In-depth reviews of classic or neglected albums, mainly from the 1960s and 70s, plus a weekly newsletter featuring all the latest news, views and music. Artists covered include Beach Boys, Beatles, Belle and Sebastian, Buffalo Springfield, Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, Dire Straits, Grateful Dead, Hollies, Jefferson Airplane/Starship, Kinks, Nils Lofgren, Monkees, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Searchers, Simon and Garfunkel, Small Faces, 10cc, The Who and Neil Young.
Monday, 7 December 2015
The Kinks Part One: Solo (Dave Davies)/Live/Compilation/Soundtracks/Musicals/American Albums/EPs 1964-1996
1) "You Really Got Me"
Beautiful Delilah/So Mystifying/Just Can't Get To Sleep/Long Tall Shorty/You Really Got Me//Cadillac/Bald Headed Woman/Too Much Monkey Business/I've Been Driving On Bald Mountain/Stop Your Sobbing/Got Love If You Want It
"Salesman talking to me, tryin' to run me up a creek, says you can buy - now, go on try, you can pay me next week!"
Strange as it may seem now when the artists are king and the record labels are lucky to have them, most British bands of the 1960s - particularly those in the first flush of 'The British Invasion' - had no control over their American releases, which often appeared on different (though affiliated) labels and with all new titles, covers and track listing in the States. The main changes tend to be that the American market loved putting period single on albums to make them sell while the English market largely frowned on this which in the days when fans bought both was felt to be disrespectful and less value for money (although the Kinks partly bucked this trend with singles one and three both appeared on record though not, for instance, 'All Day And All Of The Night'), while publishing costs 9and a scheme originally planned for longer, more classical works) meant they were reluctant to release records with more than 12 tracks per album - while most early sixties UK records tended to have fourteen. We've covered a lot of the US changes across our AAA books, but The Kinks fare better than most for a number of reasons. For a start their love of EPs in the early days give Reprise in the states a better range of non-album material alongside the A and B sides to play around with - and the 'ban' on The Kinks in the states means that the record label lost interest anyway past 'Kinda Kinks' and left it to Pye to import a few hundred English copies of the album to loyal fans instead. Unlike some bands (such as The Hollies) the catalogue has since been corrected in the States too, meaning that generally American fans have as much access to the 'proper' UK editions as their own bastardised versions in the modern age, but - well - we've grown a fondness for these often weird and wacky American editions of AAA albums so we've included the Kinks' US market releases in this book anyway for old fans - there are only four of them in any case this time around.
'You Really Got Me' is effectively The Kinks' debut record, released in the States a month or so later and re-named after the album's most famous track. The cover is ever so nearly the same as in the UK, but with an extra 'box' above the original picture of the band in their re hunting jackets with the band logo and album title easier to read (it's re-printed in the back of the CD re-issue booklet). Three songs were missing for this eleven track reduction: ''I'm A Lover Not A Fighter' and 'Revenge' were both held over for the next American album, whilst the reason this album is 11 tracks not 12 is that Reprise tries but failed to gain the rights to 'I Took My Baby Home' - another American label, Cameo, already owned the rights to the track after releasing it as the B side to the band's cover of 'Long Tall Sally' making both sides of that single incredibly rare in the States until re-issues of The Kinks' material began to be re-issued across the 1970s. Believe it or not, Reprise were one of the 'kinder' record labels in terms of changing things round, so the 'feel' of this album is less interrupted than other albums by the Stones and Beatles in America, with the tracks in the same order apart from the three absentees.
2) "Kinksize Sessions"
(Pye, November 1964)
Louie Louie/I Gotta Go Now/Things Are Getting Better/I Got That Feeling
"Now my baby's come back to me it's going to get better, wait and see!"
While The Kinks weren't worked quite as hard by Pye as some of their contemporaries (see The Beach Boys, releasing five albums a year or The Zombies, who came very close to being Zombies for real thanks to Decca), they were still worked hard. Eager to capitalise on the success of 'You Really Got Me', Pye had the band back in the studio nearly straight away to record an EP ('Extended Play') - that interim measure that was only really used in the 1960s for fans who couldn't afford a full LP but wanted something a bit more substantial than a single. Bands tended to have different relationships with EPs, especially at Christmas (for which this November set was surely timed) - some used them to release old material, some mixed old songs and new ones, while bands like The Kinks used them almost solely for new recordings. The first of three EPs with 'exclusive' material, its not until the summer of 1966 that they drop the trend of 'album > EP > album > EP' and Pye start using the medium to release old material. However even Ray Davies on a writing spree couldn't quite keep up with the demand all this entailed and you can tell that The Kinks don't necessarily treat the EPs with same reverence as the albums. Even compared to the first album this EP sounds rushed and unfinished, with clumsy double-tracking that points ahead to 'Kinda Kinks', while the lead off track is not a new Ray Davies composition but a wobbly if feisty cover of The Kingsmen's ever popular 'Louie Louie' (an odd cover in that you can actually hear most of the words!) Of the three new songs, 'I've Got That Feeling' is [perhaps the most interesting, a better re-write of the Beatlesly 'She Does Something To Me', with a fascinating tension between the song's main melody line, which wobbles uncomfortably between the major and minor keys throughout (which sit well with Ray's happy-in-the-moment lyrics, whilst hinting that the narrator already knows this is lust, not love). Elsewhere the bossa nova-ish 'Gotta Go Now' is less accomplished but still well worth hearing, with its lovely folky blend of harmonies and sudden r and b style eruptions into full on power but not much in the way of lyrics (this will be Ray's simplest, emptiest set of words until the 'arena years' of the late 70s!). 'Things Are Getting Better' however is a noisy r and b powerhouse with rather silly lyrics but with that very Kinks message of short-term-pessimism, long-term-optimism coming into play for largely the first time. All four are valuable, overlooked additions to the Kinks Kanon songs can be heard in the CD age added to the back of the re-issue of first album 'The Kinks' as well as various sets like 'The EP Collection'.
The first track on the 'Kinksize Sessions' LP sounds much like a continuation of the first album.  'I Gotta Move' is a Ray original that sounds like it should be an old blues song, based around a fiery fast-flying riff and a metronomic drumbeat. Ray's lyrics are slightly more paranoid, though, getting itchy feet as evidenced both by the short snappy chorus and some exquisite playing by Pete Qaife whose bass bubbles with indignation at key moments of the song. Listen out for two key lyric moments: 'I never really stayed at school' sighs Ray, the start of a guilt-trip that will result in 'Schoolboys In Disgrace' a full 11 years later, while he jokingly changes the line 'gonna brush my boots and comb my hair' to 'fill my gap and comb my hair' - a reference to his distinctive sticking-out teeth. Don't underestimate the importance of those teeth in The Kinks' history - Ray claims it was sitting in the dentist's surgery under strict orders to have 'something done' about his teeth that first made him determined not to 'play' the pop game (his walking out may have had something to do with Pye's sudden loss of interest in the band during their first three single when they were branded 'difficult'). Ray never did get his teeth 'fixed' - we fans can't imagine him any other way now.
Every band of the 1960s seem to have played  'Louie Louie' at some point - a rock and roll standard first recorded by the Kingsmen** and actually written by Richard Berry, not Chuck as so many fans assume. The Kinks' scrappy version isn't one of the best although it does have a lot of character and uniquely you can hear the words (well most of them); part of the original's allure was that fans could never quite make out what they were and a rumour went round that they were 'dirty' (actually the words are basically 'You Really Got Me' about a boy obsessed with a girl he's seen). Ray correctly guesses that the original was inspired by Jamaican patois and indulges in his own 'version' of the accent - something that will haunt The Kinks for many albums to come (see 'Black Messiah' and 'A Little Bit Of Emotion' among others).
 'I Gotta Go Now' is a simple pop song which sounds as if it was written in a hurry (as many songs across 1964 undoubtedly were). Ray returns to the theme of impatience and of being dragged away from his loved one against his will (both common themes of the period and especially 'Tired Of waiting For You' and 'Gotta Get The First Plane Home') backed up by a slick metronomic beat from Mick Avory that porpels the song along almost against it's will, as Ray's vocal slashes across the melody in a clever inversion of what The Kinks normally did (instead Dave's guitar plays the melody while Ray 'distracts' from it). Unfortunately Ray's in too much of a hurry to quite know where to take this song, so he takes the easy way out twice over, revving the song up for a middle eight that doesn't quite work and adding a brace of ascending chords during the extended chorus to increase the tension. However all this is really just procrastinating and we're back at the point where we started from soon enough, with Ray - much like 'No More Looking Back' to come - clearly reluctant to say his farewells no matter how many times he tells us he has to go now.
 'Things Are Getting Better' is another last blast of The Kinks' R and B roots, with a nagging stabbing guitar part keeping the song in a state of turbulence until a wailing harmonica part finally brings relief in the solo. Like many a Kinks song from 1964 but even more than most, this is madcap frenetic energy rather than the sophistication and subtlety that will come to be the Kinks hallmark and is very sloppily played. However it's still pretty good for the era and the lyrics are an early example of the career-long Kinks theme of 'short term pessimism, long-term optimism' with the song a list of complaints stapled together with a beautiful hopeful chorus that soars above all the narrator's earthly troubles.
 'I've Got That Feeling' is one of the poppier Ray Davies songs of 1964 - it wouldn't surprise me if this song was in the running for one of the early singles in fact, complete with Beatley 'oh yeah' chorus (not something they ever used very often but which everyone assumed that they did). It was in fact first written for teenage girl band The Orchids (everything The Spice Girls 'grrrrl power' wanted to be but weren't, thirty years earlier) another group managed by Larry Page. A piano has now joined the regular cast of Kinks sounds (presumably an early appearance by Nicky Hopkins, who Ray will immortalise in 1966's 'Session Man') and helps the band navigate what's for this period quite a tricky set of chord changes. Rasa sings backing vocals on what's most likely another early love song for her and what her love 'does' to Ray: lyrically this is another repeat of 'You Really Got Me' then, but the 'changes' sound nicer and less intense. Repetitive and trite it may be, but this song has a lot of charm, especially the chorus with its unexpected descending chord structure and catchy 'woah woah a woah' ending. 'I've Got That Feeling' points the way to what's going to happen next on 'Kinda Kinks', a sweet track not exactly ruined but at least hindered by a rushed recording, which leaves Ray and the backing singers of Dave Pete and Rasa sometimes singing entirely different lines.
(Reprise, March 1965)
Tired Of Waiting For You/Louie Louie/I've Got That Feeling/Revenge/I Gotta Move//Things Are Getting Better/I Gotta Go Now/I'm A Lover Not A Fighter/Come On Now/All Day And All Of The Night
"Come on now while we got time, c'mon baby the sun is shining!"
American Kinks album number two is named for the band's EP of the same name and includes all four tracks from it plus two songs leftover from 'The Kinks' ('Revenge' and 'I'm A Lover Not A Fighter') and both sides of two singles 'All Day And All Of The Night/I Gotta Move' and 'Tired Of Waiting For You/Come On Now'. Perhaps as a result of including so many well known songs, 'Kink Size' became by far the band's best-selling album in the States, peaking at an impressive #13 in a packed album charts. Just imagine how great The Kinks' Kareer in America might have been if not for that band the following year - and how frustrating it must have been for the band's growing legions of Kinky yankees that they couldn't get hold of the band's material except via pricey imports. The album cover was taken from forthcoming 'Kinda Kinks' but printed in yellow for some reason (what with the sequal - the US 'Kinda Kinks' - basically featuring the same cover as well, this must have really confused fans!) I have to say though that despite my reservations, out of the four American albums this is the one that hangs together best despite the many different sounds and eras all mixed up together (R and B from the past, folk from the present, heavy pop from both) and the curious decision to put ballad 'Tired Of Waiting For You' at the start. Probably more by accident than design, this just sounds as if it belongs together somehow; the opening three songs cleverly make for variation on the same riff taken in three very different ways, while the closing feisty trilogy - 'Fighter/Come On Now/All Day' - makes for a great three-way punch at the end of the record that would have had fans singing along for the next five months before the heavily-delayed American version of the 'Kinks Kinks' LP.
4) "Kinda Kinks"
(Reprise, August 11th 1965)
Look For Me Baby/Got My Feet On The Ground/Nothin' In The World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl/Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight?/Set Me Free//Everybody's Gonna Be Happy/Dancing In The Streets/Don't Ever Change/So Long/You Shouldn't Be Sad/Something Better Beginning
"I ache inside every time I think of it, but I know it's just my pride"
The third American-only LP is the most straightforward of the four, being effectively The Kinks' second British album with three songs removed - 'Tired Of Waiting For You' 'Come On Now' and 'Naggin' Woman'. The first two had already been released on 'Kink Size' - 'Naggin' Woman' will be held over for fourth album 'Kindom'. The band's last two A sides were then added to the end of side one and beginning of side two: 'Set Me Free' and 'Everybody's Gonna Be Happy'. Weirdly enough, this record uses basically the same album front as 'Kink Size' - the same moody grey shot of the band featured on 'our' 'Kinda Kinks' - but the picture is bigger on this LP. This must have struck even American fans, who were used by now to English LPs being mucked around with, as strange. The new tracklisting reveals that 'Set Me Free' is a fine side closer, whilst 'Everybody's Gonna Be Happy' sounds remarkably similar to the following track, a cover of Martha and the Vandellas' 'Dancing In The Streets'. Something better beginning? I'm not sure.
5) "Kwyet Kinks" (EP)
(Pye, September 1965)
Wait Till The Summer Comes Along/Such A Shame//A Well Respected Man/Don't You Fret
"I can't wait until the say I'll call for you again"
The second and final Kinks EP full of exclusive tracks came out in between Kinks albums two and three and is in many ways a 'stepping sound' between the R and B and pop of 'Kinda Kinks' and the folk of 'Kink Kontroversy'. Only the folk here is rather more straightforward this time around, with this the most Byrds-like of The Kinks' releases (despite the 'Kwyet' title it's not that muted by most standards - instead, like The Byrds, there's an acoustic guitar and less drums). Like many a Kinks release of this period, it all sounds rather rushed and unfinished with 'Such A Shame' and 'Don't You Fret' mirroring 'Kinda Kinks' rather sloppy pop. The other two tracks are more interesting though: Dave writes his first song ever for the band, kick-starting a songwriting career that will go on to rival even his brother's for a time while 'A Well Respected Man' finally provides the direction The Kinks have been looking for: witty acerbic character assassinations about people who seemingly have everything but really have nothing. The song proved to be immediately popular and The Kinks might perhaps have done better releasing this purely as a single (they did exactly that in the States where the singles peaked at #13 even without The Kinks around to promote it). The fact that the EP wasn't even titled after this song perhaps hints at how wary the band and record label were about leaving their fans behind with perhaps the single biggest change in styles across The Kink's Kareers...
 'Wait Till The Summer Comes Along' is one of the most overlooked songs in the Kinks kanon despite being a watershed moment for two reasons. Firstly it's the first Kinks song based around folk rather than blues or R and B and - a colourful electric guitar part low in the mix aside - is pretty much the bands' first unplugged recording. Secondly, it's Dave Davies' first ever song and whole it's far from the best it's the start of a whole new 'voice' inside The Kinks to rival his brother's own for emotion and poetry. Interestingly despite bringing the harder edges to the band's sound - and despite the sheer toughness of his first solo records - like almost all of Dave's songs for The Kinks in the 1960s is noticably lighter in texture but heavier in emotional weight than his brother's work. 'Summer' is already close to 'Death Of A Clown' in fact, with Dave lamenting and apologising for breaking a heart without meaning to and inverting the usual Kinks thought that nostalgia is a good thing by making it clear he wants to go back to the past and change things. Although the lyrics are occasionally clunky and the tune sounds awfully like something else (I'm not quite sure what but it has Peter Paul and Mary's fingerprints all over it), it's a remarkably good song for an 18-year-old unknown (and written when Dave was a year younger than Ray on his breakthrough song 'You REally Got Me', remember) and Dave will learn to tone down the slightly over-dramatic feel of this track as he moans 'Oh! What's happened?' like a Shakespearean tragedy.
The year 1965 was full of upbeat positive songs about how the youth were going to change everything and make the world a great place just as soon as they were older and had stopped playing such fun games in the present. Typically, The Kinks never bought into this myth and spent most of the year sobbing their heart out in such songs as  'Such A Shame', a song that rivals even 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone?' for bitter regret. This time round the mood is more personal than generational, though, with Ray's narrator regretting causing 'pain' and sighing that 'the good times have all been in vain'. Like the other tracks on this 'Kwyet' EP the sound is light (again not quite 'unplugged' but close) but the mood is distinctly heavy. A scrappy performance and a repetitive lick let an otherwise promising and well-ahead-of-it's-time song down. Say goodbye too to the last really bad use of double-tracking on a Kinks release - Ray will learn this new art form with speed across the rest of the year!
 'A Well Respected Man'
represents a major breakthrough for Ray. Though The Kinks had done acoustic
songs before, most had just been like the electric songs with the power turned
down - but this song is the first to be more obviously folk than blues, with a
dash of music hall thrown in free! Lyrically it's an early example of Ray
moving beyond the boy-meets-girl dramas of the first two Kinks years to the
wider world around him, with Ray using his voice for a 'message' rather than
just a 'feeling'. Art student Ray never did end up having to work for a living,
but it was clearly a major 'fear' of his - The Kinks were only a single away
from a life of drudgery and the dole queue wasn't much better as the later song
'Get Back In The Line' will demonstrate. That fear of getting a 'proper' job
and of becoming like 'everybody else' is heard in this stinging accusation of
what a sell-out many workers become: they catch the same trains like clockwork,
love 'punc-tull-all-eee-tee' and think they're 'oh so healthy in their body and
their mind'. The 'hint' of the song is that the well respected men look down
their noses at the 60s youths, without quite realising that the youths of the
day are looking down their noses at the unthinking way such people go about
their daily lives without questioning it (it's almost an early hippie song
this, even if it's musical roots are, probably deliberately, in the inter-war
'parental' style of the music hall to make the point). However Ray is too
'good' a writer to make his character an unbearable pompous twit and the best
aspects of the song come later on, when Ray reveals that this 'well respected' gentile-ism
is just a front - the character is really as lonely and desperate as anyone else.
He 'adores the girl next door and is dying to get at her' but he's hen-pecked
by the mother he still lives with whilst being forced to turn a blind eye to
his father's sexual exploits with the 'maid' - the respectability suddenly
turning into a smokescreen for him to hide his 'real' life behind. Not that
you'd notice any change in the way Ray performs this song, which is delightfully
tongue-in-cheek throughout and actually a lot funnier than the better known
sequel 'A Dedicated Follower Of Fashion'. America really took to this very
English song for some reason where it remains the band's largest hit after the
'big three' of 'Got Me' 'All Day' and 'Tired Of Waiting' despite The Kinks not
being around to promote it (the song remained an EP favourite in Britain).
 'Don't You Fret' is surely the weirdest recording The Kinks made in their most populist year of 1965. Coming on like the long lost lovechild of 'Bald Mountain' and 'Stop Your Sobbing' this song again finds Ray pleading with a loved one not to despair. However the drunken bluesy opening (the most wasted we'll hear ray until 'Alcohol') using the same chords even as 'Bald Mountain' is just strange enough to make us start worrying and the narrator ends up repeating the title so many times that far from calming his loved one down he's worried himself into a right state as the track ends in a ringing peal of slashed chords and frenetic drumming - all good practice for 'Milk Cow Blues' around the corner. It's certainly different, but Ray might have been better off concentrating on his lovely chorus which suddenly makes this wobbly song sit upright ('I can't wait until the day when I'll come home to you again..') and which is very Kinks Katchy.
(Reprise, 'November' 1965)
A Well Respected Man/Such A Shame/Wait Till The Summer Comes Along/Naggin' Woman/Never Met A Girl Like You Before/See My Friends//Who'll Be The Next In Line?/Don't You Fret/I Need You/It's Alright!/Louie Louie
"There'll be no use in sighing, who'll be the next in line for you?"
The Kinks' last album in America for a number of years (before the 'ban' in mysterious circumstances - what were the band doing on that plane the night they got kicked off? Or is it a case of accidentally snubbing the music unions over there as Ray always feared?) is a typically eccentric affair and the US album least like a UK equivalent. Basically it's the 'Kwyet Kinks' EP with a few other things thrown in the mix too - 'Naggin' Woman' as left off the US version of 'Kinda Kinks', recent single 'Who'll Be The Next In Line?', both sides of another single 'See My Friends' and 'Never Met A Girl Like You Before', plus oddly enough 'It's Alright' from a full 18 months earlier (the B-side to 'You Really Got Me') and 'Louie Louie', again, despite having already been featured on 'Kink-Size' (did someone lose track? Or did someone at Reprise just really like this song?!) This results in a rather odd mixture of styles, with some very 64 sounds (high octane R and B) with some very 65 sounds (folk-rock) which don't always sit comfortably together. The switch between the opening two tracks is particularly 'wrong' - 'A Well Respected Man' is way ahead of its time, a witty character and class assassination that's very mid-sixties; next song 'Such A Shame' sounded a bit retro when it came out anyway, pointing back towards the bluesier 1950s. Oddly, this version of the album was shuffled for the CD release, which also came with an additional B-side 'I'm Not Like Everybody Else'.
7) "Well Respected Kinks"
(Marble Arch, September 1966)
A Well Respected Man/Where Have All The Good Times?/Till The End Of The Day/Set Me Free/Tired Of Waiting For You//All Day And All Of The Night/I Gotta Move/Don't You Fret/Wait Till The Summer Comes Along/You Really Got Me
"He's oh so good and oh so fine and healthy in his body and his mind"
A well respected compilation this one, which represented the first time that many of The Kinks' single and EP tracks had turned up on an album (important stuff back in the day when singles went off catalogue quickly and got worn out even quicker). The track listing dives a bit deeper than the average compilation despite containing the first four major hits and B sides like 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone?' and 'I Gotta Move' get a welcome second hearing alongside some tracks from the 'Kwyet Kinks' EP. Record label Marble Arch were famous for making old songs available at cheap prices and this set proved to be one of the biggest sellers in their entire history (or The Kinks' for that matter), with a record 35 weeks on the charts as word of mouth about the release spread (no other Kinks album spent more than three months on the charts!) There's a nice picture of the band on front too, where the band are actually laughing and smiling - a real rarity! A box set was released on CD in 2001 containing this album and the sequel 'Sunny Afternoon'
8) "Greatest Hits"
(Reprise, October 1966)
You Really Got Me/Tired Of Waiting For You/Set Me Free/Something Better Beginning/Who'll Be The Next In Line?//Till The End Of The Day/Dedicated Follower Of Fashion/A Well Respected Man/Everybody's Gonna Be Happy/All Day And All Of The Night
"Is this the start of another heartbreaker or something better beginning?"
Three years and four albums seems a tad early for a 'best of' set, even if The Kinks did wait longer than some bands for the inevitable 'hits' compilation. Though a more 'official' set, which sold at a fuller price than the Marble Arch one and on a 'proper' record label to boot, this one isn't quite as fun somehow, containing only the hits. Frustratingly the running order is all jumbled up - a problem that will hit many Kinks Kompilations to come - as even this early in their career there's a world of difference between early Kinks songs like 'You Really Got Me' and more recent ones like 'A Dedicated Follower Of Fashion'. With so few singles to choose from, Reprise even feature both sides of the 'Everybody's Gonna Be Happy' flop, although curiously they also license one lone album track from Pye, the closing number from 'Kinda Kinks', 'Something Better Beginning'. It's an interesting choice of song, summing up the dilemma of all these mid-60s compilations: will there ever be a 'volume two' or has the chosen band already begun to slide in popularity? Typically, The Kinks will subvert the usual rule and end up becoming ever more loved and prolific even whilst their singles begin to fall down the charts in the coming years.
9) Dave Davies "Hidden Treasures" aka "The Album That Never Was" aka "The Hole In The Sock Of..."
(Unreleased, Recorded 1967-68, Compilation 2011)
Susannah's Still Alive/This Man He Weeps Tonight/Mindless Child Of Motherhood/Hold My Hand/Do You Wish To Be A Man?/Are You Ready?/Creeping Jean/Crying/Lincoln County/Mr Shoemaker's Daughter/Mr Reporter/Groovy Movies/There Is No Life Without Love/I Am Free/Death Of A Clown/Love Me Till The Sun Shines/Funny Face/Good Luck Charm
"Are you troubled by the bad things in your life?"
We've elected to include this 'album' at this point in the book, even though strictly speaking it was never an actual 'album' (more of a compilation) and didn't appear in this form well into the 21st century. Of all the abandoned Kinks projects down the years, a planned Dave Davies solo record from the 1960s is perhaps the biggest loss - and the one that, frustratingly, came closest to fruition. Dave was on a creative high in 1967, having discovered the potential of songwriting at the age of 23 (the same age his brother first wrote 'You Really Got Me') and his first single 'Death Of A Clown' had rivalled anything The Kinks released that year in terms of success and brilliance. When two more tracks appeared on the 'Something Else' LP and Dave mentioned to the press that he had a backlog of songs ready to go, fans were sure that a full album would be imminent - perhaps by Christmas that year or in the first half of 1968. Instead Dave never quite got round to finishing up an album, content instead to release an increasingly dwindlingly successful string of singles from it until Pye got cold feet and scrapped it. Some of the material recorded for it will instead turn up as the B-side to Kinks singles across 1969; some of it won't appear until as late as the 1990 CD re-issues; three tracks ('Crying' 'Do You Wish To Be A Man?' and 'Are You Really?' won't be released until this album finally does the sensible thing and sticks (almost) all of Dave's recordings to the album on one bargain-priced disc. In casde you were wondering, 'Hidden Treasures' is a 'modern' name for this album - Dave didn't have a title for it at the end, although fans took to calling it 'The Album That Never Was' when it failed to appear (it's a title that fits the record's quasi-dramatic feel!) and bootleggers named it 'The Hole In The Sock Of Dave Davies' after a jokey comment by Ray when asked what his brother was working on in a 1967 interview!
Not-withstanding the fact that most of these songs have been well known to Kinks fans for years (thanks to the 'Village Green' and 'Arthur' CD re-issues and the 'Unfinished Business' anthology of Dave's work as well as the four original singles) 'The Album That Never Was' is very much 'The Album That Got Away'. Dave really steps out from behind his brother's shadow with his songwriting voice that's musically more direct than Ray's whilst being lyrically more poetic and mystical. Much of the album finds Dave tackling a whole new range of styles The Kinks hadn't tried yet, from the bluesy country hybrid 'Lincoln County' to the pure madrigal folk of 'There Is Nothing In This World Without Your Life', whilst Dave also throws in one of the band's last and best R and B songs with the gorgeous 'Susannah's Still Alive'. Many of the songs are about 'Sue' in fact, the childhood sweetheart whom Dave made pregnant when both were still at school (it's why he was expelled, the basis of the 1975 Kinks album 'Schoolboys In Disgrace', but whereas that cartoon-style album makes light of it, the lost love and the way both families conspired to keep the love-birds apart and 'pretended' the other didn't like them any more played a great toll on Dave's psyche as his 'Kink' autobiog demonstrates). Fitting for an album that itself got away, there's a theme across of this album of things slipping through the narrator's hands - from the entertainer past his best on 'Death Of A Clown', to the heartbreak of 'This Man He Weeps Tonight' (one of The Kinks' saddest songs), the snarl of 'Mindless Child Of Motherhood' about what could have been ('In dreams I have seen you, but you are so very far away'), the pained anger of 'Love Me Till The Sun Shines' desperate for love at any cost and the terrific rock put down of 'Creepin' Jean' (a girl who turns out to be different to how she was when the pair first met). There are a few silly songs here (none of the three 'new' songs are up to much, whilst the Dylanesque 'Hold My Hand' is nowhere near the uniqueness and quality of the rest of the album). It's also a shame that the compilation saw fit to include so many 'older' songs that were never intended to be part of the project ('I'm Free' appeared on 'Kink Kontroversy', 'Clown' 'Sun Shines' and 'Funny Face' all released on 'Something Else', the Ray-written 'Mr Reporter' was part of the 'Careers' EP mooted for 1966 and included on the 'Face To Face' CD re-issue and 'Good Luck Charm' is a funky 50s cover that appeared on the BBC set - we've already reviewed all of these songs so won't bother reviewing them again here). There are also no less than eleven repeats here, mostly lesser quality original mono mixes (the stereo remixes are much more interesting now that the technology has caught up so these songs 'sound' right) although that said it still leaves a generous sixteen tracks (for the record, the first thirteen are thought to have been intended for release, in this order, in 1968 although I personally doubt whether 'Mr Reporter' was ever meant as part of the original line-up). It's a shame too that the half-finished 'Climb Your Wall', demoed in early 1969, isn't here as it would perhaps have been an outsider contender for the album and has the same 'screaming' bottle-neck guitar part as some of the songs from this album (see the 'Unfinished Business' compilation for more). This compilation is of course not the bombshell it would have been had it been released at the time or even up to the mid-90s when most of this material came out for the first time. The new tracks really aren't enough of an incentive if you already own all this stuff on its various releases (although it's nice to hear it all together and in an order that 'works' rather well). However there's no taking away from it - this is a great album that would have surely propelled Dave to the fore-front of the music business on release and it was at most only an extra couple of songs away from being a superb finished album. If only Dave had released, say, his fun comedy 'Groovy Movies' instead of the bland 'Hold My Hand' as a single Pye might well have pushed for the guitarist to finish this album and Dave might have been quite a different and far more creative character for the rest of this book. It's our loss as well as his - what a different golden age this might have been for the younger brother who won't get another chance to kick-start his solo career until as late as 1980 when his music in a very different, much louder, less poetical form.
'Susannah's Still Alive', a minor hit when released as the sequel to 'Death Of A Clown', is a fantastic place for any album to start. A fascinating blues song with a memorable descending and ascending piano riff (mirroring the narrator looking for his lost love) this is one of Dave's most revealing songs as he imagines what his lost love Sue is up to now and effectively drawing up a portrait of what his own life is like. A blossoming alcoholic ('Whisky or gin? That's alright!), sleeping with the 'covers down in case somebody gets in' and equally haunted by her past, 'still with the locket round her neck' the narrator gave to her and his picture on her table. The thrilling revelation that 'oh Susannah's Still Alive!' might have been inspired by a chance discovery when Dave was chatting to his mum back home in Muswell Hill (unbeknown to either lovebird, their parents had remained in contact and Sue and her daughter Tracy had been thrilled to see Dave become a success with The Kinks). However the revelation is a cruel blow - this isn't being 'alive', this is surviving and as there's still no practical way of making contact the narrator isn't quite sure how much this revelation matters anyway. Dave's vocal on this song is one of his best, tortured and frustrated and full of fascinating images such as the one-eyed doll 'who only cries when she gets some sleep', all wrapped up with some terrific Mick Avory drum attacks and some lazy Dylanesque harmonica which tries (but fails) to distance this painful, honest song and turn into a mere 'folk tale'. We know how 'real' this song really is - it's here in every note of this gut-wrenching performance. Perhaps the greatest Kinks-related single of the 1960s that the general public doesn't know, thankfully nowadays something of a semi-regular on Kinks kompilations.
'This Man He Weeps Tonight' was first released as the B-side of 1969 Kinks single 'Shangri-La' - what a pairing! Dave again sighs over 'the plans I had in store for us' and the good omens he once read in his horoscope before an unseen setback occurs and leaves him weeping bitter tears. The mood is just as intense in this folk-rock song but the lyrics aren't quite as heartfelt and the melody isn't quite as strong. This is still good though, with another great Dave vocal and some sighed sarcastic counter-vocals from brother Ray.
'Mindless Child Of Motherhood' was the B-side of 1969 Kinks single 'Drivin' and represents the more obscure, poetic side of Dave's writing. The tune is another strong folk-rock jingle jangle that would have suited The Byrds but the lyrics out-Dylan Dylan. Dave sighs again over his lost love forced to 'bear a bastard son' and wonders 'how much I travel on to be just where you are?', travelling across the world with The Kinks in order to be 'good enough' to go to to the end of the road to where Sue lives. However Dave seems to be weeping more of the end of his childhood here, the sense of hope that as long as the couple were together everything would be ok, sighing that 'I was your friend, but I was a fool' and now paying bitterly for his one mistake of making her pregnant.
'Hold My Hand' sounds rather better in context than it did as Dave's fourth single, with a repetitive song about yearning for love based around an oh so Kinks Nicky Hopkins harpsichord/mellotron part (thus pointing both forwards and back) sounding better as one of this album's many styles. Dave's peculiar high-pitched whine is still hard to take though and the track is a bit one-dimensional compared to the best of this album.
'Do You Wish To Be A Man?' is easily the best of the 'new' songs making their appearance here. It's another Dylan-style track that finds Dave lamenting his lost childhood again and struggling to grow up in a corrupted world full of disappointments as he 'buries his head in the sand' rather than face up to resposnibility. However a very nursery rhymey repetitive chorus undoes much of the good work of the verses.
'Are You Ready?' is a bonkers country spoof that points the way forward to 'Muswell Hillbillies' and features an awful performance of what's actually quite a sweet little song. Dave's long lost love is about to get married - Dave always assumed it would be to him and he's probably thinking more of his own happiness than hers as he warns her about all the things that can go wrong. This is the most 'unfinished' of the album songs and sounds oddly artificial and insincere compared to the rest of the album.
'Creepin' Jean' however is phenomenal, cats. A marvellous heavy rocker based around a gorgeous gulping bass line and a tight, taut riff that brings out the best in Pete and Mick 'Creepin' Jean' should have been the A side, not the B side of single four ('Hold My Hand'). Dave's been let down by a girl who used to promise so much at the start of their relationship, with the wonderful line that 'your dirty friends and underwear keep hangin' round my room' and the memorably chorus that 'creepin' Jean' (a cousin of Poison Ivy?) is a disease!' One of the best songs from the album, it proves that Dave hadn't forgotten how to rock in this folkier period.
'Cryin' is the last of the 'new' releases and it sounds in a way like a sampler of the album: there's a similar folky feel to many of the album tracks and a pretty tune (until the middle eight, lifted wholesale from his brother's 'Feet On The Ground') and a lyric about, well, cryin'. Alas there's not much else on offer here really - this is about the most one dimensional of the songs on the album and again sounds slightly unfinished.
The charming 'Lincoln County' - single number three - is a playful blues pastiche that gives Dave a whole new fictional back story in East Anglia (a long way from Muswell Hill!) Dave's been wandering round the world a lot but is now coming home for a rest and to see what everyone he used to know is up to (the chorus sounds awfully like 'I'm going to see all those pretty girls and I'm going to shag them all' - according to the sheet music the actual line is actually 'I'm goin' to shout for more' but with Dave you never quite know!) The line about buying a headcarf 'for my momma that she won't wear' is ever so nearly a true story by the way - in 'Kink' Dave talks about when he was 14 he bought a scarf for Sue but started wondering whether she would like it and got so shy he bottled it, stuffing the scarf into a nearby wall and running home. A few hours later his mother walked home wearing it saying 'look at what I found stuffed on a wall - why would anybody not want this, it's gorgeous!' Fun, but less substantial than the best of this album.
The lovely 'Mr Shoemaker's Daughter' (which was first released as one of the bonus tracks on 'Arthur') is another charming folk ballad in which Dave's advances are spurned by the cobbler's daughter, the greengrocer's daughter and the baker's daughter (though the song ends before we reach the candlestick maker's daughter!') Once again Dave is 'coming home to stay' after a long time away, but even the addition of a quite lovely orchestral accompaniment (one that even ends with the same lovely dying note as 'Shangri-La') can't make him a bigger hit with the local girls, much to his annoyance!
The Dave-sung version of 'Mr Reporter', taped back in 1966 (and first released as one of the 'Face To Face' bonus tracks) is a lot more 'together' than the vbersion sung by his brother. Dave adds his off-key blues/folk voice to this song and turns into a sad lament over people spreading rumours rather than Ray's rant about betrayal (complete with 'hah!') Note the lyric change between the two: this time 'the reason I am stupid is because I read the things you say' - ray changes this to 'morbid'. The song is fine, with a nice brass accompaniment, but it sounds very out of place here.
The brilliant 'Groovy Movies' is perhaps the best song from the album that never came out in the 1960s. Dave is again 'searching for acceptance in this big wide world' and is casting around for a life outside music. He finds one as a 'big shot director, making the world understand' and decides to 'make some groovy movies while smoking big Havana cigars!' However the gorgeous melody which even Ray would have been proud of is what makes the song, with another excellent use of brass in there and a fine rare bass solo from Pete Quaife too. First released on the 'Village Green' deluxe set, where it's easily the best of the previously unreleased songs there.
Finally, 'There Is No Life Without Love' is the charming B-side of 'Lincoln County' although this mix is very different to the original (and the version heard on the bonus tracks of 'Something Else'). Originally this was a madrigal style song with four very different Dave's intoning the simple yet profound lyrics about the emptiness of a life without love; this version puts Dave's clumsy falsetto lead up loud, which doesn't quite work. The track also sounds incomplete, rounding off after less than two minutes and without the expected solo/middle eight. However both tune and lyrics are superb, a testament to Dave's natural brilliance across this golden period.
Even with a quartet of comparatively dodgy songs in the middle, 'Hidden Treasures' still demonstrates what a terrific talent Dave was in 1967-69 and how great this unfinished album could have been. Every fan interested in The Kinks in the 1960s (which must surely be everyone mustn't it?!) needs to hear this album which reveals a whole new sound to Dave barely touched on during his time with the band - the folk minstrel, sadly romancing a lost love he knows he will never have. Made with care, with some excellent performances and lush yet not overbearing arrangements, it's right up there with the band's best music of the period. The Album That Never Was is The Classic That Should Have Been and took far far far too long to come out!
12) "Sunny Afternoon"
(Marble Arch, November 1967)
Sunny Afternoon/I Need You/See My Friends/Big Black Smoke/Louie Louie//Dedicated Follower Of Fashion/Sittin' On My Sofa/Such A Shame/I'm Not Like Everybody Else/Dead End Street
"I need you, there's no one else to stand in your place, I need you, you know little girl that you can keep the smile on my face"
'A Well Respected Man' had sold surprisingly well - easily outdoing 'Something Else' with a #5 UK chart peak- so it was inevitable Marble Arch would repeat the process. 'Sunny Afternoon' nearly matched it, peaking at #9 - way ahead of next 'proper' album 'Village Green' which didn't chart at all! The track selection is a similar mixture of the bold and the bonkers, with such deserving flipsides as 'I Need You' 'Big Black Smoke' and 'I'm Not Like Everybody Else' rubbing shoulders with A side gems like 'See My Friends' and 'Dead End Street'. However why is the band's rather timid cover of 'Louie Louie' here? (It's R and B sound must have sounded a lifetime ago in 1967!)Ditto the rather daft B side 'Sittin' On My Sofa' and lame EP song 'Such A Shame''. Again, though, the track selection is impressive considering that none of these songs had appeared on album before now and the compilation served its purpose well: it offered a cheap way of buying songs that had only appeared on singles, back in the day when 45s tended to wear out relatively quickly. As with 'Well Respected Man' it has never been re-issued on CD on its own but can be heard as part of the 'Marble Arch Years' box set.
13) "Live At Kelvin Hall"
(Pye, Recorded April 1967, Released January 1968)
Till The End Of The Day (though listed erroneously on original copies as 'All Day And All Of The Night')/A Well Respected Man/You're Lookin' Fine/Sunny Afternoon/Dandy//I'm On An Island/Come On Now/You Really Got Me/Medley: Milk Cow Blues-Batman Theme-Tired Of Waiting For You
"We'd like to say hi to everybody so... hi everybody!"
There's a great little live album here if you can be prepared to dig for it - but be warned you have to do an awful lot of digging, as even by mid-1960s standards everything is drowned out by screams which manages to make the set both atmopsheric and unlistenable all at the same time. The only concert officially released to feature the Klassik Kink, the founding four seem to be playing well on this April Fool's Day night in Glasgow, but it’s hard to tell thanks to all that audience noise and the flimsy microphones that make this whole set sound like it was recorded underwater. Like the Beatles', the first Beach Boys and first Stones live LPs the technology for recording live rock sound simply wasn’t there in the mid 60s (in fact, it’s amazing that the late 60s live recordings are just so many light years ahead sonically - 'Everybody's In Showbiz', for instance, sounds as if it dates from decades later not just a few short years). The other problem with this album is the timing: The Kinks had shed their early rocky image quite successfully by late 1967 and had moved on from the R and B and hits music heard here. The release of this record against their wishes by Pye (who'd been sitting on it for a year in the vein hope that The Kinks would be big album sellers again, and then apparently released the record vindictively when they realised the band probably wouldn't) helped ruin an already strained relationship between the two (one question though: if this song was never intended for release, as most books say, then why did the band go to the trouble of adding so much double-tracking?) The fact is releasing an album like this in the progressive year of 1967 was career suicide: if you were a fan of this band in 1967 then you still wouldn't have wanted to buy this backwards-looking echoey album of old songs (which only featured one song from 1967 anyway!) and if you hated The Kinks then this was a great excuse to put the boot in! Measured against just-released album 'Something Else' there's clearly no contest: one is recorded in a state of the art studio by a band working hard and at the top of their game; the other is a tired band recording a rushed concert recorded in an echoey hall (which even cleaned up for CD sounds more like a swimming pool) at the end of a tiring world tour. Pye even manage to get the names of one of the songs wrong on the sleeve (‘All Day And All Of The Night’ is actually ‘Til’ The End Of The Day’, although it's been corrected for the CD!), which hardly shows the forethought and care Ray Davies usually did with his creations.
However, more recent fans who get to view this album as a period piece - and are perhaps more accustomed to hearing greatness in between the murk of muddy bootlegs and rare archive recordings - will appreciate this set so much more than any one did at the time. When you can hear them The Kinks are a great little live band, kicking up a real storm on their primitive instruments. Ray, usually so poised and perfect on record, is quite a different singer live - raw, emotional and exciting. Dave 's guitar sounds even more incredible live, on extended guitar runs that are generally even more inventive than the records and his vocal is born for concerts like these. The band's material is, erm, unusual, which means that you get the band trying out all sorts of songs unsuited to the live stage like a horribly out-of-tune 'I'm On An island' and 'Sunny Afternoon' (which sounds as wretched as such a great song ever can sound), but on the plus side means that the band are daring enough to play an extended, nicely funky 'You're Lookin' Fine' that knocks spots off the 'Face To Face' version and a tightly drilled 'Come On Now' that's great fun with an extended guitar solo that's sublime. Best of all is the closing medley which just keeps taking you by surprise: its starts off as a rather cautious 'Milk Cow Blues' with Dave singing off-mike, develops to new peaks thanks to some improvised riffing where the band sound like a proto-Cream, suddenly falls backwards onto the soft and unlikely cushion of a delightful 'Tired Of Waiting For You', picks up steam again and heads into...The Batman Theme! Glorious - what could be more 1960s than hearing a riff-fuelled 50s cover, a more polished 60s pop classic and a TV theme rattled off within the space of a few minutes?! The song then finally goes back into its box by somehow (I've played this recording lots and like all the best live bands I still can't work out the point at which this happens) going back into the 'Milk Cow' theme for a fiery finale. It's a terrific closer to a to be honest pretty awful album and reminds you just how daring The Kinks were in this period even in their live sets! There are glimpses of genius throughout the rest of the set too, but all that surface noise, squealing feedback (and not in a good way!!!) and a weird mix that on both mono and stereo seems to have the band playing across a canyon rather than just a stage is just a bit too much work for most fans most of the time, me included. A nice souvenir mind, but it's a poorly-recorded yet intriguing accessory this album rather than a true cornerstone of The Kinks' kanon. Oh and by the way, just for the record, it wasn't really recorded on Mick Avory's birthday (who was born in February, two months before this show): the 'birthday' mention was a long-running Kinks joke where the band would take it in turns to have a 'birthday' so the audience could give an extra squeal for one of them!
14) Ray Davies: TV and Film Work 1968-69
"Now all I've got is varicose veins!"
This seems like a good time to explain about the background of a handful of songs that start cropping up on Kinks CDs about now, even though strictly most of them aren't Kinks recordings at all. Ray was always keen to produce work for other people outside the band and despite the collapse of his planned film scripts for 'Village Green' and 'Arthur', Ray made many big contacts with the TV and film industries. He was in big demand to write music for a number of projects - sometimes incidental music, sometimes pop songs and sometimes these were solo performances and sometimes with the band, some of which have since been given official releases - and some of which seem to have been lost forever. These can basically be broken down into four different projects which all occur in this 1968/1969 period.
First up is a BBC TV series titled 'The Eleventh Hour', broadcast between December 1967 and March 1968. This was an odd series which was kind of like 'That Was The Week That Was' crossed with 'Have I Got News For You'. It was a satirical show with sketches and poetry readings alongside Ray's music written especially for the series, most of which was a sort of general 'cheeky' spoof of what modern life was like - a bit like the 'Face To Face'/'Dedicated Follower' era, although in keeping with the tradition of a lifetime Ray keeps his sideswipes general and not personal. However Ray didn't perform the songs himself, instead handing them over to presenter Jeannie Lamb to sing. In total nine episodes were broadcast of which only two survive in the BBC vaults (and then in pretty poor quality from what I've read). Ray had to work very fast: he got the script on a Thursday, had to have a song ready by the end of Friday and the show went out on the Saturday. To date only 'Did You See His Name?' from episode eight (but with Ray singing) has been released and was greeted even at the time as Ray's most successful song, a witty Paul Simon-like song about a man whose career is ruined and who commits suicide because of a minor mistake in a newspaper column, dripping with typical sarcasm. Apparently Jeannie sang the version broadcast, but the version on the first 'At The BBC' set and the big BBC box set is clearly more than just a demo, with all The Kinks performing (were they intending to release it on an official Kinks record too?) The other songs, all sadly unavailable even on bootleg, include 'You Can't Give More Than What You Have', 'If Christmas Day Could Last Forever', 'We're Backing Britain', 'Poor Old Intellectual Sadie', 'Could Be A Poor Country Girl', 'The Man Who Conned Dinner From The Ritz' and 'That Is What The World Is All About'.
Second is the 1969 film version of 'Till Death Us Do Part', a BBC comedy series (I use the term loosely) which was the Al Murray of its day with Warren Mitchell playing Alf Garnett, an outrageous right wing bigot that much of his audience assumed was 'speaking for them' - not all of this show's mega-high audience 'got' that this comedy was laughing at them. Una Stubbs (Aunt Sally or Mrs Hudson or even the Rowntrees Fruit Jelly Girl depending what age you are) and Anthony Booth (Cherie Blair's dad and therefore father-=in-law to British prime minister Tony) co-starred. Ray's music for the film has a real 'Something Else' feel about the music and a wistful lyrics about being content with what you've got even when it isn't much ('Life is like a school but I'm not prepared to keep on learning'). The song - released on 'The Kinks Anthology' - is an excellent one but has almost nothing to do with the film (did Ray even watch the series before penning it?)
Thirdly and most obscure is 'The Ballad Of The Virgin Soldiers', a creaky 1969 saucy comedy based on a creaky 1966 book about what life was really like for young call-ups in the British forces thrust into an overly adult world. This is where Ray will first meet Hywel Bennett and there are many similarities between this film and 'Percy', as well as producer Ned Sherrin who'll hire him for 'Where Did Spring Go?' Ray's music is quite unlike anything else he ever went on to write, a classical piece which merges plaintive flute and mellotron with the disgruntled shuffle of a colliery band that gets louder and more hopeful with every round of the distinctive melody. For all the alien-ness of the sound, though, this still sounds instantly like a Ray Davies composition, sort of like a more grown up version of 'Phenomenal Cat'.
Lastly and most famously is 'Where Did Spring Go?', written back-to-back with 'Arthur' during the early part of 1969 and broadcast between January and February that year. Ned Sherrin produced the drama series which required a new song from Ray relating to the plot every week for six weeks. Ray actually performed these songs himself, usually with a session crew although it seems likely that the title track does feature The Kinks. Eleanor Bron and John Fortune were the stars, whilst Beatles' friend Klaus Voormann provided the atmospheric opening title caricatures and the show appears to have been a similarly topical and sarcastic one to 'Eleventh Hour', but with an actual script this time and ever so slightly more planning. Even so Ray didn't have long to turn around his songs, so it's amazing that the two that have been officially released so far are as good as they are: the we're-all-the-same 'When I Turn Off The Living Room Light' and the sighing old-age lament 'Where Did Spring Go?' itself, both of which have now been released on the 'BBC' box set and 'Kinks Anthology'. Other songs written for the series are 'We Take Off All Our Clothes' 'We Are Two Of A Kind' and 'Darling, I Respect You'. I've never heard the first two, but a very low-fi bootleg recording of the last of these songs does can be found on Youtube.
15) "The Golden Hour Of The Kinks"
(Golden Hour, '1971')
Days/Wonderboy/Autumn Almanac/Waterloo Sunset/Dedicated Follower Of Fashion/Dead End Street/Set Me Free/Sunny Afternoon/Till The End Of The Day/Sittin' On My Sofa//Victoria/A Well Respected Man/You Really Got Me/All Day And All Of The Night/Tired Of Waiting For You/See My Friends/Louie Louie/Animal Farm/Shangri La/Where Have All The Good Times Gone?
"Turn your sorrow into wonder"
By 1971 everyone's copies of singles from the 1960s were beginning to wear a bit thin, with the early 70s being a boom-time for cheap -but-handy packages like this. Just from the packaging it looks as if it was thrown together in about five minutes, with a sort of mock psychedelia-Edwardian picture that actually makes the one on The Beatles 'A Collection Of Oldies But Goldies' look vaguely sensible (to be fair the idea is fine - The Kinks were always more of an Edwardian style band with flower power fringes - but the actual drawing itself is horrible, mainly taken up with clouds and fire rather than the band itself; and which Kinks is meant to be which again? Goodness knows I can't tell!) The sleevenotes too are less than enthusiastic about the band ('They're all fine instrumentalists' is about as eager as they get, with the rather backhanded compliment that 'their songs will be remembered long after chart performances have been forgotten'). You start to wonder if anybody actually liked The Kinks in 1971 and the 'simulated stereo' mixes made for the album are a mixed bag - this is one of those bands that always worked better in mono (up to 1966 at least) and many of these rather rushed stereo mixes of the earliest songs have ruined many a compilation album to come. Yet for all that I can't fault the music or the track selection, which takes a sensible dip into not just the band's hits but also their B sides and album tracks, giving a new chance for fans to discover winners like 'See My Friends' 'Animal Farm' 'Wonderboy' and 'Shangri-La' (classics all). Closing on the cynical sneer of 'Where Have All The Good Time Gone?' is a brave choice though, probably coincidence but sounding in context like a comment on how music has all gone down-hill since 1965. Overall good for the era and at an hour significantly longer than any previous Kinks Kompilation - and if you can buy a copy without the front cover then better still! This was the starting point for many a fan - intrigued by hearing 'Lola' and 'Apeman' on the radio the year before - and was well-loved enough to get a rare CD release in 1991
16) "Percy" (Original Soundtrack)
(Pye, March 1971)
God's Children/Lola (Instrumental)/The Way Love Used To Be/Completely/Running Round Town/Moments//Animals In The Zoo/Just Friends/Whip Lady/Dreams/Helga/Willesden Green/God's Children - End Titles
Forget about all the things that we've done wrong - just remember all the things that we've done right!"
Given that The Kinks had always been interested in visuals ('Village Green' was nearly a stage play/pantomime and 'Arthur' a film, with Ray Davies writing scores for BBC TV series 'Where Did Spring Go?' and the 1969 film 'Till Death Us Do part') it seems inevitable that sooner or later The Kinks would be asked to write a film score. However the choice of film they were offered was not at all obvious. 'Percy' is an X-rated comedy about Hywel Bennett's most unfortunate accident with a chandelier that lives him in need of a rather, erm, personal transplant. Bennett's character is fascinated by his new addition and goes off to find out who all his old conquests were - two of them are Elke Sommer and Brit Ekland, with all three big name stars caught in the same film long before their careers took off - and no doubt wishing later that they hadn't done it. Not that 'Percy' is a bad film, it's just that no two people involved with it seems to agree what the 'real' point of the film was all about - the novel by the wonderfully apt Raymond Hitchcock is a serious philosophical drama that mainly takes place inside the heads of the characters and deals with the debate over how much of our bodies have to be 'ours' before our personality begins to change (perhaps the Kinks-like debate that attracted Ray to the score in the first place); however director Ralph Thomas seems to think he's making a 'Carry On' film. The result is a curious mis-mash between the two which is terribly disjointed and doesn't say the same thing from one scene to the next, although unlike many people who saw it and rated it 'worst disaster ever' there are things about it to enjoy and I've seen a lot worse ('Till Death Us Do Part' and 'The Ballad Of The Virgin Soldiers' for two - Ray took on some weird projects in this era didn't he?)
It goes without saying that the score is one of the best things about 'Percy' and even though Ray's music is often thrown away on instrumentals and character cameos the 'golden' feel of any of the 1964-71 period (when everything the band touched, more or less, had a special charm - even the bad stuff) 'Percy' has several beautiful inspired moments. Many fans skip this record having read about the film and what it's about and the fact that even keen Kinks fans aren't entirely sure whether it's 'canon' or not (many were surprised when it turned up in the last batch of Pye CD re-releases) and to be fair a good half of this record is disposable: a cheesy-organ led instrumental of 'Lola', a Noel Coward spoof on 'Just Friends', the only time bassist John Dalton ever sang lead on country spoof 'Willesden Green' and five instrumental linking pieces of which only the dramatic 'Whip Lady' could really have been turned into a 'proper' song.
The rest, however, is gorgeous. Ray picks up instantly on the hidden message of the book (which got somewhat lost in the film) about mankind meddling with his own destiny and writes five glorious songs that are so Kinks-like they would have worked fine on any Kinks record. 'God's Children' is the 'theme' song heard over the opening credits and completely un-prepares you for the bawdy comedy to come - it's a the closest Ray ever came to writing a spiritual, religious song and like 'Artificial Man' to come expresses fear and dread at mankind losing individuality - even in a good way as per transplants. 'The Way Love Used To Be' is a tender love song that sums up Hywel Bennett's sudden vulnerability well, mixing the usual Kinks beauty and nostalgia with one of Ray's most gorgeous sweeping melodies. 'Moments' is an often overlooked song about how close Bennett's character came to death and how we have to make the most of each and every moment - something which really doesn't go with what's on screen (did Ray read the book and not the script?) but works well as a song. 'Animals In The Zoo' is a punchy rocker that I actually prefer to 'Apeman' with a similar theme about mankind being just another animal and equally trapped to those he cages, even if his playground is a little bigger. Finally, 'Dreams' is a classic pop song that never was, with Bennett wondering who his new 'member's personality might have been - and imagining himself as a racing drive or even Mick Jagger! (Ray's take is that the character still has the power to be all these things, if he wants to be them, if only he can 'live inside my dream'). Luckily four of these five (not 'Animals In The Zoo') appeared on a period EP, which being much cheaper than an LP was by far the better way of hearing this record.
Doubtless the film-makers weren't quite expecting the score Ray gave them. Chances are The Kinks had been hired simply because of the funny cross-dressing pop song 'Lola' (which might be why we get the rather odd instrumental version) but Ray was in a deep frame of mind in this period in between 'Lola V Powerman' and 'Muswell Hillbillies' and the book's thoughtfulness clearly struck a nerve with him. For a first full film score, Ray copes awfully well and took his task seriously - watching early rushes of the film with a stopwatch to get the timings spot on and later talked about 'Percy' as a great 'learning experience' - it will certainly come in handy when re-creating 'Preservation' on stage of 'Starmaker' for television. The project also offered The Kinks a useful way of ending their contract with Pye before the brighter lights of Reprise the following year (a contract already under negotiation) - Pye were never going to promote the band's last release as hard as their first and The Kinks weren't too fussed by what happened to 'Percy' (which if the film has been a huge success would have been publicity enough; as it turns out the 'groovy movie' flopped badly but the soundtrack album fared even worse - technically speaking it was never released in America although many fans there imported it on the back of 'Lola' so it's not as rare there as you might think). Both version of Percy remained the very definition of 'cult classics' however, much sought after by movie and music fans alike. The film was even successful enough for an even rarer sequel 'Percy's progress' in 1974 - although by then The Kinks were too busy with mammoth concept works of their own and all the stars had gone on to much bigger things, so it only has about as much in common with the first part as 'Preservation Act One' has with 'Act Two'.
Like many a Kinks fan in the pre-re-issues age I spent my time in front of the video with a cassette dec, desperately trying to record all the bits and pieces from the film: the bursts of incidental music based on the songs turned into an orchestral suite, the sudden rise and falls of chugging instrumentals and the extra looped sections of a few tracks added to get them to desperately to fill up time. Sadly so far the great majority of these have never been made officially available (do they still exist as master-tapes?) although those who haven't seen the film (not out on DVD and still a rarity on TV these days) can get a flavour of what these are like by hearing the three separate versions of 'The Way Love Used To Be' added as bonus cuts on the CD; sadly rights mean that the film mix of 'Dreams' is missing a bit - The Rolling Stones performing 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' at Hyde Park 1969 - while 'Moments' runs much shorter than in the film.
'God's Children' has rightly become the soundtrack album's most famous moment and occasionally appears on compilations. Ray has been worrying about mankind's direction for a while and finds a voice for it here on a song about how man 'has got no right to turn us into machines' and that at birth man is perfect just how he is, part of a bigger plan he doesn't comprehend and shouldn't meddle with. Ray's spiritual side doesn't often come through in song but it comes over loud and clear here as he sings about how 'I wanna go back to the way the Lord God made me' and enjoy life in some sort of modern Eden without ambition, competition, belongings or even clothes. Ray, who'd just had his second daughter Victoria a few months before starting work on this album, may have been inspired by the birth of both of his daughters and their innocence sitting in contrast to what he knew, several court cases later, was a deeply corruptable world. A 'Morning Has Broken' for the 1970s a year earlier, this song sounds as if it belongs in a church sung by a huge congregation but The Kinks and strings still give this cosy performance a feeling of grandeur. With one of those gorgeous Kinks melodies that unfurls bit by bit from quiet shyness to raging emotion, it's one of Ray's prettiest and thanks to the lyrics sounds quite unlike anything else in his catalogue. Keyboardist John Gosling reckons its one of the greatest songs he ever played on during his ten year period with the band - he may well be right.
The instrumental version of 'Lola' is a bit of a mixed bag. I like the rowdier, electric powerhouse part of the arrangement which has two Dave Davies howling with real R and B power and replacing the familiar acoustic strum of the opening. Given that the witty lyrics are missing, it's great to hear Dave pushing Lola to another extreme and turning into more of a muscly beauty than before. However then in comes Gosling on an awful organ part that sounds like it's playing the riff from a game show and the blaring horns and sweeping strings that cut in near the end wrap the song in too many pretty clothes (despite, ironically, mirroring the 'stripper' scene going on in the film). There's a thrilling climax that's good practice for the finale of '20th Century Man' however, where Gosling stops soaring and starts pouncing and the whole band cycle up through a whole cascade of notes to a noisy ending.
'The Way Love Used To Be' may be one of the greatest Kinks songs nobody knows. Gosling, on piano this time, is perfect and the sweeping strings that drifts in and out of the song, pushing the delicate narrator around in the winds of change are perfectly handled. The lyrics are simple, reflecting Bennett's loneliness and desire to be with somebody after his near-brush with death and return to 'God's Children's plea of a 'place not far away' where things can be like they used to be before the world became a soiled and messed-up place. It's the melody not the lyrics that make this one, though, with a soaring, aching melody that's perfectly built for the many orchestral variations in the film (folk and bossa nova versions amongst them).
'Completely', however, is torture. A naggingly slow 12 bar blues where not much happens for a full 3:40, it's the sort of thing that gives film scores a bad name. Even the sound of Dave duelling with himself on guitar and the first Ray Davies harmonica part since 'Last Of The Steam Powered Trains' can't make up for the fact that this instrumental is perhaps the most unoriginal moment in The Kinks' Kanon.
'Running Round Town' is a prettier instrumental, with the main riff from 'Animals IN The Zoo' matched to some great harmonica puffing from Ray recalling 'Steam Train' directly. The song is well suited to the scene in the film where Bennett and Marion are getting on rather well (spoiler: they won't for much longer!) but seems a pointless when included merely as a fragment under a minute long on an album.
'Moments' is a heartfelt love song with balladeer Ray warming up for 'Sweet Lady Genevieve' (as he addressing Rasa this early on?) Ray's lyrics just keep on coming in one long outpouring that isn't divided into choruses and verses as usual as he regrets 'telling you I'm never going to do you wrong and then I go and do the same thing again' but vows to remember the happy times not the sad, for when it comes down to it life is just a collection of 'moments' and he wants more of them to remember her by. All this is spoiled on the film, by the way, which features Hwyel Bennett getting stroppy for no good reason.
The funky 'Animals In The Zoo' is built around a great chunky riff and features a terrific vocal from Ray as he taunts his own species for thinking they're so much smarter than the dumb animals he keeps - when the animals are thinking exactly that too! Ray returns to the theme of 'God's Children' with a God making the world and man 'the bombs and the guns', so by that standards he has no right to think he's any 'better' than anyone else. A fun piano solo and some chaotic backgrounds make this sequel to 'Apeman' a more memorable song than most on the 'Percy' soundtrack.
'Just Friends' is an oddity though. You can just imagine the producer's meeting on this film where they ask Ray 'what happened to Lola? Do something camp like that!' and Ray - taking them at their word - decides to do his own take of Noel Coward. Actually the first half of the song is rather sweet, with a grand and stately orchestral part and Ray singing in his best 'mocking' voice as a worried Hywel Bennett learns his penis' predecessor may have been gay - it's the over-sung second part that really doesn't work, an early preview of 'Holiday Romance' that really doesn't work at all well.
Eighty second instrumental 'Whip Lady' features a great melody that builds up from a piano riff into a dramatic exciting Who-style power rocker that's full of tension as one of 'Percy's exes proceeds to chase Hwyel Bennett round the room with a whip. Check out Dave's terrific guitar slides (which sounds like he's scratching his nails on the strings) on a well performed number that's over far too quickly for it's own good.
'Dreams' is a sweet and oh so Kinks number about the blurred lines between reality and fantasy which starts off cute and then gets nicely rocky. Ray dreams of being a footballer, astronaut or millionaire ('I could do anything or go anywhere!') as Bennett wonders about his parallel life. There's a nicely treated synth-effect on Ray's voice in the chorus as this epic song in several sections builds bit by bit. The track works a lot better than in the film where it's cut to ribbons with a great deal of silence between verses - here though it sounds just dandy.
'Helga' would be unrecognisable as The Kinks were it not for Ray's sung 'bap bap bap bap baps' near the end. A traditional German polka with some excellent flamenco guitar from Dave Davies it's one of the strangest things The Kinks ever recorded though frustratingly once again with a melody too good and hummable to be thrown away on a nothing instrumental like this.
However perhaps the weirdest thing The Kinks ever did is 'Willesden Green', an uncomfortable country spoof with John Dalton singing lead on what was apparently meant to be his best Elvis impression (he sounds more like Jimmy Reed). While the film never quite pins down where 'Percy' is set, trust Ray to give it a location with 'Willesden Green' a sort of towny version of 'Village Green'. I wouldn't go there ifI were you there - it's nowhere near as pretty as this laidback song suggests.
That leaves us with a minute long instrumental version of 'God's Children' (End) to play out with, this time with just the band playing without the orchestra and Ray taking the lead on his trusty acoustic. It's all a bit pointless really, though the tune's lovely of course.
Overall, then, 'Percy' is not your typical Kinks album and is the soundtrack to not your typical film. The gulf between what's seen on screen and heard in the songs is colossal and for once the Konsistant Kinks are less than their usual selves (there won't be this much of a rollercoaster ride on album again until 'Think Visual' in 1986). In a way it's the Kinks album that got away because 'Percy' could so easily have brilliant with a few extra items to, erm, keep it up (as it were). However while much of Percy leaves something to be desired and could easily be reduced to a twenty minute LP without much loss, I'd sit through any 12 bar blues, bad Elvis parody. Noel Coward pastiche or confusing instrumental for the sheer joy of owning the handful of great songs that only a small percentage of Kinks fans are privileged enough to own. Rather lost in between the huff and puff of two louder Kinks albums, it may yet feature the best collections of ballads of Ray Davies' career.
17) "The Great Lost Kinks Album"
(Reprise, January 1973)
Til' Death Do Us Part/There Is No Life Without Love/Lavender Hill/Groovy Movies/Rosemary Rose/Misty Waters/Mr Songbird//When I Turn Off The Living Room Light/The Way Love Used To Be/I'm Not Like Everybody Else/Plastic Man/This Man Weeps Tonight/Pictures In The Sand/Where Did My Spring Go?
"I wish that you'd have known of all the plans I had in store for us, laughing dancing, travelling the world on our own"
You're not likely to find this record stuffed full of outtakes and rarities in the shops any time soon sadly because it was, well, lost, removed swiftly under legal action from The Kinks who claimed that they'd only handed over the master-tapes to honour the terms of their contract about all master reels being kept with Reprise when the band jumped ship to RCA and that they were never properly intended for release. Perhaps Reprise would have gotten away with it had they not stuck the knife in with an extraordinary sleevenote by John Mendlesohn which attacked the modern Kinks ('They persist in insisting on assassinating such as their vintage splendours as 'Waterloo Sunset'...Ray daring to come no closer than a yard to his microphone during what on the recorded version was one of the most exquisite vocal harmonies in modern rock history'). Caling Ray a 'bastardised bow-tie wearing grandson of Oscar Wilde' probably didn't help matters much either. This is also not, sadly, a straightforward release of the album Pye first planned to release in 1968/1969 when The Kinks were slow with 'Village Green' which was also titled 'The Great Lost Kinks Album'. All of these songs have also since been released, which means that even if you are lucky enough to find a copy of the hastily withdrawn album (now worth quite a lot of money) you don't actually own anything your fellow Kinkies don't have.
However this is still an immensely important LP, swapped by eager fans lucky enough to own it who couldn't believe that even The Kinks could be so good that even their outtakes were of the highest quality. The backbone of many a Klassik Kinks bootleg, for a time this album lived as high in fans' estimation as the proper LPs and still to this day makes for a welcome 'parallel universe' compilation of the band's late 60s period when everything they touched (more or less) turned to gold. The track listing is a mis-mash of songs briefly available but removed ('Mr Songbird' from the 12-track edition of 'Village Green'), widely available (B sides including I'm Not Like Everybody Else' and 'This Man He Weeps Tonight'), hit single 'Plastic Man' curiously enough, choice selections from the lesser-selling 'Percy' soundtrack ('The Way Love Used To Be'), two songs written and performed by Ray for 'Where Did Spring Go?', a BBC drama which used a new song every week (''Where Did My Spring Go?' and 'When I Turn Off My Living Room Light'), another Ray Davies film soundtrack song ('Till Death Us Do Part' from the 1969 movie of the same time), a whole assortment of hard-to-find or in the case of 'Groovy Movies' unissued tracks from the Dave Davies 'Album That Never Was' and finally a handful of songs genuinely unheard: 'Rosemary Rose' 'Misty Waters' and 'Pictures In The Sand', all dating from the pre-'Village Green' period of early 1968. For an outtakes set the quality across the set is remarkably good and it's a tragedy that fans had to wait until as late as 2012 and the 'Kinks Anthology' to hear some of these songs (specifically 'Till Death Us Do Part' and 'Pictures In The Sand'; the rest appeared on 'The BBC Sessions', the 'Picture Book' box set and various CD deluxe re-issues of the main albums). Now that these songs are all scattered in various places 'from the day they were born', they rather lose the impact of how amazing it was at the time to effectively hear an extra long-lost record from The Kinks in the 1960s that was ever-so-nearly right up there with their best.
I sympathise with the band who didn't want these songs out - it must have been a nightmare for the famously perfectionist Ray that his in-completed works were out on show and the sleeve-notes (which take the usual bullying approach of pretending to be nice while sticking the knife in, then, pretending wide-eyed innocence at causing offence) are a joke too far. However it was the loss of both band and fans that this album was removed, as the recordings here most certainly enhance the band's reputation rather than detract from it. Even with a handful of songs that don't belong (why is top twenty hit 'Plastic Man' here?!) and the 'officially released and widely available' material removed, there's still one heck of a rarities compilation in here, the equal of any of The Beatles Anthologies, Rolling Stones Rarities or Monkees Missing Links sets. Only 'Misty Waters' (and 'Plastic Man' again) are less than first class and even the 'right' Dave Davies tracks were chosen for inclusion (the new 'Groovy Movies' released here for the first time - and later available only on the deluxe 'Village Green' set - is hilarious). The shock is that, 'Everybody Else' aside, all these songs come from a narrow three year window of 1967-1969 when The Kinks released three of their finest LPs and still had enough gems left over for a set this good. What a shame this set hasn't been seen since 1974 and seems unlikely to ever appear on CD as it hangs together so well this set, even if it's contents wouldn't cause quite the stir they did at the time.
18) "Lola, Percy and the Apeman come Face To Face with The Village Green Preservation Society...Something Else!"
(Pye/Golden Hour, October 1974)
Lola/The Village Green Preservation Society/Love Me Till The Sun Shines/Wonderboy/Little Miss Queen Of Darkness/Two Sisters/Sitting By The Riverside/Dandy/Rainy Day In June/Death Of A Clown//Village Green/Johnny Thunder/Party Line/Funny Face/Moments/Dreams/Do You Remember, Walter?/All Of My Friends Were There/People Take Pictures Of Each Other/Too Much On My Mind/Picture Book/You're Looking Fine//Apeman/God's Children/Harry Rag/Afternoon Tea/Last Of The Steam Powered Trains/Animals In The Zoo/David Watts/Rosie Won't You Please Come Home?/A House In The Country/Situation Vacant//A Holiday In Waikiki/Session Man/Phenomenal Cat/A Most Exclusive Residence For Sale/Lazy Old Sun/Tin Soldier Man/End Of The Season/No Return/Wicked Annabella/Starstruck/The Way Love Used To Be/Big Sky
"You were just an echo of a past I knew so long ago"
The winner of the 'best title for an AAA compilation ever' award is also the most overtly English album in my collection: songs about Afternoon Tea, Village Greens, Steam Trains, Rainy Days in June, posh public schoolboys who have everything, Cricket, even that sense of claustrophobia and reserved outrage that foreigners pick up on straight away but which seems so 'normal' to us. This is a great idea for a compilation, diving past the hits to the era when The Kinks didn't have many hits anyway but which many fans consider the peak - the 1966-1970 years when The Kinks were at their varied and most original. A 44-track double record set split between five albums (one of them a film soundtrack) - that's an average of eight songs once you take the non-album singles out - gives far more scope than most compilations and offers a much broader sense of what The Kinks were all about, in this era at least. Of course, it could be better: for me there's too much 'Village Green' and 'Percy' and not enough 'Face To Face' and I question the veracity of any Kinks compilation this size which doesn't include 'Fancy' or 'Long Way From Home' and yet has space for throwaway songs like 'Party Line' and 'Tin Soldier Man'. I'm also aghast that Lola isn't Face to Face with Arthur anywhere across this album as it's the only record on Pye from 1966-1970 missing (why? 'Shangri-La' and 'Young and Innocent Days' would still be the overall highlights even on a compilation this good!) The packaging too is pretty yuck, a badly made collage of illustrations 'supposedly' representing the albums although apart from two Ray Davies' face to face with each other and an Apeman I got a bit lost what they're supposed to be. Still, most of what you'd want from the era is here and anyone who wants to understand why The Kinks were the most English band that ever lived will find it all here, assuming they buy 'Muswell Hillbillies' as well (the most English album by the most English band that ever lived). Alas this excellent compilation is at the time of writing still unavailable on CD where it would have made for a welcome sampler alongside the album re-issues.
19) "Celluloid Heroes: The Kinks' Greatest"
(RCA, June 1976)
Everybody's A Star (Starmaker)/Sitting In My Hotel/Here Comes Yet Another Day (Live)/Holiday (Live)/Muswell Hillbillies (Live)/Celluloid Heroes//20th Century Man (Single Version)/Sitting In The Mid-Day Sun/One Of The Survivors/Alcohol (Live)/Skin and Bone (Live)/(A) Face In The Crowd
"One of the orignal be-bop generation, he's got no time for complicated music or too much sophistication"
What a bizarre record the first officially sanctioned Kinks release is. A contract-fulfilling farewell to the RCA years before the band run off to join Arista, it's not quite a best-of (the band only had one top twenty hit in this era with 'Supersonic Rocket Ship' and it isn't flipping here!) and not quite a rarities set either (none of the actual songs are unreleased, although several appear in different edits and the set features a live version of 'Here Comes Yet Another Day' taped at the same period as the 'live' tracks on 'Everybody's In Showbiz' but substituted for by a studio version on the record). Very few songs are left untreated (only the title track) so here's a run down: 'Starmaker' is a shorter edit made for radio play that was never used; 'Hotel' is a different mix with a slightly different vocal and far less organ; 'Holiday' and 'Muswell Hillbillies' are both slightly edited versions of the live recordings from 'Everybody's A Star', '20th Century Man' has a very different opening and ending and runs about a minute shorter, 'Mid-day Sun' is slightly remixed with less backing vocals, 'One Of The Survivors' has a different finale with Dave singing much earlier on the last verse, 'Alcohol' and 'Skin and Bone' are shortened edits of the live versions from 'Everybody's In Showbiz' and 'A Face In The Crowd' features a few extra overdubs that were ultimately unused. Quite why this album was released at all like this seems unclear: did The Kinks want to offer fans something 'new' rather than just a greatest hits set? However why not do both and add fan favourites like 'Rocket Ship' 'Sweet Lady Genevieve' and 'No More Looking Back' in here too? The whole thing seems terribly uneven. There's way too much from 'Muswell Hillbillies' and absolutely nothing from the pair of recent Kinks albums 'Preservation Act Two' and 'Schoolboys In Disgrace'. Even the packaging is bad, The five Kinks' faces appearing in 'stars' on a cinema backdrop with a silhouette of heads watching the 'movie' (trivia note: this marks one of only two times John Gosling appears on the front cover of a Kinks album, following 'Preservation Act One'!) It's all very odd and deeply unsatisfying, making what is actually quite an interesting and under-rated period of Kink history seem bland and forgettable.
20) "20 Golden Greats"
You Really Got Me/All Day And All Of The Night/Tired Of Waiting For You/Everybody's Gonna Be Happy/Set Me Free/See My Friends/Till The End Of The Day/Dedicated Follower Of Fashion/Sunny Afternoon/Dead End Street/Waterloo Sunset//Death Of A Clown/Autumn Almanac/Susannah's Still Alive/Wonderboy/Days/Plastic Man/Victoria/Lola/Apeman
"Yes yes yes - it's all part of my autumn almanac!"
'Golden Greats' was a series of hit compilations released on EMI in the late 1970s, just at the point when fans were beginning to get nostalgic for the good ol' days now that they felt left behind by new wave and punks acts who didn't look at all like they did when they were young, no sirree. However unlike the better known Hollies and Shadows sets in the series, the Kinks equivalent seems to have been a bit of a cash-in on a minor label, with no relation to the EMI series except the name (they really should have copyrighted it!) In terms of packaging this record seems awfully tacky, with a bright yellow cover, the band's 'neon' logo in bold and the tiniest of pictures of the band relegated to the bottom right hand corner and in truth some of these songs are beginning to sound a generation old in terms of mastering (the corrupt blare of Dave Davies' speaker cabinet sounds as great as ever at the start of 'You Really Got Me', until the awful realisation dawns that the whole of the song and most of the album now sounds similarly distorted - even pretty ballads like 'Waterloo Sunset' and 'Sunny Afternoon' - yikes!) It would be easy to dismiss this set - except that the track listing rather paves the way for the CD era to come, the 'twenty tracks' named in the title all but doubling what previous Kinks Kompilations had managed (in terms of 'hits' at least - for the moment we're discounting the curious cases of 'Lola V Percy' and 'Kinks Kronikles'). This is pretty much the first time that all these famous old friends appear on a set together and its depressing to think that as early as 1978 the Kinks hit discography is set in stone (with the occasional exception of 'Come Dancing'). At the time this album was particularly important as an additional source for the rare Kinks-related singles such as Dave Davies' 'Susannah's Still Alive' and 'Wonderboy', with the singles now a decade old and increasingly hard to find (and worn out when they were). Sensibly the compilation keeps to the singles instead of veering off for album cuts and even features the recordings in the 'right' (ie chronological) order - which makes it all the more of a shame that to date this compilation has yet to appear under this name on compact disc.
21) "One For The Road"
(Arista, June 1980)
Opening/The Hard Way/Catch Me Now I'm Falling/Where Have All The Good Times Gone?/Intro > Lola/Pressure/All Day And All Of The Night/20th Century Man/Misfits/Prince Of The Punks/Stop Your Sobbing/Low Budget/Attitude/(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman/National Health/Till The End Of The Day/Celluloid Heroes/You Really Got Me/Victoria/David Watts
"Well you do it your way and I'll do it my way - we'll see whose the one to survive!"
The Kinks' least subtle, most aggressive record this may be, but there's a case to be made that 'One For The Road' is the most enjoyable of the five live albums officially released in The Kinks' lifetime. That might be because this is easily more substantial than the last tour (the poorly recorded 'Kelvin Hall' and the deliberately weird live half of 'Everybody's In Showbiz') as much as anything, but there's no denying The Kinks are a tightly drilled unit in this period and every song is performed with gusto their earlier sloppy selves never had. New boys Jim Rodford and Ian Gibbons are a revelation, turning The Kinks from a cheerfully messy band that was all about the singer into a rock monster where Dave drives everything along with some great guttural guitar solos, Mick Avory has the space to strut his stuff and Ray can improvise like mad over the top, safe in the knowledge that the band are there to catch him if he falls. This is of course one of those live albums that was recorded piecemeal and so represents the best of seven different concerts recorded in March, September and November 1980. It's quite possible that a fair bit of overdubbing went on too to soften the harder rougher edges (common for most bands in this period). However whatever the cause this sounds like both the rawest, realist Kinks recording in some years and the band's most professional, which is a quite an achievement compared to the self-indulgent 'Showbiz' concert!
The track listing is pretty good too, selecting most of the band's better material from their 'arena' years of 1977-1979. There is perhaps too much 'Low Budget' here (six songs, including the whole of what would back in the vinyl days have been 'side three'). There are just a few songs still leftover from the 1960s: 'David Watts' (recently made popular by The Jam), 'Stop Your Sobbing' (recently made popular by The Pretenders and 'Victoria' (recently made popular by, erm, I dunno - the Royal Family?) all fall a little flat in these less subtle, more aggressive times. However the old hits 'You Really Got Me' and 'Till The End Of The Day' both sound great and powerful, on full wattage compared to late dimmer live versions and 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone?' serves as a wonderfully pithy comment that the 'golden age' wasn't that golden anyway. The highlights though tend to be the revivals of songs from the earlier 70s that never really got a chance to shine before: there's an exquisite '20th Century Man' with harder-edged drums and a shimmering Gibbons guitar part (possibly 'repaying' Captain Sensible who nicked this riff for 'A Riot On Eastbourne Pier'- this song sounds very like his style!) There's a gorgeous 'Celluloid Heroes' with Ian sweeping in with a new synth riff that wraps the song up in cotton wool before the band attack the ending like never before. In addition there's a wonderfully snide 'Prince Of The Punks' which appearing near the end here appears to laugh at the preceding hour in a very Kinks-like manner, a wonderfully heavy 'Superman' that sounds less clever but more emotional than the 'Low Budget' version and a very pretty 'Misfits', almost the only ballad played across the entire set.
No doubt the album will come as a shock to those who consider The Kinks the most delicate and English of bands, but there's a case to be made that this remodelled angry Americana new wave era of the group is the most badly overlooked and this record is perhaps the best example of just how good The Kinks were in this period, more consistent and less polished than the concurrent studio LPs. There are, sadly, no rare or unreleased songs for collectors to savour and not much interaction between band and audience (apart from a short bit of Ray teasing the crowd by playing the first few notes of 'Lola' and then innocently asking 'what?' when they cheer - he'll still be doing this shtick on the last live Kinks record 'To The Bone' fifteen years later!) However what there is is high octane no frills rock and roll played by one of the best practitioners of the period. The Kinks may have been dismissed in this era as merely surviving - but this is more than mere survival; there's a hungry and determination on this album that's a joy to behold and 'One For The Road' comes highly recommended for anyone who wants to know what the band were like in concert - flawed, perhaps, but with less flaws than the other live Kinks albums who can't hold a candle to this record's energy and excitement. Ooba ooba indeed!
22) "Dave Davies" aka "AFL1-3603"
Where Do You Come From?/Doing The Best For You/Visionary Dreamer/Nothing More To Lose/The World Is Changing Hands//Move Over/See The Beast/Imagination's Real/In You I Believe/Run
"If we're all so clever and technology rules, then why are we all still so scared?"
By 1980 Dave had been all but silenced in The Kinks. The prog rock years of his brother's mega-concepts hadn't been good for him creatively with the guitarist restricted to no songs, only a handful of lead vocals and very little even in the way of guitar solos to the point where Dave seemed merely a hired hand in the band to go away in the props cupboard alongside the female backing vocalists and Ray's Max Wall style Mr Flash costume. But then momentum came back to the younger brother - 'Schoolboys In Disgrace' had much more in common with Dave's back story than Ray's imagination and new record label Arista were keen to return to the aggressive riff-heavy Kinks of old, starting with 1977 's 'Sleepwalker'. With Dave's family life much more settled in this period too, he managed to sign up a three-album deal with his old friends at RCA and finally get round to releasing what his many fans had been dreaming of since it was first announced in 1967 - a Dave Davies solo album.
Not that 'AFL1-3603' has much to do with 'The Album That Never Was'. The record sounds like the release of oh so many years of pent up frustrations at keeping all that rock and roll muscle in years of Vaudeville shows and is very loud and very noisy, like The Kinks might have sounded had heavy metal been around when 'You Really Got Ne' was written. Even for an album that slots in between 'Low Budget' and 'Give The People What They Want' this is a noisy, claustrophobic LP. There are none of the folk elements of Dave's 1960s material , none of the witty well-drawn characters there were before and little of the sort of autobiography that made songs like 'Susannah's Still Alive' so compelling. There's nothing subtle about the music of this album, with its heavy crunching guitar noises and demented Dave Davies vocals often treated with heavy echo and blistering rawness so different to most Kinks releases over the past fifteen years and many fans were confused on its release. However what Dave has done quite cleverly is combine the best of the two styles The Kinks were known for just in a much starker, more monochromatic way: while the melodies and performances are nearly all one-layered and raw, the lyrics are typically ethereal and philosophical.
Dave may not have the gift for building up sound-pictures and individual characters the way his brother can, but he's always been excellent at pointing out problems that affect society as a whole and offering warnings against spiritual traps that blind humanity to its own faults ('Preservation' was the closest Ray ever got to this sort of a 'concept' album and even then it's more about characters trapping each other than society's defects). While this album is often hard to listen to, relentless in its pursuit of noise and deliberately ugly at times like a Punk Rock album made with a guitarist who can actually play, lyrically it's a beautiful album with much to offer. The themes of the record are humanity's betrayal of each over, the corruption of mass media and the sense that mankind is ignoring his spiritual quest in pursuit of material matters - which won't be at all what you expect the first time you hear this album with its heavy guitar crunch and demented Dave vocals (it takes a few playings before you can even hear what the words are).
Perhaps the greatest thing about this record doesn't come from the songs at all, but from the highly clever title and album cover. Realising that art is too often being presented merely as product in early 1980s society Dave names this album not for any great existential comment or autobiographical snippet but after the record's original catalogue number - a hilarious and very apt comment for an album about taking things like music for granted. The original sleeve even has Dave's head replaced by the album's bar code (or at least he does on first release and in America; perhaps not understanding the joke RCA simply re-name this album 'Dave Davies' for the UK market and again on its second release, instead of 'updating' the name to include the new catalogue number and bar code; more fool them). The result is typically Dave Davies - it's very funny and makes a very good point whilst being far more in-yer-face than Ray's subtler statements, but it's a message that fans have to work hard to uncover for themselves and may well get a migraine trying to decipher in the first place. To be honest, 'AFL1' may well be the weakest of the three similar records Dave will release across the 1980s, with the biggest divide between the spiritual stillness of the lyrics and the sheer power of the music, but even this record contains several excellent additions to Dave's kanon, with the pretty new wave style pop number 'Doing The Best For You', the falsetto yearn of the very Ray-like 'Imagination's Real', the pounce of the prog rock-punk hybrid 'See The Beast' and the oddly Oasis-like (but fifteen years too early) 'I Believe In You' all excellent songs. This is an album that won't be for everyone but if you like the harder edged thrash of The Kinks' early days and have a soft spot for the band's arena rock days then this album may well be for you.
'Where Do You Come From?' is a snarling, head banging outrageously loud song about, erm, the beauty of spiritualism. Dave can see a 'thousand lives' in the eyes of a new person in his life (perhaps the girl in his autobiography 'Kink' who turned him on to the 'energy fields' of audiences) and reflects on how all that strict religious upbringing and modern insistence that we have only lived once is a 'hindrance in these troubled times' as he agonises on how many previous lifetimes he wasted not being 'free'. It's a memorable opener to the album and the most out-there Kinks rocker yet.
'Doing The Best For You' is more like contemporary new wave, with a slinky plodding guitar riff and a heavily echoed vocal part that in other circumstances could have been by Blondie (but better, naturally). Dave says that all of have a right to be angry with our Governments and our unions for trapping us and only promising that 'they're doing their best for you', but we all have the power to turn round and say 'no!' 'The world is ruled by science and money - that's all that exists!' he complains bitterly on a track about neglecting our spiritual needs.
'Visionary Dreamer' calms things down slightly even though Dave's vocal is still at full pelt. A song about a 'spiritual light' that glows whenever Dave is near someone (again the fan from 'Kink' perhaps?) and the fact that outside appearances are never right, with a friend dismisses as a 'joker' when she's really a 'dreamer', this song has some lovely lyrics underneath all that bluster and aggro.
'Nothin' More To Lose' is more of a traditional Kinks rocker, with a tight 50s style riff and a Who power-trio style rattle as Dave sings in his best Elvis voice about how 'my soul keeps a singing the blues'. An angry Dave demands that we switch off the TV, stop buying the paper and ignore what politicians and religious leaders have to tell us - mankind can't afford to lose any more of the world's 'real' spiritual message anymore. There's a lovely reflective middle eight in this song, which typically for the album actually features Dave at his most bitter lyrically.
'The World Is Changing Hands' sounds more like the 'Chosen People' record to come - a slow, sleepy ballad with a prettier melody than most on the album though still sung with power and a revved up backing track. Celebrating the fact that 'we are spirit - we are free!' this is a happier song than most on the record, with the sense that humanity can yet choose the right path in a 'war of spiritual change'.
The dementedly simple rocker 'Move Over' sounds like more like The Kinks of the past with any nicely retro 50s feel. Dave sounds angry at someone whose been holding him back his entire life and I'm sure I'm not the first fan to assume that he's making a dig at his brother here. However the song quickly becomes bigger than mere brotherly love/hate and ends up declaring that 'there's no political system gonna satisfy me!' and that 'man made laws are making fools of us all!' The track features one of the best Dave Davies guitar solos of the record, albeit awfully short, although Dave's off-key vocal sounds more like AC/DC.
'See The Beast' is one of the highlights of the album, a slightly slower, more thoughtful rocker with a gorgeous melody and some really clever lyrics. The beast is an entity of evil much bigger than all of us who hovers over us waiting to bring darkness to our lives but is never fought head on - instead we vote in political parties in the hope they'll fight it for us (a reminder that Margaret Thatcher, Dave's bête noir for the rest of the decade, has just got into power the year before) and miserably dream about things that might happen if the beast wasn't there instead of doing anything about it. While in context this line seems to mean something more about humanity, note the disdain with which Dave sings 'There is cold around you, brother!' in the last verse - another dig at Ray?
'Imagination's Real' is the other album highlight, a slightly softer-edged rocker with the best, certainly the subtlest use of synths across the whole of The Kinks' recorded output in the 1980s and a lovely falsetto vocal from Dave that recalls the mock angelic voices of 'Funny Face'. The lyrics are superb too, using the very Kinks message that we can turn our fantasies into reality and live the life we always wanted, if only we are brave enough to make the first move. A sudden twist to a minor key in the middle eight warns us what we are up against ('No solution, hatred, a fear of what's to come') but for all that this is a very uplifting song about how mankind isn't beaten just yet, all wrapped up with a golden melody that Ray would have been proud to have written. Only the sheer amount of echo, making Dave's voice sound more distant than it should, gets in the way of a perfect track.
'In You I Believe' is a return to the noisier first side of the record, with Dave dementedly screaming his heart and lungs out on a power pop song with a pretty, catchy chorus. Sighing again over 'what a waste of our lives, what a waste of our time', Dave encourages the listener to embrace their spiritual side and adds confidently that 'together we are gonna change the world'.
The album then ends with 'Run', unfortunately the most average song on the album with a simple chorus and a lyric about running away and being by yourself that can't compete with the deeper numbers on the record. Even this isn't unlikeable, though, as if Dave has used up so much energy this is all he can manage to send the record on its way, one last reminder to us not to be held back - that we all need to be 'somewhere we can grow'.
It's hard not to see statements like that one as a comment on Dave's years of being quietened within The Kinks and his pleasure at finally being able to unleash his creative visions without Ray meddling with it all. Perhaps the greatest strength of 'AFL1-3603' is that this is clearly an album Dave would never have made with The Kinks and sounds like a 'whole' that belongs together rather than just a bunch of Kinks Kast-offs. While a bit more variation from all the hard-edged gruff raucous rockers would have been nice, there's enough intelligence in the lyrics and enough flashes of brilliance across the lyrics to prove the point that Dave has been badly under-used during his last twelve years at least with the band. Although the album's clever title try to make it out to be mere materialistic product, this is a record that's clearly designed to be much more than that, the first really unleashing of Dave's spiritual side into The Kinks Kommunity and while there will be better made and more listenable examples in the years to come, this is a still a strong brave record quite unlike any other in my Kollection, Kinks or otherwise.
23) Dave Davies "Glamour"
Is This The Only Way?/Glamour/Reveal Yourself/World Of Our Own/Body//Too Serious/Telepathy/7th Channel/Eastern Eyes
"Glamour gets in the way, it's all we say and do, it's always fooling you"
'Glamour' is more of the same from Dave, with a similar mix of hard brash strutting music and deep spiritual reflective lyrics. Only the second time round the mixture is not quite as good: Dave had years to prepare for this record but recorded this sequel in perhaps a little too much of a hurry and everything feels a little sparse and unfinished. On the plus side Dave's singing is even sharper here and he plays every instrument (except the drums - they're by future Kinks drummer Bob Henrit) including some excellent shadowy synthesiser and some sturdy bass as well as his usual strong guitar. There are also a few songs that stand out: the electronically treated 'Body', the unusual oriental 'Eastern Eyes' which makes good use of synths and The Smiths style '7th Channel' which features Dave singing really low. Sadly everything else sounds much the same and much like the songs from 'AF1' that didn't quite work, with even the similar album theme of the artificialness of life (and the need to see beyond the 'glamour' to the 'real' essence of life) not quite coming off as well this time. There's a great album cover of a suave looking Dave though, with the same slicked back 50s hair that his brother will 'borrow' for his 'Spiv' character in the 'Come Dancing' video!
'Is This The Only Way?' is a rather noisy opener with Dave at full piercing shriek. Dare I say it, he's writing about his brother again here with lines like 'all the people say you're s star but you're playing a part - how long do you think it will last?' and the chorus line 'you're not so innocent!' Other lines suggest Dave has big business and politicians in his sights though: 'Who are you, smug in your intellect, dishing out old-fashioned politics?'
'Glamour' is an ugly riff-heavy song that doesn't have much going on up top - which might be the point given that the lyrics are about not judging a book by its cover. How typical for Dave to record such an earthy, rootsy song about the glitz and glamour of life.
'Reveal Yourself' is prettier, with a nicely catchy chorus and Dave telling everyone to stop playing games and be truer to who they really are. Unfortunately though his gift for long wordy poetic verses seem to have deserted him for once and this song doesn't get far past the title repeated over and over like a mantra.
'World Of Our Own' is a more interesting song, more 50s in feel with a simple strummed guitar part smothered in echo until the alien sounding synths drift in. Dave describes the human condition as a 'mirror' that isn't necessarily reflected on the surface.
'Body' starts with an exclamation from Dave to 'stop fucking about!' which is presumably aimed at someone in the studio but is rather apt for a song about the human body being a pre-programmed super-computer made up of 'genetic tape'. Even if our bodies are faulty, though, our minds can break free and Dave urges us to see past the 'distraction everywhere' on one of the best songs from the album.
'Too Serious' is more like the new wave songs clogging up the charts in this era and features a Sparks-like jaunty backing track while a solemn-faced Dave implores to be funnier and sillier. 'How much more do we need, power possessions greed?' Dave argues before admitting that he's been so intensely caught up with the corruption of our world that he's forgotten to laugh at himself and how absurd it all is.
'Telepathy' is often spoken of as people's favourite song from this album, but a catchy riff aside, there's nothing much to write home about in the melody stakes. There are some interesting lyrics, though, with Dave turning a line from his autobiography 'Kink' into a full song - 'People tell me off for expecting them to be more telepathic, but I think yeah it would make life a lot easier wouldn't it?'
'7th Channel' is a simple Haiku-like song about what Dave thinks the 'real' story of human life is - that we're a wondering race sent to Earth from outer space whose forgotten our 'real' purpose. Alas an interesting song is lost under yet more noise and a lacklustre tune.
Thankfully 'Eastern Eyes' ends the record on a high, a wonderfully pioneering song that could easily have come from Japan despite being created solely on 80s technology instruments. This track is very similar to Jefferson Starship's 'Ride The Tiger', a track that discussed how a tear to the Western world is a scientific collection of carbon and water but to an Eastern world is a sign of emotion and human intensity. In this song Western Eyes doesn't understand why Eastern eyes cry and vice versa and Dave no longer believes what he was brought up to think - he can see his past lives before him and believes 'we are all seeds of heaven, eternally'.
Often throughout this album the lyrics have some fascinating tale to tell, almost all of which comes from Dave's spiritual discoveries during the early 1980s. Had Dave been braver with the setting and written a couple of stronger melodies then 'Glamour' might yet have been his best album - but unfortunately Kinks fans can't often get past the sheer assaulting noise to realise that this too is all 'surface' and that at heart 'Glamour' is another poetic album with much depth to it. Do break through the surface if you can as there's much to value here, although the softer and more varied third set 'Chosen People' is a much better bet all round, finally making good on the promise in the lyrics with some lovely melodies and performances to enjoy too.
24) Dave Davies "Chosen People"
(Warner Brothers, '1983')
Tapas/Charity/Mean Disposition/Love Gets You/Danger Zone/True Story/Take One More Chance//Freedom Lies/Matter Of Decision/Is It Any Wonder?/Fire Burning/Chosen People/Cold Winter
"We're living in a dream!"
Kink fans, put off by the sheer noise of the last two records, didn't buy it (or at least not in significant numbers). Record label Warner Brothers (where Dave moved after a falling out with Arista over their promotion of 'Glamour') were so sure that this album would be a failure that they actually wrote it off as a 'tax loss' before release date. The few critics and fans who did get to purchase it at the time were put off by the title and Dave's tales of a spiritual experience in interviews. However, a record can be judged a success in so many other ways than how many copies it sold or even how many fans liked it. Softer than the last two records in terms of power, yet even tougher in terms of subject matter, there's a case to be made that 'Chosen People' is Dave Davies' greatest 40 minutes (give or take 'The Album That Never Was' - do we count that as a 'proper' album yet with the release of 'Hidden Treasures'?). Dave had clearly been through hell in recent times, although it wasn't really until his book 'Kink' that Dave revealed just how low times had been for him across the 1980s. Feeling cut off from his brother, unhappy with where the band were going and on a come-down from the 'party' atmosphere of the 60s and 70s, Dave looked on aghast as the world got further and further away from the original dream that kept the 1960s turning. In his own way Dave manages to be every bit as acerbic as his brother (this album is at times 'Think Visual' a full three years early) and yet there's hope there too, with 'Chosen People' at the same time an even more 'real' and yet a more uplifting listening experience than 'AFL' or 'Glamour'.
Much of that comes from what Dave details in 'True Story' - a visitation by aliens who came to him in his hotel room (out of his TV in fact) and offered him spiritual guidance and told the guitarist of mankind's 'real' purpose (in a nutshell, we're all being monitored from afar for our good and bad behaviour, the aliens showing Dave times from his past where he made people happy without realising it and time he regretted; they also claimed that mankind was being easily manipulated by evil forces and 'vibrations' that cling to us to 'steal' our souls and that the sheer aggressiveness of rock and roll is one of the best way of breaking 'their' hold over us; daft as this sounds Dave's experience is actually not as rare as you might think - there are lots of cases out there of people having the same experience and while Dave doesn't mention so in his book there's a thought that these 'aliens' are in fact our real creators treating us like the 'Animals In The Zoo' Ray once sang about, but at a loss at how to help us defeat less noble alien races). You can treat it as science-fiction if you want (most fans do) but the bit that really needs to concern you is this effect on Dave: he clearly felt he'd been given a 'message' and desperately wanted to share it to the small percentage of the world's population who might listen to him (Dave recalls in the book his frustration at spending most of the 70s thinking he was mad and in need of help that nobody offered and most of the 80s sure of his new experience when everyone assumed he was mad and wanted to interfere).
'True Story' is only really the tip of the iceberg - this experience is here throughout the work from the blind-leading-the-blind of 'Freedom Lies', the praise of 'good' on 'Charity' and the fear of 'Cold Winter'. This is easily Dave's most thoughtful set of lyrics, full of good versus greed tales as Dave comes to see through the 'games' and trivialities of the world for more or less the first time. However it's the melodies that really stand out on this album - 'Take One More Chance' has an aching, soaring tune that's one of the guitarist's prettiest moments and 'Is It Any Wonder?' is one of Dave's most cleverly constructed song, going from cold crunch to hope to despair and back again in the course of four tightly controlled minutes. Dave is also in great voice and you can actually Dave's singing on this record for a change, with his growling guitar kept to just the colour rather than the be all and end all of the music. What impresses most about 'Chosen People' though is the record's consistency: where other Dave Davies albums struggle to maintain a high level across a whole record and even his contributions to Kinks records can be hit and miss, virtually everything on this record is first-class and this time around too every track goes somewhere different. You can argue all you like about what really happened to Dave in this period to make him one of the 'Chosen People', but it was clearly something life-changing and in a good way. 'Bug' comes close, but 'Chosen People' remains the one truly essential Dave Davies solo album and is long overdue a decent re-release on CD (a re-issue in 2008 seemed to come and go with great speed and it hasn't been seen since!)
'Tapas' is an alien-sounding other-worldly instrumental that sounds like the soundtrack to a 1980s science-fiction series (think 'Battlestar Galactica' crossed with 'He-Man'). Dave's squirrelly guitar is impressive, but this two minute instrumental doesn't really go anywhere and is an odd 'bite-size' addition to the album.
'Charity' is an angry, turbulent rocker but with a more melodic edge than before, with Dave reaching out to the listener to plead with them to off the kindness and help the world needs to recover. 'The world and it's pain tries to call to you' but only a select few ever answer that call and Dave reprises the theme of 'Shangri-La' here, damning those 'who turn away if you like, every day every night, in your house and your car - yes I know who you are!' Dave is in the best voice he's been in for years and the song's sad descending riff - which really does feel like falling - is one of his finest.
'Mean Disposition' takes the opposite take, chastising all those who cause hurt deliberately on a fierce but sparse rocker in which Dave is taking his anger out on someone he knows really well whose betrayed him. 'You've got a mean disposition, you've got no inner vision, and you're cruel in addition...I can read you like a book!' Hmm I can't think who this might be about! Just to rub things in Dave quotes an old Kinks favourite in the lovely contrasting middle eight that merges 'Days' with 'Do You Remember, Walter?': 'Remember the days we thought would last for always?'
Dave had high hopes that the catchy-but-deep pop song 'Love Gets You' would do well in the pop charts. Cleverly balanced between the spiritual tune Dave wanted to write the and the public's demands for Boy-meets-Girl songs, it sounds not unlike some George Harrison recordings of the period. It's one of his loveliest melodies, with some excellent chorus harmonies (Dave multi-tracked) but in a representation of everything the record was fighting against the song got banned by censors who clearly didn't get the message (their official explanation was that 'love gets you anyway you want it' referred to kinky Kink sex - sigh, no wonder Dave despaired...)
'Danger Zone' is one of the lesser songs on the album and certainly the most dated with a really 80s feel to it and a return to the wailing of the last two records. It's still better than most of 'AF1' or 'Glamour' though with a sighing lyrics about how the Big Sky never listens to the little man anymore. Dave even 'wrote you a letter - but never received a reply'. He's particularly angry because the world is at the tipping point, the 'danger zone, the twilight zone' and throws in a silly 'gonna get ya yeah' riff alongside. Dave hints that he's been writing to the energy companies, ad libbing during the lengthy fade 'what's so bad about solar power?!'
'True Story' is my favourite song on the album, a brave attempt to tell the truth as Dave saw it, which starts off like a sci-fi film soundtrack and ends up a powerful, tortured song of guilt. Dave is getting a message he doesn't want to hear and can't cope with, pleading 'but what can I do? I'm just a poor boy! Make them understand!' as Dave requests his new alien friends to 'take the message to my leader' instead. The powers that be won't listen, though, so the aliens turn to Dave to pass on to his followers and pleads with us to remember we're part of a 'sacred plan' none of us understand. 'My life will never be the same' Dave sighs with as much remorse as hope.
'Take One More Chance' is one of the lighter moments on the album, a simple pop love song. Only love isn't simple at all - it's a complex feeling of mixed messages and emotions that won't always be nice or kind but will always be important. Dave sighs as he remembers seeing the love of his life 'across a crowded room' and how she started off 'avoiding me all evening', frightened of their natural connection and of being hurt again. Dave's response? 'There's a destiny through all this sadness I see', as a string arrangement arrives out of nowhere to sweep the narrator off his feet on a pretty song with one of Dave's most memorable melodies.
'Freedom Lies' is a return to the angry worldly wise songs on the album, another cleverly constructed song where Dave's heavy riff is only one of the elements on offer. Dave calls on all those strong enough to stand up for the under-dog to fight the powers that be and for the rest of us not to get sucked in by the same old tired lies that we really are 'free'. A rallying cry with a strong hook, this song could have done with a few more words (it only lasts two verses) but is another strong song with another pretty middle eight.
'Matter Of Decision' is a real return to the crunch of 'Glamour' and only really comes alive on the punk-like staccato chorus. Dave is confused over whether a love one loves him or not - they keep blowing hot and cold and it's driving him scatty. While Dave is probably on about his love life again this could be another song about brother Ray, Dave sighing 'you always run and hide - I only wanna be close to you'.
The glorious 'Is It Any Wonder?' takes the same theme a lot further - everyone thinks Dave should leave a bad thing behind and get out now before he's hurt, but he knows that deep down the pair have a deep bond that no one else will understand (again is this about Ray or Dave's wife Lisbet?) Dave moans about people 'talking when my back is turned' and they do just that in a chorus where they mutter behind Dave 'do you really go well with him? Do you really wanna stay with him?' Dave is quick to attack their 'false morality, always judging other people's lives' but the chorus swipes the rug from under all this certainty, switching to the more doubtful minor key and slowly sinking into the quicksand of doubt. 'Why is it always take not give?' Dave sighs before screaming 'But I love you honey - and I can't let go!' A very clever song about a complex situation, this is also one of the best performed and produced songs on the album.
'Fire Burning' is the best of the all-out rockers on the album, going from flashy new wave verse to stabbing punk chorus as Dave first croons and then screams out his addiction to a loved one. A scary guitar part is matched head on by a soft and soothing synth part and Dave wobbles from one to the other throughout. If you're a regular AAA reader you'll know how much I usually despair of lazy songwriting that use a 'fire' as a metaphor for love - Jefferson Starship, The Moody Blues, Cat Stevens, everyone seems to have done it at some time or another. However Dave's is one of the best, showing the cool ashes as well as the acceleration into addiction and the result is the single best Dave Davies rocker since 'Love Me Till The Sun Shines'.
Title track 'Chosen People' is the most 'out there' song on the album, a new age style rocker about a past race of people who were nearly wiped out and now only exist in pockets scattered across the Earth. The opening lyrics about a 'true white brother' suggest Dave is singing about Native American Indians but the lyrics are just vague enough to mean anything. Alas a promising idea for a song is let down by the weakest melody on the album, which ends up with Dave returning to his aimless shrieking.
The record then closes with the powerful epic 'Cold Winter', which comes on like a mid-70s Who song, continually building to bigger peaks. Dave looks back on his recent past with despair - his sadness at being cut adrift from friends and family and even the human race as he screams his sadness at the world having 'no mercy'. Dave puts in one last stinging accusation: 'You'll never know what it feels to be loved!' However by the end of the song what doesn't break you only makes you stronger and Dave is 'healed' by the cold winter, which has offered him the chance to see the world as it really is.
Overall, then, 'Chosen People' isn't perfect, but Dave's longest album in terms of songs is impressively consistent and brilliantly eclectic. Had this album come out under The Kinks' name it would surely have been a lot more interesting than at least the next two albums ('State Of Confusion' and 'Word Of Mouth') and reveals Dave at a creative spike. Alas history will repeat itself and just as Dave got so close to fame and fortune in the late 60s so his solo career comes to an abrupt end just as it was getting good, with Warner Brothers all but ignoring the album and terminating Dave's contract when it failed to sell. Dave won't make another solo album until The Kinks' split in 1995 and there won't be a new studio album until 2002, another lifetime of experiences away...
25) "Candy From Mr Dandy"
(PRT Records, '1983')
Dedicated Follower Of Fashion/Dead End Street/Death Of A Clown/Everybody's Gonna Be Happy//A Well Respected Man/See My Friends/Days/Autumn Almanac
"You need no sympathy, 'cause Dandy you're alright!"
A fun collection filler, this Europe-only release wins the 'Kinks Kompilation Title' award if not necessarily the track listing trophy. With only eight tracks (this album was, unusually, a 10" LP - the 1980s equivalent of an 'EP' but which played at the same speed as a full record) there isn't much space to get things wrong but this record does anyway, including such oddities as 'Everybody's Gonna Be Happy' (not most fans' choice of career highlight) and American-only hit 'A Well Respected Man'. The cover is nice though, a shot of the band that appears to come from the 'Apeman' promo of the five resting against a park bench and at least it was cheap!
26) "Dead End Street - The Kinks' Greatest"
(PRT Records, October 1983)
You Really Got Me/All Day And All Of The Night/Everybody's Gonna Be Happy/Till The End Of The Day/Dead End Street/Sunny Afternoon/Dedicated Follower Of Fashion/Victoria/Set Me Free/Apeman//Tired Of Waiting For You/See My Friends/Death Of A Clown/Days/Lola/Waterloo Sunset/Wonderboy/Plastic Man/Autumn Almanac/Susannah's Still Alive//Misty Water/Pictures In The Sand/Spotty Grotty Anna//Groovy Movies/Time Will Tell/Rosemary Rose
"Time will tell if I'll survive, I'd rather be dead than just pretend I'm alive, time will tell - it's just a matter of time!"
For the second time Pye released songs they shouldn't have done - licensing six unheard recordings out to another company - and like 'The Great Lost Kinks Album' the band came down on them like a tonne of bricks with yet another court case that rattled on for years. As it happens all six of the songs included on this album's 'bonus 10" disc' have been released now - 'Time Will Tell' on 'Picture Book', 'Pictures In The Sand' on 'The Kinks Anthology' and the remaining four on the 'deluxe' re-issue of 'Village Green'. However at the time this was a much sought after Kinks rarity which was only on sale officially for four months and still fetches a pretty penny if you're lucky enough to see it. For the record 'Groovy Movies' is a terrific Dave Davies song dating back to his unmade album of 1967 which sees the guitarist in the role of a director on a hummable song with brass overtones, 'Time Will Tell' is an unfinished 'Face To Face' era rocker that pack a real punch but all too obviously features a Ray Davies guide vocal and 'Rosemary Rose' is an interesting vignette about a girl growing up before her time as recorded in 1968 before the 'Village Green' project came along. The rest are less interesting: 'Misty Water' is an unfocussed rocker from 1968 with some chaotic rhyming (but some very interesting instrumental sections), 'Pictures In The Sand' a rather overblown 'Something Else' reject and 'Spotty Grotty Anna' a short warm up jam. As for the main record, it's business as usual, with most of the hits present and accounted for, though frustratingly not in anything like the 'proper' chronological order (why oh why do record companies do this?!) and with a few of the rarer tracks such as 'Susannah's Still Alive' 'Wonderboy' and 'Plastic Man' in the mix. Also, with all the tracks here to choose from (twenty-six) could no one come up with a more suitable title than 'Dead End Street' - that's hardly the image you want for a compilation! ('You Really Got Me' had been over-used, even by 1983, but what's wrong with 'Sunny Afternoon' 'Days' or 'Autumn Almanac'?!)
27) Ray Davies "Return To Waterloo" (Original Soundtrack)
(Arista, July 1985)
Intro/Return To Waterloo/Going Solo/Missing Persons/Sold Me Out/Lonely Hearts/Not Far Away/Expectations/Voices In The Dark (End Titles)
"The system's that fed you and bred you can throw you away!"
Ray's first solo project should perhaps have been titled 'As Far Away From Waterloo As Possible'. Despite the familiar setting the music is as un-Kinks like as possible, with Ray keen to break away from the band's old sound even though initially this project was planned as a Kinks work (Dave had a fit about Ray returning to his arty conceptual ways after rejecting so many of his songs and refused to take part, although all the other members of the Kinks from 1984 are here including Mick Avory; three songs - Going Solo, Missing Persons and Sold Me Out - will appear on Kinks album 'Word Of Mouth' anyway, though in slightly tweaked mixes; a handful of others will appear on Kinks Kompilations down the years). The film, shot by director Julian Temple and based on an idea of Ray's, is about a rail passenger's journey from Guildford to Waterloo and the people he meets as well as the dreams and nightmares he has while dozing off. For instance, A young punk he meets is angry at everyone ('Sold Me Out'), a mother is wondering where her runaway teenager has gone ('Going Solo') and a colonel sighs in great 'Arthur' style over the problems of modern Britain on 'Expectations'. The general consensus is that this well-meaning film has some nice ideas, but without any dialogue the plot is hard to follow and Ray's songs aren't one of his bumper harvests unfortunately. With the film a predictable flop, the soundtrack album was only ever released in a few countries in Europe and is currently missing from CD, although the film itself has had a new lease of life in the modern era thanks to a double DVD pack with the music video compilation 'Come Dancing'. Note that there are a few differences between what you hear on the album and on the soundtrack album with an entire song 'Ladder Of Success' sadly missing from the record even though it's one of the best songs here.
'Intro' is a short minute long guitar snarl with ghostly voices and synthesiser washes on top. It sounds not unlike something from one of Dave's later albums, funnily enough.
'Return To Waterloo' is a noisy pop song that sounds much like the poppy artificial sound of 'Word Of Mouth' without being quiet as sharply defined. Ray is struck by how many of the commuters he sees still look the same as they did 20 years ago, their lives having never moved on pass this 'stop'. You can hear Ray's original demo for the song on 'The Singles Collection' bonus disc, although the full band film version is better.
'Going Solo' is the song about a runaway which will be slightly remixed to remove a lot of the backing singers and add a bit more synth for the 'Word Of Mouth' album.
Ditto 'Missing Persons' which has a much noisier backing and even less melody than the 'Word Of Mouth' version.
'Sold Me Out' is the odd one out here, really, Ray doing a Dave Davies with a punky energetic rock song that also appeared on 'Word Of Mouth' with slightly less echo on the drums.
'Lonely Hearts' is a clichéd new song about a lover who feels afraid of life without their soulmate there to see them through. The song is written like a long letter to an agony aunt column, but it's a very Ray list of reasons why people shouldn't go out with him rather than why they should!
Ian Gibbons is the star of 'Not Far Away', a synth heavy song about how close all of us are to a nervous breakdown and how instead of putting off our dreams of escape from what holds us back we should embrace the danger right now. Bye, I'm off slap David Cameron in the face and to explain to him what his favourite song 'Eton Rifles' really means!
'Expectations' is the best of the new songs on the record with a lovely melody and some nice acoustic guitar playing from Ray although even this track isn't exactly a long-lost classic. Ray is on good form as an old colonel looking down his nose at his fellow commuters but like Arthur before him is angry at the system more than the people around him. He fought hard and risked his life so the world could be a better place than this and yet soldiers still fight in wars and nobody cares.
'Voices In The Dark' is the other relatively well known song here thanks to the appearance of an ever so slightly remixed version on 'The Singles Collection'. Another better than average song, it's a more general piece about the shared dreary lives of the commuters and their silent faces concealing hidden pain and 'chasing dreams that got lost in the dark'. It's a very Ray Davies song, with a catchy chorus and his usual reflections on the mundanity of the human existence, but it needs an extra little something to make it really stand out.
Overall, then, 'Return To Waterloo' is nice to have if you're lucky enough to own it but I wouldn't go that far out your way to own either film or soundtrack album. Neither quite works, for all the good ideas thrown at them, and Ray's usual ability at describing struggling characters rather lets him down here when it's just about the only thing on offer. You can see why Dave didn't want a part of what he considered a return to the bland theatrical years of the early 70s, although at the same time 'Word Of Mouth' would have been a better album had a different three tracks from this album been added instead of the trio that made it there. If not quite a disaster then certainly something of a disappointment, many fans 'got off' at this stop and didn't carry on down The Kinks train for much longer.
(Starblend, December 1985)
You Really Got Me/Sunny Afternoon/Tired Of Waiting For You/Dedicated Follower Of Fashion/Set Me Free/Everybody's Gonna Be Happy/All Day And All Of The Night//Lola/Dead End Street/Waterloo Sunset/Autumn Almanac/See My Friends/Till The End Of The Day/Apeman//Supersonic Rocket Ship/Celluloid Heroes/Moving Pictures/Better Things/20th Century Man/Where Have All The Good Times Gone? (Live)/Don't Forget To Dance//Come Dancing/State Of Confusion/Good Day/Pressure/Predictable/Do It Again/Rock and Roll Fantasy
"We come, we go, we see the show, but it's always...moving..."
One of the better Kinks Kompilations around, 'Backtrackin' is hard to spot nowadays but at the time was a key purchase for fans for three reasons. First up, it was the earliest Kinks komp released into the CD market just a few years after the double-vinyl set. Secondly, it contains an otherwise unreleased alternate take of 'Moving Pictures' which is noticeably rougher than the version released on the end of 'Low Budget' (seemingly released by mistake, although thankfully it wasn't substituted for the CD). Thirdly, it was the only place for years where you could find the best of The Kinks' 1960s releases alongside their 1970s work, which meant a lot of contract negotiations for record label Starblend (who had to negotiate with Pye, ARCA Victor and Arista, none of them exactly wildly keen to work together as we keep seeing!) While the Pye stuff is the same as normal and still, frustratingly, not in the right order, the later stuff is more varied. This is one of the few Kinks best-ofs to contain the band's only bona fide hit of the decade 'Supersonic Rocket Ship' (the 'single' version with the missing opening) as well as career highlights like '20th Century Man' 'Celluloid Heroes' and 'Rock and Roll Fantasy', which may have flopped as 45s but are dear to many a Kinks heart. The compilation also goesa right up to date with the presence of 'Come Dancing' and 'Don't Forget To Dance' too, although the inclusion of the 'One For The Road' version of 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone?' seems very out of place and the jumbled up order is even more aggravating here than on disc one, with the Kinks' concept works muddled up with their arena rockers. The packaging too leaves a lot to be desired - despite undergoing copyright negotiations that must have been harder than the Treaty of Versailles Superblend seemingly can't be bothered to negotiate a single picture of The Kinks and instead we look at a train track. Hmm. Still, overall, one of the better career overhauls that's more complete than most modern CDs despite coming out thirty years ago.
29) "Come Dancing With The Kinks (The Best Of 1977-1986)"
You Really Got Me (Live)/Destroyer/(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman/Juke Box Music/Rock and Roll Fantasy//Come Dancing/Sleepwalker/Catch Me Now I'm Falling/Do It Again/Better Things//Lola (Live)/Low Budget/Long Distance/Heart Of Gold/Don't Forget To Dance//Misfits/Living On A Thin Line/Father Christmas/Celluloid Heroes (Live)
"It's all because of that music that we've slowly drifted apart, but it's only there to dance to - you shouldn't take it to heart"
As was becoming something of a Kinks tradition, the 'old' record company released a compilation right about the time the Kinks released something 'new', thus splitting sales. Arista's best-of covers the nine years, six studio albums and one live set The Kinks released during their time on the label, flaunting the band's one and only bona fide hit in those years in the cover and title. It's an impressively long set made up of nineteen songs (on the vinyl original at least) and contains some relative rarities for fans along the way ('Long Distance' and 'Noise' appeared on the 'cassette' version of 'State Of Confusion and most CDs released since, but not the original vinyl; 'Father Christmas' was a rare non-album single, although frustratingly superior B-side 'Prince Of The Punk's isn't here). However this set loses out in two major ways: firstly it's not in chronological order, which makes for a very uneven set with the 'arena rock' Kinks of 1977 so different to their later selves of 1984 that you keep being jolted from one very different period style to another. Secondly, the track selection simply isn't that good: while 'Misfits' 'Rock and Roll Fantasy' 'Don't Forget To Dance' 'Living On A Thin Line' and 'Do It Again' are the best from their respective albums, personally I'd have chosen 'Life Goes On' 'In A Space' 'Superman' 'Give The People What They Want' 'Yo-Yo' 'State Of Confusion' and 'Property' as the best from their respective eras. Somebody out there seems to agree as the track selection was altered considerably for the CD, though most decidedly not for the better, dropping some of the better songs like 'Sleepwalker' 'Catch Me Now I'm Falling' and 'Misfits' in favour of lesser material like 'A Gallon Of Gas' 'Full Moon' and 'Good Day'. The presence of the live recordings from 'One For The Road' is also distracting, although at least it allows Arista to boast the presence of 'You Really Got Me' 'Lola' and 'Celluloid Heroes' on the packaging. The result? A so-so compilation that you don't really need to own and isn't really the best place to start as a Kinks introduction, although if you only want to buy one Kinks album from these years then this is perhaps your best bet (just make sure you buy at least 'Sleepwalker' and 'Give The People What They Want' as well!) A tie-in video was also released, featuring four music videos and four live performances, which is very good but in contrast to this album very short.
30) "The Road"
(London, May 1988)
The Road/Destroyer/Apeman/Come Dancing/Art Lover/Clichés Of The World (B Movie)//Think Visual/Living On A Thin Line/Lost and Found/It (I Want It)/Around The Dial/Give The People What They Want
"When you work in a band that's the road that you take!"
The Kinks' fourth live album - they had one per all five record labels neatly - is a rather noisy, scrappy affair and like 'Everybody's In Showbiz' was originally planned as the soundtrack to a concert film that never came out. With so many of the hits already gathered up on 'One For The Road' that doesn't leave much room for anything new so a rather dodgy reggae-fied 'Apeman' and a bouncy but rushed 'Come Dancing aside most casual fans won't recognise the material, which almost all comes from the 'Give The People' 'State Of Confusion' and 'Think Visual. Now I stills had high hopes for this album, as there are some lovely moments on all three records and some great songs that would really suit the live arena but instead many of the wrong tracks are chosen (does anybody really need another version of 'Art Lover' or 'Think Visual'?) and even the songs that should sound great (like the turbulent heavy metal epic 'Clichés Of The World' or the hard-hitting 'Around The Dial') sound underwhelming. The result is a lesser encore for 'One For The Road' but with even the occasional variety and finesse of that record removed and at best only a deeply sarcastic and cutting 'Destroyer' improves on the original studio version.
There are two new songs for this project, one live one studio, which represent what a mixed bag this period was. 'It (I Want It)' was written specifically for Ray's new wife Yvette and her fellow backing dancers to show off their stuff - lyrically and musically there's not much here beyond some weak-kneed 'You Really Got Me' riffing and some odd lines about a housewife wanting to break free of her mundane existence (Ray's opening 'hi there!' is a spoof of a TV commercial she's slumped in front of watching-but-not-watching as per 'Yo-Yo'). Reports have it this song was stunning in concert with some excellent choreography and a bit of an experiment at something new; however just hearing this track without seeing it badly misses the point and Ray's Americanisms sound embarrassing. However the title track is a totally different story: a moving retrospective about people lost along the way during The Kinks' story, it's a more personal version of 'Days'. Ray recalls the early days: his 'head full of songs and my eyes full of stars', how 'Mrs Avory's child was all fingers and thumbs but solid as a rock setting time on the drums', refers to 'Dave The Rave, the Rock and Roll Riff', while poor Pete gets hard done by, represented by merely 'played bass guitar, liked to hang around with all the stars'. However it's a lovely song, a testament to the lure of the road and the muse that leads Ray ever onwards and a memo to self about why this band just keeps on rolling. Set against this is a bittersweet middle eight that's oh so Kinks, Ray waking up and going to sleep in the van to the same looking stretches of tarmac and sighing that even now twenty years in 'there are days I can't get used to it'. The Kinks were always a nostalgic band but this is a rare example of them feeling nostalgic about themselves ('Did Ya?' is the only song that comes close in their band canon - and 'The Road' is much more affectionate and less sarcastic than that later song) and it's a really special moment, one of the highpoints of the 1980s; it's just a shame for fans that it appears on such an ordinary album, perhaps The Kinks' worst release of the decade.
31) Ray Davies "80 Days - A New Musical"
(Performed at La Jolla Playhouse August 28th-October 9th 1988)
Act One: Let It Be Written/The Empire Song/Well-Bred Englishman/Against The Tide/Ladies Of The Night/On The Map/It Could Have Been Him/Mongolia Song-No Surprises/It Could Have Been Him (Reprise)/Welcome To India/Just Passing Through/On The Map (Reprise)/Members Of The Club/80 Days
Act Two: Tell Him, Tell Her/Let It Be Written (Reprise)/Who Is This Man?/Here!/On The Map (Reprise)/A Place In Your Heart/Be Rational/80 Days (Reprise)/Finale
"If a man's lost then he needs a guide and if he's wise then he'll follow him"
One of the more obscure projects in The Kinks' lifetime is this musical based on Jules Verne's 'Around The World In 80 Days', which took up most of Ray's attention in 1988 (effectively delaying the next Kinks album 'UK Jive' until 1989). (Actually this wasn't the first time Ray had worked on a musical: back in 1981 he was asked by screenplay writer Barrie Keefe to write the songs for a gritty drama about a group of drama activists saving their theatre from destruction by kidnapping visiting dignitary Prince Charles! However that work is even more obscure than this one, running a matter of weeks in East Stratford and with nothing to review bar one low-fi song on Youtube). Ray did gain experience, however and was a natural choice for writer Snoo Wilson to ask to score 80 Days', feeling that Ray had just the experience and 'English' quality he was looking for. At first Ray was unsure - '80 Days' is such an episodic book that cutting down to musical-form would have been quite a task even for an experienced creator of musicals. It had also been done before, with Orson Welles and Cole Porter putting on a stage version with songs and monologues in 1948. So the two compromised - this musical isn't so much about the destination, as it were, but planning the journey and focussed as much on Verne's background and why he wrote the book about exploring unknown worlds when he did (at a time when Victorian Britain was remarkably isolationist and cut off from the rest of Europe - this is a theme that will be developed further in Kinks album 'UK Jive', in effect the 'future' to this album's past). The 'veneer' of Verne is stripped away to reveal that he actually wrote it only to keep food on the table for his family, in a struggling literary world where he had to write things that sold!
Fogg starts out as an unlikeable pompous snob, accompanied by a cold English Matron type in Mrs Fixx, but gradually undergoes a transformation as he meets more people, falling in love with an Indian Princess of a different race, Auoda, who both repels and fascinates him. By the end of the play Fogg wins the bet but has to come to hate the attitude of pompous superiority that sent him off in the first place! Eventually Fogg marries Auoda, has a child by her and even gets the blessings of Queen Victoria (altogether now 'Victorrrrrr-iiii-aaa!') - which seems unlikely given the period but still! Throughout the musical time ticks down via giant clocks on the stage - not only to the end of the 'bet' but arguably to the end of this whole British Empire period, with the First World War about to end it forever. This was an excellent idea, allowing Ray to do what he did best - poking fun at the posing rich men in their stuffy club placing the original bet that inspires the journey while embracing the English heritage and particularly the Victorian era The Kinks had spent so much of their time 'preserving'.
With some 24 actor/singers, 40 different scenes, all with their own backgrounds and props, and some 400 costumes in all '80 Days' was quite the big budget show and impressively didn't cut corners right up until the day it closed. The musical never did quite do as well as Ray, Snoo Wilson and director Des McAnuff had hoped, receiving mixed reviews from the critics and it never did transfer to Broadway as planned. There never was a soundtrack album prepared either - which is a tragedy for fans who didn't happen to live in San Diego at this particular time (i.e 99.9% of us!) Though Ray often spoke about returning to the project, to date he never has and '80 Days' exists in a somewhat curious limbo on bootleg as a series of demos with Ray playing all the parts. However the show was popular with many of the fans who saw it and received the 'San Diego Theatre Critic Award' for best musical. While there were no great classics amongst the material and a few of the songs were a pastiche too far, it was great to hear Ray going back to the 'concept albums' of the past and there's a liveliness and comedy about his work which comes as something of a relief in the years after the more depressive record 'Think Visual'. In a way '80 Days' recalls 'Arthur' - the British Empire is so obviously crumbling to both Verne/Fogg and the listener at home and yet none of the people who could be stopping it seem to care, so sure are they that English values will prevail. We know that the First World War is on the horizon to shake up this world - but the characters don't as yet. A 'proper' release one day would be highly welcome, even if it is only of Ray's home-made demos (it seems that no one thought to record the actual show which hasn't even appeared on bootleg yet, unless of course it's sitting in Ray's vast tape vaults) - while it's close in feel to a 'nearly' project like 'Return To Waterloo' than a full blown lost classic, there's much to admire in '80 Days'.
Note - the demos aren't complete so we can't quite review everything (the list of songs above is the 'official' one provided by the show programme and doesn't necessarily comply with the demos or what was performed on the night, which were still being worked on up to the press previews). We've also taken the executive decision to skip the many 'reprises' as it's hard to tell quite what part of which song were used. Without the script it's also difficult to knoqw 100% what's happening in the plot, but we'll do our best - luckily a majority of the songs have survived in one form or another!
'Let It Be Written' starts with a thumping 80s keyboard riff that's not unlike the blistering start to 'Aggravation' from the next album. Verne is suffering from writer's block, 'staring at that empty page fills me with anger and with rage, gives me chills, it makes me age' - no doubt a sentiment shared by Ray who was still recovering from his blood clot illness of early 1988. A chorus of voices demand from him ';when will it be written?' but he doesn't know when, sighing that 'though writing is my occupation, money is my motivation but I worry for my reputation, when will it be written? I don't know!'
'Well Bred Englishman' is right out of Noel Coward's songbook and takes place in the club as everyone discusses the plan to fly around the world. However no one is that fussed about the competitors: the Spaniards 'miserably sit in the heat', the Italians 'are too disorganised to compete', the Japanese 'are competent but much too petite', the Germans 'are competitors but are always going to suffer defeat' , the Dutch 'are too occupied with chocolates and plants' and the Russians 'threaten to but obviously can't!' The best people are 'all Englishmen', from 'the greatest literary nation on Earth' say the club owners, so there!
'Ladies Of The Night' is my favourite song from the album, with a 'Come Dancing' style catchy piano riff and a very Kinks like chord progression leading up to a singalong chorus. The song sounds like it would have fitted in well to the musical too, the Englishmen landing their balloon on the continent at night and being greeted by a series of prostitutes. 'How course, how vulgar!' they sniff. Typically, though, Ray adds some tears amongst the fun, with the 'leading lady' sighing that it doesn't matter if they're travellers - that's all the people who visit her ever are anyway, thinking of her only as a 'fading memory'.
'On The Map' is a short linking piece back at the club, where the members celebrate how well Verne/Fogg is doing and celebratying 'that man is beyond belief - but at least he's one of us, so that's a relief!' Despite the fact that England still technically owns half the map (all the pink bits!) they still don't have a clue where half the countries are ('Just where is Romania'?!) Don't they ever watch the Eurovision Song Contest?! The song waas repeated endlessly throughout the show, updating the audience about how far the hero had got to - and giving the stage-hands time to change the scenery on the 'main stage'!
'Welcome To India' is more pomp and circumstance, the 'On The Map' theme now played on some oompah-ing brass band. Fogg/Verne has now landed in India and the local seem strangely pleased to see him. They ask after 'good old Blighty - I hear the weather's fine!' and celebrate the fact that he's 'always fine and always on top of his game!'
'Just Passing Through' is a moodier song that sounds more 1980s than 1880s for once, with a turbulent synth melody and a slight Indian feel. Fogg and Verne have been trapped on the continent for too long and are falling behind. They really want to explore, but duty calls and they sigh at being 'always on the move'. The melody is an interesting one, haunting and hypnotic (more like 'New World' than anything else in the Kinks Kanon) but doesn't quite hang together as well as some of the other songs.
'Tell Her, Tell Him' is the most Kinks-like song on the album, a duet between Fogg and his new intended - a rather odd love affair given that he's too reserved to tell her and she's too in awe of him to speak! It's a very 'My Fair Lady' relationship of unequals this one, with her singing while he narrates remarks in the background: sample line 'I'd rather sleep with rats in my cabin in steerage than travel first class with him!' 'Tell her I'm tired of her snivelling ways' 'Tell him I couldn't care less!' The chorus of lovely harmonies on 'co-operation' is so late 60s Kinks and lovely though that you realise this relationship is meant to be.
'Be Rational' is the epic closer, a warm-hearted ballad sung by Fogg/Verne as he realises how much he's learnt about himself and other people on his journey. 'I thought I knew it all,. but now I've broken all my rules - my knowledge seem so miniscule' he sighs as his years of method and logic are overturned by the discovery that he's in love. The melody could have come right out of the 'Percy' soundtrack.
In addition, two songs were demo-ed but dropped before the final rehearsal. These were 'Who Do You Think You Are?' , another song of anger from the heroine of the story - she doesn't think Fogg is a hero at all, boasting about his great conquests 'while your women retire from your room' and he barges in with a gun looking for innocent animals to shoot. 'Well here is a wog whose far superior!' Audo sighs, adding 'ha ha he he' as he laughs at pictures of Fogg in 'Vanity' magazines. It's one of the better pieces in the musical, though it's function in the show is perhaps already fulfilled through other songs.
The other unused song is 'Conspiracy!, sung by an unknown 'villain', who doesn't play a part at all in the finished version. He (assuming it is a 'he') doesn't believe that any man can travel that far in 80 days and demands an inquest into 'Conspiracy'. The most cartoonish song in the musical finds Ray singing at his bottom of his register while a chorus of voices behind him intone 'Conspiracy! Conspiracy!' Again the song is good but seems at odds with the rest of the musical and the fact that the villain believes that an Englishman that can cheat is more likely than one succeeding is a bit peculiar.
Overall, then, '80 Days' is a worthy attempt at writing something new, although in the end it's the songs that didn't make the final line-up of the musical (including an early version of Kinks Klassik 'Loony Balloon' and possibly 'Drift Away' too) that are perhaps the most interesting and long-lasting. The musical arguably needs one or two truly classic songs to make it truly stunning and so many of the songs are repetitive, with one reprise after another and every song for the opening two-thirds of the plot coming with a similar 'stuffed shirts' sound that's heavy going after a full hour or so. It's nice to hear Ray back to writing for characters again, though, and the gradual deflating of the Victorian snobs in the first verse is very interesting and well handled idea. '80 Days' is another of those Kinks projects that got away and yet might have been a huge success had things turned out ever so slightly differently, getting closer to fruition than other 'visual' projects like the Village Green pantomime and Arthur TV special. Best of all, it whetted Ray's appetite to get back to The Kinks with a drive and inspiration he'd been missing for much of the past decade and on that level alone can be considered a great success...
32) "Lost and Found (1986-1989)"
The Road/UK Jive/Lost and Found/Working At The Factory/Think Visual/Welcome To Sleazy Town/How Do I Get Close?/The Video Shop/Now and Then/Apeman (Live)/Living On A Thin Line (Live)/Give The People What They Want (Live)
"The world was much younger then, but we were much wiser then, before we were full of discontent"
The Kinks' years on the London label are certainly 'lost' alright, having never been re-released on CD after the first time round up to thirty years ago in some cases. However even this compilation which dates from after The Kinks moved to Columbia isn't exactly 'found' a lot these days. That's a shame because it's actually a rather good overview of a confused and inconsistent period. The compilation only has twelve tracks on it but then it only has to cover three albums: studio sets 'Think Visual' and 'UK Jive' plus the live record 'The Road'. Full marks for the inclusions from 'Think Visual' which you pretty much don't need to buy if you own this because all the best recordings are here: the wonderfully cynical 'Working At The Factory', the funny funky 'Video Shop' and the bluesy eccentric 'Welcome To Sleazy Town'. However the compilation loses marks for what it offers from the other two: 'UK Jive' deserves better than being represented by its single 'How Do I Get Close?' and the forgettable 'Now and Then' - where's the wonderfully hard-edged 'Aggravation', the pop-hit-that-shoulda-been 'War Is Over', the uplifting 'Down All The Days' or the beautiful 'Loony Balloon'? (Kinks Klassiks All!) 'The Road' didn't have that much going for it anyway except for the autobiographical title track (another worthy inclusion, even if it's a studio take from an otherwise live album - not a 'live recording' as the back sleeve promises) but manages to mess up anyway: the three recordings here are pretty awful and the album would have been better served by songs actually made for rock arenas like 'Destroyer' or 'Around The Dial' (even 'It (I Want It)' would have been preferable, though more for rarity value and collector's instincts than because it's actually any good). Whilst the title of this set is clever, the packaging is not - The Kinks outgrew the faux English theme the umbrellas and bowler hats are laughing at a long time ago (what a lost opportunity the cover marks too: we could have had the 'Think Visual' bodybuilder wearing a UK Jive suit while driving down 'The Road'!)
Look our for part two of this article (parts 33-64) next week!
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