Friday, July 13, 2012

A few more great Kinks songs

In gratitude to Ray Davies for answering a few of my questions, I have to post a few more links to favourite Kinks' songs of mine, while trying to eschew the obvious (I mean, y'all KNOW "David Watts," right? Even if just from the cover by The Jam; and surely you're familiar with "Victoria," with its playful Hanson Brothers variant. And lord knows I'm not going to chase down links for "Lola" or "You Really Got Me" or the other handful of Kinks songs that radio has so overemphasized over the years they've kinda been half-wrecked... EVERYONE knows those songs, eh? And if they don't, they have a pretty good chance of discovering them elsewhere).

No, we're going to share some songs you might NOT know, unless you're a Kinks fan like me. For all you smokers out there - check out "Harry Rag." Drinkers, meanwhile, should spend time with "Alcohol," and tea addicts with "Have a Cuppa Tea" - my parents' favourite Kinks' song, which I used to play on a crappy little cassette player when we went on drives in the car, in between listening to my Dad's Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, and Charley Pride cassettes. I don't remember where I found a cassette of Muswell Hillbillies, as a kid - I was surely no older than ten, and seem to recall picking it out of a discount bin because I'd heard The Kinks on the radio or something - but I'm very glad I did. What a terrific album to start with this band (see also "20th Century Man" or - hell, every song on it is great, though its such a cohesive recording that none stand out as obvious "hits").

For those with a fondness for Calypso and Caribbean music, check out "Apeman" - my favourite Kinks' song in grade nine! (The studio version is a little more overt about the Calypso, as I recall). And for just really amazing songcraft, see "Arthur," off Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire).

One of the only things I remember from seeing The Kinks circa 1981-82 on the Give The People What They Want tour was that Ray ran on the spot while shaking up two beer bottles, then spritzed the audience from the stage at the Pacific Coliseum as they started "Low Budget," one of the best songs ever written about being kinda broke. (The other clear memory was that Davies joked that "You Really Got Me" was "a song made famous by Van Halen. I don't remember a single other thing from that concert, much as I enjoyed it.)

Cinephile fans of Wim Wenders' great neo-noir, The American Friend, starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz (an adaptation of a couple of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels) might recognize "Too Much on My Mind" as one of the songs that hapless Ganz sings to himself as the plot thickens around him.

Davies mentions in the interview linked above that Bobcat Goldthwait is working on a project based on Schoolboys in Disgrace - check out "No More Looking Back," off that album, a song that I have often returned to in thinking about people no longer in my life.

I'm pretty sure those are all Ray Davies compositions. Of course, his brother Dave is a songwriter too. Check out his "Death of a Clown." Here's hoping that the two brothers will someday reunite and tour with The Kinks again - I could not bear to put Davies through the mill of having to answer questions about that yet again. (I wonder if the dream Ray mentions at the end of our mini-interview inspired any of "Catch Me Now I'm Falling?" That's actually NOT a favourite Kinks song of mine, but it's relevant, and its so brazen in copping a riff from "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that it does merit a certain admiration).

The song that Davies says was inspired by a dream, meanwhile, is "Waterloo Sunset" - one of the bands' greatest moments ever. A live choral version is here, relating to The Kinks Choral Collection; the song also appears on See My Friends, where he sings it with Jackson Browne, though that one doesn't appear to be on Youtube. Both of those seem sort of biding-time albums from Davies, playing with his back catalogue, but I really can't say I object, since he does do fresh and interesting things with the songs. And I mean, who knew that hearing Jon Bon Jovi sing with Ray on "Celluloid Heroes" could be so much fun?

Finally, since I talk briefly about punk rock with Davies, check out two of the punkier songs in the Kinks repertoire - "Attitude" and "Add It Up." And since I mention Tom Holliston's fondness for The Village Green Preservation Society - an album I also admire, though not quite as much as Muswell Hillbillies - check out "Village Green" and "Village Green Preservation Society." Can't go wrong there (great live video for that last clip, too).

I'll leave y'all to explore Ray Davies' solo output on your own - look up Other People's Lives or Working Man's Cafe, for starters... And then go buy tickets and see Ray Davies at the Vogue later tonight. This is a rare opportunity to see one of the 20th century's great pop craftsmen performing live; unlike many of his contemporaries, he's a man whose muse is still fully-firing, despite being just shy of spending five decades in the world of rock (The Kinks formed in 1964). How can this not be an epic show?

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