Here Comes Flash (Or The Remarkable Prescience of Raymond Douglas Davies)

Here Comes Flash
(Or The Remarkable Prescience of Raymond Douglas Davies)

I’m a Konker. For the uninitiated, that means I’m a fan of the rock band The Kinks. But it actually goes a bit deeper; it means when I went to Kinks concerts I knew all the songs by heart and could sing them on cue with my fellow Konkers (if only we could get Ray and the lads to tour one more time!). For the really uninitiated, the Kinks were a “British Invasion” band that started in the early ‘60s and recorded hits such as “You Really Got Me”, “All Day and All of the Night”, “Lola”, “Sunny Afternoon”, and perhaps the most beautiful rock song ever written, “Waterloo Sunset”. Ray Davies was their leader, singer, and songwriter. In the early ‘70s the Kinks recorded a number of “concept” albums, meaning full albums that told a story, including “Preservation” Parts I and II. As I’ve pondered strategies for weathering the Trump super-storm, I’ve been struck by the similarities between the rise of Trump and the main character from Preservation, the dastardly Mr. Flash. (Note that all song lyrics cited herein are © 1973-1974, Raymond Douglas Davies, published by Davray Music Ltd-BMI).
We start with a song early in Part I, “There’s a Change in the Weather”, wherein three blokes from different strata of society (remember, England was and in some ways still is a very class-conscious place) express their angst regarding a changing world:

I’m just a simple working man
Getting’ by the best I can
In this crazy, mixed-up muddled-up world I live in

I’m a middle class sort of a guy
I’m not rich but I get by
Pretending that I know just what I’m doin’

I’m a well-bred upper class sort of chap
I don’t care much about this and that
Even when I know there’s trouble brewin’

We think there’s a change in the weather
We got to learn to stick together
We’ve seen the thunder clouds in the sky
I wanna live, I don’t wanna die

So to begin with, we can see a lot of insecurity among the populace; things are changing, they don’t know how it will all shake out, and they’re scared. We then get a glimpse of the rage of the working man, who knows he’s getting screwed by the fat cats, but feels helpless to do anything about it in the song “Money and Corruption”:

We are sick and tired of being promised this and that
We work all day we sweat and slave to keep the wealthy fat
Then they fill our heads with promises and bamboozle us with facts
Then they put on false sincerity, then they laugh behind our backs

Money and corruption are ruining the land
Crooked politicians betray the working man
Pocketing the profits and treating us like sheep
We’re tired of hearing promises that we know they’ll never keep

Who swoops in to take advantage of the gloom, despair, and corrupt system to take power for himself? Why it’s the one and only Mr. Flash. The song is “Here Comes Flash”:

You’d better run, you’d better fly
Hide your daughters, hide your wives
Lock your doors and stay inside
Here comes Flash

There’s no way that you can win
You must obey his every whim
Or else he’s going to do you in
Here comes Flash

He will smile at you, be a friend to you
Then he’s gonna screw you just like that
He’s going to use you, his heavies will abuse you
And then he’s gonna lean on you
Here comes Flash

Flash deals in real estate, don’t you know (what a surprise). And his game plan for real estate success is summed up in the song “Demolition”:

I spy with my little eye, anything here that I can buy
I see a little thatched cottage looking so neat
With compulsory purchase we can buy it up cheap
Then we’ll pull up the floorboards, knock down the walls
Rock the foundations until the house falls
Like a pack of cards crashing to the ground
Then we’ll build a row of identical boxes and sell them all off at treble the profits
Demolition!

It’s time to make some money, it’s time to get rich quick
It’s the wonderful world of capitalism
I’ve got to make a profit, I’ve got to satisfy my greed
It’s my faith and my religion
Demolition! Demolition! Demolition!

And just in case you’re under any illusions regarding Mr. Flash’s true nature, it’s spelled out for you in the song “He’s Evil”

He comes on smooth, cool and kind
But he wants your body, not your mind
He’s got style, personality
But he’s the devil in reality
He’ll make you laugh, he’ll make you smile
Make you feel good for a while
Wicked smile, decadent grin
He likes schoolgirls, nuns, and virgins

In Preservation Act II, Flash consolidates his power, but cracks are beginning to appear in his empire. A song about the wonders of wealth “Money Talks” ends with this warning:

Money talks and we’re the living proof
There aint know limit to what money can do
Money talks you out of your self-respect
The more you crave it, the cheaper you get

A note should be made of a significant difference between Mr. Flash and Mr. Trump. Flash is given a back story in which we learn that he grew up poor, and had to fight for the food on his table and the clothes on his back, which presumably helps to account for the loathsome person he has become. Whereas we know that Trump grew up rich. So at least Mr. Flash has some sort of reason (if not an actual excuse) for his rapacious behavior, but not so our Donald. Eventually, Flash gets a visit from someone he hasn’t heard from in years, his conscience (if only Trump had one!). His world and his power are crumbling around him, and he can see that he is soon to succumb to his greatest fear: being a nobody. Just another face in the crowd. His conscience tells him “You lied and schemed and took over a simple village and turned it into a vulgar playground for your own money making ends. Before you came people lived simple lives. This was a happy place. Then you ploughed up the fields, sold off the land, and lined your own pockets with the profits”. Flash pleads “Lies! Lies! I did it to help the nation”. But his conscience is having none of it: “You did it for your own preservation”. Just like Trump, who has never done a damn thing in his life to benefit anyone but himself. Which leads to the extraordinary song: “Flash’s Confession”:

I’ve just had a dream that I never could forget and I wish I could erase
I was standing on a street with a whole crowd of people and no one knew my name
And I was just another face
No one looked at or touched me
Spoke to or acknowledged me
I had no identity or individuality
No thought of my own, no mind or personality
I was just a no one, a total nonentity
I’m just a number waiting to be called, and it’s time for confessing it all

Been a cheat, been a crook, never gave I always took
Crushed people to acquire, anything that I desired
Been deceitful and a liar, now I’m facing Hell Fire
I can’t believe that my time has come
For confessing all the evil and the wrong that I’ve done
The reckonings come and now I’m just a no one
I confess to the timid and the meek
To the cripples and the beggars and the tramps in the street
I confess my cruelty my ego and conceit
I’ve opened up my body and looked inside
And I’m everything that I once despised
I confess for the thieves the affected and deranged
I confess for the muggers and incurably insane
I confess to the ugly for being so vain
I confess to those I’ve hurt for causing them pain
I’m just a number waiting to be called
And it’s time for confessing it all

A thieving, callous, egotistical real estate tycoon takes advantage of people’s real financial insecurity and the pernicious presence of extreme income/wealth inequality to assume power. He promises relief from troubles, but in truth he’s only out for himself. Sound familiar? In “Preservation”, when Flash finally falls, he’s replaced by a new dictatorial regime. The people have been brainwashed into thinking that only a strongman can cure their society’s ills, and so they careen from one power mad dictator to another. The title of this essay references the prescience of “Preservation’s” composer and lyricist, Raymond Douglas Davies. Let’s hope that such prescience ends here.

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