woensdag 24 augustus 2022

The hits of The Kinks, 1965 - 1969, part 3

With part three I conclude the hitsingles of The Kinks in this limited time frame of five years. What I would like to point to, before moving into the the final string of hits, is three things.

First, considering the huge number of hitsingles the band scored in these five years, shows how popular the band must have been at the time. So how come that nearly everybody seems to have forgotten the band? That may have to do with the fact that when the world was ready to go to big arena or stadium shows where the band could play its huge hits over and over again, The Kinks had fallen apart acrimoniously and never managed to patch up and two of the founding members were seriously ill by then. 2008 would have been the year to put the spotlight on The Kinks once again, Pete Quaife was too ill and then died and Dave Davies had suffered from a stroke. Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and The Who are still going at it. So should have The Kinks, as behind the first two, The Kinks and The Who were number three and four in 1965 - 69. Being on the wrong label, did not help as well. It always helps if others profit from the comeback as well, like a label selling more units.

Two is a comment on some of the b sides of the singles. From a simple sounding rock and roller like 'Sitting On My Sofa' to more complex songs like 'I'm Not Like Anybody Else' or a perfect pop song like 'Party Line'. Some of the b-sides I love as much as the hit on side a.

Three. Where The Kinks in the 1960s is concerned, for a long time I remained a singles fan. I had none of the albums at the time. My first album was 'Schoolboys In Disgrace' from 1975 or 76. This was when I rediscovered the band and started to follow it from 'Low Budget' onwards into the 1980s. The 1960s albums I thought to be rather disappointing when I started buying them. I still do not have them all. The album I have started to really and deeply admire is 'The Village Green Preservation Society'. It took me a few decades though to do so. No The Kinks album comes close to my favourite albums of the time and never will. At heart this is about a young boy discovering music and the impact it has on him. The Kinks have filled in that near blank space alright and will remain there forever, whenever that ends for me.

A final comment then. Looking at the pace of singles once again, the strain and pressure to come up with a new song, that is supposed to become a hit single, every few weeks, must have been huge. Despite keeling over a few times, Ray Davies must have been an extremely resourceful and strong young man, as he delivered for years on end, whether the audience approved or not. It did for a few years.

Autumn Almanac (1967, 6)

And here's one of the hiatuses in my The Kinks songs from the 60s. I certainly do not remember this one from then. Maybe not from terribly long afterwards. Also, it is a song I always had a bit of difficulty getting. As a result I never "really" listened to it, it seems. Listening to it today, I notice a few things. Yes, the song does not have the obvious quality of the songs preceding it. I also start noticing other elements. Despite the endless chord changes, this song flows so easily. The typical background vocals of Rasa Davies feature highly here. There are other great features besides the singing. The way Ray Davies manages to change the chords, and thus the feel and pace of Autumn Almanac, is masterly, to come back to the main melody in such a subtle way. And then that little trumpet here and there. Somewhere in the back of his mind the village green concept must have been creeping around already as the song fits far better there than with all that preceded this song. So, after a serious listening in 2022, I have to revise my view on Autumn Almanac. This is another classic The Kinks song alright. (The stereo mix is 10 seconds longer and has a psychedelic ending.)

Susannah's Still Alive (1967, 10)

The second Dave Davies solo single, is a The Kinks affair once again. The four original members play on Dave's second hit single. I was able to buy the single at the only record store and what not, in the village we moved to when it put the single in the sell out box on its counter four years after it left the charts. I have always loved this song and more than 'Death Of A Clown'. The way the piano kicks the song in the butt each time it plays its riff is masterly. It gives the song its extra, as does Ray Davies' harmonica playing. Dave holds the lead vocals in a great way, a decent singer in his own right. Susannah's Still Alive is powerful and different from what The Kinks usually do and still thanks to the background vocals e.g. still totally recognisable. Dave Davies was lazy as a songwriter, also kept very busy by his prolifically writing brother, but I do wander what we would have heard, had he been a tad bit lazy.

Wonder Boy (1968, 6)

Another of those dumped singles at Ter Meulen that I must own for more than 53 years today. I hadn't heard the song for years to be honest. It is not the first single to play when I take out my stack of The Kinks singles. Listening to it, I notice I can sing along the whole of the way and still have the same liking of the song. It has this feeling of summer around it. "Everyone is looking for the sun", set to music perfectly. The song is worked out in a perfect way. Nicky Hopkins' piano is just nice and someone is playing a mandoline or something like it. Again the harmonies are so intricate. The la-la-la is perhaps ordinary, later on in Wonder Boy (as my sleeve tells me), in the U.K. it is called Wonderboy, it becomes much more fun. Ray, Dave and Rasa going at it together. Now I know she's singing so much, I notice her voice more and more on these old recordings. I sort of marvel at how young I was when I already appreciated this music, as it is not easy going. I was a fan already by then and moved with the band's development despite my age. Not having any knowledge of The Kinks' albums, I devoured the band's singles as far as they came onto my path. And many did.

Lincoln County
(1968, 15)

This song became a hit only in my home country. Despite that I have no recollection of it whatsoever. I can't remember ever having heard it, although I must have. Dave Davies third hitsingle is different from the previous ones. It is country tinged, perhaps inspired by the title. The song is not that bad, really. The high organ played by Ray gives the song a distinct flavour. The strings do the rest. Again, the musicians are The Kinks, with Pete Quaife still on board. With this song, listen to the acoustic guitar runs, Dave must have been inspired by the work on Village Green. For the rest it stands aside from what The Kinks were doing at the time. He has made a song that is truly his own. Do I have a need to hear it more often? No, not necessarily but if it comes by, I can already sing along a little. "When I get home to Lincoln Country, la, la, la, la". It is the final song of Dave that charted. His fourth and final single, 'Hold My Hand' was released in 1969.

Days (1968, 7)

Another one of these suave songs Ray Davies wrote. Not an easy song yet where things seem to flow so easily from one part to the other, that are not so obvious. Not many other artists would have been able to come up with the individual parts. Most would have used them for three or four songs. In a way I've always had the same with Days as I had with 'Autumn Almanac'. The song seemed to complex for itself and for me. In 2022 I hear how clever the song was made. It all comes together so superbly, making it special. The mellotron, played by Nicky Hopkins, adds something extra to the song's sound, making it sound warmer. The piano is Hopkins as well and there are some very nice chord progressions he plays here. An inspiration for ABBA later on in e.g. 'Waterloo'? By this time The Kinks had become more popular in NL than in its home country, I notice. (Notice, Day's on the sleeve. A little language mistake...)

Starstruck (1968, 13)

At the time the album did almost nothing, for years aleady 'The Village Green Preservation Society' is seen as The Kinks' masterpiece and one of the overall great albums from the 60s and of all time. The single of the album was Starstruck. Listening to the song for the who knows how manyeth time, I still think the song is great. It has that cleverness in its melody, there are all the extras the average The Kinks song holds, the mellotron that wavers all through the song, Nicky Hopkins again and intricate vocal melodies. I can't help hearing a little of 'Come Dancing', The Kinks's last single hit in this country, already. Starstruck has something exotic around it as well. Again, the single only charted in my country. Reaching number 13 only, the loyalty was starting to wear thin already, as the final two charting songs will show.

Plastic Man (1969, 39)

A single charting for one week only and at the place just before the 40 in the Top 40? Can you call that a hit? It charted, so the answer is affirmative. Plastic Man is a so called non-album single. Released between two albums that are called concept albums since The Who's 'Tommy'. Plastic Man has an upbeat feeling to it. As such it is a fun song and just as fun to listen to. Fun fact. The song was meant as a rush release to score a new hit after the disastrous 1968. The word "bum" however led to a BBC boycott. Can you imagine? The hit potential is there, in my ears. A pleasant guitar hook, all four members singing nice harmonies. A less fun fact is that after recording Plastic Man and its b-side 'King Kong' Pete Quaife left the band. It wasn't until 2005 the four would be gathered again at The Kinks' induction at the U.K.'s Music Hall of Fame. Back to Plastic Man, of course the song is no match to the songs that came before or right after for that matter but deserved a better fate. For once again I'm listening to such a clever song.

Shangrila (1969, 27)

The final song here, is another minor hit and one I do not really remember from 1969. Two things may have caused this. The song is to complex for a young boy. On top of that the impression it made on me decades later is so huge it most likely wiped any recollection of what went on before. Shangrila is one of Ray Davies' masterpieces. Shangrila is so intricate, so delicate and so perfect. More happens in the 5 minutes and 21 seconds than my ears can keep up with. There's always something new to discover in the song. The mix between dreaming and reality is masterly. Dave Davies' background vocals seem to come from paradise, from another place than our valley of tears. In the story Ray Davies tells us of the way the world had come since the second world war. "Sit back in your old rocking chair", your worries are over, Shangrila has been reached, but has it? The cracks are shown in a clear way. In the meantime the music rises and rises. Whole orchestras have joined the song. All working towards the break in the song, where the band switches to a rocking mode, without loud electric guitars joining in by the way. And then the band turns into a mocking mood, when the shangrila is laughted at, before reality about the new shangrila sets in. Dave Davies moves back into the netherworld, with new (and old) bass player John Dalton taking the lead, while Mick Avery, making use of the room created, to go at it as well. Shangrila is such a fantastic song. It should have been a number 1 hit in 1969. I have no doubts here.

Late in 1969 The Kinks hit single career appeared over. Slowly the band faded in popularity. And then came that hit of hits, 'Lola' in 1970. It became number 1 twice in NL. In 1970 and in 1980 in the live version. However, if I remember correctly, the band had only three other minor hits besides Lola'. The band slowly built a second career in the U.S. as a rock band. Where I caught on as well with albums like 'Low Budget' and 'State Of Confusion'. However, had it not been for the album 'Schoolboys In Disgrace' from 1975, charting in the LP top 20 at the time, The Kinks for me might have become a relic, a cherished one at that, from my early youth. Like even The Beatles had become at some point. 'Schoolboys In Disgrace' is still one of my favourite albums from the 1970s and opened the option to keep following the band and to search backwards. When it all ended for the band in the mid 1990s, the quality of the last albums had declined beyond my interest. 'To The Bone' however was a great way to end a 30 year plus career.

Finally, my top 5 of the presented singles.

5. Waterloo Sunset

4. Till The End Of The Day

3. Mr. Pleasant

2. Shangrila

1. All Day And All Of The Night

Wout de Natris

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