Saturday, December 5, 2009

Kinkdom is a land populated exclusively by mods who wear shoulder-length hair which droops, boots, guitars who twang and baby doll eyes which turn you

...on and on.

With the release of Kinkdom in November 1965 the Kinks - or rather Reprise Records - had managed four LPs in the span of twelve months. There is no UK counterpart to this release, as it was cobbled together from singles A and B sides, the British EP Kwyet Kinks, and a leftover track from an early UK EP. That track - Louie Louie - makes its second US LP appearance as Reprise was desperate to fill up side two. By this point they had nearly emptied the vaults of Kinks material.

In terms of music this is an awesome album. All but two tracks were written by one of the Davies' brothers. But I would have ordered the tracks differently. For instance, why bury I Need You in the middle of side 2 when it cries out for either the lead-off track or the LP closer. But enough nitpicking. Reprise was right on to include A Well Respected Man, and even more so to release it as a single A side the previous month. Why it was relegated to an EP track in the UK by Pye is one of the great mysteries of Kinkdom. This would be the first of many character sketches to come in which Ray would explore the pompous and the pure. The amount of bile generated towards the "man" of this song is astonishing for a 1965 hit. Such a Shame is that rare early Kink's track to dwell in minor keys. Never Met A Girl Like You Before starts off with the opening riff from Tired Of Waiting For You, then completely switches gears into a perky R&B number. In the previously mentioned I Need You Ray Davies perfected the proto-metal genre he created with You Really Got Me. The sound is vastly improved over that earlier hit, as is the production which uses feedback to propel the song forward into the pile driving riff that carries through to the end. The Kinks would not return to this sort of raw rock until the late 70's, and even then they would never surpass it.

Today's bonus embedded video contains one of the oddest Kinks performances, this one of See My Friends, a single A side released the previous summer and also the closing track on side 1. The song's novel use of an Indian drone accompaniment (using western instruments) was no doubt ahead of its time. Ray produced one of his most touching lyrics in which he deals with the departure of his girl. We learn that she left by crossing the river, but why she left is never discussed. All we know is that she left him and he feels abandoned, but at least he does have his friends, who he watches playing across the river. The vocals on this performance are live, though I suspect the basic instrumental track may be canned. Ray uses a much more nasal voice for the "see my friends" lines, while Dave's harmony vocals during the "she is gone" are louder and fuller than Ray's lead. It is a very affected and affecting performance.


Holly A Hughes said...

I do love See My Friends. Actually, I have read that it was inspired not by a break-up but by the death of his older sister, Rene, the one who bought him his first guitar. (She was also the inspiration for Come Dancing.) That adds even more poignance to this song for me.

Mister Pleasant said...

Thanks Holly for the real story behind See My Friends. The lyrics make a lot more sense to me now. Such a beautiful tribute to his sister.

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

What an amazing post this is, Mr. Pleasant & Ms. Hughes. I just realized I’ve been hanging out here for a half hour now! I Need You is surely in my top 10 kinks & I’ve been replaying your video (Absolutely perfect high school gym vibe from the photo that accompanies that vid too – what a great shot! Suitable for framing! – better than many an action video, imho) trying to figure out why. I’ll say this: one thing I really admire about Ray’s vocals in this song is how, right over this killer metal riff, his voice is so relaxed, almost … conversational. That weird juxtaposition (Yay!!! Always wanted to use that word!) of massive power chords and understated vocal vulnerability makes Ray’s plea MORE passionate, MORE believable, MORE sincere than if he were shouting or straining at it -- as a less imaginative singer such as I would be sorely tempted to do. (Not that I’m an actual whatchacallit singer, mind you – but you know what I mean. Ray’s approach is counterintuitive but it flatout works.)

I was going back 'n forth (forth 'n back!) on whether the Shindig! instrumentation on See My Friends is live or Memorex, and to be honest, was just leaning back toward real live! as the audio synching in this clip isn’t perfect even with the definitely live, vocals -- so it’s hard to tell -– but then I finally noted the lack of all guitar amplifier cords or ... amps! But in any event, all hail A-style barre chords! This (psychedelic, dammit!) :-) sound is just so fine. The vocals just slay.

That Ray may have been singing about his sister of Come Dancing fame just stuns me. And it makes perfect sense. Thank you, Holly -- thank you, Mr. Pleasant.