David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 351: The Alan Parsons Project (I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You)

May 19. 2024

Retirement is spurring a number of retirement-themed blogs for this song series. Poor Shirley Bassey must be wondering what she did to keep having artists cut ahead of her in line.

With 30+ years in higher education, half as a Provost, I can say I had a pretty quiet career. Longevity suggests some effectiveness, especially since that tenure was over two institutions. However, I never sought the limelight, never demanded to be the story's lead. Type in "David Fleming" "Provost" and you will get only a handful of hits, although you will have to filter out some of the other David Fleming academics out there (really, who would've thunk there'd be so many of us in the industry, including one who is an oft-cited professor of English at a major state university). I am proud of the lack of attention. One of my first proclamations as Provost at Davenport University back in 2007 was that a good Provost knows "when to stay out of people's way and when to get in their way." For the most part, because of a lot of good faculty and staff in my career, I was staying out of the way.

Thus I come to today realizing I was Alan Parsons.

Ugh! Really?

All of my heroes in rock and roll and my best professional analogy is Alan Parsons? I have never drank enough to be Warren Zevon, never been arrogant enough to be Morrissey, never balding enough to be Mark Knopfler (those without talent resort to cheap shots, sorry, Mark). It's difficult to see me as a solo artist, unless it was one kicked out of the band for stupid reasons. There aren't many of those anyway, most get kicked out for a drug addiction, not because they wouldn't lick the boots of the song-writing guitarist.

However, that attitude, a bit arrogant in its own right, to be who I am fits Alan Parsons. Let's face it, The Alan Parsons Project weren't the flashiest band at the time. Any of them could have walked down the street in New York City and probably never be recognized.

This analogy fits even more with "I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You," The Alan Parson Project first hit, which says it all, starting with the fact that it is somebody named Lenny Zakatek, not Parsons, out front singing the song. Neither Parsons, nor his bandmate, Eric Woolfson, co-writers of the song, need the spotlight. In addition, as one of the few Parsons' songs to really feature the lead guitar, Ian Bairnson is given the spotlight for the nifty little guitar riff that goes through the song.

So, sorry, Michael Stipe, that's not me in the spotlight; I guess that's me in the background on a keyboard. Wikipedia's entry for the song doesn't even list Parsons as playing on the song, merely producing, engineering, and composing. Sigh!  That is exactly what a Provost (I might argue leader of any kind) should do. Let the faculty or the deans or others doing the real work be Lenny or Ian.

(By the way, I know the link below, featuring Parsons, might diminish all of my arguments. First, as many know, I loved making videos for instructional updates, until some faculty told me that no one watched them. Given that this is the only video featuring Parsons so prominently, and without band members, I will say that maybe he too heard the harsh but truthful message.)

Most importantly, the lyrics to "I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You" nail how I feel about my 30-year career, whether as faculty member or administrator. In the end, I liked to believe I stayed true to who I am. I don't have to go to ebay to see if I can buy back my soul or my spine, because even "if I had a mind to/I wouldn't want to think like you," which is a clever little line from songwriters rarely mentioned as leaders in lyrical content.

Later, in the second verse, the lyrics are pretty damning, and I am glad I am on the right side of the dam(n): If I was high class/I wouldn't need a buck to pass/and if I was a fall guy/I wouldn't need no alibi." Hmm? All of a sudden, I am wondering if Parsons (or Woolfson) were once academics. Those lines seem a little too spot on. In the end, I have always been able to say "I don't care what you do/I wouldn't want to be like you."

Please have this etched on my tombstone, professional or personal.

The Alan Parsons Project. "I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You." I Robot. Arista, 1977. Link here.

Day 350: Oasis "Whatever"

Day 352: Shirley Bassey "Goldfinger"

See complete list here.