Everybody's In Showbiz
Released: September 1972
Chart Peak: #70
Weeks Charted: 14
Ray Davies continues to wear his English citizenship like a badge. The Kinks have often used American musical idioms -- especially variations on Richard Berry's "Louie Louie," as revived by the Kingsmen and by the Kinks themselves -- but Ray has regularly used his considerable songwriting talents to anatomize situations of class and culture that are peculiarly English. Years of touring, boozing, and occasionally brawling onstage with his lead guitarist brother Dave haven't diminished it. His nostalgia for the afternoon of the Empire, and his interest in the music hall/vaudeville traditions of his youth, continue unabated. His early efforts at the stand-up crooner idiom were often exquisite, especially by "Sunny Afternoon" and "End of the Season," and most recently he has shown ingenuity in adapting fashionable rock currents to his obsession. Muswell Hillbillies, for example, used the idea that the cockneys are England's answer to the American cracker to validate a series of country & western essays that managed to maintain an implacably British favor.
The album is not the homogeneously delightful sort of LP the Kinks were once known for; it has its ups and downs, it lapses and its masterpieces. The opener, "Here Comes Yet Another Day," is a fashionably bored touring song ("tune up, start to play/just like any other day") that rocks along nicely but has a curiously (and perhaps intentionally) unfinished quality; several of the breaks sound like a rhythm track waiting for a solo, and the tinny Toussaint-style horns don't help much. "Maximum Consumption" describes the touring rocker as a "maximum consumption nonstop machine" and compares him to the inefficient, gas-gulping, often quickly discarded American automobile ("I'm so easy to drive/and I'm an excellent ride"). Beginning with images of abandoned and undifferentiated consumption and moving into more specifically unappealing comparisms, "Maximum Consumption" is the thematic meat of the album. Musically it's excellent, with a deliberately loping beat and an excellent mix of Dave's slide guitar and the trad jazz horns. "Unreal Reality" has more of the "Mike Cotton Sound," a garish and determinedly awful trumpet-clarinet-trombone trio that's just right for the effect Ray's tunes convey.
"Supersonic Rocket Ship" is quintessential Ray Davies. It invites the listener to travel the spaceways in a sort of flying Victorian music box that tinkles away with all the flavor of a period tintype. The words are quite explicit, and the following tune, "Look a Little on the Sunny Side," is even more so. The rock business is even more so. The rock business is show business; a rock group running through its hits, trying to please an essentially frivolous audience, isn't much different from a stand-up comic in Las Vegas or Rex Harrison doing Dr. Doolittle or The Ed Sullivan Show. Ray isn't likely to win a lot of new converts by emphasizing this truism, but he makes it perfectly clear that on his rocket ship "nobody has to be hip/nobody needs to be out of sight." This goes a long way toward explaining why the Kinks are so durable; no trippy giggles here, no heavy metal warlocks, just "a round, unvarnished tale" with plenty of belly laughs and solid rock & roll along the way.
"Celluloid Heroes" is the watershed of the album. It's a masterful, fully-realized six-minute cut with one of Ray's very best vocals and several of his finest, quirkiest, most original lines. Gosling, a relatively recent addition to the band, proves his worth with some tasteful, shimmering piano, and Dave, drummer Mick Avory, and bassist John Dalton contribute effective back-up, with nothing out of place. The albums could have ended here, but there are two more sides. These sound at times like a juiced Jersey bar band with a semi-pro horn section chiming in. "Top of the Pops," from the Lola album, has contagious, raw power and an exciting feedback break from Dave. Ray clowns with Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song," "Baby Face," and a mercifully brief "Mr. Wonderful." His performance of "Alcohol," one of the best tunes from Muswell Hillbillies, is almost scary. The Staten Island audience is obviously dominated by juicers and reds freaks, and they contribute shrieks and screams that are most apropos. Ray slurs his words and draws out the verses until it seems the whole band is about to fall headlong into the gutter. This is the definitive recording of the song, cutting the studio version by a mile. Ray's MC work throughout is like that of a popular British TV compere... everybody's in showbiz.
Despite its faults and its unevenness, this is a delightfully varied, endlessly entertaining album; its best moments equal or surpass the best rock & roll of the last few years. And the indications are that Ray Davies is just beginning to loosen up.
- Bob Palmer, Rolling Stone, 10-26-72.
Few of the fans could have suspected during the pre-"Lola" hiatus that it would be the Kinks who would come roaring back from the wings to pull rock's chestnuts out of the fire. But here they are again on RCA, following up their excellent Muswell Hillbillies with another corker called Everybody's in Show-Biz. One could hardly find two more hackneyed, overworked themes -- the alienation of the workingman and the vicissitudes of the struggle for recognition -- but the Kinks have done them both up so intelligently that they fairly shine with new insights. Show-Biz seems slightly weaker musically than Muswell, but it's also funnier and sadder, and it has a mighty one-two punch of "Sitting in My Hotel" and "Celluloid Heroes."
"Celluloid Heroes" is easily the best rock song I've heard in a year. It has a driving chorus that's just predictable enough, and a logical, natural-sounding verse to set it up. Ray Davies' lyrics are also blunt, eloquent, and moving. "Sitting in My Hotel" is strong lyrically too, in its own way, and is one of those songs in which Davies flashes a fragment of some familiar but forgotten refrain at a critical point in the melody. Davies is like that, borrowing from everywhere, extracting pieces of "folk" music for use in his own melodies, welding clichés from the pub into spots where they actually attract attention and provoke thought.
On the other hand, the second disc included in this package, a "live" recording of mostly Muswell songs, is a mixed blessing. It may be a nice bonus, but it diffuses and weakens the album's total impression. Also since all the new music is on one side of the cassette version, you have to do a lot of rewinding to hear that more often than the live stuff. I worry a little too about the Kinks' flirtation with the horns, which are now threatening to get out of hand. There are funky nods toward Dixieland here that might more profitably have taken some other direction. And, finally, the album is so topical and so specific that its appeal may not last as long as all the creativity and hard work that went into it deserve. Nonetheless, even given the temporal nature of pop music in general, it just has to stand as the Kinks' second colossus in a row.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 1/73.
At this point in his ascension Raymond Douglas Davies may safely be considered without peer. There is simply no one else around who possesses his thoughtful clarity of vision and sureness of destiny. All his albums engulfed vast spheres of his own life experiences, but this is his finest autobiographical work. The studio LP is the Kinks on the road from the happy sadness of "Here Comes Yet Another Day" to the sentimentality of "Celluloid Heroes."
- Billboard, 1972.
Perhaps the chief contribution to rock made by The Kinks -- via the songwriting genius of Ray Davies -- is the development of the use of point of view in lyrics. Relationships between the singer and those sung about are particularly strange and intriguing in Davies' songs. As far back as the mid-'60s, with mid-Kinks fare like "A Well Respected Man," "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion," and "Sunny Afternoon," the people in his songs were simply getting out of hand; and to make matters worse (or really, better), Ray related them to himself and thereby to the listener in the most peculiar ways. On first hearing "Sunny Afternoon," I not only wondered who that weird guy in the song was, but who was I that he was telling me all his troubles?
One of the most disappointing things about The Kinks' latest album, Muswell Hillbillies, was that instead of creating personas, characters, dramatis personae who by acting out their fictional fates would thus teach by example, Ray tended to merely comment on society's ills in more straightforward editorial fashion, as in "20th Century Man" and "Here Comes The People In Grey." Many of the ideas in these songs had been better expressed in more dramatic fashion in earlier songs.
The new album, Everybody's In Showbiz, is good news, not because Ray has returned to his earlier comic strip style (which he really hasn't), but because he has now refined the writing techniques with which he experimented on Hillbillies clearly, this is an album about what it is to be Ray Davies, what it is to be The Kinks. Unlike Lola vs. Powerman And The Money-Go-Round, wherein Davies created a fictional rock band to serve multiple symbolic functions, the group in Everybody's In Showbiz is very much Ray Davies' real life rock 'n roll band.
Most of the songs reflect the emptiness, the loneliness, and the quiet desperation that are in a great part of life of a pop star. In "Here Comes Yet Another Day," Ray is racing out onto the road again to play "just like any other day," and he tells us, "Ain't got time to comb my hair, or even change my underwear." The mood is set. The people we meet are all "unreal reality." Our meals are a hysterical rush of hideous vittles, all somehow worse than Harrison's savoy truffle. We sit in endless hotel room after hotel room, alienated, dejected, perpetually paranoid.
"Supersonic Rocket Ship," The Kinks' last single, proposes a trip into outer space as the only way to escape from fame, but the trip exists on many levels. After a witty swipe at rock critics on "Look A Little On The Sunny Side," we conclude with "Celluloid Heroes," an ode to some of the great screen heroes and heroines of the past, from Greta Garbo to Mickey Rooney. Ray's voice here, as usual, has the right twist of irony and the group plays a supremely appropriate accompaniment of musical rock heroism.
Throughout, the music is right: biting, melodic (is that demeted Ray Davies fashion), and charmingly Hollywoodian.
Record Two of this double album is a live recording, made during The Kinks' last American tour. While it sadly does not include some of The Kinks' older gems like "You Really Got Me" and "All Day And All Of The Night," it has been extremely well-recorded and features Ray and the band at their theatrical best on "Alcohol," and the original "Baby Face," and "Holiday."
The Kinks, who have never really been gone, are back in style. They have proven that truly great groups do not only endure, but also evolve.
- Bruce Harris, Words & Music, 11-72.
A few of the new songs here are as strident as anything Ray Davies has done since before he started playing the recluse in London in the late '60s. They're tight; they have a firm beat; they're you know, rock and roll. Unfortunately, they're still self-pitying -- the reformed recluse doth reflect overmuch these days on the trevails of the touring superstar. But for only an extra dollar you get a live album worth at least that, featuring the antics of a reborn showman who has turned stage fright into a way of life and thus rendered his self-pity somewhat more palatable. B+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
One half of this release is a document of the Kinks' spirited live slopfest, including versions of "Top of the Pops," "Holiday," and the "Banana Boat Song." The other half contains a couple of gems like "Celluloid Heroes" and "Sitting in My Hotel," as well as "Motorway," and "Maximum Consuption." * * *
- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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