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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 the music history books as a brilliant, thought-provoking work. In truth, the original debut of the song was part of a collective dud in the form of the disastrous release of the Rolling Stones' 1967 work THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST. 2000 MAN was strangely selected as a cover song on Kiss' 1979 album DYNASTY, although it really is not a Kiss song per se. More see it as an Ace Frehley solo work endeavor.
And many do see the Frehley version to be 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 version can be considered the yet another strange song on a misguided album that wasn't anywhere near as bad as some think. Does that sound incoherent? If so, then the description is an appropriate one. SATANIC MAJESTIES was somewhat of an incoherent release by a band that seemingly could do no 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 album 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 original debuted as the bad boys of the British Invasion, the evil counterparts of the more wholesome Beatles. The Rolling Stones released quite a number of 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 SATANTIC MAJESTIES, a new direction was taken. One-half of that direction entailed trying to capture the psychedelic music crowd and the other half sought to rip off 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 totally dismiss SATANTIC MAJESTIES really is unfair. 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 exactly one of the Rolling Stones' most popular songs. Likely, if it was not for the Frehley cover, the song might have ended up a completely forgotten one. 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.
Or, is the 2000 Man someone who has not changed with society? He constantly 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. (See Futurism for more on this theme) ''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 really do not seem to 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'' probably gained a lot of 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 of the time 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 image 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 very strange uneven sound. The very beginning of the song 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? An upbeat acoustic guitar musical arrangement at the beginning of song is almost folk song 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 really is he present of the 2000 Man. The syrupy sentimental approach at the beginning does lend credence to the notion this is about a man drifting back to his past, the year 2000, an era removed from the overly technological one he now resides disconnected from his family.
Quickly, the tempo of the song changes and becomes faster and more audience pleasing. This 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 greatly 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 was based on his love for all things science-fiction. 2000 Man was easily 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 he debt song and, honestly, it is a marginal song. He did far, far better doing 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 Frehely. You really do have to listen to it live to really fully appreciate it. The bizarre lyrics are the perfect fit for the equally bizarre Frehley. Listening to him sing the song changes the biography like rendition of Jaggers to a faux autobiography. When you hear Ace rip into the song, the experience really 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 really does seem to be ''spacing out and having fun'' when he truly cuts loose playing his guitar while singing.
2000 Man is not likely going to ever 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.