I don’t think the Kinks get enough credit.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Beatles blah blah whatever. I still think the Kinks were better.
People I love think I say that to just cause an argument. I don’t. I genuinely believe it. I think the Kinks are a better band than the Beatles.
Please send hate mail to the email address at the top of the page. Thanks.
When I say the Kinks are a better band than the Beatles, I am NOT saying I hate the Beatles. The Beatles are only my third favourite band in the history of music. I love them, I appreciate them. But if you held a gun to my head and asked me to choose between “A Day in the Life” or ” Days”, I’d pick “Days”. “Days” was left off the original U.S. and U.K. pressings of Village Green. Shamefully. “Days” is among my favourite Kinks songs. The sweet nostalgia of it is the precise tone of the entire album. Ray set out to write a concept album about the post-war Britain he grew up in. Ray always had a sharp eye for satirizing the English class system, and it’s in full force on this amazing and long neglected album.
Nostalgia aside, it’s just simply lovely to listen to an album from 1968 that doesn’t sound so forced. By this point , there seemed to be a decadence in rock and roll that pushed music to greater and grander things, often to the detriment of the basics like melody. Songs like “Village Green Preservation Society”, “Days”, and ” Picture Book” score high with me for their simple beauty. For all the songs I have singled out over the span of this project, not one has ever made me feel as complete as the title track of this particular album, or the missing “Days”, or the advert populating “Picture Book”, or the Orwell cribbing “Animal Farm”.
Music is a subjective thing, of course. I originally began answering the “Favourite Band” question with the Kinks because the Beatles answer was so boring, but it wasn’t long before I meant it. As clever as John was, and as sentimental as Paul is, they needed each other to prevent the worse of themselves. Paul needed John more than John needed Paul, but the fact is they balanced each other and made each other excel. Ray Davies of course bounced things around the band, and his brother/nemesis Dave would sometimes haul out a “Death of a Clown”, but the Kinks were all Ray. Ray had both that cynicism and that romanticism running through him, being able to write a song as lovely as “Waterloo Sunset” and follow it up with something cutting like “Sunny Afternoon”. When people talk about Blur, or Pulp, and their working class satire, they always mention Ray. The lad from North London (Muswell Hills, specifically) was a very special songwriter from the get go. While my first Kinks album was Come Dancing, and I have a soft spot for Lola and Arthur, nothing makes me feel more at ease with the world that Village Green.
It my come as surprise, given the noise that infects my list, that an album so sweet, so gentle, so warm would be my favourite album of all time. I can see the problem, certainly, with bring the Clash and My Bloody Valentine to the table with Village Green on it. But it’s part of the point. It’s partly because of the laid back, almost hypnotic nature of this album that appeals. It’s like how I sometime do yoga while listening to the Rezillos, or how I sometimes do housework while listening to Rachmaninoff. I like to confound people. I’m impulsive and irrational. But when it comes to music, I am all about the melody. And this album is full of them.
There is a place in the world for discordant raucous sounds. It is not a top my album list. The album I will go to above all others will be the one that offers me the most emotional comfort, the largest shoulders to cry on, the safest arms to wrap myself in. When one hears a song like “Village Green Preservation Society”, and you don’t feel like you are home, I feel sorry for you. Yes, it’s a specific version of home, a home I certainly don’t share. I care about half the thing Ray lists, but his affection is real. This authenticity is missing from so much music. But it is home. I’ve listened to this album so many times that my cassette player ate three ( yes, three) copies of the album, my original CD melted in a freak CD player accident, and I stare longingly at my current CD copy lamenting the inability to find this gorgeous, captivating masterpiece on vinyl.
But lastly, I feel possessive about he Kinks. They were mine. All mine. They were a band I discovered completely on my own. They were contemporaries of the bands my mother loved, but my mother wasn’t a Kinks fan ( to my knowledge). She didn’t own their albums, I never heard her sing along to singable Kinks classics like “Lola” or ” You Really Got Me”. Why on earth would my mother ignore “All The Day and All the Night”, a song that was released the same year the Beatles were still singing things like “Love Me Do”? (This argument only holds water if you are prepared to fight with people over about the early Beatles vs. the late Beatles, to which I say both eras have their faults, but that’s a different day). They were adult when the rest were still children, and old men when the others finally matured. Ray Davies, genius, created an album that was thoroughly sixties in its execution, but sounded so old-fashioned and modern all at once.
It’s a strangely literate, richly emotional album that I find to be one of the few things that calm me. I also enjoy the fact that someone out there might actually buy a copy of it and discover a truly lost piece of art. Discovering the Kinks away from their biggest hits is immensely rewarding, because some of their best songs are the ones we don’t know about. Some of them were even written by Dave ( my all time favourite love song “Strangers”, is a Dave composition. It’s on Lola. Seriously beautiful and heart breaking. Dave does that sometimes). The band has always been so much more than we let them be. It might have been different if they imploded around the same time the Beatles did. Instead, they would record as a band for thirty years before Ray and Dave called it a day, realizing they were coming dangerously close to strangling each other on stage with their guitar strings. Ray’s been hinting at a possible reunion. Original bassist Pete Quaife died in 2010, Dave Davies had a stroke in 2004 that seems to have slowed his career down to a slow canter.
And Ray. Ray lives off his genius, recording his masterpiece songs with full choirs and sounding a perfect as ever.
And that is it. 100 albums that I love and cherish, that mean the world to me. Some are quirks of my personality, others are linked to specific events. Others represent emotional turbulence that I cannot let go of. But it’s an honest list. I love every record to bits. But if you held a gun to my head, I’m taking the Kinks.
Thanks for reading.
Below is the emotional version of Days Ray sang at Glastonbury 2010, in memory of Quaife, who died days before hand. It gets me every single time.
Rock and roll is forever, you know.