Kinks’ Masterful ‘Everybody’s in Show-Biz’

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Showbiz LP Cover (PRNewsFoto/Legacy Recordings)

The Kinks had brought proto-Americana to old London Towne on 1971’s Muswell Hillbillies after Ray Davies had defined what it meant to be oh so veddy British in song and spirit with crystalline clarity and beauty on such delightful albums as The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968) and Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) (1969). Then in 1972 they returned to America after a four-year touring ban by the American Federation of Musicians (for reasons that still remain unclear).

Cue track one: Here comes a new dawn/Here comes a new day….

New day indeed. Davies turned his sharp songwriting pen to the United States here and there on this album. The Kinks would follow Everybody’s in Show-Biz with concept albums like Preservation Act 1 and Act 2 and Soap Opera. By the 1980s they became a U.S. arena rock band as befitted their iconic British Invasion status.

The original Show-Biz found The Kinks in a period of transition when it was released on August 25, 1972, and combined studio cuts with live tracks from their tour earlier in that year. Organist John Gosling, whose Hammond B3 trills open the album, had already started filling out the band’s sound on the Lola Versus Powerman on the Moneygoround Vol. 1 album in 1970. A horn section was added to the touring group. The original release served as a delightful Kinks Kompendium for us Yanks who would happily be hearing much more from the Brothers Davies & Co. here in The Colonies in the years to follow.

Listen to “Muswell Hillbilly” live at Carnegie Hall

There are many reasons to own and treasure this album, both its first incarnation and now expanded version. First and foremost among them is the title song, “Celluloid Heroes,” one of the glittering gems from the treasure chest that is the Ray Davies song catalog. It’s an eloquent, touching and at times witty while also bittersweet rumination on fame, something Davies has always expressed mixed feelings about. It melds melancholia with nostalgia as it also serves as a backhanded tribute and at the same time offers a cautionary tale. It’s a song I can listen to forever and never grow tired of, and always be affected by.

Related: Our appreciation of “Celluloid Heroes”

“Sitting in My Hotel” – a minor Davies masterpiece – expresses similar feelings within one subdominant theme (among a number) of this collection: Life on the road as The Kinks return to America.

“Maximum Consumption” makes a horn-punctuated commentary on American food consumerism as fuel for touring (with subtle yet shimmering Dave Davies slide guitar), and “Motorway” (food is the worst in the world) bears a British title yet applies Stateside as it clips along like tires rolling on the pavement. Ray’s food fetish also was found on the original album’s studio tracks on “Hot Potatoes,” where the connection between edibles and love is explored.

The traveler’s loneliness and alienation gets its brief from both Ray (on his melancholic “Sitting in My Hotel”) and Dave (who penned the more upbeat “You Don’t Know My Name,” laced with more slide guitars and not one just but two flute solos).

Souls in motion float through an imaginary outer space on “Supersonic Rocket Ship,” buoyed by lilting steel drums that reflect a Kinks Kalypso phase that was also part of this album and era for the band.

The Caribbean also washes up on the first disc’s concert tracks with a short snippet of the huge Harry Belafonte hit “Banana Boat Song,” which would become a regular goofball feature of Kinks shows in the years to follow. Food gets served up again on “Skin And Bone,” one of five live tracks drawn from Muswell Hillbillies, implying that The Kinks were not averse to plugging their most recent releases, also with numbers from Lola (the wry “Top of the Pops”) and ’69’s Arthur (the searing “Brainwashed’). Ray also gets all show-bizzy and taps his English Music Hall roots on the pre-rock pop standards “Mr. Wonderful” and “Baby Face.”

The first CD now ends as the second vinyl disc did back when with a 1:42 tease of just the chorus of “Lola,” the fourth (at #9) of the only five U.S. Top 10 hits by the Kinks. (Ray would also toy with concert audiences in much the same way by playing bits of “You Really Got Me,” which one might say is missing from the live numbers here if what is played weren’t so largely wonderful.)

The 17 tracks added for the 2015 Legacy Edition round out and enhance the profile of the Kinks circa 1973. We get another Ray Davies gem in a verdant live rendition of “Get Back in Line,” one which many missed when it came out on Lola…. It’s Ray’s song for the common and laboring man, a la Lennon’s “Working Class Hero,” but rather than a mordant sharpen-the-razor-blades-and-pour-a-warm-bath rumination it’s a stirring call to do as the title advises and trudge on through life.

Related: Ray and Dave Davies reunited (briefly) on stage in 2015

We also get full and rich in-concert renditions of past high points cum hits with “‘Til the End of the Day” and the always delicious “Sunny Afternoon.” Plus not redundant alternate live takes of “Muswell Hillbilly,” “Alcohol,” “Acute Paranoid Schizophrenic Blues” and “Holiday” from the Muswell album (plus that release’s “Have a Cuppa Tea” and “Complicated Life”), even better than the other ones on disc one, good as they are, and different, reminding us of the glory days of rock concerts when the way the songs were delivered and the experience could change from night to night (rather than today’s rote set lists).

There’s also a wonderful never-before-released Ray Davies studio number “History,” brother Dave doing his “Long Tall Shorty” thing live, and alternate takes on “Supersonic Rocket Ship” and “Unreal Reality.” The expanded set wraps up with a lyric-less backing track titled “Sophisticated Lady” that would later be fleshed out as “Money Talks” on Preservation Act 2.

All told, the significance of this collection can be found in how it becomes more than the sum of its parts, while at the same time so many of its parts are notable – like, say, Dave’s searing guitar work on the live take of “You’re Looking Fine” (from 66’s Face to Face), which proves him one of classic rock’s sadly unsung six-string heroes – ironically, as he did come up with perhaps the quintessential rock riff on “You Really Got Me.” The oft-battling Ray and Dave were even getting along – at one point the former introduces the later in a slight mock Italian accent as “a real good-a-friend of mine” – and this album is certainly a showcase for their also underrated brotherly harmonies.

Everybody’s in Show-Biz may have caught The Kinks in transition, but it also captures the band in one of its primes. And this expanded reissue does what such releases are supposed to do: reiterate and double-down on an act’s greatness, bringing greater glory to the legacy of a band who, from the British Invasion on right up to their final 1994 release – the also largely (must I say it yet again?) unheralded live collection To The Bone, one of the favorite albums of this near-lifelong Kinks Konvert. Rock music would have been so much less without them, and not nearly as fun or deeply touching or…. God Save The Kinks!

Related: Our feature on The Great Lost Kinks Album

Rob Patterson

4 Comments so far

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  1. Fred
    #1 Fred 3 September, 2020, 12:00

    I am also a huge Kinks fan. I have not heard this expanded version of “Everybody’s In Showbiz”, but the album in its original form was, in my view, one of the weakest of the Kinks catalog, and it was the harbinger of bad things to come. There are many songs on the album that are filler and best to skip, like the awful “Hot Potatoes”. Ray seemed obsessed with food at this time. Who needs “Maximum Consumption”, “Motorway”, and “Hot Potatoes” on the same album? “Unreal Reality” is another one worth skipping. Cutting out all of “Lola” except for the audience singing along to the chorus in a snippet was a crime and kind of a rip-off. The album is mostly redeemed by “Sitting in My Hotel” and “Celluloid Heroes”, both Ray Davies masterpieces.

    As for being harbinger of things to come, it is clear from this album that Ray is on the verge of taking the Kinks in a different direction. Perhaps that was clear earlier, from “Muswell Hillbillies”. Maybe even the wonderful “Village Green Preservation Society” and “Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround Part 1”. He is thinking of albums in terms of themes, not just collections of songs, and he became obsessed with concept albums. He went on to produce albums that attempted to tell stories: “Preservation Act 1”, “Preservation Act 2”, “Soap Opera”, and “Schoolboys in Disgrace”. In my view, only Kinks kompletists need the first three of those in their collection. They are bad stories, full of songs mostly designed to push the narrative along, with a few gems (notably “Sweet Lady Genevieve” and “(A) Face In the Crowd”). “Schoolboys”, however, is brilliant because the melodies are catchy, the lyrics thoughtful and sometimes naughty, and — yes — it rocks!

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  2. Fred
    #2 Fred 11 September, 2020, 10:10

    Well, I decided to give the “Preservation” albums another listen, and I’m finding that there are more good songs than I remembered. However, “Preservation Act 2” would have been better without all the narration between the songs.

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  3. Frank P
    #3 Frank P 26 August, 2021, 21:26

    The run of albums from “Face to Face” through A “I Everybody’s in Show Biz” is as good a stretch as any band has ever done. Criminally overlooked. I have had the debate in my head as to whether I like them more than Beatles (usually, the Beatles win), and have ALWAYS considered them better than the Stones. Love the Kinks.

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  4. Bob D
    #4 Bob D 25 August, 2023, 19:48

    The Kinks have been my band since 1964 . My first ” real record ” ( not a kiddie record ) was All Day And All Of The Night . 60 years later The Kinks are second only to The Beatles for me . I was at Carnegie Hall the first of 2 nights they were recording the live record for this set ( I was 15 ) but the show started too late due to the opening act Lindisfarne having trouble at JFK Airport and immigration and Im pretty sure the story went that curfew and overtime costs prevented anything being recorded on night 1. This album is worth twice the price for Sitting In My Hotel alone . The expanded live record is fun to hear and is an excellent documentation of what The Kinks were like live in 1972 ( and until the Arista re-birth ) , but its the studio record that always got played here . oh , on a side note , dont overthink Kinks music . Its not that kind of stuff 🙂

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