Remember the British Invasion in 1964 - Capitol had the Beatles, Epic had the Dave Clark Five, Kapp had the Searchers, London had the Rolling Stones, Ascot had Manfred Mann, and Reprise' acquisition was the Kinks. Fourt guys: Ray Davies - leader, songwriter, vocalist, rhythm guitar and keyboards; Dave Davies, lead guitarist, second vocalist, and Ray's younger brother; Mick Avory - drummer; and Pete Quaife on bass, now replaced by John Dalton.
The Kink's image is so strange, a group making it on the fact that they've never made it. The ultimate recording group - that's all they do, they just make records, you never see them but once a year they put out an album - a gift from themselves to their audience. The Kinks last two albums, Something Else and Village Green Preservation Society sold a combined total, in America, of 25,000 copies - that ain't very many. I don't know whether people actually don't like their stuff or if they've just never heard it - whatever the reason, somebody's missing something, because the Kinks, since 1964, have been making some of the finest rock music this side of the Stones and the Beatles.
Things like "You Really Got Me" - really tough, grinding hard rock; and "All Day and All of the Night" - strange, stumbling, go-stop-go tempo; and "Tired of Waiting For You" - repetition working, monotony makes it: "So tired, tired of waiting, tired of waiting for you-ooh-oo.." Those were the three hits in '64 and '65, but from then on it was pretty sporadic: hit and miss, one would make it: "Set Me Free" - while the next record might not even get played: "See My Friends" - the first sitar record in pop music, as Dave had once before been first with fuzz-tone on "All Day and All of the Night," before Keith Richard and "Satisfaction." These cats are not lightweights, they are some heavy musical dudes - some of their things just happen to be light-hearted, like "Well-Respected Man," the first of Ray's little social stories. Or "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" - God, remember Carnaby Street?; and then "Sunny Afternoon" - the all-time good-time music song, the Seurat landscape set to a Pabst Blue Ribbon commercial, Jules and Jim, 1910.
The Kinks have always done it, one little gem after another, six years of treats: "David Watts," "Waterloo Sunset," the Face to Face album, with Ray's coverwork; it's all there, folks, in the world of Ray Davies, the magical kinkgdom of the Kinks - the Disneyland of rock in its most beautiful form.
Arthur, the Kinks new movies: such and incredible album, the band in their finest form, turning it in from start to finish, the first time their songs are longer then three minutes, the first time they get into playing for a while and really let it out - their longest album. Arthur - The Decline and Fall of the British Empire: Ray's England with a brass section
"Victoria" - the old queen, covered in pomp and circumstance, kicks it off in real shit-kicker style - what an opener - a declaration of love for one's mother country. "Victoria" is a statement of fact in the nineteenth century, the Kinks hymn to tradition - and with such fucking exhuberance, man! Dave is yelling his head off, and Mick Avory's drumming is so fine, he's always been there, to the Kinks as Charlie Watts is to the Stones. Being English with a vengeance.
"Yes Sir, No Sir" - Ray's voice marches to the cadence of Mick's drums, with Dave tossing in these little licks, refuting the orders. The first of Arthur's two soldier songs - the Army, the need for this incredible order, the reason for constant authority - the generals are insane.
"Some Mother's Son" - you just cry; it's the whole story, from childhood to the battlefield to a grave, for no fucking reason at all; the waste, the absurd waste of a life - Ray's voice puts it across movingly. The home fires are still burning, mom knows but she can't quite understand...."some mother's memory remains."
"Drivin'" - forget the hassles, for three minutes and fifteen seconds tragedy doesn't exist anymore - who's to say what's real. The Kinks take us on a picnic with them, skipping over the hills to John Dalton's bass patterns, listening to the birds, watching the dogs run, falling out on the grass and just dreaming away, mmm....
"Brainwashed" - the eight-to-five syndrome, Dylan's "Only a Pawn in Their Game": stay in your plaec, man, stay in your place. Ray tells it in his pissed-off manner, and Dave's guitar is just like "All Day and All of the Night."
"Australia" - The Englishman's promised land, the Kinks acting as travel agents, saying hello to the Beach Boys along the way. The group takes the song sauntering up into the break and then wraps the instrumental around your head like the Stones did in "Sympathy For the Devil," heavy and very different for the Kinks, almost seven minutes, complete with sax and wobble board.
"Shangri-La" - Paradise on earth. Starts of slowly, Ray speaking to an old man who's worked his ass off all his life, showing him all the little things he's earned, and then laying into the whole scheme of the man's life, coming back at the end to reassure the poor old guy; it's alright pops, it's OK - you did do your best.
"Mr. Churchill Says" - Ray reads Winston Churchill's speech and makes it work! The British people prepare to get together and repel the Nazi hordes, and the Blitz of Britain is on! "The War That Had To Be Fought" - the air raid sounds, it's real now, it's in the streets: "Did you hear that plane flying overheard, there's a house on fire and there's someone lying dead."
"She's Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina" - Dreams are nice: the scrubwoman Cinderalla-izes into Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Eden; they go to the Derby at Ascot and after stopping off at the local pub and meeting up with the Stones in "Something Happened To Me Yesterday" they're finally escorted homw again, with all the boys in the band just cooking their asses off - listen for Dave's happy yelling.
"Young and Innocent Days" - Such a soft, beautiful hazy hymn to childhood and everything that went with it. Dig this: "I look back at the way I used to look at life/Soft, white dreams with sugar coated outside...." Someone like Bob Lind would have said, "Eating from the cake of life...."
"Nothing To Say" - Continued from above; You Can't Go Home Again, Part Two. Such a great statement to rap to your parents.....after all that time together you've just got nothing to say to each other.....and finally -
"Arthur" - the poor dumb well-meaning guy, all he wants is just a bit of peace and quiet and a few little comforts; I mean, everybody's entitled to that.
Bill Daly, Rolling Stone Magazine, 11/1/69