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5.11-KING MIDAS IN REVERSE (Hollies)

Hollies

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[Intro]

If you could only see me--
(I know exactly where I am)
You wouldn't want to be me--
Oh, I can assure you of that!

I'm not the guy to run with
Cause I'll throw you off the line.
I'll break you and destroy you
Given time.

        He's King Midas with a curse
        He's King Midas in reverse
(2x)

It's plain to see it's hopeless
Going on the way we are.
So even though I'd lose you
You'd be better off by far.

                He's not the man to hold your trust.
                Everything he touches turns to dust
                In his hands.
                Nothing he can do is right.
                He'd even like to sleep at night
                But he can't!

        All he touches turns to dust (4x)

I wish someone would find me
And help me gain control
Before I lose my reason
And my soul.

        [Chorus (2x)]


King Midas in Reverse might be thought of as the obverse side to Donovan's confidence in Sunshine Superman. This song sings "unlucky me", "everything I touch turns to dust!" It proved to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. The song was judged to be "over-indulgent" by the American audience. King Midas marked a dive in the Hollies' popularity from which it would take a couple of years to recover.

By the time of the Hollies next Top Ten hit, He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother in 1969, Graham Nash was gone, and the reconstituted group had learned to improve their ability to control full scale orchestra ballads. King Midas in Reverse exhibits one of the few piccolo pop songs on record, but the poor instrument is used to compete with the shrillness of a bombastic orchestra. The song has an attractive twelve-string guitar introduction, but by the end of the record the piled on orchestration is over the top, and sounds like everything but the kitchen sink, a proliferation of cacophony. King Midas in Reverse indeed!

The misjudgment in the orchestration is difficult to defend. But I find that the insecurity of the song is not as difficult to accept when it is listened to as a dramatic lyric, a theatrical character acting in a play with a commenting chorus. It was in this attempt to produce a theatrical piece for Top 40 radio that I find this record to be in the "experimental" psychedelic tradition. Such attempts were in the air: Pete Townshend and The Who had already released A Quick One While He's Away, and Rael (which was a sketch for the Tommy rock opera) was to be released shortly on The Who's Sell Out album. But Townshend provided larger contexts, and perhaps the lack of such a large context for King Midas kept the song from communicating that it was character sketch with a chorus of witnesses. Due to its form, I expected the sincerity of lyric verse, not the cognitive distance that comes with theater and projection upon a character.

I don't include the Townshend's opera attempts in this collection because they came to fruition outside the psychedelic era. The Who's few psychedelic records are about more immediate effects. In the case of the Hollies, however, the album on which King Midas in Reverse appears, released in November 1967, is the best expression of their attempt to develop a pop psychedelia. The Hollies were definitely not an underground group, the kind you would hear on the newly developing FM radio. Their music had generally become considered too light and commercial among the hip crowd. It's true that much of the development of psychedelic music was beginning to be communicated through underground radio. But the Hollies were trying to take psychedelic experimentalism to Top 40 Radio, like only the Beatles by this date seemed able to do with any repetition of success. Though none of Hollies' psycehedilia made gold records, I admire the Hollies for their application of pop expertise to the psychedelic tradition.


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