Thursday, November 24, 2011

Forgotten Music Thursday: The Kinks - Celluloid Heroes (1972)

One of the great lyrical conquests of the Classic Rock era is The Kinks "Celluloid Heroes" a single from their 1972 LP, Everybody's In Show-Biz. It was not a hit but album oriented stations sometimes played the longer, superior, LP version that runs 6:19, around two minutes longer than the 45 RPM. Neither composer Ray Davies nor The Kinks ever put a better song on vinyl.

Davies was inspired to write "Celluloid Heroes" by the many stars embedded on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk of Fame. His thoughtful lyrics generate a lot of emotions that complement a gentle, pleasing melody and arrangement.

The lyrical centerpiece of the song is the line "Celluloid heroes never feel any pain and celluloid heroes never really die." Those words hit me hard every time I see an old movie star still so vibrant and alive on film who is no longer with us.

The line "Don't tread on dearest Marilyn because she's not very strong" is the antithesis of her onscreen personality and so accurate. Also mentioned are actors George Sanders, Greta Garbo, Mickey Rooney, Bela Lugosi, Rudolph Valentino, and Bette Davis. Davies is able to convince us that he knew these stars intimately even though he never met them.

While many important and famous people from the past such as Cleopatra, Henry VIII, Ben Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln are well known to us none of them seem alive today. There are paintings, busts, and photographs of these individuals, and even their own writings, yet they all feel like the historical figures they really are. Many of the film greats from Hollywood's golden era who have passed on continue to walk, talk, sing, dance, and cry on film today, but after you listen to "Celluloid Heroes" reality sets in. That is what makes the song so very, very sad.

Listen to Celluloid Heroes now.


  1. Poignant write up on a song that many count as Ray Davies finest hour. Supersonic Rocketship comes in a close second for best track honors on this LP.

  2. Awesome song......I have always loved it. Great melody and the lyrics.....simply a Ray Davies masterpiece.