In general, the phrase “well respected man” is a positive compliment. However, in Kinks’ lead singer Ray Davies added zing to the meaning of that designation with his satirical vignette of upper class hypocrisy in the song “A Well Respected Man.”
Following his 1965 U.S. tour, Davies went for a vacation at a British luxury resort in Torquay, Devon. The resort was populated with upper class Brits, some of whom managed to offend Davies by taking a dim view of the pop star from a working-class background. His response was to write a song taking a shot at the British class system.
Although the melody is in the English music hall style (light, simple and bouncy) the lyrics are a scathing indictment of British class consciousness. The song tells the story of an upper class gentleman whose life seems perfect to the world, but is actually filled with frustration and corruption. Ray Davies succeeded in creating one of the first satirical and funny rock songs mocking the establishment, as well as exposing the British upper class for its self-satisfaction.
“A Well Respected Man” reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965, and remains one of the band’s most popular and best known songs. It is one of four Kinks songs included on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll along with “You Really Got Me,” “Waterloo Sunset,” and “Lola.” The song was also released on their 1965 album Kinkdom.
In 1965 Petula Clark recorded a French version, “Un Jeune Homme Bien,” which was released in France and Canada in 1965. The song is featured in the 2007 film Juno.
The Kinks formed in Muswell Hill, North London, England, and were one of the influential bands of the British invasion era. They were brothers Ray and Dave Davies, Peter Quaife, and Mickey Willet. They had numerous lineup changes over the years and toured and performed for many decades.