The Best of the The Kinks – Part 1
The Kinks were one of the most unique bands in rock history. Starting out as a hard rock/proto-punk outfit, the aggressive sounds of “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night” were unlike any other mainstream music of its time. In the later ‘60s, commercial success eluded the band as they released some of the most socially aware and ambitious albums of the decade. In terms of quality, the ‘70s and ‘80s were much less consistent, as Ray Davies turned the band into a arena rock act.
My first draft list had 25 entries, but with feedback from experts like Bill Holdship, John Kordosh, Iman Lababedi, Michael Bennett, A.C. Rhodes, and others, the list expanded to 40 and I could have easily included many others (“Powerman,” “Two Sisters,” “God’s Children,” and “Celluloid Heroes” are among the missing). Without further ado…
40. “No More Looking Back,” 1975. This tune serves as almost a bridge between the concept albums The Kinks were producing in the mid-70s and the obvious attempts for commercial success later in the decade (“A Rock ‘N” Roll Fantasy,” “Juke Box Music”). Ray’s trying to shake the ghost of an old lover out of his head on “Looking Back.” Would love to hear this one with a little more rocket fuel in the production.
39. “Just Can’t Go to Sleep,” 1964. Our heroes never sounded more like a typical British Invasion band than on this Mersey Beat track from their debut album. Some of the chord changes remind this listener of “Stop Your Sobbing,” which was covered by Ray’s then lover Chrissie Hynde in 1980.
38. “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” 1966. Straight out of the Nuggets garage. Dave Davies belts out the tune with pure teen angst menace.
37. “The Hard Way,” 1975. Based on a simple riff reminiscent of the band’s early hits, a cruel to be kind educator threatens, perhaps in a physical or sexual manner, an underperforming student. “The Hard Way” found a new audience when The Knack covered it in 1980, right before Doug Fieger’s group careened into total irrelevance.
36. “The Way Love Used to be,” 1971. A somewhat obscure baroque pop love ballad. Ray wants to escape the hectic pace of modern life and engage in old-fashioned romance.
35. “Party Line,” 1966. “Party Line” kicks off the Face to Face with a complaint about the shared service telephone system (kids, ask your grandparents), but the grousing is more than offset by the upbeat tempo and catchy hooks.
34. “Did Ya,” 1991. Ray could never stop reminiscing – on “Did Ya” he looks back at 1960’s London while referencing “Summer Afternoon.” The sardonic “Oh, Baby!” Ray uses to punctuate the chorus is laugh out loud funny.
33. “Summer’s Gone,” 1984. Typically overblown ‘80s production, but a touching look at the seasons of one’s life. “I really blew it all when I think it through/I really lost it all when I lost you.” Ouch.
32. “Autumn Almanac,” 1967. Continuing our seasonal theme, Ray admires a caterpillar, eats roast beef, and basks in a British street that he’s never going to leave. Like Brian Wilson, Ray was writing timeless material in the ‘60s with a perspective that’s never been replicated.
31. “Picture Book,” 1968. Listening to “Picture Book” with 2014 ears, it’s almost unfathomable that this wasn’t a hit. Ray seems to be simultaneously mocking and acknowledging the power of photographs in maintaining family memories. A-scooby-dooby-doo.
30. “This Time Tomorrow,” 1970. A plaintive folk rocker that decries the rootlessness of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.
29. “She’s Got Everything,” 1968. A simple rocker that could have been a hit in 1965, but by the late ‘60s “Everything” wasn’t consistent with Ray’s musical and lyrical sophistication. Listen to the instrumental bridge and then go write “My Woman from Tokyo.”
28. “Village Green,” 1968. Another beautifully constructed baroque pop number in which the narrator falls in love with a young country girl, but knows that his life will take him elsewhere. Home isn’t always where the heart is.
27. “Tired of Waiting for You,” 1965. A #1 U.K hit and a #6 U.S. single that takes a more pop approach to the early Kinks riff oriented sound.
26. “Mindless Child of Motherhood,” 1969. A painful and passionate vocal performance by Dave as he addresses an estranged lover, who may be raising his child.
25. “I Go to Sleep,” 1965. Never released as a formal Kinks recording, on this 1965 demo Ray cries and dreams about being with a loved one. The sharp, short piano notes convey of quiet desperation, as the English say.
24. “Rosie Won’t You Please Come Home,” 1966. This harpsichord-laced number was based on Ray’s sister Rosie who married a man named Arthur and moved to Australia in 1964. Which brings us to…
23. “Arthur,” 1969. The last track of the 1969 concept album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) would be exceedingly ambitious for most songwriters; Ray chronicles the disappointments of Arthur’s life as his personal goals were unmet and his children are moving away. Still the song, and album, ends with a church inspired, hand-clapping declaration of love and support. The listener can decide whether the tone is ironic or supportive.
22. “Do It Again,” 1984. The band gave the “She’s Got Everything” riff some power chord crunch for one of the better singles during their early ‘80s hard rock revival.
21. “Big Sky,” 1968. The most obvious interpretation of “Big Sky” is that it is a commentary about unthinking devotion to an uncaring deity. Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are?
Stay robotically attentive to the Rock NYC website where Part II of this series will appear. Someday.