June Got “Kink”y – A Playlist

kinks cover

It’s been building up to this point.  There was no avoiding it, really.  Following the purchase of a new turntable, the breaking out of albums long put away, it was inevitable that the Kinks would make a swift return to the soundtrack of my life.  Sure, they never truly left the rotation, but they had been regulated to a secondary role.

Never again.

I could list several of their top songs – You Really Got Me, All Day and All of the Night, Lola – and make a kick A playlist that would be awesome.  Instead, I am going to pick songs I LOVE! and that are not typically on their greatest hits albums. I say not typically on those albums because I don’t feel any band has nearly the amount of compilation albums that the Kinks have. I’m looking to expose you to the songs that I find to be fantastic, but might not necessarily be their most popular (according to record companies).

Other things to note before you begin reading the playlist.  Dave Davies is horribly under appreciated.  He is a fantastic guitarist, with a unique sound.  I probably love the Kinks just a smidgen more than the Who – but not much!  I have had a crush on Ray Davies since I saw his 1964 picture.  Yes, he’s older now……but I still dig him.  That should do it.

Seriously...how could I NOT have a crush on Ray Davies (in white).  He's adorable in this pic!!

Seriously…how could I NOT have a crush on Ray Davies (in white). He’s adorable in this pic!!

1. Sweet Lady Genevieve, Preservation Act 1 – Preservation Act 1 was released in 1973 and is the beginning to a trilogy of albums that concludes with Schoolboys In Disgrace (Preservation Act 2, obviously, is the second album…anyhoo…) that tells the story of Mr. Flash.  Now, I’m not going into great detail about those albums or their stories.  What is important for you to know, is that the Kinks – Ray Davies – began writing albums that became more like musical theatre than the traditional rock albums people expected.  This trend begins, in my opinion, with the release of The Village Green Preservation Society in 1968.  While the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Who all had their concept album, the Kinks had an entire series where their album themes revolved around a specific concept.  Preservation Act 1 is about the initial destruction, through modernization, of traditional English life (country life).  Now, why I love this song:  it’s identifiable.  I’ve been on both ends of it at least one point in my life – I’m sure you have too.  We’ve made promises, broken promises, begged for another chance – longed for it!  The way Davies writes is very observational and honest.  Plus, it has the name Genevieve which, being a very English album (and unapologetic for being very English – which I love!), recalls the Arthur legend.  In some ways, you can pretend that it’s Arthur begging her, and blaming himself, for the state of affairs between them.

2. Oklahoma USA, Muswell Hillbillies – Not to give you an in-depth history of the album, I would encourage you – if you are interested of course – in checking out the links provided.  Moving forward, Oklahoma, USA is a slower paced song on an album that could probably fit in a more country rock category than straight rock and roll.  Personally, I find it clever that an album with the title Muswell Hillbillies purposely plays with typically country western musicalities.  Just one more reason I love the Kinks – they are clever.  Almost too clever for their own good at times, but I like that.  Anyways, the whole album is enjoyable.  20th Century Man, Muswell Hillbillies (they mention West Virginia!) – great songs! – but I’m choosing to share Oklahoma USA.  The song is about a woman that lives in a dilapidated area of England (Muswell) that’s on the cusp of being industrialized/modernized.  She dreams of  the Oklahoma seen in the films (another common theme of Davies writing, which, again, is very observational and true).  The music to the song is beautiful and soft.  It’s just nice to think that while I daydream about England, someone in England may daydream about my home.  Kinda gives one perspective.

3. Juke Box Music, Sleepwalker – Sleepwalker is the first of the post-concept albums the Kinks made.  It’s a collection of excellent, true to form, rock songs that aren’t intentionally tied to an overall theme and it’s a nice  break from the musical theater that had dominated their previous nine albums with various degrees of success.  Juke Box Music, like a lot of later Kinks songs, has an upbeat tempo, but the lyrics are a little more harsh and critical  of both the protagonist of the song and the listener.  I’ve mentioned before, Ray Davies is very observational and his lyrics can be both sympathetic and critical.  Some may even call them biting at times.  Where Oklahoma USA explains a woman’s fantasy world that allows her to escape the drudgery of every day life, Juke Box Music calls the listener out – saying it’s only music, don’t hold on to the words to the point that you think they are true.  I think that can be applied to most things people cling to – whether its music, religion, movies, books, philosophy.  Sometimes, you have to remember its only music.  On a different note, I really think Dave Davies gets a chance to shine with his distinctive guitar playing and vocals.

4. I Took My Baby Home, Kinks – The Kinks first album, appropriately self titled, is typical albums from the first years of the British Invasion: lots of covers, few originals.  This is mainly because those new bands – including the Beatles – were still working on finding their song writing feet.  I Took My Baby Home is a Ray Davies original, and it’s extremely catchy.  It’s really just a fun song!  If you look at a lot of the Kinks catalog, their songs are smart, sometimes biting (especially as they got older – but isn’t that true for us all?), but at the end, most are a lot of fun.  Observational writing provides that room for everything – like life.

5. Love Me Till the Sun Shines, Something Else by the Kinks – A very English album, Something Else by the Kinks included many tracks written by Dave Davies – brother to Ray and lead guitarist of the Kinks.  This is my favorite of the Dave Davies songs….ever actually.  It’s an attitude that I wish I could have at times – being happy with love given just for a moment, not necessarily lasting – but I don’t……so, I live vicariously through Dave here.  Still, while he’s pleading with the lady to love him till the sun shines, it’s also very obvious that this probably isn’t the best way to have love.  He calls himself out even, which, like his brother’s writing, is very insightful.  Layers people…layers!  Musically, it’s just a fun song.  As for the lyrics, I think the interpretation depends on the listeners mood.  At the end of the day (see what I did there?  You Kinks fans got it), it’s a very self-aware song that you can take as a condemnation of the frivolous lifestyle of only living for a moment without a care for the future, or simply a man using what he has to get what he wants.

6. No More Looking Back, Schoolboys in Disgrace – Schoolboys in Disgrace has been said to be a prequel to the Preservation Acts 1 and 2, dealing with what makes Flash…well…Flash.  The English school system that the Kinks, and many others, grew up in has been sent up by Pink Floyd (Another Brick in the Wall), Monty Python (skits, The Meaning of Life), and others.  The Hard Way is pretty much my go to when I’ve had a rough day at school as a teacher.  Still, it’s No More Looking Back that I enjoy the most from that album.  I think the title is self explanatory, but basically it’s about a person who is having trouble letting go of a person from his past (I assume the female character from the album – but it can apply to one and all).  I know that I have felt past something – loss of a family member, break up of a relationship – then you hear a song, see a show, walk past a store, ANYTHING and BOOM, you are right back in it and it hurts, but you have to keep moving on.  Like the song mentions, someday it’ll pass, someday the memories won’t hurt, and it’s true.  Ray Davies has given those of us hurt (let’s be honest, all of us at one point or another) an anthem and it’s appropriate.

7. Everybody’s A Star (Starmaker), Soap Opera – Now, Soap Opera is not for everyone.  It’s really the climax of a series of ever-increasing concept albums that turned to musical theater pieces.  It includes dialogue, a complex story that is better suited for the stage as opposed to an album.  I would dare say that the stage show of this album was a blast to see, but unless you are willing to embrace the concept idea, the album can be difficult to listen to.  Still, there are gems on the album and Everybody’s a Star is one of them.  For me, they take the idea of  the world being a stage and we are all players and apply it to modern society.  Yes, it’s the set up song to the concept album, but it’s catchy, fun, and really plays with the idea that everyone is special – an idea some people take too far a lot of time.  This time is no different.

8. Here Comes Yet Another Day, Everybody’s in Show Biz – This album can be viewed as the change from concept album to theatrical album.  Simply put, this song gets me through a lot of mornings.  While this song is really about the rock star way of life, I think we can all identify with the go, go, go mentality that has set in on modern life.  Sure, this song was recorded in 1972, but you know what I mean.

9. Catch Me Now I’m Falling, Low Budget – Keep in mind, at the time this was written, the US wasn’t doing so hot….kinda like now.  I wasn’t alive at the time, but my parents have talked about what it was like waiting for gas, living in a post Vietnam America in general (the good and bad).  I can relate to it now since we’ve been in a recession most of my adult life.  Also, the area in which I live just feels like we are in free-fall.  This is also one of the songs from the height of the Kinks revival as a late 70’s/80’s band when they saw a resurgence in popularity.  I’m going to say songs like this – again observational, and insightful – made that resurgence possible.

10. Mr. Songbird, The Village Green Preservation Society – The album, The Village Green Preservation Society, is probably my favorite album by the Kinks. While the songs are very nostalgic, there is also a sense of whimsy in a lot of the lyrics.  Phenomenal Cat, Picture Book, the title track, Monica – these and every track follow the theme of the album, while still maintaining their individuality. (See the link to see why Mr. Songbird is both on the album…but not on the album…you’ll see). What mean by that, is that you don’t need to know the theme of the concept album in order to understand the song or identify with it. Mr. Songbird is just a fun song that I dare you to listen to without bouncing a little bit. I DARE you!

While these may not be the Kinks songs you hear about the most, they are ones that when they pop up randomly (that’s how I play all the songs on my iPod – random!), I listen. Hopefully, these buried tracks will inspire you to check out the Kinks and their fantastic catalog of songs. Ten spaces are not nearly enough to truly give you a sampling of all their hidden gems, but it’s a start. OH! While I’m thinking about it, check out Do it Again….and Come Dancing……and Animal Farm…and…and…..ALL THE SONGS!!

god-save-the-kinks

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