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» One Touch Football - Archive » Music » The Kinks - Plastic Man

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Author Topic: The Kinks - Plastic Man
Mat Pereira
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I was playing that Kinks album 'Arthur' the other night, that one they did that was supposed to be the music for a musical to an Alan Bennett BBC play that never happened, and one of the extras is this song, which was either a single in it's own right or a B-Side, I don't know which.

It's a strange sounding song anyway, because it's structured like one of Ray Davies comedy musical hall numbers, but with a guitar mixed really loud, and distorted a bit so it sounds quite angry, and the way Ray Davies sings it isn't in that laid-back, removed way he normally goes for, but really tersely, clenched-lip and vicious, as if you know he really means this, it's a statement.

But what the fuck, what the fuck is he going on about?

quote:
A man lives at the corner of the street,
And his neighbors think he's helpful and he's sweet,
'Cause he never swears and he always shakes you by the hand,
But no one knows he really is a plastic man.

He's got plastic heart, plastic teeth and toes,
(Yeah, he's plastic man)
He's got plastic knees and a perfect plastic nose.
(Yeah, he's plastic man)
He's got plastic lips that hide his plastic teeth and gums,
And plastic legs that reach up to his plastic bum.
(Plastic bum)

Plastic man got no brain,
Plastic man don't feel no pain,
Plastic people look the same,
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kick his shin or tread on his face,
Pull his nose all over the place,
He can't disfigure, or disgrace,
Plastic man.

He's got plastic flowers growing up the walls,
He eats plastic food with a plastic knife and fork,
He likes plastic cups and saucers 'cause they never break,
And he likes to lick his gravy off a plastic plate.

Plastic man got no brain,
Plastic man don't feel no pain,
Plastic people look the same,
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kick his shin or tread on his face,
Pull his nose all over the place,
He can't disfigure, or disgrace,
Plastic man.

He's got a plastic wife who wears a plastic mac,
(Yeah, he's plastic man)
And his children wanna be plastic like their dad,
(Yeah, he's plastic man)
He's got a phony smile that makes you think he understands,
But no one ever gets the truth from plastic man

It's the last line that does my head in particularly, it sounds like the sort of thing you'd imagine Stalin saying about whoever had pissed him off that week.
Posts: 9018 | From: The Sticks | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
and I am the life
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he's talking about some kind of emotionally stunted-dead inside lower middleclass english man, a facade to the outside world, and plastic is just a metaphor. plastics were dead new back then and it was groovy to use them as a metaphor.

Arthur is a fucking great album. I didn't know this song was on it.

Posts: 19996 | From: the crespo of a wave | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Duncan Gardner
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It wasn't on the original, but was an unsuccessful single. Arthur has possibly my fave Kinks song- Shangri-La- and 'Princess Marina' is funny.

It may have been briefly banned because of 'bum'. Young and innocent days, like.

Not of the overall high standard of Village Green or Something Else though.

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and I am the life
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i really liked those two songs as well.

plastic man is a bit along the lines of well-respected man

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Mat Pereira
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'A Well Respected Man' is more pointed, social satire though isn't it? And it's specific too. Same with 'Mr Pleasant', it's about people who are doing alright, and don't care who they tread on.

'Plastic Man' feels kind of different somehow, it's feels like a rant about not just one particular person, but an entire social group. And he dehumanises them completely. I find it really chilling.

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se3_uk
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I think 'Well Respected Man', 'Mr Pleasant' - and even 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion' are meant to be seen as archetypes, even though they are ostensibly about one person.

I think 'Plastic Man' is meant to be taken the same way. I've always thought it was an attack on mindless conformity but it's not a terribly successful one. In many ways it's nothing more than a slightly lazy and less successful retread of earlier work.

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Mat Pereira
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See, that's the nub. I don't get the impression it is, about 'mindless conformity', for a kick-off, he's generally too smart and sharp a lyricist to waste his time writing about something so daft. Social conformity is never mindless, people only ever conform slavishly when they think they're due to get something in return, like say the up and coming professional in 'Well Respected Man'.

What's really shocking about 'Plastic Man' is it's departure from his usual take, it's pure hate inpsired, and I still can't get what he's so worked up about.

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Lucy Waterman It Be
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I have a strange feeling I've read that the Plastic Man is Davies himself in the late 60s - having to go and be a pop star while his marriage was breaking up, and reflecting his increasing coked-out paranoia. No idea where I picked this up from, though.
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