A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy
|"A Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy"|
|Single by The Kinks|
|from the album Misfits|
|B-side||"Artificial Light" (U.K.)
"Live Life" (U.S.)
|Released||19 May 1978|
|Recorded||July 1977 – January 1978 at Konk Studios, London|
|Label||Arista 189 (U.K.)
Arista AS 0342 (U.S.)
|The Kinks singles chronology|
"A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" is the lead single and fourth track from The Kinks' 1978 album Misfits. Written by Ray Davies, the song was inspired by the band's then-tumultuous state at the time, with two members leaving the band during the recording of Misfits. Released as the first single from the album, the track was the band's most successful single in years, reaching number 30.
During the recording of the Misfits album, bassist Andy Pyle and pianist John Gosling quit the band, with drummer Mick Avory also considering leaving. Following this change, Ray and Dave Davies got together and spent time with each other, a meeting that resulted in the writing of Ray's "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" and Dave's "Trust Your Heart."
It took nearly a year to put [Misfits] together, a couple of band members left, and Mick [Avory] didn't really want to do it. And [Ray and I] got together like we had so many times before, playing Chuck Berry records, having a laugh. And two songs came out of it, '[A] Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy' and 'Trust Your Heart,' which pulled the record together. That could very easily have been the end of [the band]. But there was something not yet resolved.— Dave Davies
Ray Davies has since said, "'A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy' a very personal song about Dave and I." He has also claimed that "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" inspired by both a Peter Frampton concert he attended and the death of rock 'n' roll legend Elvis Presley in 1977. He said, "It's a Method acting songwriting job. I use personal things to get something else out of me... Elvis Presley died last week and it all just added up."
The lyrics of "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" describe a man named Dan who is a huge fan of The Kinks. He engulfs himself in their music whenever he feels unhappy, "living in a rock 'n' roll fantasy". The song also details when Ray Davies and his brother Dave were thinking of breaking up The Kinks. This is evident in lyrics such as "break up the band, start a new life be a new man."
Release and reception
The track was the first from Misfits to be released as a single. It was backed with "Artificial Light" in Britain, and "Live Life" on the U.S. version. It peaked at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in America, the band's best charting American single since 1970's "Lola." It also charted at #30 in Canada.
The track is generally cited by critics as one of the highlights from Misfits. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic called the track one of the two "touchstones" of the album and named it as a highlight from the album. Ken Emerson of Rolling Stone called the song "ruthless", and went on to say,
It's a twofold fantasy: that of Davies, who'll "break up the band, start a new life, be a new man," and that of a diehard Kinks fan, Dan, who's wrapped up in their records. At its lovely beginning, the song suggests a breathy ballad by the Bee Gees, another veteran group but one that, unlike the Kinks, is now enjoying greater commercial success than ever before. As the lyrics describe Dan's rapt devotion, billowing harmonies deliberately evoke the Beach Boys, a band that seems to have soldiered on only for the sake of nostalgia. Then, as this description reaches its climax, the Kinks burst into an approximation of the sound of Boston's dense, swirling guitars. (If Boston can scarcely get it together to record a second LP, imagine how the Kinks, whose success was equally over-night, feel as they approach their twenty-second or so!) "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" ends with Davies insisting, "Don't want to spend my life, living in a rock 'n' roll fantasy /...Don't want to waste my life, hiding away anymore," but after nearly fifteen years as a rock & roller, it's clear that any alternative is every bit as much a fantasy. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
The song has since appeared on the compilation album Come Dancing with The Kinks.
- Hasted, N. (2011). You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks. Omnibus Press. ISBN 9781849386609.
- Hinman, Doug. The Kinks: All Day and All of the Night.
- "A Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy". Songfacts.
- Davies, Ray. "Lyrics". Retrieved 2014-05-05.
- "Charts". Retrieved 2014-05-05.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "AllMusic". Retrieved 2014-05-05.
- Emerson, Dave. "Rolling Stone". Archived from the original on 9 December 2007. Retrieved 2014-05-05.