Understand Me Says the 2000 Man of Kiss and Rolling Stones Song Lore
2000 Man - Unplugged
Looking Out a Little Windowsill While Having an Affair with a Random Computer as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ace Frehley and the 2000 Man Sing Along
2000 Man is not exactly a song that will go down in music history books as a brilliant, thought-provoking work. In truth, the original debut of the song was part of a collective dud from the disastrous release of the Rolling Stones' 1967 album THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST. 2000 Man was strangely selected as a cover song on Kiss' 1979 album DYNASTY, although it is not a Kiss song per se. More see it as an Ace Frehley solo work endeavor.
And many do see the Frehley version as quite better than the original one sung by the Stones. With DYNASTY, "2000 Man" becomes the right selection for the right artist on, honestly, the wrong album. (It would have been a better selection for Ace Frehley's highly successful 1978 solo LP) The original Rolling Stones version ranks yet another strange song on a misguided album that wasn't nearly as bad as some think. Does that sound marginally coherent? If so, then the description is an appropriate one. SATANIC MAJESTIES was somewhat of an incoherent release by a band that seemingly could not do anything wrong in 1967.
MORE OF A MISS: THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST
First, it is necessary to point out THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST is an excellent album. Criticism against the album was enormous at the time of its release, and even Keith Richards still steadfastly claims the LP is a ''load of crap.'' The LP did go gold at the time of initial release, although fans were somewhat perplexed at the music. SATANIC MAJESTIES comes off as a very unfocused album. The Stones originally debuted as the bad boys of the British Invasion, the evil counterparts of the more wholesome Beatles. The Rolling Stones released many pop favorites and, interestingly, were always able to go a little further with their music and create profound and thought-provoking material in selections such as Gimme Shelter, Sympathy for the Devil, Dead Flowers, Street Fighting Man, and more. With SATANIC MAJESTIES, the Stones went into a new direction. One-half of that direction entailed trying to capture the psychedelic music crowd, and the other half sought to "mimic" The Beatles' SGT. PEPPER album. SATANIC MAJESTIES was quickly deemed an ill-inspired lame attempt at a copy of the legendary Fab Four album. To dismiss SATANIC MAJESTIES isn't entirely fair, though. Several excellent songs appear on the list of the LP, including the excellent She's a Rainbow, 2000 Light Years from Home, and Citadel.
And then there is, of course, 2000 Man.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A 2000 MAN?
2000 Man was not one of the Rolling Stones' most popular songs. Likely, if it was not for the Frehley cover, the song might have ended up wholly forgotten. The themes found in the song are somewhat esoteric, and that is being kind.
"Well, my name it is a number; it's on a piece of plastic film," are the words that begin the song, and it could be inferred this is a look into the future where life has become mechanized. Technology has overtaken the lives of people living in it. The 2000 Man title can refer to the generic everyman of the future whose "name is a number" who looks at "funny flowers sitting on [his] little window sill." Are "the flowers" funny because they are organic? Has society become so technologically mechanized that symbols of the natural world are now purely "funny" out of place ala Silent Running?
Or, is the 2000 Man someone who has not changed with society? He continually laments, "And my kids, they just don't understand me at all" and "Don't you know, I'm a 2000 Man?"
The "2000 Man" might not be living in the year 2000. It might be 2045, and he was born in the year 2000. He looks back, and tragically feels he is outside of society because he no longer has a place in it. He tries to find a new world for himself in the future, which, ironically, is the present. "Don't you know, I'm a 2000 Man?" might not be a statement that he is a modern/futuristic man, but someone who is from another age and has a hard time leaving that age behind even though the years continue to move forward.
At least that is what we can decipher from the bizarre lyrics by Jagger/Richards, which do not focus on any one theme.
The lyrics do have a strange prophetic quality to them. Offbeat and equally off the wall lyrics such as "I am having an affair with a random computer" likely gained quizzical looks when heard in 1967 and 1979. Today, they somewhat do make sense. Many men ARE having affairs with random computers, thanks to the expansion of online pornography. In the original context of the words, audiences probably saw the object of the affection in the affair to be something akin to an Isaac Asimov I ROBOT inspired paramour. Well, what other images would appear in your head 35 to 45 years ago when you heard the line?
Modern times bring us to the controversial case of a man who sought "a marriage license for himself and his' machine spouse else,'" a spouse that comes in the form of a "pornography laden [Macbook] computer."
"The exclusion from marriage to a machine denies myself a dignity and status of immense import," says he.
(Source: Telegraph UK)
THE SONG PLAYS OUT
The song itself does deliver a bizarre and uneven sound. The song's very beginning shows the Stones were trying for something both a little different and a little different. The opening is slow and upbeat and seems like a lulling tempo version of Have You Seen Your Mother Baby? A lively acoustic guitar musical arrangement at the beginning of the song is almost folk-like and hearkens back to a much simpler era. Jagger's lyrics do not mesh with the days gone by since he is talking about the (our) future, which is the present of the 2000 Man. The syrupy sentimental approach at the beginning does lend credence to the notion that this is about a man drifting back to his past. The year 2000, an era removed from the overly technological one, and he now resides disconnected from his family.
Quickly, the tempo of the song changes and becomes faster and more audience-pleasing. The tempo creates a bit of incoherency to the song, as the refrain drifts to constant repeatings of "Oh daddy, proud of your planet, Oh mummy, proud of your sun. "
Uneven might be the best way to describe the song, but it works and remains an excellent one, albeit a footnote in the Rolling Stones' musical biography. Not so for Ace Frehley and Kiss as they would help garner great popularity for the lyrics and the song.
THE SONG (DOES NOT) REMAIN THE SAME: ACE FREHLEY PERFORMS HIS COVER
Enter the Space Man! Long time Kiss fans know Frehley's makeup persona derived his love for all things science-fiction. 2000 Man was the perfect song for Frehley to play, although its selection for the DYNASTY album likely was a lark. Frehley never really believed (at the time) he was a solid lead singer, so he rarely tried to sing during the Kiss era. Shock Me was his debut song, and, honestly, it is a marginal song. He did far, far better at performing lead vocals on his 1978 solo album with the cover of New York Groove being a standout.
2000 Man becomes a much more musically consistent song thanks to the excellent guitar work by Frehley. You do have to listen to it live to appreciate it fully. The bizarre lyrics are the perfect fit for the equally bizarre Frehley. Listening to him sing the song changes the biography-like rendition of Jagger's to a faux autobiography. When you hear Ace rip into the song, the experience does sound like you are listening to the titular anonymous 2000 Man tell his tale of life thinking about the past from a window sill in the future. Ace does seem to be "spacing out and having fun" when he cuts loose playing his guitar while singing.
2000 Man is not likely going ever to make anyone's lists of the top 100 songs in history. While a footnote for the Rolling Stones, 2000 Man is definitely among the more memorable songs from the original Kiss lineup. Long may the 2000 Man reign.
Update: Congrats to Ace. His new solo album and tour are both huge hits.