If you read here sometimes, you know that I am A FAN. Not “a fan,” – A FAN. When I like something, I really really like it. I suppose it is part of my personality, call it obsession, hyperfocus, intensity, or creepy. I don’t mind at all. I like getting genuinely happy and excited about things, I like digging into stuff and thinking and deconstructing and savoring and wallowing in them. And I am not fickle, either – if I really like something, I tend to stay liking it for a long, long time. Being a bigfan of things has brought tremendous joy into my life, including the opportunity to meet other bigfans, sometimes making great friendships along the way. Of course, sometimes you meet Rupert Pupkin: FAN GONE BAD. Sometimes you meet a whole lot worse than Rupert Pupkin, too. People come to their bigfandom in many different ways, I have determined. Part of what has been most interesting to me in being immersed in various subcultures of fandom over the years is being able to step outside it, and just watch. Watch, and learn.

Something I find fascinating is how the famous view their fans. Oh, I can sit and think about this for very long periods of time because I like the idea -- the strangeness of anyone having “fans.” It’s not a natural situation. If you are fortunate, your family are your fans, your boosters, your cheerleaders, and your adoring gazers. That said, your family should also be the ones to give you swift reality checks to the head, and offer you a nice cool glass of water and a band-aid after. Your friends really shouldn’t be your fans – they should be walking next to you, not behind you hoping for an autograph.

To have someone, or many many someones like what you do and/or you yourself even though they do not know you personally must be an odd thing to experience, and it must set up a rather polar situation in the brain. The famous can only both love and loathe their fans, simultaneously, eternally. Fans represent accomplishment and intrusion, worth and neediness, justification and expectation. There’s nothing in the relationship that is grounding for famous folks. They are admired and loved for one part of who they are, what they show to the world, and probably that is what is the best of what they are. They know that people make huge assumptions about them based on that. They know that people don’t really know.

There must be something incredibly poignant, amazing, and confusing in seeing your fans enjoy your songs or tell you at a book signing that your words changed their life, or that the movie you were in was the best they had ever seen, because of you. “Great show!” “I love you!” “I’m your biggest fan!” “I have all your work.” You must feel incredibly grateful and proud and happy. You must feel guarded and measured and skeptical, because you know you are only as good as your last loved thing, and that praise and attention comes and goes, often regardless of the quality or effort you give. You must say “thank you” and smile, and try to forget about it because it will drive you crazy thinking about how to keep it once you’ve had it, or think how it isn’t what you thought it would be, or just think about how weird your life is now.

Dan is a fan and he lives for our music
It’s the only thing that gets him by
He’s watched us grow and he’s seen all our shows
He’s seen us low and he’s seen us high
Oh, but you and me keep thinking
That the world’s just passing us by

The Kinks, “Rock n’ Roll Fantasy”

I know the real Dan The Fan. He lives in New Jersey, and I have been his pal for many years. I do think Ray Davies was writing about him particularly in this 1978 song, although probably with a few other Dan The Fans he has known over a long career thrown in too. In this song, it is easy to see the compassion and understanding and fondness Davies has for his fans, as well as his detachment and comprehension of the unreality of the situation for everyone, including himself. The year prior, Dan The Fan had a female lyrical companion, the girl in The Kinks’ “Jukebox Music” –

There's a lady plays her fav’rite records
On the jukebox ev’ry day.
All day long she plays the same old songs,
And she believes the things that they say.

Other ladies like to prance around
And flirt and dance the whole night through,
But she just sits and listens to here juke box records,
‘cause that’s all that she wants to do.

She sings along with all the saddest songs,
And she believes the stories are real.
She lets the music dictate the way that she feels.

Funny. These songs came very close after The Kinks’ signing to Arista Records, which led to their highest record sales, most radio play, and largest concert years of their entire career. Clive Davis, head honcho of Arista and major industry playa, has said he signed them because Ray was still “hungry.” I imagine there was a lot for Ray to think about, 15 or so years into the band, wanting more, wanting something else, wanting something back. You think about those fans – the ones that left, and the ones that stayed on, like “Dan.” For whatever the motivations and the reasons, they had more work to do, the Kinks, before calling it quits in the early ‘90s. Dan is still around, fanning, and I am too.

I'm a prisoner but I got no cage
I'm locked up but I got no chain
But the good guys lose and the bad guys win
That's why you're looking out and I'm looking in
But we're all animals, too
But you're locked up in a zoo
'Cause you look at me and I look at you

The Kinks, “Animal In The Zoo”

So I look at me and I look at you, too. And they look at them and at those. And so does Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, in this winking tribute to fans, fandom, and the connection of it all, strange and mostly wonderful, in the end.

Are you under the impression
This isn't your life?
Do you dabble in depression?
Is someone twisting a knife in your back?
Are you being attacked?
Oh this is a fact that you need to know, oh, oh, oh, oh

Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love you, baby

Are times getting tough?
Are the roads you travel rough?
Have you had enough of the old?
Tired of being exposed to the cold?
Stare at your stereo
Put on your headphones and pull out your hair, oh, oh, oh, oh

Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love you, baby

So many wars that just can't be won, oh, oh, oh
Even before the battle's begun, oh, oh, oh
This is all of our arms open wide
Sonic shoulder for you to cry, y, y, y, y

Wilco, Wilco will love you, baby

Is someone twisting a knife in your back?
Are you being attacked?
Oh this is a fact that you need to know

Wilco, Wilco, Wilco, Wilco, Wilco will love you, baby.