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Friday, March 03, 2006

FRUSTRATING BOOK, FRUSTRATING BAND





I love The Kinks. Most people like The Kinks - 'You Really Got Me', 'Sunny Afternoon', 'Tired of Waiting'. They'll turn 'em up when they come on the radio. I love them. It ain't easy. There's a lot wrong with the Kinks, and there's a lot wrong with 'The Kinks' by Neville Marten & Jeff Hudson - mostly Neville and Jeff.

I hate these guys.

I'm glad I read the book because I gleaned some trivial info (Lola is Candy Darling...sort of), but Neville and Jeff fuck it up by inserting their stupid anglocentric - fan dominated, British Top 40 point of view on a band who abandoned such bullshit in 1968.

The popular English view of The Kinks is that they were over by 1970, 'Lola' being a freakish last gasp chart-topper.

That makes me mad.

I like the early singles oriented Kinks as much as anybody. It's undeniable stuff. I prefer the late seventies early eighties Kinks. An argument could be made that I enjoy that period more because it coincides with my 'magic music age'. It is true that I tend to revel in the music of that period, it was, after all my adolescence.

In 1975 The Kinks left RCA and signed with Clive Davis and Arista. After six years (69 - 75) of concept records and vaudvillian tours, Ray Davies decided to make rock and roll records again. Dwindling sales may have played a part in this shift, but it's more likely that Ray just wanted to. He's that kinda guy.

'Sleepwalker' ushered in this period in 1976. 'Juke Box Music', with it's chorus of: "Juke box music, It's only juke box music" seemed to set the tone.



1978 gave us 'Misfits' and 'Rock and Roll Fantasy'; a song that brilliantly surmised the band at that juncture.



In 1979 The Kinks delivered what I believe is their most consistent, indeed their best album - 'Low Budget'.



Most Kinks records have two or three great songs, two or three decent ones, and two or three turds. 'Low Budget' has no turds, and seven great songs: the title track, 'Catch Me Now I'm Falling', '(I Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman', 'National Health', 'Pressure', 'Attitude', and 'Little Bit of Emotion'.

Seven great songs is no small feat for any band, much less a band given up for dead by their home country. Fortunately for The Kinks, America in the late seventies was very receptive to them, and 'Low Budget' placed higher and sold more than any previous Kinks record - in America.

Neville and Ken aren't American. They didn't get it. They didn't get 1981's 'Give the People What They Want' either.



Again, in my rarely humble opinion, 'GTPWTW" is their second best record. Side Two alone is better than any other Kinks record next to 'Low Budget'. I guess Ray wasn't giving the English people what they wanted, which was more 'Waterloo Sunset'.

At any rate, The Kinks are a great and inconsistent band. Undeniable greatness coupled with undeniable failure. I can only aspire to such.

Neville and Jeff can suck my ass.

Comments:
While I don't spin Kinks records much, my brother was a huge fan and wore out the grooves on all those records you mentioned. It was fun hearing about them again. There were some great tunes on some of those, but also quite a few duds at least that's how I remember them.

I think that's what kept me from jumping on their bandwagon along side my brother with the Kinks. Him and I played entire album sides a lot on account of having to share a stereo and the standard deal was: "You get an album side, I get an album side". I'd start grooving to one of the better tunes and then be hugely let down with the one that followed. I even remember thinking to myself back then, "How would these guys think this was an album worthy tune?"

Have you heard Ray's new solo effort yet? I just read about in RS last night.
 
GTPWTW features "Better Things," which is one of the prettier songs Ray ever wrote. I remember listening to "'Round the Dial" on the Walkman of my brother's friend Tom. I was probably 12 and I was really excited by the sound of the guitar.

If Ray had only recorded the early singles and the Village Green album, he would stil be one of the best songwriters of his generation, if not the best.

Aside from heartbreaking melodies, what is so attractive about Ray's writing is his lyrical stance. He skewers foibles and vanities, but you never feel like he is talking down to people or being cruel.

And then there are the little bridges in songs like "This Time Tomorrow" or "Days" that are so sublime, so perfect that you can't wait to listen to the song again just for those glorious 30 seconds.

Yeah, I love Ray and I love the Kinks, warts and all.
 
As an indication of how low the career arc of The Kinks had fallen, I know two friends who saw the band perform in their college gyms (Dartmouth and Princeton) in 1990. Afterwards, the friend from Princeton went out with the band for a curry. That's pretty depressing stuff for a band that was at the top of the charts.
 
I think their audience has just become more selective, and thier Lp's should have been mixed in dubly of course.
 
FYI, if you can't see the images, click on 'em.
 
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