The material was initially developed for a Granada TV live teleplay in 1974, which was broadcast under the title Star Maker, starring Ray Davies and June Ritchie as the leads, with the Kinks providing live accompaniment. A Soap Opera adapted the same songs and plot to an audio presentation, with Ritchie in the same role. Plans for a full-scale theatrical tour were not realized, but the Kinks, with their extended mid-70s lineup, did perform the entire album on tour in 1975. Though the album was not well-received, Dave Thompson, reviewing an unofficial bootleg recording, called the live presentation "a revelation". 
It tells the story of a musician named Starmaker who changes places with an "ordinary man" named Norman in order to better understand life. The album is the third concept album in the band's "theatrical period". Starmaker goes to bed with Norman's wife Andrea and then goes to work the next day, getting caught in the rush hour. He works 9 to 5, then goes down to the bar for a few drinks before making his way home. He then is greeted by Andrea whom he tells is "making it all worthwhile". By this point Starmaker has lost his grip on reality, he doesn't know who he is anymore. In the end he settles down with Andrea, accepting that he is now just "a face in the crowd". The album finishes by saying that although rock stars may fade, their music lives on.
The Starmaker is a parallel exaggeration of Ray Davies, he would often use his name in the stage version on Soap Opera and perform previous top Kinks songs as examples of his work as a star to explain that he is not Norman.