Certain Songs #874: The Kinks – “Celluloid Heroes (Live)”

Album: One For The Road
Year: 1980

I’m sure that some of you were wondering where the hell this was when I zipped from “20th Century Man” to “No More Looking Back” last week. After all, it’s the one song between “Lola” and “Come Dancing” that’s stuck in the culture.

It’s just that I’ve always like this live version — kicked off by a long, thrilling Dave Davies guitar solo — better than the slightly wispy original version, that’s all, especially since it’s not like they rock it up too much after the song proper starts.

But no matter which version you prefer, “Celluloid Heroes” stands as one of Ray Davies most universal and prescient songs, right from the opening verse.

Everybody’s a dreamer and everybody’s a star
And everybody’s in movies
It doesn’t matter who you are
There are stars in every city
In every house and on every street
And if you walk down Hollywood Boulevard
Their names are written in concrete

In 1972, that opening verse was mostly metaphorical: we were all the stars of the movies of our lives we imagined in our heads every day. But in 2017, the age of YouTube, Instagram, Twitter etc., that stardom could become literal for just about anybody at any moment.

But of course, even now, getting a star on Hollywood Blvd is still a thing. And walking down Hollywood Blvd and looking at those stars remains a thing.

You can see all the stars
As you walk down Hollywood Boulevard
Some that you recognize
Some that you’ve hardly even heard of
People who worked and suffered
And struggled for fame
Some who succeeded
And some who suffered in vain

How much of a thing? Just last month, Kirk, Tim and I walked down Hollywood from Musso and Frank’s where we’d had dinner and drinks to the Fonda Theatre (where we were seeing The Japandroids) and though we’ve all middle-aged men who’ve lived in L.A. for years — I’m the newest resident, and I’ve been here since 2001 — we were calling out names we recognized. Because that’s just what you do when you walk down the Hollywood Boulevard.

And I didn’t ask them, but I’m sure they both had this song playing in their head. I know I did.

Fan-made video for “Celluloid Heroes (Live)”

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