(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman

"(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" is a song written by Ray Davies that was first released on the Kinks' 1979 album, Low Budget. The song, inspired by Superman: The Movie, employs a disco beat and lyrics that describe the singer's wish to be like the fictional character Superman (Christopher Reeve). The song's disco style was created as a response to Arista Records founder Clive Davis's request for "a club-friendly record," despite Ray Davies' hatred of disco.

The song was released as the lead single from Low Budget, becoming a moderate hit in North America. It has since appeared on numerous compilation and live albums.

"(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman"
(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman cover
Single by The Kinks
from the album Low Budget
B-side"Low Budget"
Released26 January 1979 (UK)[1]
12 March 1979 (US)[1]
Format7" single
RecordedJanuary 1979 - June 1979, Konk Studios
GenreRock, disco
Length3:36
5:57 (12" extended)
LabelArista
Songwriter(s)Ray Davies
Producer(s)Ray Davies
The Kinks UK singles chronology
"Black Messiah"
(1978)
"(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman"
(1979)
"Moving Pictures"
(1979)
The Kinks US singles chronology
"Live Life"
(1978)
"(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman"
(1979)
"A Gallon of Gas"
(1979)
Low Budget track listing
11 tracks
Side one
  1. "Attitude"
  2. "Catch Me Now I'm Falling"
  3. "Pressure"
  4. "National Health"
  5. "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman"
Side two
  1. "Low Budget"
  2. "In a Space"
  3. "Little Bit of Emotion"
  4. "A Gallon of Gas"
  5. "Misery"
  6. "Moving Pictures"

Background

"(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" was inspired by Ray Davies watching Superman: The Movie in late 1978.[2] Ray Davies has said that the song was written as a joke in response to a request by music producer Clive Davis, who was then running Arista Records, for a record to appeal to clubs.[2] Davies said of this: "It was kind of a joke, taking the piss out of Clive [Davis] wanting us to do a club-friendly record."[2]

"(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman", as well as its B-side, "Low Budget", were the first songs recorded for the Low Budget album, although, unlike the rest of the album which was recorded in New York, the tracks were cut in Konk Studios. The band's recently hired studio engineer, John Rollo, said of the sessions for the two songs, "The album before [Low Budget, Misfits] was beautifully recorded, but not that rock and roll. I think the first two songs [I did] went extremely well and the band wanted to spend some time in New York, to get away from distractions and kept it as a raw band recording."[4]

Dave Davies, initially unimpressed with the song, added guitar parts.[2] Dave Davies also said of the song's release, "I think that one ['Superman'] was, not the biggest mistake, but it could've been one of the biggest mistakes we made. I remember I had quite a difficult time with Ray while we were making the record, because I didn't like the direction it was going. It was a strange time for music in general, anyway. The fact that it's funny, that it was a humorous song, saved it. I don't feel bad about that song at all, but it could have been a big mistake."[5]

Lyrics and music

The song also invokes another movie from the era, Saturday Night Fever, and the 1960s Animals hit "We Got to Get Out of This Place."[2] The lyrics describe an average person dreaming of being Superman in order to get through social issues.[6] The lyrics combine "fantasy" and "mundanity," two of Davies' favorite themes.[7] Author Thomas Kitts notes the irony in the lyrics sung by a weakling wishing he were Superman which, as with other songs Davies wrote, leads to the singer feeling resigned.[8] Author Nick Hasted makes a similar point, that despite dreaming of being Superman, the singer remains Clark Kent and can't get over his fear of the bad news he keeps hearing.[2] According to Allmusic critic Richard Gilliam, its lyrics are among "Ray Davies' most sharp-edged."[6]

"(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" has a disco-like sound, though a hard rock version is sometimes performed in concert.[6][9] Critic Johnny Rogan describes the lyrics as "witty" and the music as "upbeat."[7] Music critic Robert Christgau describes it as a "fusion of syndrum and macho-flash guitar."[10]

Release and reception

"(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman", backed with "Low Budget", was released as the lead single from Low Budget. Although it was a chart failure in Europe, the song found moderate success in North America, reaching #41 in the U.S. Billboard charts[11] and #43 in the Canadian RPM charts. Although multiple follow-up singles were issued, "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" is the only single from the album to be released in both Britain and America.

In addition to this appearance, the song is present on many of the band's compilation albums, including Come Dancing with The Kinks and The Ultimate Collection.

Billboard Magazine rated it one of the top tracks from Low Budget.[9] Producer Clive Davis described the song as tapping "the malaise at the tail end of the decade."[12] In its review of the single, Trouser Press praised the band for "tackl[ing] disco and com[ing] away with more than a shred of dignity."[1]

Alternate versions

During the recording of Low Budget, many alternate versions of "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" were created, including an approximately six-minute long extended edit that appeared on a 12-inch single in America and Britain. Studio engineer John Rollo said of the many versions: "On 'Superman' we must have mixed that song at Konk [studios] twenty times - and it was quite a long song - and to get it down for a 7-inch single version we had to do twenty edits. Then we were running out of days and [Ray] had to be out of the country. Clive Davis was always known as a totalitarian hands-on guy but Ray was having none of that, he was going to make the album he wanted."[4]

It also appeared in live form on the album One for the Road.[13] Allmusic critic Bret Adams called this live version a "raw, stripped-down" rendition.[13]

Personnel

Chart performance

Chart (1979-1980) Peak
position
Australian Singles Chart 71
Canadian RPM Singles Chart 43
US Billboard Hot 100[11] 41

References

  1. ^ a b c Hinman, D. (2004). The Kinks: All Day and All of the Night. Hal Leonard. ISBN 9780879307653.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hasted, N. (2011). You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks. Omnibus Press. ISBN 9781849386609.
  3. ^ "Ray Davies Interview: Denver 9-9-81".
  4. ^ a b Jovanovic, R. God Save the Kinks: A Biography. Aurum Press. pp. 234–237.
  5. ^ McCue, D. (February 1990). "Dave Davies - Out Of the Ordinary". Guitar Magazine. Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Gilliam, R. "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  7. ^ a b Rogan, J. (1998). The Complete Guide to the Music of the Kinks. Omnibus Press. p. 126. ISBN 0711963142.
  8. ^ Kitts, T. (2008). Ray Davies: Not Like Everybody Else. Routledge. p. 199. ISBN 041597769X.
  9. ^ a b "Top Album Picks". Billboard Magazine. 14 July 1979. p. 88. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  10. ^ Christgau, R. (1981). Rock Albums of the '70s: A Critical Guide. Da Capo Press. p. 214. ISBN 9780306804090.
  11. ^ a b "The Kinks US Charts". allmusic. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
  12. ^ Davis, C. (2013). The Soundtrack of My Life. Simon & Schuster. p. 235. ISBN 9781476714783.
  13. ^ a b Adams, B. "One for the Road". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-06.

External links

A Gallon of Gas

"A Gallon of Gas" is the ninth track from The Kinks' album, Low Budget. It was written by Ray Davies.

Attitude (The Kinks song)

"Attitude" is a song by the British rock band The Kinks, released on their album, Low Budget. It was written by Ray Davies.

Bald Headed Woman

"Bald Headed Woman" is a traditional blues song, covered by The Kinks on their eponymous debut album in 1964 and The Who in 1965 as the B-side of "I Can't Explain".

The song was also covered by other artists of the time, including Harry Belafonte, as seen in the Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home, and The Sneekers.

Jimmy Page plays on The Who's version. "It wasn't really lead," he clarified, "Just a couple of phrases."

Berkeley Mews

"Berkeley Mews", sometimes mislabeled as "Berkeley Men" or "Berkeley News", is a song written by Ray Davies and released by the Kinks as the B-side to their 1970 track, "Lola". Berkeley Mews is a small street in London.

Big Black Smoke

"Big Black Smoke" is the B-side to The Kinks' single "Dead End Street", written by Ray Davies. The song was not originally included on any album, but has since appeared as a track on the popular 1972 Kink Kronikles compilation and as a bonus track on the CD reissue of Face to Face.

The song makes reference to the recreational use of the drug Drinamyl with the lyric "And every penny she had was spent on purple hearts and cigarettes."

Black Messiah (song)

"Black Messiah" is the third track from The Kinks' 1978 album Misfits. It was written by Ray Davies.

Catch Me Now I'm Falling

"Catch Me Now I'm Falling" is a song written by Ray Davies and first released by The Kinks as the second track on their 1979 album Low Budget. Written as a criticism of America's allies, the song depicts the fall of Captain America as a symbol of the United States' dire circumstances at the time. The song features multiple solos on different instruments as well as a riff similar to "Jumpin' Jack Flash."

The song saw single release in the United States and in the Netherlands. In the U.S. it had 'Low Budget' on the b-side, while in the Netherlands the b-side was 'In a Space'. The song has since made appearances on compilations and live albums.

Life Goes On (The Kinks song)

"Life Goes On" is a song by the British rock band The Kinks. Appearing on their album Sleepwalker, it was written by the band's main songwriter, Ray Davies.

Low Budget (album)

Low Budget is the seventeenth studio album by the English rock group, The Kinks, released in 1979. Following the minor success of their 1978 album Misfits, the band recorded the majority of the album in New York rather than London. Unlike the more nostalgic themes of many Kinks albums prior to Low Budget, the album contains many songs that appeal to current events of the time. Musically, the album is a continuation of the band's "arena rock" phase, resulting in a more rock-based sound and more modern production techniques.

Despite being a relative failure in the UK, Low Budget was a great success for the group in the US, not only becoming their best-selling non-compilation album but also peaking at #11 on the American album charts. The lead single, "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" was also a minor hit in the US, reaching #41. The album was also praised by many critics in the US, although reception was more mixed in the band's native UK.

Low Budget (song)

"Low Budget" is the sixth track from The Kinks' album of the same name. It was written, produced and sung by Ray Davies.

Misfits (The Kinks song)

"Misfits" is the title track for The Kinks' 1978 album, Misfits. It was written by Ray Davies.

Moving Pictures (The Kinks song)

"Moving Pictures" is the final track on The Kinks' 1979 album Low Budget. Like the other ten tracks on the album, it was written by Ray Davies.

One for the Road (The Kinks album)

One for the Road is a 1980 live album and video by The Kinks.

Polly (The Kinks song)

Polly, sometimes mislabeled as Pretty Polly, is a song by British rock group the Kinks. It was released as the B-side of their 1968 single "Wonderboy". "Wonderboy" peaked at number 36 on the UK Singles Charts, becoming the first major Kinks single since 1964 to be a relative commercial failure. It also peaked at number six in The Netherlands."Polly" later appeared as a bonus track on the 1998 and 2004 CD reissues of Something Else by The Kinks.

Pressure (The Kinks song)

"Pressure" is the third track and third British single from The Kinks' 1979 album, Low Budget. It was written by Ray Davies.

Scattered (The Kinks song)

"Scattered" is a song by the British rock band The Kinks. Written by Ray Davies, "Scattered" appeared as the sixteenth track from their album Phobia, and was the band's final original single (only to be followed by reissues of "You Really Got Me" and "Waterloo Sunset".)

Summer's Gone

"Summer's Gone" is a song by the British rock band, The Kinks. Released on their 1984 album Word of Mouth, the song was written by the band's core songwriter, Ray Davies.

Wicked Annabella

"Wicked Annabella" is a song by English rock band the Kinks, appearing on their 1968 album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.The song was written by main songwriter Ray Davies, although sung by lead guitarist Dave Davies in a rare departure from tradition.

You Still Want Me

"You Still Want Me" is a single by The Kinks released in 1964. It was their second record, and (like its predecessor) failed to chart upon release. This prompted Pye Records to consider dropping the fledgling group. However, the massive success of the band's next single, "You Really Got Me", ensured their tenure with Pye would continue until 1970, when their contract expired.

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