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, 21 December 2015
The Kinks: Non-Album Recordings 1963-1991
You can buy 'Maximum Consumption - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of The Kinks' by clickinghere! !
Sorry dear readers, I have no idea why this post keeps refusing to post black on white - I've recoloured it five times now and it's still not working! I'm away from home at the moment so can't go back to the beginning again and repost it from scratch which is what I will do in the new year! 8>)
Non-Album Recordings #1: 1963
Even before The Kinks made their first official recordings they were different to most of the British Invasion bands waiting to fill up the charts. 'I'm A Hog For You'is a Leiber/Stoller song that's nothing like the sort of material other R and B cover bands were performing - very much a white Englishman's idea of the blues! Like many an early AAA band, though, the song is a near-nursery rhyme, this time based around 'this little piggy went to market' (there's a great dissertation to be made one day based around 'the importance of the nursery to early rock and roll!), effectively turning sex and lust into comedy, and like many a Leiber/Stoller tune is given just enough of a 'wink' to show that the performers are in on the joke too. At the time The Kinks made this recording and the next they were still using the temporary name 'The Boll-Weevils', a form of 'Beetle' (a pun on the other sort of 'Beatle?) which seems a strangely American name for a band that will one day be so English! This isn't strictly a recording session either but a 'demo' session set up by early Kinks managers and friends Robert Wace and Grenville Collins on October 19th 1963, more to hear what the band sound like and to 'earn their pay' than a chance to push the band to record companies just yet. Luckily The Kinks had the advantage of being nearby to many London recording studios including Regent Sound in Regent Street where the Rolling Stones will go on to make their first LP - it may have been chosen for the 'good omen' of being on 'Demark Street', the name of The Davies' family road in Muswell Hill (and later the source of Ray's acerbic anti-publisher 'Denmark Street' in 1970 - but that's an experience light years away from this early recording...) The performance isn't really a great success, full of bonkers silly voices and comedy backing vocals that aren't really this band's forte, although it showed that the band could sing and play at least and Ray Davies does at least do a better job at performing Leiber and Stoller's rather arch brand of comedy under pressure than The Beatles had been on their Decca audition tape. You can see why The Kinks were refused succour for so long - but what was music's loss in 1963 is very much the modern musical historian's gain. For this recording sounds so like the Kinks we know and love (Ray's surly yet character-filled vocal, Dave's already sterling guitar-work and gonzo solo, the backing vocals, the heavy Mick Avroy backbeat) and yet so different (they will never ever do an out and out comedy like this one that's full of innuendo and outre laughs - future Kinks komedy will be more subtle than this) that it makes for a fascinating glimpse into what else the band could have mutated into without the invention of 'You Really Got Me' to steer them/. It was a great day for fans when, after years of being missing, believed wiped, the apparently one and only acetate of this session turned up in 1997 and was promptly released in the murky world of bootlegs; it took the notoriously perfectionist Kinks another decade to release it officially but it was well worth the wait! Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008), 'The Kinks Anthology 1964-1971' (2013) and the deluxe re-issue of debut album 'The Kinks
Even more fascinating is 'I Believed You', the earliest surviving tape of The Kinks singing a Ray Davies song. The fact that the band are doing original songs at all by 1963 is significant - most British Invasion bands were just covers bands through and through back then. Not that the composition is that original: the shuffle beat and especially Mick Avory's 'Ringo' drum rolls are pure Beatles, while the catchy riff and angular tune are very 1950s pop - Pat Boone or even Buddy Holly could have performed this song ten years earlier without any alterations whatsoever. In short, it sounds like The Rutles, although it's on a par if not somewhat better than most wannabe bands around at the time. Already though Ray's uncompromising Muswell Hill slur and Dave's distinctive guitar sound are making the band stand out. Interestingly, it's a song of faith like many of the songs from the first two years but is quite stormy, unlike the later songs when Ray was courting first wife Rasa (is this an early girlfriend gone wrong? Romantic relationships tended to be Ray's source for songs the band's first couple of years before he widened his horizons to other family members and passing strangers). Or perhaps it's just wishful thinking, with an ex who seemed to b over the narrator back on the scene just when he was getting together with a new girl leaving him having to choose between them, a fact which appears to be Ray's worst nightmare given the turbulent, demanding riff at the heart of the song and the flat descending chords on 'be-le-e-ve' you' that sounds like him gently sinking into quicksand. Other rock stars would have been pleased - in Mick Jagger's case probably a little bit proud - but Ray is just cross and concerned with justice to both of them ('It wouldn't be fair somehow...now you've broken her heart too!') with his biggest fear being that he's going to be left with no one. Though even the songs from The Kinks' debut album around the corner are light years ahead of this song in terms of sophistication, it's a stepping stone in the right direction and well performed with a gusty vocal from Ray and particularly strong bass playing from Pete (who, like the girl in the song, dances round the narrator and Dave's sturdy guitar part and simply refuses to do what he expects, always taking them by surprise!) It's certainly the stronger of the two sides - and it speaks volumes that Robert and Grenville got Ray a song publishing deal on the back of this recording months before the band were signed to Pye. Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008), 'The Kinks Anthology 1964-1971' (2013) and the deluxe re-issue of debut album 'The Kinks
Non-Album Recordings #2: 1964
Out there, in some parallel universe where the third single never got made, The Kinkis are being laughed at during a programme on 1960s Beatles copycat artists where everyone sniggers about how The Kinks clearly had no inventiveness whatsoever. Everyone assumes that 'You Really Got Me' was The Kinks' first release. Certainly its' the first Kinks recording all but a mere few hundred people with their ears to the ground and a love of poor Little Richard covers would have known about. In fact Richard's 'Long Tall Sally' was the first release to bear The Kinks' name, chosen not of any burning ambition for the Kinks to be a covers act or because they even particularly liked the song but because The Beatles had just released their own version and their managers though they could cash-in a bit. That will prove to be a bad move: everyone in Britain has had the same idea in 1964 and The Kinks are far from the best cover acts with a Merseybeat scene so the single predictably died a slow and painful death (selling almost entirely to The Kinks' and managers' friends, families and associates). The Kinks' take on the song is much scrappier than the fab four's (the way The Beatles might have sounded without those years in Hamburg), full of messy vocal and guitar lines and background yelps that come and go and mesh into each other to the point where the entire band sound like they're playing four different songs (they haven't learnt to rely on Mick Avory's solidity to get them out of trouble just yet mere months into their partnership).Ray Davies is not a natural rock belter like Little Richard or even Paul McCartney is and turns in a vocal that seems too painfully modelled on his brother Dave's 'anti-rock' roar (we won't get a performance this wild again from Ray until 'A Dedicated Follower Of Fashion'). Note though that technically speaking The Kinks are more faithful than the Beatles to the original, maintaining the verse about 'Nobody knows if she's short or tall, oh baby!' rather than 'She has a lot of fun, oh baby!'The main issue with the song though is that The Kinks don't sound as if they're 'having some fun tonight' - they sound like what they really are: four petrified teens/twenty-somethings given the only big break of their lives so far and not being given the confidence to deliver the originality they were signed for in the first place. A millstone that hung round the band's necks even after 'You Really Got Me' proved that, actually, this band really did know what it was doing, it's perhaps the sloppiest recording in the entire book. Things will get better though - and fast. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'The Kinks' (both the 1990s version and the 'deluxe' two disc set), 'The Singles Collection' (1997), 'Picture Book' (2008) and 'The Kinks Anthology' (2013) amongst others
A surging 'You Still Want Me' is a more credible attempt at getting a top 40 single, with Ray turning down his writing and singing idiosyncrasies a little to do a fair impression of a Merseybeat song. Dave's harmonies and George Harrison-esque guitar work come to the rescue of a song that's pretty basic fare really: 'I'd give you the sky but I couldn't be so high, I gave you my love - but you took some other guy' Ray sings, through his gritted (uncapped) teeth. There's a very un-Kinks like structure to this song too: the chorus tacked straight into the middle eight instead of this being a moment of 'realisation' ('I know because the smile that's on your lips is for me...', a long line which leaves Ray out of breath by the end). The recording is as sloppy as you'd expect from an untested band but it's the vocals I'm surprised were allowed through for such a prestigious recording ('you didn't look my way' sung in two very different ways by a double-tracked Ray). For a new band trying to make an impression it sounds like sabotage from someone at Pye (who, following on from the performance of 'Long Tall Sally', may have been regretting their new signees). The result should sound thrilling: this is a song of joy when the narrator's girlfriend chooses him over all competitors - the problem is it sounds like a slog, the band greeting the finishing line with blessed relief instead of leaping for joy on a very Beatlesy chorus. Things have clearly got to change - luckily Pye care so little for the third and last of the band's contract that after a bit of pushing they give the band the leeway to do what they want: the true Kinks beginning is just around the corner. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'The Kinks' (one and two disc 'deluxe' versions), 'The Singles Collection' (1997) and 'The Kinks Anthology' (2013)
B-side 'You Still Do Something To Me' is much more interesting While stil overtly derivative, Ray's brain has clearly been ticking over on how to make his and his brother's blend sound interesting. Dave sticks to a high note and repeats it over and over while Ray does a deep low grumble that slowly rises up the melody until finally matching Dave's. The result is effectively the early Byrds sound, recorded here a full year early. The lyrics are less interesting ('everything you say, everything you do, makes me want to fall, fall in love with you'), but the tune is a great one, rising and falling with genuine excitement. On top of that Dave's strummed guitar drives the song along at a cracking pace and Mick Avory, struggling to keep up, is forced to improvise some incredibly exciting drum 'fills', already matching Ray's poetic lyrics with his 'sound' (what you take away from this recording is that the 'drums' are doing 'something' to the narrator). The result is very much a period piece, but it's a charming period piece that might have fared much better as the coveted A-side. Then again, had this song been a hit we'd most likely have had a similar song for a follow-up rather than the ground-breaking 'You Really Got Me' (reviewed as part of the first album, by the way, in case you think we've forgotten to include it). Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'The Kinks' (one and two disc 'deluxe' versions), 'The Singles Collection' (1997) and 'The Kinks Anthology' (2013)
The earliest bona fide Kinks outtake, 'I Don't Need You Anymore' was taped as early as January 1964 at the same session as 'Long Tall Sally' 'You Do Something To Me' and 'You Still Want Me'. This energetic song shares much of the same DNA as those other songs - a Beatlesy tone to go alongside the R and B leanings and a sense of smiley teeth despite the very ';down' tone of the lyrics. Though far from Ray's best, it's too good a song to have been left on a shelf for so many years, complete with Beatle 'whoops' and some great vocal interplay between Ray and Dave. The bright and breezy middle eight is more interesting than the clod-hopping verse and chorus but even they have their moments, with Ray commenting even this early on that he's now a 'wiser guy' who won't be taken in by his girlfriend messing him about. Inspired by an early row with Rasa perhaps, this early song certainly 'sounds' real in a way the band's other two originals and cover recorded at their first ever session don't and the band give a blistering performance. Find it on: all the various CD re-issues of first album 'The Kinks' and 'Picture Book' (2008)
A second stab at re-creating the same magic as 'You Really Got Me', 'All Day and All Of The Night' is so much better than it has any right to be. If anything this song is even more convincing at conveying a youthful adrenalin rush and Dave's inversion of his last riff is another classic. While 'Got Me' seems to have been written with no one in mind, this song is surely about Rasa, Ray's teenage bride (still at school when the pair met) and the fact that the Kinks money means they can now buy their first house together. Ray's excitement at being able to see his beloved not just in the daytime but the night-time (when Ray's legendary insomnia was already giving him more of the night-time to fill than most people). The mood is just as intense, but whereas the narrator 'Got Me' sounded overwhelmed at times, this one is very much in charge: 'Oh come on!' Ray giggles before Dave lets fly on another ridiculous, OTT yet somehow spot-on guitar solo. The tension going into the chorus is remarkable, the narrator this time conveying his intention to always be there (as opposed to 'Got Me' where she had such a power she was never going to let 'him' go). The result is one of the finest singles of its period, one still often covered together by new bands starting out because despite only using a few simple riffs and a few simply phrases this is powerful untamed rock and roll that can make any band, however, poor, sound fabulous. The Kinks' version is still the best though: taut, raw and yet still deeply enticing.
One of the best Kinks B-sides comes early in the list. A driving, tense blues workout based around a riff that sounds as if it was nicked from Larry Williams' 'She Said Yeah', 'It's Alright!' fairly crackles with excitement. Like many a 1960s song it's about home and family, the narrator finally returning home to family after time away, the tense riff prowling round the floor of whatever vehicle he's using until finally exploding in a wailing cacophony of harmonica, guitar and drums that three years later would be considered 'psychedelic'. For the moment this song is still decidedly earth-bound and shows off both Dave's grungy guitarwork and his brother's fine mouthorgan puffing. 'I got wings, I'm gonna fly' go the lyrics before a sudden yell of 'It's alright!' that sounds rather more than alright. The Kinks have never sounded this excited about anything before and rarely will again in a 'happy' sense, with this song a neat combination of blues and pop that would have been ground-breaking for its day. Even a pedestrian middle eight, coming in directly after an awkward false stop, can't slow this overgrown excited puppy down.
The Kinks were never really much of a Kovers band and even in the early days were all about the Ray Davies originals, but a couple of their rock and roll revivals have a certain life to them that makes them amongst the highlights of their early work. 'Milk Cow Blues' is easily the best but not all that far behind is 'Little Queenie', one of the best Chuck Berry covers around. A favourite of the band's early days - sadly only ever performed for a BBC session and never on record - The Kinks clearly know this song well and perform the hell out of it, with none of their traditional sloppiness. Dave's away solo-ing and showing off like never before, while brother Ray nails a tricky rhythm part and all but yells the lyrics out in tandem. Suddenly what always seemed like one of Chuck's more clichéd and desperate rockers is transformed into a witty song about the narrator's nerves in chatting up a girl as Ray implores Queenie - just as Johnny B Goode was once encouraged - 'go go go!' Now why the hell wasn't this great recording included on the first BBC compilation?! Find it on: 'At The BBC' versions two (the 2013 two-disc version) and version three (the full five-disc version 2013)
Non-Album Recordings #3: 1965
By the early part of 1965 it was becoming clear that The Kinks needed a rest or Ray Davies was going to do something 'stupid'. Tired, bored and over-worked Ray was almost hoping for a flop single - and he got it with 'Everybody's Gonna Be Happy', a song that sounds superficially like every other song around that year and yet is so strangely structured and so un-commercial it was always going to struggle in the charts. The verses come on at speed, with the force of a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song and only relent way way into the song when the chorus hits. Only this isn't really a release either, taking just two lines to reach up to the stars - and then a further two to sink down again. While the theme of the song - won't it be great when I ask my girl out and she says yes - is very in keeping with hit singles of 1965, this doesn't 'feel' like a happy song somehow. Just listen to the question marks that Dave's guitar keeps providing, the way that Pete's bass line is forever walking away, just outside the clutches of the narrator's desperate chase to catch it and the way Mick Avory pummels the drums like their Dave's head after the guitarist has just been rude to him again. The result is a breathless song that doesn't stay long enough on any hook to really embed itself in the memory - the one thing that the Kinks' first three hits have in common - and which seems to be telling us one thing with the music and another with the lyrics. The Kinks perhaps promoted this song after hearing the playback, because the performance is one of their best of the period: tight, driven and full of energy and excitement. However they simply overestimated their audience's ability to 'get' this song in one go and for once Shel Talmy (adamant this shouldn't be a single, but shouted down by a band who'd been proved 'right' every time so far) was 'correct - I'm not at all sure I 'get' this song now after decades of hearing it and this should have been an intriguing album track rather than a potential million seller. Most radio stations, confused about the song, simply flipped it over and played the B side instead...Find it on: Despite being a relative flop most Kinks Kompilations contain this song, as well as various versions of the 'Kinda Kinks' CD-reissues
Not that 'Who'll Be The Next In Line?' is all that much more commercial either. It's another slow-witted, one-note experiment that simply repeats the same lengthy piano-and-guitar riff over and over until finally finding release via a short middle eight. The sound is perhaps a little catchier than 'Happy' and a little bit less of a leap, but it still sounds very different to every other Kinks song so far. Unlike the A side this song is most definitely not happy and like much of 'Kinks' and 'Kinda Kinks' comes down to 'faith' and Ray's narrator has found his lover wanting. The middle eight is Ray's spikiest moment yet, sighing that 'one day you'll find out I'll be gone...I was the best one you had, I was the one!' over a heavy R and B stabbing riff that's relentless, like a punch to the stomach. Even an attempt to 'prettify' the song with vocal double-tracking (notably tighter than similar uses on 'Kinda Kinks') can't dilute the sheer toughness of this track. Usually when The Kinks try something like this they offer some 'release' or resolution near the end, but not this track which just carries on stuck in the same old loop as the song fades, at an unusual spot listeners aren't expecting... Find it on: Again most Kinks Kompilations have this one - if not try any of the CD re-issues of second album 'Kinda Kinks. A rather good backing track (plus a few fluffs along the way!) additionally appears on the 'Kinks Anthology 1964-1971'
Ray has since regretted writing 'Set Me Free'. He says it was written as stop-gap single to return The Kinks back to the charts after their last flop and that it only half-succeeded (while 'Free' improved on the sale for 'Happy' it still fell short of everything else since 'You Still Want Me'). He shouldn't be so down on himself though: while 'Set Me Free' is less of an overt experiment, it still 'sounds' like a heartfelt song and Ray's vocal is just the right mix of reluctant and hopeful. It could be that this is an early cry for help for a writer under tremendous pressure to keep coming up with the goods and that he's writing this song not to a lover but to his fans (his much discussed breakdown is merely a year away). However it's the middle eight that sticks in the memory, dropping down a key to tell us 'I don't want no one, if I can't have you to myself...', widening the scope of the song to a song about jealousy (a key theme for songwriters across 1964 and 1965). Dave's sombre guitar accompaniment is special too, still ringing with passion but passion that is now well under control. The sound of a band in shock, not quite able to think clearly yet, 'Set Me Free' might not be up to the band's very best but as a 'stop-gap release designed to restore the band to the charts it's so much more than the failure it's often painted out to be. Find this on: every self-respecting Kinks Kompilation should have this song!
The B-side should perhaps have been the A-side, the third time Ray overtly used his 'You Really Got Me' riff. While lighter than all three of the A-sides that use the same run of notes ('Till The End Of Day' is due on this list soon as well) 'I Need You' is more fun than any of them. Dave's guitar is ever more histrionic, the band turn in a delightful rocking performance and Ray's lyrics, while simple and daft, hit the spot nicely for teenage angst circa 1964. 'I need you - more than anyone else has needed anyone before!' Ray cries - and even though it's ridiculously over the top such is the power of song and performance that we believe him. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Kinda Kinks', some Kinks Kompilations and -a lengthy extract from the tracking session can be heard on 'Picture Book' (2008)
The Kinks at their most achingly gorgeous and inventive, 'See My Friends' is the best comeback the band could have made after a series of singles that either returned wholesale to old ideas or filled in time to keep the band in the charts. Psychedelia a full two years early, Ray was inspired to write this song by a trip to India where the physical 'gulf' between his quite nice holiday home and the poverty the locals lived in inspired the words and the sitar 'drones' that woke him up most mornings the music to one of his most sensitive songs. There was a rumour put around that this is the first Western song ever to use Eastern instruments long before George Harrison - that isn't strictly true, as it's Dave cleverly re-creating the 'drone' feel of a sitar on one of his twin guitar parts. However morally it's true - this is the indeed Western song to try and capture the 'feel' of an Eastern style, with a flowing 'raga' style that mixes up the Western world's usual reliance on song structure, each section ebbing and flowing into the next. I'm amazed producer Shel Talmy, never keen on experiments, let this one through actually: it's extraordinarily daring for it's day, with everything drenched in an heavy echo that really does make the narrator seem apart from the rest of the world. The lyrics are elliptical and unusual and have been open to all sorts of interpretations down the years: that the narrator has been jilted not just by his girlfriend but by his friends; that in his morose state at having been dumped he feels a 'distance' from his former happy lifestyle of chattering friends; or that the narrator is homosexual, the 'sneer' in Ray's voice as he sings 'friends' making it clear they are anything but (see, obviously,  'Lola' but less obviously  'On The Outside' and  'Out Of The Wardrobe' for more Ray Davies songs on a similar theme, as proof that this theory is at least plausible, if a bit earlier here than his other songs on a similar theme). In truth this song seems more likely to be a first 'warning' sound from Ray's subconscious about the 'breakdown' to come in 1966 (when after one publishing dispute too many, he ran into his publisher's office with an axe). Ray no longer feels a 'part' of anything anymore: cooped up away from the world in a big house he'd longed to buy for so long but situated away from anywhere he'd ever known, with a teenage bride, a young child and a mother-in-law who called round often and rudely, Ray must have been feeling isolated - perhaps even more so when he went with family to take a 'holiday' and found his problems travelling with him, being cooped up and 'separate' from the world even more. In this context his 'friends' might be the other Kinks, able to enjoy the success of fame without any of the responsibilities which he, as writer and main spokesperson felt (of course Dave for one felt much the other way, left out of a say in the band's future and struggling to find his own voice until his solo years according to his book 'Kink', but like most brothers they didn't talk about it - see  'Two Sisters' for more brother psychology). In a way it doesn't matter what the gulf is - all you need to take away is that the narrator of 'See My Friends' has been abandoned and no longer feels he can take his 'place' in the world. An excellent single, 'See My Friends' didn't sell all that well at the time (it was perhaps just a little too ahead of it's day to capture the minds of the general public) but it's rightly become something of a belated hit and one of Ray's most popular long-lived songs. Find it on: Kinks Kompilations everywhere!
'Never Met A Girl Like You Before' is a curiously retro flipside to go alongside the far-sighted 'See My Friends' (in both senses of the word). The song even opens with the same guitar lick used at the start of 'Tired Of Waiting For You' even though the two songs have nothing in common with each other (a sign of the speed with which this song was written perhaps?) The sound is very 1964 for 1965, mixing a lyric that effectively chats up a girl set to the same manic Beatles beat as many songs that year and a heavy guitar sound that's already served The Kinks so well. Lyrically it's an oddball song as Ray bottles up his courage and chats up a girl as if he's, I don't know, his brother or someone brimming with confidence, without the usual trace of irony. However in the middle eight things turn sour and the narrator already wants 'out': 'When I hold you, I hold your rubbery lips' Ray sneers before the song settles back into it's familiar refrain, all insults forgotten. Livened up no end by a stonking guitar solo (which ends with Dave picking rather than slashing the notes while the rest of the band clap along) there still isn't quite enough substance in this song to put it alongside the band's best in 1965. Find it on: Originally the B-side of 'See MY Friends', this song later appeared on the CD re-issue of 'Kinda Kinks' (both the 1990s single CD and the 'deluce' edition) and 'The Kinks Anthology' (2013) plus a handful of other Kompilations
Five days after the famous Cardiff gig (where Dave made some joke at Mick's expense and got knocked out with a drum pedal for his sins - the drummer then fleeing convinced he's killed his Kinks kolleague) The Kinks had studio time booked. The band were in disarray and clearly in no state to record - it took a few weeks to convince Dave to drop criminal charges and for Mick to want to rejoin the band - but rather than waste the paid-for session entirely Ray and Pete took to Pye studios anyway to lay down basic demos for a whole group of songs Ray had been writing over the past year (which might explain why Ray sounds so gloomy and tired across them all). They were joined by future Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell (for now a session musician) and most likely it's Ray playing piano on most of the tracks (certainly 'I Got To Sleep'). It remains a moot point how many if any of the following seven compositions were intended for The Kinks - chances are most were intended by Ray to be 'given away' to outside performers (Peggy Lee and Dave Berry had hits with the final two entries in this list!) although only the eighth song listed here, 'When I See That Girl Of Mine' was ever recorded by the band. Certainly nobody else ever did perform 'A Little Bit Of Sunlight' or the four songs after it on this list, which instead returned to the Pye vaults before being resurrected for the 'Picture Book' box set in 2008 (after years of being leaked on bootlegs!) 'Sunlight' in particular marks a bit of a backwards step - a Beatley song of the sort Ray was writing in 1964, the song even includes a 'falsetto chorus line and a very Motown style chorus line ('All that I wa-ant!' - Diana Ross and the Supremes could have done this easy!) followed by a 'woo-hoo-oo-ee-hoo' chorus line. This song is more intriguing in retrospect for being the first song to mention a future Ray Davies favourite theme of the 'weather' , with the narrator's calls to his girlfriend for a 'little bit of sunlight' here clearly equating the solar rays with love. Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008)
A rough Ray Davies demo played by the band, 'Time Will Tell' features a great busy guitar riff and an intriguing lyric (with the opposite message of 'Tired Of waiting For You' - let's take it slow) but doesn't really hang together. The lyric seems at times like it's been 'blocked in' until something better comes along ('Time will tell if we'll be the same as we are now, or not - if not, then never mind!') but features a great rousing chorus that again sets The Kinks out as doing their own thing, oblivious to the rest of the pop world ('Time will tell if I'll survive, I'd rather be dead than just pretend I'm alive!') This song would have fitted nicely onto 'Kinda Kinks' with a few - if you forgive the expression - of the 'kinks' ironed out. Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008)
Caught halfway between the period folk (especially 'Nothin' In This World') and the 'new' raga style The Kinks have just used on 'See My Friends', Ray's demo for 'There's A New World Just Opening For Me' is one of the more interesting 'newbies' on the 'Picture Book' set. It's a good example of The Kinks' short-term pessism/long-term optimism theme, with Ray's narrator crying himself to sleep but vowing to fight on whatever it takes and to force a new part in his life. I'd love to know why this song was never even given away like so many other Ray demos were in this period. The song is perhaps a little too strange for the 1965 market, based again largely around one note. The song would have been hard to reproduce in the studio with Ray's distinctive overdubbed 'hums' otherworldly and scary. Or perhaps this song was just a fraction too personal, hinting at the nervous breakdown Ray is trying so hard to keep at bay but which will hit him big time in 1966. 'I can't pretend no more' Ray sighs and unlike some of the poppier songs demo-ed at the time he sounds like he means it. Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008)
Another woolly Ray Davies demo, 'This I Know' is perhaps the least interesting of the non-Kinks songs from 1965 and doesn't appear to have been given away to anyone - a rarity for the days when The Kinks were so popular many fans would have settled for reading Ray's shopping lists! Ray does what he always does when stuck and turns to the weather for inspiration, but other than a few clichéd lines about waiting for 'the sunrise in your eyes' he doesn't get very far there either and just ends up banging on about the stars again. At least, then, Ray was a good judge of his own songs and out this away in his big cupboards certain that no one would ever ever hear of this song again so it wouldn't matter anyway. Don't you just hate box sets sometimes? Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008)
Why did nobody buy Ray Davies a decent tape recorder? There were good ones on the market in 1965. Alas the woolly recording means we can't really get to 'All-Night Stand' that well, which is a shame because it's rather a good song, wordier than usual for Ray but full of his characteristic 'worrying' touches, telling us that something's 'alright' before worrying about it all over again. Once again Ray seems tired of the road, with a different girl in every port as it were (is this song fictional or did he have to hide it from Rasa when he got home?) but vowing 'I won't give it up as long as I can make the bread'. The demo isn't all that great - it is just a demo after all, not made for public consumption - but I urge readers to look out for the souped up psychedelic version by The Thoughts on the various artists set 'Nuggets II' which works really well as a teary frustrated rocker and has a really great Kinks vibe to it too (was there a later band demo we never got to hear?) Find Ray's demo on: 'Picture Book' (2008)
Easily the best known of the handful of songs Ray 'gave away', 'This Strange Effect' transcends it's slightly unfinished feel as a demo to become a powerful song for all the people who came to record it - Dave Berry who got a #1 hit in the Netherlands and Belgium with this track (it charted in the UK and US too though not very high), Hooverphonic who punk it up in 1998 and best of all, funnily enough, the band's old rival Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, who shines on a cover in 1992. A tale about the narrator being almost hypnotised by love, it's caught between the Tin Pan Alley traditional song-structure of the past and the eerie pull of the future with a similar 'raga' feel to 'See My Friends'. Simple the song may be, about how a lover makes Ray's 'world seem bright', but the emphasis on the word 'strange' and the slightly unsettling sleepwalking melody, which stumbles artrifically towards some final unknown destination adds just enough allure and intrigue to make the song worth hearing. It would have been fascinating to hear heard a Kinks version where Ray becomes in effect 'hypnotised' by Dave's guitar. Find the demo on 'Picture Book' (2008) and a BBC recording on all three versions of 'At The BBC' (2001-2013)
Many writers have their own particular 'themes' that cropping up in their work. For John Lennon it's breaking conventions, for Paul McCartney it's life not being what you thought it was and for Pete Townshend it's characters struggling to communicate. Ray Davies' equivalent is his insomnia. As early as this period he's putting his sleepless hours to good use, penning the mournful ballad 'I Go To Sleep' originally for fellow Larry Page-managed act Marian, a German singer who never made the charts, although the song was immediately picked up by The Appelejacks and later Cher and Peggy Lee. The most famous version though was recorded by Ray's future girlfriend Chrissie Hynde and was a #7 hit for The Pretenders in 1981 (not long after their cover of the Kinks' 'Stop Your Sobbing'). That's how most fans came to know this track, a haunting and suitably sleepy ballad with some pretty step-descending chords and a suddenly explosive middle eight (and thus the opposite of most songs Ray was writing for The Kinks) that tries hard to imagine a missing lover next to the narrator but ends up going over the mistakes that caused her to leave instead (no wonder Chrissie picked it, she was probably making a comment even this early on in their relationship!) Ray's own sweet 1965 piano demo for the song came to light in the 1990s and is perhaps the most interesting and essential of all the completely unheard tracks floating around the album CD re-issues that decade. Ray's version is sleepier yet and suits his muffled, ghostly voice while his chunky piano chords do a good job at suggesting where the mournful horn parts are meant to go. You can easily imagine the weary Kink forcing himself out of bed to make a quick demo of this song in the middle of the night as the hours tick away and Ray will end up doing this as a matter of course in the 'Sleepwalker' period especially. The song would perhaps have been an experiment too far for The Kinks without any of their usual hallmarks (that said the band did pretty well with other ballads in this era like 'Tired Of waiting For You' and 'Ring The Bells' so that's not necessarily true) but it really suits Ray's voice in particular and while just a demo Ray's version rings 'truer' than any of the better known covers. Find it on: 'Kinda Kinks' (CD Re-issue, 1990s and 'deluxe' edition), 'Picture Book' (2008) and 'The Kinks Anthology' (2014)
'When I See That Girl Of Mine', the final of our demos, sounds much like it will on 'Kinks Kontroversy' later in the year just with less overall 'power'. Like the other demos it's oddly Beatlesy and retro, with Ray putting on the charm for the lead vocal. To be honest it doesn't strike me as the obviously Kinks-like track here and may have been revived out of desperation and a lack of material rather than because it was always intended for the band. Yet another song about being away from home in a strange land and wishing you were back with your girlfriend, this was clearly written for first wife Rasa. Find it on: the 'Kink Kontroversy' CD re-issue
A possible ninth demo, the moody 'Tell Me Now So I'll Know', might also have been recorded at this same session (or possibly another session later in the year) and was almost certainly written for another song. Cod-dramatic, in a Shirley Bassey kind of a way, it would have been a fair bossa nova number for some female singer but doesn't really suit Ray's character or his voice. In the song the narrator longs to get everything right so asks his lover at the start of their relationship to tell him how to do everything, to open up and be 'authentic'. However the realisation of this is less interesting than the idea and corny lines like 'I ache inside 'cause my lips can't let you know' aren't up to his usual standards. Find it on: 'The Kinks Anthology 1964-1971'
Recorded live for a BBC radio session in 1965, 'Hide and Seek' is a rare example of an outside Kinks kover which didn't make a parent album. It's a fun if rather rough cover of a fairly obscure song first recorded by Kinks favourite Big Joe Turner in 1955 and fits in well with the band's early blues covers of lots of riffing but not many words. The narrator is tired of his girl playing games with him and Ray turns in a nicely world-weary vocal, but brother Dave is having lots of fun with the expressive guitar part which dances round him while he tries to sing. It's not exactly a lost classic but it would have slotted onto 'Kinda Kinks' a lot better than 'Dancing In The Street' did! Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Kinda Kinks', the second version of 'At The BBC' (2012) and the mammoth 'At The BBC' box set (2012)
Non-Album Recordings #4: 1966
Figuring that the last run of Kinks singles ( 'Set Me Free'  'See My Friends', 'Sunny Afternoon' ) have been a bit 'serious', The Kinks bravely try a comic music-hall knees up, further cementing their status as a determinedly 'English' band when the rest of the British bands were turning to more American sounds. 'Dedicated Followers Of Fashion' is, depending on how you feel about music and clothes and the afore-said music hall, either the single greatest Kinks moment or the worst - this single split fans on the day of release and has ever since. The 'trouble' is that it sounds like no previous Kinks song ever had - (and none will apart from close cousin  'Dandy'). Back in 1966 Ray's sarcasm had been less pronounced with many people assuming this song about a well dressed man making sure he's following every trend going is 'straight' in all senses of the word; actually Ray's merciless, mocking his idea that he's a 'flower to be looked at' and flits from shop to shop 'like a butterfly'. The oft-repeated mocking chorus 'oh yes he is', answered by the band, turns the songs into pantomime and makes the whole song sound faintly ridiculous. Luckily Ray is a master enough of the art of writing catchy songs and by a combination of that chorus, a catchy guitar riff, Ray's delight in the line 'nylon panties' (surely the first time they'd ever appeared in a pop song, pre-empting Pink Floyd's similar bloomers-loving 'Arnold Layne' by a full year) and sheer luck manages just about to get away with it. Listen out too for his 'mock gay' voice when 'in matters of the cloth he is as fickle as can be' - a daring move for 1966, with homosexuality still a year away from being declared 'legal' (in Britain at least; amazingly it took other countries to follow ours for this to become the 'norm'). An alternate version (released on the back of the 'Kinks Kontroversy' CD for some reason - it should really be on 'Face To Face') shows that for a time this song was even more 'against the grain', with Ray singing even more outrageously and clearly channelling the spirit of his favourite childhood comedian Max Miller (who'll become 'Mr Flash' by the time of the 'Preservation' years). Featured on: Every Single Kinks Kompilation. Ever!
After showing the world the way forward on the A-side, the B-side 'Sittin' On My Sofa' finds The Kinks back in the days of their early roots. A weak cod-blues number, 'Sofa' features a great riff but not much in the way of lyrics and repeats the title too many times for comfort (while it's not in the lyric sheet the band seem to have gotten bored and singing 'unzipping on my sofa', for added risqué value given what most lonely adolescents stuck at home would probably be doing). The track is most notable for another great Dave Davies solo, slower than his usual style but still drenched in lots of lovely feedback and adrenalin, plus a powerful middle eight which sounds more like the 'real' Ray writing, possibly reflecting on how Rasa's school friends came round most nights to see their new big house, while Ray felt more cut off from his family than ever ('You got all your friends, I got zip! You got motor cars but this boy never got anything, I'm stuck here!') Featured on: 'The Kink Kontroversy' (CD re-issue, single or two disc 'deluxe' editions), 'Picture Book' (2008) and 'The Kinks Anthology' (2013), among others
One of the Kinks' single greatest compositions and recordings, 'I'm Not Like Everybody Else' is so well known everyone assumes it was an A-side and often looks for it in vein on single-disc Kink Kompilations. Amazingly it was a mere B-side (which came out on the back of 'Sunny Afternoon'), although it's so perfect for it's times it surely would have been one of the band's bigger hits if released as a single. The Kinks were a band that never were like anybody else and after years of trying to fit in with the music scene, with mixed success, this is the band going their own way. Whether because the lyrics was too 'personal' or because it suited Dave's angrier voice more, this is a rare case of Ray giving a song to his younger brother post-1964 and he does a fine job, fair crackling with menace and indignation. Dave's guitar work - floating like a butterfly but stinging like a bee - is spot-on too for a backing track that mooches around, hand in pockets, like the lonely teenager it is. There's a great message in these lyrics, probably once again directed to Rasa, that 'you'll never change me': 'I don't want to float around like everybody else, live my life like everybody else, and I won't say that I feel fine like everybody else - because I'm not like everybody else'. While many of the Kinks songs from the first half of the 60s have a twinkle in the eye, this one is deadly serious and earnest, with a relentless beat, a glorious Pete Quaife bass part that - fittingly - refuses to join in with what bass players are meant to join in with - and Mick Avory once again inspired to new heights on a Ray Davies song that clearly meant a lot to him. Ray still manages to steal the show though, his weary counter-vocal at the end sounding like a man whose tried the lonely path and lost - compared to Dave, still relishing his separateness from the world. The result is one of the single greatest songs of the 1960s, wearily poised for a fight and performed with just the right mixture of hurt, defiance and stubbornness. Find it on: Ever So Nearly Every Single Kinks Kpmpilation. Ever!
Similarly, one of my favourite Kinks singles of the 1960s, the bleak austere poverty-stricken 'Dead End Street' never gets the credit it deserves. A witty variation on the 'millionaire blues' theme of 'Sunny Afternoon', this is Ray getting back in touch with his working class roots. Originally the song sounded quite differently - as heard years later on the 'Picture Book' box set (released almost 40 years to the week). The last production made by Shel Talmy, 'Dead End Street' is a singalong, the song lighter and brighter, still set in a slum but one with the windows open. Unhappy with what had been recorded, Ray records in 'X-Ray' that he 'pleaded' for intervention and the bossy Talmy dislocated his shoulder walking out of the studio door. The producer cancelled the next day's session to go to the hospital, but knowing the studio was empty The Kinks sneaked in anyway and re-cut the song 'their way'. While none of the words were actually changed, the tone of 'their' Dead End Street is very different: the line 'what are we living for?' comes out as weary sigh not music hall effect, the slow mournful brass part comes across as haunting rather than novelty (the makers of the film 'Brassed Off' must have heard this song at some point), the urgent bass riff hitting the same note over and over again yet knowing it will never give way is there for colour not to be 'catchy' and the big finale isn't funny so much as desperate. My favourite moment though: 'The rent collector's knocked out and trying to get in' sings Ray, before Mick Avory hammers away at his drums like an angry rap at the door. The lyrics are pure Ray Davies gold: 'Out of work and got no money - a Sunday joint of breads and honey' instantly paints poverty without any 'woe is me' drama, while the dig 'we want to work so hard - but we can't get the chance' shows that Ray doesn't blame his characters for their predicament, as lesser writers would: he knows from his Muswell Hill upbringing and his father's struggle for work how hard life can be and no punches are pulled in his description of life below the breadline. 'How'd you feel?' he snarls over the fade-out, as if challenging his richer fan base to work things out for themselves. What likely started as something of a salve to Ray's conscience ('Sunny Afternoon' is very much a millionaire trying to come to terms with his money and realising it doesn't fix as much as he'd hoped) ends up a moment of unity for an underbelly of society the colourful hip 60s generation too often ignored. Yes 'Dead End Street' failed to sell as much as the earlier singles and is the start of a commercial decline that won't be reversed until as late as 'Lola' in 1970. But that's because so many people Ray was singing about couldn't afford the single and perhaps a few of his usual target audience felt a bit embarrassed. This is still a hugely important song with Ray yet again giving a voice to those who didn't have one, 'Dead End Street' a kitchen sink drama that most of us are only a couple of paydays away from, exquisitely performed by a band at the very top of their game. A hilarious music video - an early example of the genre - was shot but banned by several TV stations for being in 'bad taste'; actually it's the perfect accompaniment with the band a group of undertakers having fun with coffins, depicting the truth behind the narrator's frustration that he will never be able to leave his current surroundings: that the only way out from his problems is death. Find it on: Ever So Nearly Every Kinks Kompilation. Ever! (And if it isn't included you should return it and buy a different one!)
'Big Black Smoke' is one of the band's better B-sides too, a warning from someone whose been brought up in the big bad city of London and what can go wrong. While most songs of the period are celebrating teenage runaways escaping the controlling natures of their parents, Ray is horrified, portraying an innocent victim falling prey to London's underbelly, leavijg her boy next door boyfriend for a rogue named 'Joe'. An atmospheric recording, dressed up with the sound of Bow Bells (part of the 'original' city - there are demarcations to how much of a 'Londoner' you are based on which part of the city you're born in; The Kinks, naturally, all came from the 'wrong' side) and Dave as a town crier spouting 'oh yay' over and over, 'Big Black Smoke' is a memorable creation. Like 'Dead End Street' the song appears to come in black and white, covered in grime and soot and with an impressively dry sound on Dave's guitar work. Ray's pompous parent vocal is a delight too, horrified at the idea of a girl sleeping in 'cafes and coffee bars and bowling allies' spending her money on 'purple hearts' (ie amphetamines) and cigarettes. An early dig at city life which will end up as the full blown concept album 'Village Green', this is also a song about appearances: the un-named seduced girl is only 'the purest girl the world has seen' because how that's how everyone around her acts; easily impressionable she was always going to be a 'victim' when London got its claws on her. If you get the chance look out for the alternate mix included on the deluxe 'Face To face' re-issue; we don't often mention different mixes on this site because if we did it would add another 100 pages to each group we cover but this one is very different, with no sound effects, some psychedelic effects on the backing vocals and a much longer fade that makes the vocals fade in and out, aptly giving the band the appearance of 'drowning' and being swept under waves too strong for her to fight. Find it on: The 'Face To Face' CD re-issue (again both single disc and two-disc 'deluxe' editions) and 'Waterloo Sunset - The Best Of The Kinks and Ray Davies' (2012)
There aren't many alternate versions of Kinks songs around. The one that changed most over the course of a fee sessions was undoubtedly 'Little Miss Queen Of Darkness'. The finished version on 'Face To Face' is more like The Kinks' normal sound, with some eccentric drumming from Mick Avory surrounding a typically Kinks tune about a lonely girl going to a dance. The earlier version - included on the deluxe edition of said album - is quite a different beats, the jazziest the Kinks ever were with Avory playing with his brushes and Ray both singing and playing acoustic guitar licks like an old blues man. Recorded in the middle of a really uncertain period for The Kinks - this is the only song to be recorded with John Dalton rather than Pete Quaife on bass when the latter was injured in a car crash and kept postponing his return date - it may have been that the band had more time to fool around and try out new ideas than usual. Certainly there's nothing 'wrong' with this first version, which is actually more 'human' and features a much better vocal from Ray. Knowing his reluctance to let anything out of the vaults, though, I'm amazed that the version released on CD is allowed through unedited, complete with his opening burp! (You can't take Muswell Hill out of The Kinks...) Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Face To Face' (all various versions)
A third and final song in the 'Well Respected Man' and 'Dedicated Follower' bracket of sarcastic tribute, 'Mr Pleasant' was released as the oddly acerbic companion to 'Autumn Almanac' in most countries, though a few countries such as America (where this sort of song always seemed to go down well for some reason) made it a single in its own right. It isn't quite as strong as 'Well Respected' and repeats much of the same story, only this time it's more mood than class that makes the character in the song think he's better than everybody else. The result is the same though: a cruel ending where Mrs Pleasant gets tired of his respectability and runs off for Mr Decidedly Unpleasant whose 'taking her out when you have to work late!' Ray is clearly bothered by the injustice of the man who works so hard for a family that 'use' him behind his back but know he's too polite to object - he may even be thinking of himself in these terms given the amount of times in the future his workaholic narrators get betrayed by carefree women who don't understand - although if Rasa realised this she doesn't seem to show it on one of her strongest backing vocals, doubling brother-in-law' Dave's backing to make a really lovely high sound. Ray will return to theme on 'Shangri-La', which comes with the despair but without the happy smiling tune and tone of this song. Find it on: The CD re-issue of 'Face To Face' (all various versions)
The Kinks' only song to be 'abandoned' on an EP (there are several by The Beatles, Hollies and Stones), 'This Is Where I Belong' is a song it's author Ray never seemed very keen on - perhaps because the lines stretched his vocal past breaking point several times (Ray doesn't have the lung power of some other rock singers and can't hold notes as long as some). However both composition and vocal are full of character and are based around one of his favourite themes: home. Perhaps remembering his recent house-moving, this sounds like a love story to 'Muswell Hill', Ray vowing not to 'search for a house upon a hill' or perhaps a 'most exclusive residence for sale' because he knows that he belongs near where he was brought up. As usual, The Kinks are way out of line with what most other bands were doing in this period: while everyone is travelling and getting outside their minds, Ray is applauding home and hearth, kicking his older self for wanting to 'wander', 'a real unlucky feller whose got no place to go'. A charming melody that rises and falls in contentment, coming as naturally as breathing, makes this one of Ray's more charming 'forgotten' songs and one that might have made 'Face To Face' an even better album. Find it on: originally the EP 'Mr Pleasant' and in some countries the B-side of the 'Mr Pleasant' single. Since then it was re-issued on 'The EP Collection Volume Two' (1991), the 'Face To Face' CD re-issue (various versions) and 'Picture Book' (2008)
Not all of Ray's unreleased songs are gems. The sleepy calypso 'And I Will Love You' may well be Ray's worst songs of the 1960s and so we were spared a lucky escape when this demo failed to be turned into a proper album track. 'The finest moments in my li-i-i-ife is when you say you'll be my wi-i-i-i-ife' while 'church bells will chime so they will know you'll be mine' runs the chorus - let's be charitable and assume that Ray was trying to write this song one of the crooners who routinely recorded songs like this rubbish and never seriously intended it for The Kinks. Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008) and the deluxe-only edition of 'The Kink Kontroversy'
Rat's most scathing song yet, 'Mr Reporter' was left unreleased partly because a planned EP about 'careers' was dropped in favour of Ray's new 'sound effect' concept for 'Face To Face' (other candidates include the clothes-shop 'Dandy' and the estate agent of 'Most Exclusive Residence', possibly also 'Session Man') and partly because someone somewhere would have got sued. The Kinks never enjoyed a happy relationship with the press - none of the band liked talking that much and there were more sides to the band for the media to 'get', from their posh hunting jackets to their Muswell Hill rebellious streak that saw them occasionally whack each other on stage and fail to turn up to gigs. Media distortion is a favourite Ray Davies theme up to the present day (well more or less - see 'Other People's Lives' 2006) and clearly 'rubbed him up the wrong way'. In this song, though, it's the reporter whose rubbed up the wrong way, Ray mischievously painting him as a lonely unhappy man doing what his boss tells him and seething in fury at both being turned down for a better job and - in the most vitriolic line of the song - 'because your daddy stopped you playing with your friends when you were young, is that why you put down all the young people out having fun?' Two alternate versions, sung by Ray and Dave, are as different as the two vocalists: Ray is at his sarcastic best, declaring a loud 'hah!' and offering the line 'the reason I am morbid is because I read you every day!'; Dave's is softer, more quietly seething and changing the line to 'the reason I am stupid...' Chances are Ray's version was recorded first but the band felt it had to be tones down and gave it to Dave. In the end this song didn't come out on anything for 30 years, the band perhaps feeling that (for now) they'd got their growing resentment out of their system. Like many of Ray's more emotionally charged songs it's all over the map but still resonates loud and clear about how much Ray hates reporters and critics. Given that the chances he probably won't like this book much, then, erm let's move swiftly on...Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Face To Face' (Dave's vocal) and 'Picture Book' (2009) (Ray's vocal)
'Little Women' is a charming unfinished backing track that had it been finished would most likely have been The Kinks' most overtly psychedelic song. Ray plays mellotron for the first time (the setting appears to be the same as on the later 'Phenomenal Cat') while Pete's bass rumble is up nice and loud for once. No lyrics for this one seem to have survived, which is a shame if the intriguing title is anything to go by - would Ray have written a modern update about dating in the 1960s, based on Louise Alcott's book of the same name as the song? Would it have been another Kinks song about how even the supposedly docile and weak in society can be strong (coming from a family of six older sisters, Ray knows that only too well how!) Is this a song about pygmies?! The sad fact is we don't know. What we do know is that 'Little Women' sports a charming melody and - after amazingly escaping the bootleggers for decades - became one of the more celebrated bonus tracks on the 1990 'Castle' re-issue of the band's albums. Find it on: the multiple versions of 'Face To Face' on CD
This next song seems deeply out of place in this list: 'She's Got Everything' is Ray, nostalgic to the last, making one last conscious use of the 'You Really Got Me' riff on a fun catchy pop song about how in love he is. Had this song come out in 1964 it would have sounded a bit old-fashioned; as it happened this 1966 vintage recording didn't see the light of day until 1968 when it made a fine addition to the equally nostalgic single 'Days'. With some tight band playing and a glorious wordless 'duh duh' idle eight that runs and runs, this sounds like Ray trying to remember more innocent times. However there's no doubting the 'real'ness behind this song, especially the quiet reflective final verse that seems already to be imagining a time when it will all be over ('And I can't live without her love...'). Probably the best use of the 'You Really Got Me' riff not included on one of the 'big three' hit singles. Find it on: originally the B-side to 'Days' (1968), the song was released on CD for the first time on the deluxe edition of 'Face To Face'
Non-Album Recordings #6: 1967
Trivia #1: As the B-side of 'Waterloo Sunset',  'Act Nice and Gentle' is perhaps the best-selling Kinks song that nobody (except major fans) remember 2) Trivia #2: If you list all the Kinks song alphabetically, this one would be first 3) Trivia #3: The song's melody, title and unusual country feel seem to have been lifted wholesale from Buck Owens (The Beatles had just covered 'Act Naturally' if that helps set the scene), as re-routed from Nashville via Muswell Hill (more on this amalgam of sounds in 1971...) Trivia #4: There's almost nothing interesting to say about this track as a song which is why we've stuck to a list of trivia: instead it's an oddball Kinks song where Ray pleads for his girl to be nice to him because he's not that bad really is he? Dave adds in a fun and very George Harrisonesque guitar part while the melody manages to be both charming and sinister all at the same time. Find it on: 'The EP Collection' (1991) or either version of the 'Something Else' CD re-issue
Once again Ray Davies turns to the weather for inspiration and as a metaphor for his life. So far across this decade we've had the peak summer years of 'Sunny Afternoon' and 'Lazy Old Sun'. Here we are a year on with 'Autumn Almanac', a bittersweet lament that both celebrates and commiserates over growing older. People are still getting together but this time it's because they're 'hiding from the weather' and like 'Summer's Gone' to come there's a sense of decay and decline in the air which everyone is trying to pretend isn't there (with their tea and crumpets - bit of trivia for you, this is surprisingly the only Kinks song to mention the very English concoction 'crumpets'!) However life isn't too bad yet: the football season has just started again (amazingly both Davies supported the same local team, Arsenal - you half expect them to support bitter rivals or for Ray to 'not be like everybody else' and support a minor town that never does well at all - i.e. Stafford Rangers). Here, two years after the American ban, Ray proudly lists all the reasons he's proud to be English - not just the crumpets and football matches or the roast dinners or even the holidays in Blackpool but because of the people. 'This is my street' he sings proudly 'and I'm, never going to leave it, even if I live to be ninety-nine!' Sadly Ray won't keep his promise (was his American mugger really cross with him for not being as nice to the Unites States?) and the next time he writes quite so openly about being British it's in far less savoury terms (the acerbic 'Yours Truly, Confused, N10'). For now though the weather may be getting worse but there's still so much in life to enjoy to be miserable and Ray still has enough reason to listen to his home street calling him 'come on home...come on home'. The opening verse, however, was inspired by a local gardener who insisted on keeping his property trim and tidy despite suffering from a clearly painful back. If the tune sounds unusual for The Kinks, that's because it was originally written backwards and partly rescued from a song called 'My Street' that wasn't working out. Realising that following up 'Waterloo Sunset' would be tough ask, Ray wanted something really memorable for the next single and was desperate to try anything, including playing his chords backwards. Though not perhaps the very finest of Kinks offerings, 'Autumn Almanac' is another very strong and likeable song that deservedly peaked at a UK high of #3, only one place behind 'Waterloo Sunset'. Find it on: If you own a Kinks Kompilation without this hit single then return it at once!
An early version of 'Tin Soldier Man', 'Sand On My Shoes' is instead of a daft song about a toy soldier a daft song about a holiday. With 'nothing but my own time to lose', Ray is having a lazy day at the seaside while a brass band march along in rhythm behind him. One of The Kinks' few weak 1960s songs 'Tin Soldier' sounds even worse in this incarnation, but to be fair to the band it's clearly a work-in-progress rather than a proper shot at a finished classic. However only the middle eight - an early attack on city life rather than the country the year before 'Village Green' - rings true. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Something Else'
An early version of 'Afternoon Tea' is even more Noel Cowardian than the finished version! An accordion, Nicky Hopkins' piano and a Rasa-dominated backing choir have now joined the tea table, while the track is slower and amazingly even more 'camp'! Not one of the band's better ideas of 1967, the only real lyrical difference is Ray adding that as well as biscuits and tea he likes 'biscuits and cheese'. I'll remember that if he ever comes round...Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Something Else'
Listeners of the Radio edition of Top Of The Pops on September 15th 1967 had an absolute treat. 'Good Luck Charm' was a rare Dave Davies cover of a 'Spider' John Koerner blues song, sped up and given a good time jingle jangle feel thanks to the presence of Nicky Hopkins on piano. Only Dave and Nicky play on this sweet little song about how the narrator brings good luck wherever he goes and that his girl needn't worry about a thing because life with him always turns out for the best. It's nice to hear Dave singing such an upbeat and happy song in the middle of a period of some quite harrowing songs from the younger brother and there's a real smile on Dave's voice that's a delight to hear. The performance is rather short, ending before even two minutes are up, and is very different to anything else The Kinks played that year. An alternative version exists in the vaults that runs a fraction longer and includes a mellotron part weaving in and out of the piano and guitar - it may be an outtake from 'The Album That Never Was'. Find it on: any version of 'At The BBC' (2001/2012)
Non-Album Recordings #6: 1968
John Lennon's favourite release of 1968 - which he played over and over on his jukebox, later auctioned for ridiculous amounts in the 2000s - the Beatle is one of the select few who ever got to hear 'Wonderboy', one of the band's all-time worst selling singles. Like many Kinks songs of this period, it's sung tongue-in-cheek so that you're never quite sure whether Ray believes in the 'joy and wonder' a newborn will experience or not. He even admits as much in the middle eight, with the line that 'everyone is searching for the sun' but they're wrong - all he 'sees' is his baby ('and ain't that wonder?' he adds). No doubt inspired by the pregnancy of his second baby - Victoria, born on Christmas Day that year (was he expecting a boy?), this song sounds as if started as genuine nursery lullaby before the band got hold of it and turned it into something scarier. 'Life is only what you wonder' is a line that must have appealed to the nostalgic Lennon (still in his LSD-enhanced childhood-loving state; while never a heavy drug taker Ray may also have written this song on childhood-memory enhancing LSD, which might also explain the slightly 'hazy' quality). Sweet and charming, but not really single material, it shouldn't have been any great surprise when 'Wonderboy' became the first Kinks single since  'You Still Want Me' not to make the charts at all. Thankfully modern listeners don't care quite so much about chart statistics and 'Wonderboy' now regularly takes its rightful place on Kinks kompilations where it sounds better than either of the bigger hits that follow it ('Plastic Man' and 'Victoria'), now fully restored to, if not quite the highest echelon of Kinks songs, then a strong presence in the band's second tier. Find it on: most Kinks Kompilations
'Polly' is another curious song. A voracious reader, Ray was moved enough by Dylan Thomas' tale of the Welsh valleys 'Under Milk Wood' (an area that could be 'twinned' with his own fictional Village Green' - Ray cited it as a key influence on that album) to re-write this track as a pop song. In truth Polly Garter doesn't play that much of a role in the book - she's 'just' a symbol of the 'new' coming in to disrupt a traditional way of life before finding she liked it better at 'home' anyway than in the city. Ray re-casts the story from her perspective, effectively re-writing  'Big Black Smoke' but with a different ending, where the rebellious teenager 'fails' to make the 'swinging city scene' and comes back home, tail between her legs. Based around a catchy riff played on the violins, the backing track sounds like a match between the 'old' (the most traditional sounding classical arrangement on any Kinks song of the 1960s) and the 'new' (Dave's scratchy guitar and Ray's plodding acoustic guitar), with several stabbing sounds from a piano track mimicking Polly mentally banging her heads against the wall. Unusually there's no real resolution here: Polly doesn't scheme to leave again and her restrictive family don't learn their 'lesson' - it ends instead with Polly every bit as miserable as when she left and her mother now even more controlling than before with her 'baby' home to stay. Ray overlooks the whole experience, 'Big Sky' style, without deigning to comment or get involved. Fid it on: originally the B-side of 'Wonderboy', 'Polly' has since been re-issued on the three-CD deluxe edition of 'The Village Green Preservation Society'
'Days' is one of The Kinks' most famous songs, even though it was just yet another Kinks flop when released. Ray's most nostalgic song, it was most likely intended to 'fit' into the theme of 'Village Green' (and was indeed included on the first submitted 12-song version of the album) and may also have been Ray's response to Pete Quaife's long delayed and much discussed decision to leave the band, an end of an era that must have hit Ray hard (not keen on the original song, a bored Pete scratched out the name and re-wrote it as 'Daze' on the tape box - a joke that rather sums up his torn feeling of whether to stay or go). Certainly the middle eight, which neatly moves into a minor key, sounds very 'real' : 'I wish today could be tomorrow...', Ray upset at having to make a difficult decision. Most of this song is celebratory, though, not downcast, admitting that after four years of 'music therapy' with 'The Kinks' that for the first time 'I'm not frightened of the world, believe me'. A song about promises between friends and how close friends can never be broken up, it's a near perfect end to the 'first run' of Kinks recordings as a song, although in truth the heavy-handed and echo-drenched backing track is not one of their best. The band sound like they're noodling, while Ray's vocal is lost buried away in the left speaker instead of in the middle where it ought to be. There's no real urgency to the performance either except in Ray's vocal; against all the odds the band's later re-recording of this song (in 1991) is much superior in terms of arrangement if not actual performance. Still, the song itself is charming and deservedly one of Ray's most loved compositions even and especially amongst casual fans who don't really know much about The Kinks: this is the kind of universal emotional song that Ray was born to write, tapping into a fragile weakness for nostalgia and longing in the human psyche and getting the balance between genuine emotion and commercial accessibility just right. Find it on: what do you mean you haven't got it? Everyone owns 'Days'!
A charming music hall song with psychedelic overtones, 'Mr Songbird' was the only song to have been dropped from the '12 track' version of 'Village Green' that wasn't then released on a single (one wonders why it wasn't the B-side of fellow refugee 'Days' as The Kinks were clearly short on material, drawing on 1966 outtake 'She's Got Everything' at the last minute). Though not obviously related to the 'Village Green' concept, it would have fitted in well on the album - indeed does if you happen to own one of the 'old' CDs with the stereo 12 track version added as a 'bonus track' - drawing on a sense of calm and serenity similar to 'Sitting By The Riverside'. Though not the deepest of songs from the great year of 1968, Ray's mellotron does a wonderful job of sounding like bird-call and there's a marvellous cascade of chords going from the verses to the choruses that's really pretty, of-set by the dark and sudden switch to a minor key as the bird 'helps to keep the devil at bay'. Once again Ray blurs the line of fantasy and reality, proudly telling us 'though I ain't got a bean it costs me nothing to dream' with this song a sort of prequel to The Tramp's songs from 'Preservation'. Find it on: the original 12-track version of 'Village Green' and most of the CD re-issues of it since then
'Berkley Mews' is one of the more unusual Ray Davies songs of the period, a driving rhythmic song loosely based around a 12 bar blues with a typically Kinks mix of styles from the past (a harpsichord) and the future (a Moody Blues-ish mellotron). The tale of seduction gone wrong, the title - another place near Muswell Hill** - is repeated like a mantra, the meeting point where the narrator's life was ruined. In truth this song doesn't hang together as well as most Ray Davies songs, with too many different sections stuck together that don't quite fit, but the chatty wry counter-verses are especially strong and witty, sounding like the punch-line to a joke ('I brewed another cuppa up and tried to sneak out in the morning' 'I thought you were an intellect but now that I reflect you left me reeling, you made me drink a toast and when you'd finished I was looking at the ceiling!'). The whole backing gets rather drunk itself by the end of the song, with Nicky Hopkins sounding as if he's fallen off the end of his piano stool and a tweeting trumpet drunkenly wandering in as if from the next door studio. Not one of Ray's best but proof of how far The Kinks were prepared to push the envelope in this era. First released on the semi-legal 'The Kinks Kronikles' (1972), the song was released officially on the deluxe three-disc set of 'Village Green Preservation Society'
'Lavender Hill' is probably the best of the 'non-Village Green' songs from 1968 that make up most of this list. The song starts as a powerful ballad, complete with electronically treated backing singers (including one of Rasa's last appearances on a Kinks record). Like many a Kinks song this is a nostalgic affair, looking back on yet another local place familiar to residents of London (it's a stop away from 'Waterloo' and half an hour away from Muswell Hill) and remembering early romantic days of 'biscuits and tea' and 'daffodils swaying in the breeze'. This could have been one of the most gorgeous Kinks songs of them all, with a sad and sorrowful minor key unusual for Ray and a lyrics that for the first time talks about 'the world of make believe', Ray's narrator wishing he could always stay in the outside where 'the sun saturates me with light' (along with 'Lazy Old Sub' possibly his cry for creative inspiration). However sadly the music and lyrics don't really fit - lyrically this is a happy song about imagination and the chorus is as ugly as they come, taking us right back to Ray's love of music hall. The Kinks turn in a strong performance though with those great backing vocals (never has the backing vocal sound of 'bom bom bom' sounded more sinister!) and some excellent wah-wah guitar-work from Dave. Along with 'Wonderboy' and 'Wicked Annabella' it's the potential start of a whole new sound for The Kinks, one harder edged and more sinister and full of mocking voices laughing at us. It's a real shame they didn't pursue it further, although then again the sound they did choose in 1969 is arguably even better... First released on the semi-legal 'The Kinks Kronikles' (1972), the song was released officially on the deluxe three-disc set of 'Village Green Preservation Society'
'Rosemary Rose' is an oddball little song. Ray is presumably writing with his absent sister in mind again (the wife of the 'forthcoming 'Arthur' and previously heard in  'Rosie Won't You Please Come Home?'). This is conceivably the same happy-go-lucky girl seen getting a kiss by the garden gate in 'Come Dancing' too. But if true and not some other made-up Rose then Ray is being unusually harsh here, portraying her as 'looking nothing like a child - but you're such a little baby', chewing cigarettes like sweets and dressed up 'in bows'. It could, of course, be that Ray is just playing on the idea of 'Rose' as a flower and the name appealed to him, but he seems to actively point out that her real name is 'Rosemarie'. Sadly at a brief 1:45 we never really get to know Rosemary as well as we ought to, but this is another strong Kinks track from 1968 with Nicky Hopkins' harpsichord taking centre stage again. First released on the semi-legal 'The Kinks Kronikles' (1972), the song was released officially on the deluxe three-disc set of 'Village Green Preservation Society'
'Misty Waters' is another slight backwards step, a heavy-handed song low on subtlety which rhymes 'Maria and her daughters' with 'they like misty waters' with Mersey-beat style aplomb. Interesting mainly for the 'collage' way it's built up (with several sections where the guitar doesn't play, then the piano, with the bass cutting through the pair of them) and it's descending block chords, 'Misty Waters' would have gone down well in the music hall but would have sounded out of place on a Kinks album. Fans have tried for years to decipher what exactly the narrator 'likes' - I hear it as 'foregone cares' but that arguably makes less sense than other interpretations such as 'fog and cakes'(!)First released on the semi-legal 'The Kinks Kronikles' (1972), the song was released officially on the deluxe three-disc set of 'Village Green Preservation Society'
Another of these ultimately discarded 1968 recordings is 'Pictures In The Sand', an early example of what fans will come to know as 'Ray doing a Noel Coward'. The setting is very roaring twenties, with a double tracked Ray intoning the lyrics in his very best posh voice. The tale of the joys of a simple English holiday sounds like a much happier stay than 'A Holiday In Waikiki' from a couple of years earlier and in fact that's what missing here - there's no twist in the tale here as per most Kink songs, no sense of respectability unravelling, no comeuppance for snooty toffs. Even when the song finally gets rocky on a lovely if brief middle eight (which features a truly lovely melody, so much better than the rather arch verse structure) doesn't change much really as Ray simply goes back to pompously singing to himself. Still the lyrics are quite sweet: 'I could never draw my love - it's so very hard to do!' Ray will return to this style for 'Moments' and particularly 'A Holiday Romance' which largely picks off where this song left off. Missing from the official Kinks Kollektion for years (though bootleggers have always loved it) rumour has it that Ray was never very pleased with how this song turned out, although you wouldn't know that from his performance which is just as light and fluffy as the song demands. Find it on: 'The Kinks Anthology 1964-1971'
'Easy Come, There You Went' is the first of three 'jamming' instrumentals found in the vaults and resurrected for the 'deluxe' edition of 'Village Green'. This is the best one and the only one that sounds as if it could have slotted in on a Kinks album. It would have marked a light step backwards though, with the every-handed riff-based feel of yesteryear, softened by some intriguing smashes piano chords and eerie mellotron, presumably both played by Ray, while Dave thrashes away on a riff that seems to have been stolen from Bernstein and Sondheim's 'Maybe Tonight' from 'West Side Story' ('On a block, on a beach...'). This isn't the most scintillating moment The Kinks ever came up with but it does offer one last chance to hear great the first line-up of the band were and what a groove they could still kick up when the occasion called for it. Find it on the deluxe three-disc set of 'Village Green Preservation Society'
'Spotty Grotty Anna' is the third and probably weakest of the three instrumental jams. It sounds to me as if only Dave and Mick are here, an unusual partnership given how many times they tried to kill each other in this period (!) but one that works rather well with the two playing off each other well and Mick playing around with an echo machine on his drums that works rather well. Goodness only knows where the title came from! Find it on the deluxe three-disc set of 'Village Green Preservation Society'
Poor Mick Avory. He ought to have such respect among fans - he stuck with the band for 21 years through thick and mainly thin, wearily sighing as yet another brotherly bust-up took place or when an emotional Dave tried to provoke his naturally relaxed demeanour beyond breaking point. He ought to be remembered as one of rock's great players talented and versatile enough to grow with each unexpected hand of the ongoing Ray Davies card game, Instead he tends to be the Kink that most gets picked on - usually through no fault of his own (though fans of course love him all the same, however many jokes are played on him). The title of groovy instrumental number two 'Mick Avory's Underpants' is rather typical of Kinky humour and was presumably never intended for public consumption and equally presumably Mick was never asked about having 'them' aired for public consumption. Mick doesn't get very much to do on this guitar-led instrumental anyway, which is more of a rare chance for Ray and Dave to 'compete'. The result is like a slightly less intense 'Milk Cow Blues' with some fun Pete Quaife riffing in the middle too. Once again it would have marked the return to an earlier, heavier sound has this track ever been okayed for release but chances are the band were just having a bit of jam session in between tracks, keeping this one in their pocket in case they needed a new song in a hurry. Find it on the deluxe three-disc set of 'Village Green Preservation Society'
Non-Album Recordings #7: 1969
The Kinks hit single that everyone forgets, I still can't tell if 'Plastic Man' is stupidity or genius. Possibly, it's both. Ray takes a very Kinks theme of artificialness and shapes it with the biting sarcasm last heard on 'A Well Respected Man' to invent a song about a yes man who can be moulded into any position. The clever singalong catchy chorus comes as a shock after the likes of 'Wonderboy' and 'Shangri-La' but it's arguably exactly what The Kinks need in this period to restore them to the charts (it peaked at #31 in the UK, the band's best since 'Days' a full five singles ago if you count Dave's). There's a great 'boom boom' riff at the heart of this song and lots of space for some silly backing vocals just like the old days. However there's something ever so slightly desperate about this song, which sounds more like something Herman's Hermits should be doing than The Kinks. Hearing Ray sing the words 'legs that reach up to his plastic bum' before a sea of Kinks Khoirboys intone the word 'bum' behind him may also be the single oddest Kinks moment until the 1980s, though it also goes without saying that if Herman's hermits had released this song it would have been one pof their biggest and best-loved hits. It's the Kinks name that's out of place. Find it on: Most Kinks Kompilations or the CD re-issue of 'Arthur' where it sounds incredibly out of place!
Marc Bolan is said to have been so obsessed with the unusual sarcastic-with-echo sound of 'King Kong' that he based T Rex's entire career around it. Other fans have been rather less enamoured of this unusual B-side down the years which makes the band sound as if they're playing down the end of a psychedelic tunnel. It's apt that this song should come out midway between 'Arthur' and 'Lola v Powerman' because it touched on the theme of both albums: Ray is outraged at the injustice of corrupt rulers and what they do to the little man, with the word 'power' banded around a lot. Generally in Ray's works a 'city' setting rather than a village green is bad news and so it is here: everyone is trampling on each other to climb the tops of buildings and be the biggest 'King Kong' they can be, with the power 'to blow up houses' we'll be hearing more of in 'Preservation'. 'Everybody wants power, everybody wants money, everybody wants fame' goes Ray's simplest chorus on one of his favourite themes and his vocal drips with anger: 'Little man weak and big man strong, everyone wants to be king kong' he grunts as if mankind has just devolved back to caveman status. Dave, who has taken so much of a backseat across 1969, finally gets a song suited to him and is supreme here: compared to normal his guitar work is a measure of restraint and icy calm, quite a change for a guitarist best known for his fiery bursts of emotion. The result is certainly unusual and not to everyone's tastes, but arguably more thought went into it than the A-side and the result is, if only a minor gem, then a gem all the same. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Arthur', 'Picture Book' (2008), 'The Kinks Anthology' (2013) and the CD re-issue of 'Arthur'
Non-Album Recordings #8: 1970
Proof once again of just how developed The Kinks' demos were comes with 'Apeman'. A bit of a shaky start (with a very odd tone on John Gosling's keyboard) the only real difference is the guitar part which in one bound turns the song from a light comedy into an aggressive protest song. This is especially noticeable in the Chuck Berry-style middle eight which ends in a riff straight out of 'Johnny B Goode' instead of just going back to the chorus again. Note that Ray appears to sing 'foggin' very clearly in this version, suggesting that his f-word-like pronunciation on the finished version was not an 'accident'. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Lola V Powerman and the Money-Go-Round'
Another demo from the album, this time for 'Powerman', is also remarkably similar to the final thing. Ray's vocal is much louder in the mix and single-tracked so we can hear the vitriol in his voice loud and clear, Dave's harmonies don't join in until much later in the song, there's only two guitar parts not three and there's an ever so slightly longer fade with another twirl round the song's central riff (even so this version lasts a mere six second longer than the album cut). Otherwise everything is already firmly in place and 'Powerman' already rocks nicely. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Lola V Powerman and the Money-Go-Round'
One of the better entirely unreleased Kinks songs, 'The Good Life' goes back to that pessimism/optimism thing we keep nagging on about, with the twist that the past is deeply unhappy but the future's going to be terrific, just you wait and see! Like 'Jack The Idiot Dunce' to come, the narrator was laughed at at school, 'failed' his first job and suffered a nervous breakdown, but all it took was being in the right place at the right time and now he's a millionaire! There may be a touch of autobiography in this song, albeit taken to extremes and Ray's relief at realising he has a fanbase who like and admire him after years of being dismissed as a 'nobody' clearly has a welcome effect on him. However all goes wrong in the second half as it always tends to do in this period and Ray's back to the Lola v Powerman' theme of betrayal and money-grabbing. 'They spent all their money - now they're gonna spend mine!' spots Ray before telling us about his insomnia and how 'all my problems keep me awake at night' and how he yearns for the 'misery' of his 'failure' years. A nice big fat chunky guitar line from Dave isn't too far removed from the riff for 'Here Come The People In Grey' to come and The Kinks turn in one of their stronger, tighter band performances, topped off by Ray's glorious lead just the right side of histrionics! Find it on: the deluxe CD re-issue of 'Lola Versus Powerman'
A lovely song that needs another couple of takes to get really good, 'Anytime' might have gone on to grow into a real Kinks Klassik with a few tweaks. A rare chance to hear Ray and Dave singing together (in part), this is the Davies boy's equivalent of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', promising to be there the next time the other is 'down'. Given the songs written directly to fans in a few years' time, this might be Ray re-paying the Kinks fan's faith and loyalty, promising to be there at the end of a record player any time they're needed. It's also kind of the 'negative' of 'Big Sky' this song, claiming that everyone, no matter how unloved or humble, has the ability to love and make someone else's life better just by being there. A lovely chord sequence sails a little too close to all-out gospel (the sort of thing this band will spoof the following year on 'Alcohol'), while the acoustic guitar riff is straight out of 'Lola' (which came first I wonder?!) A very wobbly performance aside, this is goose-pimple inducing stuff. Find it on: the deluxe CD re-issue of 'Lola Versus Powerman'
Non-Album Recordings #9: 1971
An appalling demo version of what sounds like it might have turned into quite a sweet song, 'Kentucky Moon' is clearly 'Muswell Hillbillies' era thanks to the Americana travelogue lyrics alone, but it has a bit more emotion about it than many songs on the album. Ray always longed to be in America, the land of plenty he read and heard so much about growing out, but still feels an outsider when he's there, sighing that 'Route 66 is a mystery' and wondering whether the America he was once inspired to imagine was real and he's missed it or whether it only ever existed in his head. A curious five note descending and ascending piano riff is at the heart of this curious song which reads better on the page than it sounds as a song. Find it on: either CD re-issue of 'Muswell Hillbillies'
'Mountain Woman' is another American song transplanted to London and seemingly features Apeman again (or at least someone like him). Mr and Mrs Mountain Woman live a lonely primitive existence in the 'black rocky mountains' of some un-indentified backdrop but are remarkably content compared to most 9-5 commuter-worker types: they have no worries about money and less responsibilities. Or at least they don't until the ending when with the first use of his future catchphrase 'compulsory purchase' (see 'Preservation') when a property developer buys up the valley and the pair find themselves re-housed in a concrete jungle 'on the thirty-third floor'. Despite now having a fridge, an elevator and a car making life easier robs it of its main purpose and the pair soon wish they were back in the jungle. This nice bit of Ray Davies escapism is given added grit thanks to some scarred Dave Davies guitar but it sounds less 'finished' than most of the material that made the album somehow and it's an interesting one-listen find rather than a long-lost classic. Find it on: either CD re-issue of 'Muswell Hillbillies'
Opening with the main lick from 'Waterloo Sunset', 'Lavender Lane' comes on - like many of the 'Muswell Hillbillies; songs - like the older, louder, drunken brother of the Kinks' classic sixties songs. Everything about this song is slightly woozy and it's certainly rowdier than the similarly titled 'Lavender Hill' from 1968. However both are about real places from The Kinks' past and lyrically this is another one of Ray's revealing songs. He calls himself and Dave 'two cockney boys' who lived with 'Rosie Rook' and 'Peggy O Day' (hinting further that the characters from 'Muswell Hillbillies' are two of the pair's six sisters). Like many a 'Muswell' song the people here lived in awful poverty but always had a smile on their faces, 'proud' of their heritage. The houses, though, have now long since gone, knocked down 'Demolition Preservation' style to make way for the faceless new. Given how autobiographical this song is it's actually relatively disappointing by Ray's high standards and it was probably a right decision to drop this from the LP. However, the middle eight is very nice and may feature the single most Kinks line in their history: 'Sometimes I want to go back and do things like they were before' sighs Ray as yet again he tells the modern world it's not as progressive as it thinks it is. Find it on: the Deluxe re-issue of 'Muswell Hillbillies'
Easily the best of the five 'unreleased' outtakes, 'Nobody's Fool' was actually first nominated by us as 'best unreleased Kinks song' in an article we wrote a while ago before Ray went and beat me to it by releasing it at last (I doubt the iron will strike twice but, erm, hey Ray the alternate take of you on lead on 'Scrapheap City' is the best thing left in the vaults now...*quick pause to see if anyone's listening. They're not so let's carry on*...) A gorgeous fragile song with a similar feel to the later 'A Face In The Crowd' from 'A Soap Opera' this is the Ray behind the public persona, secretly afraid that he isn't as good as people think he is. Of course, being Ray, he talks about his missing qualities on a song that instead demonstrates his talents oh so well - the melody is gorgeous, the sad sighing vocal is one of his best and the short lyrics (recalling a self-lecturing walk that will late become part of 'Life On The Road') almost unbearably poignant. I can see why this song never made it to 'Muswell Hillbillies' - it doesn't fit the detached feel of the album and the 'postcode' element of the lyric sounds shoe-horned on - but I can't imagine why Ray never returned to this classic sad lament which may yet prove to be one of his most powerful and resonant of the decade once we fans get to know it better. Even in demo form it sounds deeper and has more impact than almost anything on 'Hillbillies'.
'Queenie' is an intriguing backing track, with a heavier rockier Chuck Berryier sound than the rest of 'Muswell Hillbillies' whilst keeping the same blues overtones and the claustrophobic feel. Goodness only knows what the song might have been about - it sounds like another song that would have had a sighing Ray lyric over it a la 'Here Come The People In Grey' but Ray's surprised me before with his unfinished tracks so it might have been nothing like the rest of the album. Find it on: 'Muswell Hillbillies' (Deluxe Version)
Non-Album Recordings #10: 1972
Added here for the sake of completeness is the single version of 'Supersonic Rocket Ship'. The Kinks put a lot of effort into this version of the song, fully expecting it to be a big hit (it's not that far removed from their last charting single 'Apeman' after all, in either sentiment or sound) but the struggles of recording in a new studio that had only just been built (and with the band doubling as engineers) inevitably meant a few teething issues - and they happened at the worst possible time when Dave accidentally wiped the opening few bars of the band's planned big single. Uncharacteristically, The Kinks pulled together rather than sitting around blaming each other and quickly came up with a new version as featured on the 'Everybody's In Showbiz' LP - slower, more thoughtful and with much 'space'. By contrast the single version is far more immediate, with more razzmatazz and carnival, taken at a much quicker pace and with much louder horns (though both versions annoyingly last 3:3, courtesy of a much longer fade on the single version, which makes working out which kompilation uses which version of the song notoriously difficult). Weirdly, The Kinks decided that this 'new' version wasn't right for a single so released their 'ruined' version anyway (you may notice that it begins mid-recording with about four notes missing) - the fact that it sold well enough to peak at #16 in the UK (The Kinks' last top twenty hit in their homeland until 'Come Dancing' eleven years later) says much about both how darned catchy this escapist song is when done right and how little attention people pay to the opening few bars of a song anyway (though chances are it wound a few disc-jockeys up!) Find it on: the original single or the Kinks Kompilation 'Backtrackin' (1985)
Non-Album Recordings #11: 1973
Frustratingly there are very few bonus tracks on either of the 'Preservation' CDs even though we know for a fact that there's a good half an album's worth of outtakes sitting in the vaults from the abandoned first sessions (which were meant to see both parts recorded, not just the one and one-third, most of which got re-made in 1974). The alternate take of 'One Of The Survivors' isn't really all that interesting and is exactly the same right up until about the 2:30 mark. After a longer instrumental break without the harmonica part Dave's vocal cuts in but he sings solo this time without his brother. Only then does Ray's harmonica break in for a gonzo solo that sounds as if he's just swallowed his harmonica - this will be replaced by his 'first gear, second gear...' vocal on the final version. The 'he's alright' part gets cut short and the 'can't stop the rock a rock rock a rolling' part is missing entirely, while the song goes for a fade right up to the point where the LP version comes to a full stop. Ultimately this version of the song runs about thirty seconds shorter, despite the addition of a few extra bars in the instrumental break. Although less finished, like many Kinks outtakes there's more 'life' about this early version somehow, before the multiple re-takes rather 'lost' the essence of the track, whilst typically the elaborate horn parts are already here in full. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Preservation Act One' (or the 'Preservation' set if you own the two-disc version with both parts together)
Non-Album Recordings #13: 1974
Recording 'Mirror Of Love' appears to have been something of a struggle: The Kinks had never recorded in a 1920s sound before and the song was written for the 'floozie' character to sing, not Ray. In the end Ray will dislike his fully made recording (cut during the sessions for 'Preservation Two') so much that he'll end up going back to the demo (recorded somewhere around 'Preservation One') for the record. The 'finished but abandoned' version is slightly slower, with an extended oompah band opening and with far too much going on, Ray has rarely sounded more uncomfortable than here as he miserably fails to get into character and over intones and adds too much vibrato in a key plainly not made for him. The wonder isn't why this version got the push in favour of the demo (which is less elaborate but lots more fun) but why the notoriously perfectionist Ray allowed this version out at all? And why isn't Marianne Price singing on it? (Why oh why did she get 'Scrapheap City' instead which Ray sounds so great on?) Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Preservation Act Two'
While we're on the subject why oh why oh why was 'Slum Kids' not included - or apparently recorded - for either of the two under-running 'Preservation' albums? A song about a human heart and glimpse of conscience that does a far better job of providing 'Mr Flash's back story than 'Second-Hand Car Spiv', this is a fictional re-write of 'Dead End Street', with a more challenging chorus ('So how dare you criticise when you don't know what it's like!') Ray is often at his best when singing about class and his injustice boils over nicely on this song, discussing why generation after generation of people from certain neighbourhoods still keep being written off by society when they have so much to offer. The band may have been thinking about their own misplaced childhood 'from the wrong side of the tracks' - however rather than demolishing the past away and starting again what town planners should have done was to simply put more money in and helped more people. 'Why Lord is there so much injustice in this world?' sighs Ray and Dave together on a rare duet over a nicely bluesy backing. As a song it lasted longer in The Kinks' setlist than any of the 'Preservation' material, perhaps because it works so well outside the concept: you don't need to know that this song is about Mr Flash to resonate with this song and there are some fine live versions out there. The version featured as a bonus track on 'Preservation Act Two' was taped during the band's 'comeback' period in 1977/78 but audio versions of it as part of the 'Preservation' stage show do survive, where it came in the story where 'Second Hand Car Spiv' should have been. A true lost gem. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Preservation Act Two' and 'Picture Book' (2008)
Non-Album Recordings #14: 1977
Not for the first or last time, the song that inspired a whole album and which was initially the working title got thrown aside at the last minute. Re-titling 'Sleepwalker' after 'The Poseur' would have made a few subtle differences, making this more an album about seeing past the surface than about the 'darker side' of human nature. You can kind of see why Ray dropped the song as an album title - it just doesn't sound like one - but it's hard to see why this poor song got dropped entirely. It's a fun song about a wannabe lothario whose drawn in the same damning manner as past classics like 'A Dedicated Follower Of Fashion' and most recently 'Prince Of The Punks', Ray laughing at a guy whose actually so insecure he 'rehearses' his chat-up lines 'standing in front of the mirror all day!' Ray reigns in his sarcasm in the performance for once though and sounds almost sorry for his latest 'victim', who'll inevitably come a cropper because he's so out of his depth ('He's just a poseur but he thinks he's a Casanova!) Like the lyrics, the music tries hard to strut and come up with a cod disco step but it's one that's just a little too elaborate for it's own good and soon has the narrator tripping over his own big feet. Presumably the song was abandoned before the end of the sessions, as the version used on the 'Sleepwalker' CD sounds noticeably less polished than the finished record - and a lot better all round in terms of 'sound' to be honest, being much livelier all round without the re-takes. The song is a bit one-joke by Ray's high standards, though. Find it on: 'Sleepwalker' (CD re-issue) and the box set 'Picture Book' (2008)
Another lesser outtake from 'Sleepwalker', 'Artificial Light' is a throwback to the band's R and B days and has a noticeable 50s sound with the puffing harmonica and strutting guitar work. Lyrically it's another Ray Davies song about not judging by appearances - that we all look the same underneath 'artificial light' (and recalling 'When I Turn Off The Living Room Light' from 'The Eleventh Hour'). Ray's narrator is in a disco, of all places, falling in love with someone from just their stance and body movements - he can't even tell her skin tone underneath the neon light of the club. The narrator realises that he 'wouldn't know what to say' if they met in the daylight, but in the artificial light he can pretend he's someone else and wear a false confidence he doesn't have in the outside world. It's a very Kinks song, with the oh so Ray Davies line about the mix of reality and fantasy on 'to be yourself you gotta put on an act', but something about this recording never quite clicks into place. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Sleepwalker'
'On The Outside' is another sweet but rather more substantial song that takes a far more empathetic view of the gay and cross-dressing scene than 'Lola'. Sensing that a lot of gay fans have latched onto the Kinks (not just for their name and 'that' single but for all the band's protest songs about being 'proud' to be different), Ray tries to imagine what it must be like for his more vulnerable fans to 'come out'. He imagines them stuck at home, unable to turn to anyone before offering out a hand of friendship ('You shouldn't feel any guilt or have any doubt, you gotta let yourself out while there's something left of you!') The whole piece is wrapped up with a turbulent instrumental section where Dave and John Gosling have a great battle, mirroring the narrator's indecision and restlessness, but still trapped within the confines of John Dalton and Mick Avory's tight repetitive rhythm section. A brave sentiment even for the supposedly more 'accepting' late 1970s, this 'Dear Prudence' for the gay community with the comforting lines 'you should be glad to be gay - nobody cares anyway' should have won the band a great deal of respect, with only the condescending chorus line 'stop acting like a lady and cry like a baby' not ringing true (the song it 'lifts' from is Tom Robinson's 'Glad To Be Gay' - see  'Prince Of The Punks' for the significance of this). Unfortunately the world never got a chance to hear it until as late as 1994 by which time the world was, at long last, so accepting of the gay community that a song like this seemed like a charming time capsule rather than a relevant song about sexuality. The world received not just one mix of the song that year but two - one made at the time and one specially for the CD; unusually the 1994 mix is better, with more echo and effects that give a real feeling of 'space' to the song. Find it on: two mixes (one 1970s, one 1990s) of the song can be found on the CD re-issue of 'Sleepwalker'
'Father Christmas' is the most Scrooge-like festive song in my collection, released typically too late for the Christmas 1977 market so most fans own the re-release from the following yuletide. It also happens to be the most accurate Christmas song around (trust Ray Davies to see through all the tinsel!), especially on re-release in the middle of the 'Winter Of Discontent' (the load of strikes that led to Margaret Thatcher getting in power - not that The Kinks will think much of her either given 'Dear Margaret'!) Ray was once a Father Christmas outside a 'department store' who was mugged not for his toys but for his money by a load of cynical children who are tired of seeing all the treats going 'to the little rich boys'. Instead they plead Ray's Santa Claus 'to give my daddy a job 'cause he needs one!' and request a machine gun so that they can scare their peers and elders as much as the world scares them. All of this is tied into a frenetic sped up 'You Really Got Me' style riff which features some great rat-a-tat drumming from Mick Avory and our-rocks any of the usual festive songs by Wizzard and Slade. So why don't we hear this on the radio across December this often? Well once again The Kinks are at such an angle compared to the rest of the Christmas market, reminding the world about 'the kids who got nuttin' at a time when the world wants to ignore the sad stuff and concentrate on festive cheer and believing good will to all men. But good will won't of course help with poverty and Christmas isn't the 'equal' time it's meant to be but a time that brings ever bigger divides between those with and without. As ever The Kinks are speaking the uncomfortable truth people just don't want to hear and the radio/TV stations looking for good-time clips to get people in the mood and the shopping malls trying to make people buy lots were never ever going to play this. How very Kinks to give the world a Bah Humbug when they're looking for mistletoe and wine. The song memorably caused a fracas one night on the 1977 tour when Ray went off stage to dress up in a Santa Suit and predictably took hours to change. Dave got so annoyed that when his brother walked on stage he started up 'You Really Got Me' instead and 'made' his brother leap around in the hot santa suit - the first few rows could reportedly hear Santa Ray swearing under his breath throughout the song! Ho ho ho indeed! Find it on: 'Misfits' (CD re-issue) - which is odd because the b -side is on previous CD 'Sleepwalker'...
Much more entertaining - if even less in the Christmas spirit - is B-side 'Prince Of The Punks'. A salutary lesson to never ever get on the wrong side of Ray Davies, it's a damning attack on Tom Robinson, at the time punk extraordinaire and now a respected BBC6 music DJ. The two fell out after Ray 'discovered' him and promised to sign him to Kinks label Konk, but got distracted by the latest shenanigans in the band's ongoing soap opera; meeting up to discuss what to do next, Tom was kept waiting over an hour and played a sarcastic rendition of 'Tired Of Waiting For You' when Ray finally entered the room; the meeting went downhill from there. Damning his new discovery as a 'day tripper' punk who'd taken up the genre simply because it was the next 'hip' thing ('he's much too old at 28, but he thinks he's 17!' is the 33 year old songwriter's snide comment) and attacking Tom's breakthrough and actually rather Kinksy hit 'Glad To Be Gay' ('Tried to be gay but it didn't pay - so I got a motorbike instead!'), Ray is on top sarcastic form. Just to ram the point home the backing for this song isn't punk but rockabilly 50s, Ray perhaps commenting on how so much of the punk imagery was 'borrowed' from the look of Ray's childhood. Dave, particularly, has fun channelling his inner Chuck Berry. One of the band's better exclusive B-sides, it seems odd that this song didn't also appear on the next album 'Misfits', where it made have spiced that record up a bit. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Sleepwalker', bizarrely - the A side is on follow-up 'Misfits'
Non-Album Recordings #15: 1979
A 'Low Budget' outtake, 'Hidden Quality' rocks with the harsh aggressive tones of 'Attitude' before settling down into the sweet coo-ing tones of the more reflective, ballad-like Kink songs. This time it's very much a girl whose got Ray's goat (almost certainly Chrissie Hynde) and he's both perplexed and proud of her ability to 'make a rubbish bin look almost kind of sexy' but who mixes a 'crude exterior' with 'something superior'. Ray stays because of a 'hidden quality' she doesn't even know she's got - a certain special spark that no one else can see but which makes her stand out from all the pretty bimbos and career girls he meets. Ray doesn't come out and say it but her 'hidden quality' seems to be that she's unpredictable so he's never quite sure what to expect from her - which intrigues him all the more. Interestingly, this simple song is structured more like the early pop classics 'Stop Your Sobbing' and 'Go To Sleep' that The Pretenders have just been busy covering, although updated to 1979 technology the sound seems pretty slight. Probably a good idea to have left in the can as it's not up to even the worst track on 'Low Budget', but a nice bonus for fans to hear in 2008. Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008)
Non-Album Recordings #16: 1980
Curiously absent from the bare-bones 'Give The People' CD re-issue 'Nuclear Love' and the following three songs were all demoed early on in the sessions but weren't released until some twenty-seven years later. 'Nuclear Love' is perhaps the most interesting and very much of its time, as Ray uses one of his more unlikely romantic metaphors - a nuclear bomb! This is clearly a cold war song, whatever the love lyrics and might perhaps represent the 'threat' Ray felt he was under from all sides (the Russians and Chrissie Hynde - both being pretty scary!) Rattled off at the same intense pace as other paranoid Kinks songs like 'Pressure', there's also a slight touch of music hall in there thanks to Ian Gibbons' piano that means we aren't quite sure whether to be laughing or sobbing. Ray runs out of steam early on in the song too, with verses all too clearly 'blocked in' after his fine opening rant. Still with a bit of work this could have worked nicely, at least up to the level of the similarly demented simple rock songs on the album. Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008)
'Duke' is a rather odd tribute to John Wayne who'd died in June 1979. The epitome of the sturdy good guy, Ray praises his character here in a heartfelt song about a hero figure who 'fought a million battles and never lost one'. Most of the song is a bit of a clod-hopping one-note disaster to be honest, without Ray's usual style and wit and it's perhaps merciful that this never turned into a full song. However the chorus is nice, Ray returning to his favourite theme about nostalgia and longing to be Peter Pan, sighing 'I adolized you as a child - but we've all grown up and learned a lot since then'. Like 'Celluloid Heroes' the people behind the film world are found wanting compared to the stars - however there's less emotion or resonance about this song than the previous career highlight.
'Maybe I Love You' starts off sounding pretty good - there's a sweet guitar part and one of those shuffle-thyms-attached-to-a-ballad-which-should-never-work-in-a-month-of-sunny-afternoons-yet-somehow-does. However then the vocals sweep in, with Ray backed by a choir of female gospel singers and the sound is ugliness personified (The Kinks really don't suit the 'mass vocal' sound as anyone with ears and a copy of 'The Kinks Khoral Kollektion will attest - maybe it's the thing about individuality about mass consumerism or maybe Ray just has one of those voices). Luckily there aren't that many of them and they die away quickly, suggesting that Ray too thought they weren't quite working and abandoned the song early on. Aside from the early promise, that was probably a good call - there's nowhere interesting this song could really have gone with that lyric and that chorus. Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008)
A very poppy song for the period, 'Stolen Away Your Heart' has a lovely tune but needed a whole new set of words to be counted amongst the higher echelons of Kinkdom. In it Ray bids adieu to another relationship by wishing that he'd spent less time worrying about staying together with a partner and more time enjoying himself and seeing the bigger picture. It might not be a coincidence that this track sounds very like a Pretenders song, recalling the chord structure of their Kink kover 'Stop Your Sobbing' in particular - Ray's relationship with Chrissie Hynde was heading into its final phase in 1980 (though thematically this is 'You Make It All Worthwhile' from 'A Soap Opera' again). If so then it is perhaps the closest thing to a conventional love song from the whole of the couple's time together, though it's not a particularly memorable song. Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008)
Non-Album Recordings #17: 1983
For some reason 'State Of Confusion' featured a whole load of unreleased songs during the sessions - the first time this had happened since 'Sleepwaker'. 'Once A Thief' is probably the right song to have been given it's marching orders, a noisy unsubtle slab of Americana noise although the lyrics are more interesting than the tune or performance. Ray plays a petty criminal whose seen the error of his ways - but even decades on every time something goes wrong people naturally assume he was responsible. He may just possibly have had his latest romantic split Chrissie Hynde plastered all over the papers, with most coverage 'assuming' the elder Ray must be at fault after similar bust marriages in the past (Chrissie has had similar problems since it must be said). By Kinks standards, though, this is basic stuff. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'State Of Confusion'
'Long Distance' was technically released at the time - but in a strange move only on 'cassette' version of the 'State Of Confusion' album (to put this into context the record is one of the band's shortest so space could surely have been found on vinyl had they really wanted to include it). A sad song about a long distance relationship, with the narrator spending all the money he's gone abroad to earn on phone-calls back home, it's a sad song with the feeling that the relationship is inevitably going to crash and burn although neither side quite wants to admit it. However Ray seems at pains to point out that this is fiction, unusually giving his character a 'name', with the Dr he sees referring to him as 'Mr Boyd'. Listen out too for the crowd-pleasing reference to  'A Long Way From Home'. It's not one of the band's best, although it's a more pleasing end to the album than 'Bernadette'. Find it on: the cassette version and the CD re-issue of 'State Of Confusion'
'Noise' is the best of the 'State Of Confusion' outtakes. Returning to his beloved theme of insomnia, Ray is a tired worker whose been up all night 'working at the factory' and is desperate for sleep before his shift begins again. However his mother's playing the radio loud, his sister's screaming, they're re-doing the road outside and there's nothing good on the radio to drown it all out. One of the band's better stabs at new wave, Ray complains about the noise over and over (adding 'noise' in a deep voice rumble behind his main vocal). Unusually Dave joins the party late, his guitar only cutting in partway through even though his aggressive channelling of his brother' predicament is one of the song's better features. The middle eight is particularly interesting, with an oriental sound not heard on a Kinks song for a long long time. This song really should have made the record, although it loses its potency after a few playings. Find it on: the cassette version and the CD re-issue of 'State Of Confusion'
'Come Dancing' sounds very different. The backing sounds more like Madness, up-beat Ska, and played with if anything even more gusto than the finished version. Ray's vocal though is fragile and sad, with this song much closer to the pain of losing 'part of my childhood' and Ray perhaps thinking more about his lost sister Rene. To be fair demos are always tricky beasts - it could just be that Ray had a cold or was trying to save his voice - but it's certainly striking just how different the mood of this early version is. The horns, too, are missing from the finale although everything else is pretty much as it is on the record, just rougher. Find it on: 'Picture Book' (2008)
Non-Album Recordings #18: 1988
Though deeply nostalgic for the world in general and Muswell Hill in particular, The Kinks had never really been nostalgic about themselves. However by 1988, with the end of the road perhaps in sight thanks to band tensions and more record company politics, the band contemplated their 25th anniversary in reflective mood. The one lone new song recorded in the studio for the live album of the same name, 'The Road' is a fun travelogue remembering where it all began and like 'Rock and Roll Fantasy' before it offering up all the reasons why the band are still doing it all these years later. Unusually Ray turns his back o his 'home' to embrace the life of a 'wandering gypsy' and celebrates everything from his years touring with The Kinks, the good and the bad from fallen comrades who took too much drugs to the wine women and song to the simple breakfasts. It's clear the tour van is a substitute home and Ray sings to us of 'living in it, eating in it, sleeping in it' and the fact that 'the road' is the first thing he sees when he wakes up in the morning. The song then turns to The Kinks own history with Ray turning his usual witty character observations on his original bandmates: Pete doesn't get much of a look in and 'Mrs Avory's child was all fingers and thumbs - but solid as a rock at setting time on the drums!' while against all the odds 'Dave the Rave' gets away best with a 'rock and roll riff'. References to 'A Dedicated Follower Of fashion' and Kink kontemporaries 'The Who, The Led Zeppelin and Free' are sweet, but more worrying is the last verse with 'everyone now a rival' and Ray admitting 'sometimes I get suicidal'. However there's one last gorgeous push with an oh so Kinks chord progression and some truly sublime harmonies that lead to an elongated rocked-out last note. It's a great anniversary moment and easily the highlight of a very patchy LP. Find it on: 'The Road' (1988)
Talking of which, the other 'new' song (but this time heard live) has clearly been written more for Ray's then-wife Pat Crosbie and her friends to dance to than because it warrants inclusion on a Kinks release. 'It (I Want It)' is a very mid-80s Kink song about a bored housewife stuck at home and 'feeling tired, feeling stressed' (it even starts with ray using his old trick of suddenly appearing, pre-recorded on a TV screen on an advertisement). A damning take on a consumerist society, it suggests that Ray had now taken to watching the commercials between the new bulletins on American TV. A very dramatic percussion-heavy sound dominated the track, but without the visuals (which were often billed by critics as highlights of the live shows) the song falls rather flat on record and there's no real reason for it to be here. Find it on: 'The Road' (1988)
Non-Album Recordings #19: 1989
'Bright Lights' - a 'bonus' track on the CD release of 'UK Jive' - is a noisy and rather unfocussed Dave Davies rocker, not unlike those from his trio of solo LPs earlier in the decade. A rare tale of marital unhappiness (Dave and wife Lisbet - Pete Quaife's cousin - were breaking up and will get divorced in 1990) the lyrics sigh over how something that once promised much and dazzled with starry hope can now be filled with such darkness and dread ('Time's running out just as fast as it can' is the sighing opening line). Dave's narrator is eager to escape married life and go back to being single - but it 'half scares him' too. with a nice nod of the hat to Kinks Klassik 'No More Looking Back' in the way everything seems to be reminding him of his ex. On most other 1980s Kinks albums this average song might have fared better, but it's just not as memorable or passionate as Dave's other two songs either side of it. Find it on: the CD version of 'UK Jive'
'Perfect Strangers', the final track on the CD version of 'UK Jive', is an unsung Dave Davies classic. The catchy chorus dabbles with contemporary music but handles it in a much better way than many Kinks recordings, with the babble of a synthesiser continually brushed aside by the more traditional sixties verses and a keening middle eight. The lyrics return to a favourite Dave theme - the idea that mankind is part of a wider group that understand each other at a different level. Writing about the sudden connection we sometimes feel to strangers we've never met before, Dave widens the metaphor out to humanity in the wider sense, telling us that deep down none of us are strangers to each other - thus updating his 1970 song 'Strangers' by telling us it's just not true; that man is never truly lonely. A great performance with multiple Daves all singing the classic tune while Dave solos to perfection (like the other two Dave songs on the album Ray probably isn't on it all), you have to wonder why this classic track wasn't allowed on the album (elder brother jealousy?) 'Perfect Strangers' certainly sounds as if it belongs on 'UK Jive' more than the guitarist's other songs for the album: the middle eight's slow scary fall with the lyric 'I know there will come a day...' is particularly right for an album about hitting rock bottom and finding no way to go but up. A cracking band performance - the last with Ian Gibbons in the line-up - makes for a memorable finale to 'UK Jive' - certainly more so than 'Dear Margaret' was on the original. The song is a lot more developed than most of Dave’s delightful but hard-goingly raw solo work and would have made a fine single with its power chords and floating melody line, having much in common thematically and musically with Dave’s solo LP Chosen People (according to Kink, yet again, the song received a great deal of airplay from the few disc-jockeys who noticed the UK Jive record, but both his brother and record company preferred to go with one of Ray’s songs as the single, not for the first time apparently). A song about that magical spark in people which makes them become ‘friends’ and ‘lovers’ rather than simply ‘acquaintances’, it returns us to the very 60s concept of Good Vibrations with a sound that’s about as contemporary as the Kinks had achieved up till that period, all digital-smooth backing and whacking drums. For once on this website, the late 1980s trappings work, turning this simple song into a powerhouse of a recording, one that sounds as if there’s a lot at stake for the narrator worried if he will ever meet his true soul-mate. Stylistically, this recording is the odd one out on the album and sounds as if it was recorded by a different band entirely (actually only Ray is missing from the group, not unusual on Dave’s songs) but thematically this is a return to UK Jive’s theme of how there are only a certain few people we can ever truly let our guard down to, a few people to whom we aren’t ‘perfect strangers’. There’s a clever play on words here than sounds more like Ray’s work than Dave’s – the ‘perfect’ stranger of the title doesn’t mean ‘complete’ stranger – it means ‘perfect’ stranger – ie someone you haven’t met yet who happens to share the same interests, hopes and emotions that you do and is a ‘perfect’ match. This song is another small triumph for the younger Davies brother, with a firm message, clever words and a pretty commercial tune that doesn’t do a disservice to its complex subject matter. Perfect Strangers also neatly sums up the album as a whole, being at once commendably adventurous and far more in keeping with the Kinks’ ‘natural’ style than most of their work in the 1980s. Find it on: the CD version of 'UK Jive'
An outtake from 'UK Jive', 'Million Pound Semi-Detached' was originally the title track. Recalling the songs Ray had written years about real estate and moving house, it features an older-than-usual narrator who now has a family, is facing retirement and owns his own 'Shangri-La'. However the later lyrics make it clear Ray's singing about the generation slightly ahead and he's basically seeing life through the eyes of his sister sand Uncle Arthur again - reflecting on all the years they worked so hard with the house summing up more than just bricks and a mortar, now 'the sum total of all of our lives'. For all its promise, though, this cheerful song is rather bland and doesn't really have the impact of the other songs on 'UK Jive'. Ian Gibbons provides an excellent synth-brass accompaniment though and there's a slight return to the big band trad jazz of 'Come Dancing' et al. The best line: 'Once an Eglishman's home was his castle - now it's just a free-hold investment to buy!' Find it on: the bonus disc released with 'Waterloo Sunset - The Best Of The Kinks' (1997)
Ein, zwei, drei, veir! 'New World' is one of the strangest Kinks recordings from the 1980s, which sounded even stranger when revived for release in 1991 and the contemporary sound seemed just that little bit 'off' after the world had moved on by two years. A real experiment, this track was layered by Ray collage-style in pieces and comes dangerously close to rap at times as he speak-sings over a drum track and a synth part. 'The war is over, but the battle has just begun' he intones, 'why?????' before listing a long list of countries with refugees leaving for America for no apparent reason and counting down random numbers in German, as you do. It sounds not unlike The Human League until Ray's vocal suddenly wakes up in the second half '20th Century Man' style and he gets all screamy and deranged. The lyrics teasingly refer to many tracks on the 'UK Jive' album ('War Is Over' 'Aggravation') which suggests he may have intended it as a 'sampler' to promote the album - of course all of this meant nothing to most of the fans who bought this song on final release in 1991 as part of the 'Did Ya?' EP. Even by Kinks standards, a bit bonkers. I give this one an Ein out of Zehn. Find it on: the 'Did Ya?' EP (1991)
Non-Album Recordings #20: 1991
Perhaps the greatest Kinks song of the 1990s (not that there's all that much in terms of competition given that the band only released one album), 'Did Ya?' is a witty and oh so Kinks response to the growing sense of nostalgia for the 1960s in the decade and the appearance of so many old gems on CD for the first time. Ray repeats his message from 'Where Have All The Good Times Gone?' by remembering himself as being stupid rather than cool as he strutted about London wearing the latest Carnaby Street fashions. Ray also reflects on the changes since then: the minis are still there but are now prey for over-enthused traffic wardens and like Arthur and the post-war dream before him the 1960s hopes are punctured as being 'a life of false illusions and promiscuity, leading us down a class-less road to mediocrity' (has there ever been a more Davies line than that?) Ray is at his acerbic best across the track, lampooning himself and his whole generation with this song's cheery chorus of 'in the summertime' (from 'Sunny Afternoon') and even repeats the old 'Village Green' take on photographers taking pictures of things without really 'seeing' them. Perhaps not the most obvious choice for an EP lead-single (it is, after all, deeply rude to the audience who are most likely to buy it!) this song makes more sense as the grand finale of 'Phobia' where it's usually added as a 'bonus' track and makes for a nice counterpunch to the rather too earnest 'Scattered' which normally ends that album. Hilarious as only The Kinks can be. Find it on: the 'Did Ya?' EP (1991)
Every bit as good is 'Look Through Any Doorway', a rare case of Dave writing a song for his brother to sing in a belated case of group harmony. A sort of re-write of The Hollies' 'Look Through Any Window' (but using a different appliance!) Dave looks on the world around him and realises that everyone has their own story to tell and an opinion to give. That makes him handing this song over to Ray all the more powerful and it's a welcome chance to hear the elder brother on what's otherwise very much a 'Dave' song, with spiritual lyrics over a hard-rocking backing track. The middle eight is the best part of the song, as the track stops coasting and everything suddenly becomes intense: 'Look at all the wars, the part of greed that affects us all...' The main melody is still pretty in its meandering though and the verses picturing an average person on an average day recall the special relationship of the band and fans last heard on 'Rock and Roll Fantasy'. In terms of purely new songs this EP is proving to be the best Kinks release in an awful long time - what a shame there wasn't a full album in 1991! Find it on: the 'Did Ya?' EP (1991)
It's not quite farewell just yet but The Kinks - always keen to look back with any old excuse - get plasticising early with a third 'new' track on the EP. Well, I say 'new' - 'Days' is of course an old classic which despite being largely ignored on release in 1968 has since gone on to become one of those 'retrospective hits' that only The Kinks could have written. A farewell song to an era nobody else seemed to realise was closing, 'Days' sounds as if it was made for the band's fourth decade, not part of their first. The re-recording was inspired, though, not out of nostalgia but commercial instinct - the song had recently been featured in a 'Yellow Pages' advert (if you're not British then think of them as larger phone directories but for companies not people - and no, nobody is quite sure why they're yellow except that it helps them to stand out from the bottom of a pile in a cluttered room when you need it in a hurry). The fact that singer Kirsty MacColl's ok-ish cover had matched the original's success (weirdly both peaked at #12 in the UK) as recently as 1989 meant that more of the general public than usual remembered the song, The time was clearly now. Personally I always found the rushed 1968 recording the weakest aspect of a gorgeous single so I was particularly keen for the re-recording with the added years of wisdom. Unfortunately The Kinks decided to entirely re-arrange rather than tweak the song, starting off with a strummed 'Lola' style acoustic style opening and then turning into an epic synth-and-guitar-heavy lighters-aloft ballad. While not the monstrosity some re-recordings can be (it's a lot better than 'The Beach Boys Salute Nascar' curio of 1998, The Hollies' 1980s German-made 'Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress' remake, any of The Searchers' re-cuts, Lulu's 'Shout' 25th anniversary or 'My Sweet Lord 2000' for instance, horrors all) it still seems largely pointless and with Ray audibly straining for the notes his younger self made with ease. Like many a Kinks 1980s recording they've gone for space and power and noise - this song was always about subtlety and charm. Ah well, at least it was just the B-side I suppose and the song's innocence makes for an interesting counterbalance to the more worldly wise 'Did Ya?' Find it on: Did Ya?' EP (1991)
A NOW COMPLETE LIST OF KINKS ARTICLES TO READ AT ALAN’S ALBUM ARCHIVES: