X-Norman: A Soap Opera (Strider Productions SP 003/4)
The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA – April 20th, 1975
Disc 1 (52:46): Introduction (part 1), Here Comes Flash, Here Comes Yet Another Day, Demolition, Mirror Of Love, Money Talks, band intro., Celluloid Heroes, Banana Boat Song, Lola, Alcohol, Skin And Bones, You Really Got Me, All Day And All Of The Night
Disc 2 (61:23): Intro (part 2), Everybody’s A Star (Starmaker) / Dialogue / Everybody’s A Star, dialogue, Ordinary People, dialogue, Rush Hour Blues, dialogue, Nine To Five / When Work Is Over / Have Another Drink, dialogue, Underneath The Neon Sign, dialogue, You Make It All Worthwhile / dialogue / You Make It All Worthwhile, Ordinary People (reprise), dialogue / Here Comes Flash, Well Respected Man, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, Sunny Afternoon, dialogue, Ducks On the Wall, dialogue, Face In The Crowd, dialogue, You Can’t Stop The Music
Coming off a busy year of touring, recording, radio broadcasts and producing a television production, 1975 was just as busy for The Kinks. They released two more rock narratives, Soap Opera and Schoolboys In Disgrace, and scheduled multiple tours of the US and UK.
“Starmaker” with “Ordinary People” was released as a single on April 1st and “Ducks On The Wall” with “Rush Hour Blues” as the b-side was the second single released from the album on April 18th before the LP finally hit the stores on April 25th.
The US tour began on April 13th in Minnesota and ended with three shows at the Beacon Theater in New York in early May. Soap Opera was then released on May 16th, right when they started touring the UK.
X-Norman: A Soap Opera is a minor release on the Strider Productions label. It features the complete April 20th show at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The taper was close to the stage and produced a very good to borderline excellent recording. There are slight points of distortion and it lacks significant amounts of dynamics, but it is a very good record of a very good show. The tape flips occur during the band introduction, between the two sets, and during one of the latter pieces of dialogue on disc two.
The first half plays like a condensed Preservation show. After the mc explains the program to the crowd the band come onstage playing “Here Comes Flash,” from Preservation Act I followed by an uptempo version of “Here Comes Another Day” from Everybody’s In Showbiz.
Shirley Roden sings “Mirror Of Love.” “She’s gonna do a lovely job for ya…” Ray assures the audience before they begin.
While introducing the band Ray speaks mentions how much they love playing the Spectrum, saying “it’s all about tests. We’re all little boys” perhaps alluding to Schoolboys. John Gossling on piano is the “grand vicar” and he refers to himself is Johnny Cash before “Celluloid Heroes.”
The more theatrical songs, “Lola,” “Alcohol” and “Skin And Bones” follow with an obligatory performance of their earliest hits “You Really Got Me” and “All Day And All Of The Night” closing the first half.
After the intermission they perform Soap Opera. The album is performed except “Holiday Romance.” The dialogue and narration are taken from “Starmaker,” the BBC special from the previous year. “Underneath The Neon Sign” is added, as is the extended reprise of “Ordinary People” by the end. At that point, Ray as “Norman” tries to convince his wife that he really is a rock star and ties to convince her by playing parts of “Well Respected Man,” “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” and “Sunny Afternoon.”
Some in the audience sound slightly impatient during the dialogue portions, but overall there seems to be a positive reception to one of the strangest rock-narratives ever staged. Drama in everyday life has always been a strong theme in theater, expressed by William Shakespeare with the “all the world’s a stage” monologue from As You Like It. But Ray Davies pushes this idea to such lengths that he seems to contradict himself in the end, saying there is really no connection between being a pop star and charted accountancy.
X-Norman: A Soap Opera is a double CD title which is packaged in an old style fatboy jewel case and black and white printed inserts on professional paper. It looks like a very old production. However, it is the only silver pressed release documenting the Soap Opera stage show and as such is a very valuable document for mid-seventies Kinks live performance.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)