REVIEW

 
THE KINKS
Soap Opera [no label 1DVD PAL Torrent: 102683]
Live at Granada Television Center, Manchester, UK, July 25, 1974. "This show was recorded for Granada TV. It is transferred to DVD and is in very good quality. The inlay is included in the torrent. Total running time is 37 minutes." Video Ex; Audio Ex SBD mono?

Better known as Starmaker, the title under which it was conceived and broadcast, Ray Davies’ first major television special was the tale of a glitter-soaked Machiavelli who, in the guise of an unexciting accountant named Norman Grey, sets out to write a concept album that will prove his favorite theory, that "everybody is a star." Even Norman Grey.

Starmaker was originally broadcast in the UK in September 1974, at a time when televised rock’n’roll was largely confined to the weekly bursts of Top Of The Pops and Old Grey Whistle Test, plus the occasional late-night special when the schedulers had nothing better to air. Even for watchers who didn’t care a fig for the Kinks, then, the play was a big deal, an indication that, finally, the two most powerful media in the country were coming together in one creative force. But, of course, it didn’t work out like that.

Davies himself was unhappy with the production from the moment the cameras started rolling, as the enterprise ran into opposition from traditional theater and television forces. Reviews, too. were damning - the New Musical Express even condemned the songs as "glib… shallow… superficial," and that despite the presence of such future classics as "A Face In The Crowd," "Starmaker" and "You Make It All Worthwhile."

But, if Starmaker failed on a critical level, that cannot detract from the sheer enjoyment one derives from watching it. More than any of Davies’ other period concepts, it has an inspiring silliness that easily surpasses the occasionally clumsy conceits; and, if the Starmaker is utterly unbelievable as an accountant (how many number-crunchers have two glamorous dolly birds to help him into his pajamas?), his wife, played by comedienne June Ritchie, is perfection. Davies plays his own parts with becoming goofiness and, though the rest of the Kinks are barely visible, their musical accompaniment is terrific.

Davies did not abandon Starmaker following its broadcast. The Kinks’ next album and tour, A Soap Opera, were based around an enlarged treatment of the same basic plot, and both played a major part in preparing the Kinks for their late 1970s American resurgence. But the TV special itself was forgotten, with even the Kinks’ most forgiving biographers simply parroting the verdict of the original critics and dismissing it as a failure. In fact, were those writers to actually bother watching the thing, instead of pawing through dog-eared newspapers, they would realize that Starmaker stands as one of rock’s most audacious, entertaining and, ultimately, successful multi-media inventions ever. - Dave Thompson

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November 17 , 2006