with this song coming from One For the Road. The live version, like all the songs on that album, is straight hard rock.
Lastly, I really appreciated reading Mark's take on Low Budget vis a vis the acknowledged concept albums. A very astute observation.
Cool song. It didn't stand out of my first wave of listens, but I find it really catchy and fun now. I never associated it with disco. I don't really identify disco anyway. I was a kid at the time. I remember disco was a synonym of "commercial crap" for quite a long time, before it got rediscovered. I remember thinking, in the 90s, that the crap of the 70s was incredibly well crafted compared to today's.
I only had time to browse through the first few tracks. I think the compositions are very convincing. Sonically, of course, it's got this flat clean digital demo sound. And the voice makes it more reminiscent of a mixture between Squeeze, Martin Newell and the Herman's Hermits than of the Kinks. But it's cool, really.
I need to listen to the Rutles some day. When I was young I watched part of an episode of the TV thing, but it didn't grab my attention. I was in that phase where every post-Circus project involving some Pythons seemed disappointing to me.
Before @Vangro, this thread's Thersites, has time to answer this (if he will), I will try to borrow his voice : maybe there's not so much difference between a concept album and an obsessive collection of songs about the same stuff through lack of ideas ?
I say it just for contrarianism's sake, I actually like Mark's interpretation.
Edit : for those who learn English, an interesting exercise : repeat the phrase "this thread's Thersites" over and over, faster and faster. Film yourself and post it on youtube.
I can tell you that I was in college in Springfield Massachusetts at the time and "Superman" was all over the radio on both the commercial and album oriented stations. With the amount of attention and airplay the song was getting I would have thought it was close to a top 10 hit.
I just love that track. The lyrics are pure Ray at his most relatable, almost Soap opera like in their mundanity. They also tie in nicely with the last track with the exercise routine and the pressures that the media puts on.
The music is lots of fun again. I happen to love disco. My favourite Sparks album happens to be "Terminal Jive" which has many of the elements like the swooshing synth noise, the "hanging" distortion guitar, the laconic synth bleeps and so on. In fact I believe it was tracks like Superman by the Kinks that inspired Sparks to come up with "Rock'n'roll People In A Disco World".
Loved this song! It was all over the radio and I would have thought it was a bigger hit than #41.
I hated disco, but this song showed that the problem with disco wasn't the disco beat, it was the vapidity of most of the lyrics and the lack of creativity and variety within most disco songs. Of course the over exposure of the same old thing on the radio hurt too.
But Superman was different. A disco beat with a decidedly rocking sound and great, funny lyrics.
This was a highlight when I saw the Kinks live as well!
(I Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman
I really liked this right from the beginning. Of all the established rock bands that put out a disco single, I think The Kinks did it best.
I had to look up what Thersites was lol. I thought it was a new word
For the most part I would agree with that first statement, just with the lack of ideas tag removed
Check Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida some day. It's one of those weird Shakespeare plays that obey no rules and are neither comedy nor tragedy. I remember finding this Thersites character very funny.
For the record, I like @Vangro ... he has some interesting perspectives, we don't always agree, but that isn't particularly important to me. I would hate to think that he, or anyone else thinks I have a problem with him.
I get bothered about how much to share, because i get accused of being conceited by some folks on this forum, and the thread isn't about me.....
I posted earlier and deleted it, and blah blah blah.... I'm not in a good frame of mind at the moment, and it is nothing to do with the thread.... and I apologise for when it spills over into my posts, it shouldn't, but I'm just another flawed human...
Superman and the Kunks peoples xo
Ian Hunter put out a live album in 1980 to capitalize on his You're Never Alone with a Schizophrenic success: Welcome to the Club. The fourth side was bonus studio tracks, of which this one. Those tracks made a pretty good EP and a nice extension of the great Schizophrenic tracks.
Thanks. I found it. Track: ‘We Gotta Get Out Of Here’? Correct?
(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman
WICFLS is a typical, topical lyric by Raymond that really holds your attention, you want to find out what happens, you care about the protagonist. A wonderful vignette to show Kinks disciples Squeeze that we are still in the game. A few months earlier Giorgio Moroder and Sparks teamed up for The Number One Song in Heaven, a #14 UK hit. Personally, I never considered Superman anything other than a rock & roll song, and a damn good one. One that always makes it onto my late-period Kinks mix’s. This song is sturdy and radio friendly, with a fresher sound than some others on the album who will remain nameless. This is the Dave guitar tone we need and love. I never understood how this single stalled just outside the Top 40, like Do it Again, at #41. Then I remembered, it’s the Kinks.
Yes, my fellow Avids, "(I Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" only went to #41 on the US singles charts, never to to be the excuse for Casey Kasem to spin some yarns on American Top 40. We'll have to wait until 1983 until that happens. It's too bad it, along w/"Apeman" (#45) and "Do It Again" (#41) never made it through the Top 40 threshold.
Anyway, Boston radio certainly did its bit, playing "Superman" constantly, at least on WBCN, where I heard it the most back then. It was the perfect calling card for Low Budget and what ever its near miss on the singles chart, it succeeded in its purpose in calling attention to the album, which became the Kinks' biggest seller and first gold record since 1968.
As for the song itself, it does use some disco motifs, but it's an aggressive mix of disco and rock, especially w/Mick's drumming and Dave's guitar. Also, Ray's lyrics continue the Woody Allen/nebbish theme that prevailed in Misfits, although I'm surprised that my fellow Avids didn't pick up on the tip o' the hat to an old Animals song (hint: it was very popular in Vietnam).
I also would like to point out that the Kinks weren't alone in combining rock and disco in a creative and imaginative way in 1979. Sparks started another chapter in their improbable and lasting career that year w/their songs "No. 1 In Heaven" and "Beat the Clock" w/help from Giorgio Morodor.
Finally, what an April's Fools thingie that you pulled Avid Ajsmith. I thought I was the only one who had ever heard of John Dunbar and the Confederacy of Dunces. How did you ever heard about him? Are you in contact w/him?
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