Why I Love The Kinks


It's possibly unseemly to piggy-back like this, but Stephen's quite lovely tribute to The Kinks has moved me to add a few words; particularly on the matter of Ray Davies songswriting.

I'm convinced that if you listen to The Kinks' recordings from the mid-to-late 60s at a young enough age (as I did) they never leave you for the rest of your life. Perhaps I'm being too general, but I believe Ray Davies songs connect with people like Stephen and myself because . . . speaking for myself, anyway . . . I grew up relatively conscious of the world around me and its 1001 varieties of heartbreak, absurdity, drunkenness, despair, joy, venality, myopia and occasional manifestations of real love and mercy. Davies wrote about it all with a bottomless compassion we could, even as kids, understand. He knew and cared about the human experience at our level, and he never tried to make the world in his songs seem any better or any worse than it was.

The most honestly emotional songwriter of our times (only Smokey Robinson, the Van Morrison of "Astral Weeks" and the Brian Wilson of "Pet Sounds" came close in those days), Ray Davies dealt with everyday living in ways the more celebrated songsmiths such as Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney, even (yes) Bob Dylan himself simply had no interest in. He gave us so much more than anyone else was giving us and, I don't know about Stephen, but who can not open their heart to an artist of that generosity?

3 comments:

swac said...

Maybe that's it...Davies always had this desire to speak to "the common man" in songs of greater eloquence and invention than the majority of his contemporaries. It's worth noting that The Kinks are one of the few bands of that era not to fall into the trap of psychedelic excess--in fact, I'd be surprised to learn of him doing any form of hallucinogenic substance--which may have made them chronically less hip in the late '60s, but certainly made for records that remain listenable years decades later.

I think that "common man" theme may have become more of a millstone in later years, the Soap Opera LP comes to mind, but even on Muswell Hillbillies, Davies managed to stay close to home and make it mean something. You never heard about his latest tax shelter or multi-millionaire girlfriend, but assumed he was comfortably well-off.

I'd still like to meet him some day (I've corresponded with original bassist Pete Quaife, which was a treat in and of itself) although I have this fear I'd be reduced to a tear-stained puddle trying to explain why his music, above all else, has got me through some of the most trying times in my life, and will continue to do so until it all comes crashing down for the last time. But I can't imagine my life without Days or Waterloo Sunset (or even a trifle like Sweet Lady Genevieve) to see me through.

Tom Sutpen said...

Stephen wrote:

It's worth noting that The Kinks are one of the few bands of that era not to fall into the trap of psychedelic excess--in fact, I'd be surprised to learn of him doing any form of hallucinogenic substance--which may have made them chronically less hip in the late '60s, but certainly made for records that remain listenable years decades later.

*****
There's so much about The Kinks that was different from the norm in those days it would be hard to catalogue it all at once. One difference worth mentioning: They were the only band that made not being hip genuinely cool. Ignoring the trends didn't seem like a social gaffe in their hands. Frank Zappa was posibly the only other artist at that time to reject the psychedleic era, but when he did it there was a somewhat mean-spirited glee attendant (which was liberating at the time, but in retrospect looks merely sour). The Kinks seemed to place a hand on one's shoulder and say, "It's okay. There's other things in the world worth paying attention to besides Day-Glo Milton Glaser posters of Che Guevara. Your lives, for one"

That had to be reassuring to people in the 60s who managed hear it.

monsieurblob said...

stick this one in too, m8