Top Kinks Songs 1972

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After the ebb of 1971 and Muswell Hillbillies I was not really looking forward to 1972. I knew there wouldn’t be competition for the top spot, but what would follow? In 1972 they released Everybody’s in Show-Biz which was a double album: one disc of original tunes and one of a live performance featuring recent stuff. I am considering both discs for this. That’s more a reflection of how this album is kind of a dud in my mind than anything else. With that, here’s the list:

  1. Celluloid Heroes
  2. Here Comes Yet Another Day
  3. You Don’t Know My Name
  4. Sitting In My Hotel
  5. Motorway
  6. Look A Little On the Sunny Side
  7. Alcohol (Live)
  8. Hot Potatoes
  9. Supersonic Rocket Ship
  10. Brainwashed (Live)

“Celluloid Heroes” is one of those special songs that seems to rise above its pretensions. It captures the melancholy of fame quite nicely. It’s also an optimal balance of Ray Davies’ wit and sentimentality that sometimes can veer into trite and annoying. This song is just lovely.

“Here Comes Yet Another Day” has a road trip feel to it. It’s rambling yet going places. The organ intro belies the hook. It’s an overlooked song (like this album) that is fairly tight and rolling despite the American affectations. I actually like the horns.

We have another country rock jamble in “You Don’t Know My Name”. There’s something about Dave Davies’ voice that really suits this song. The hippie flute interlude is nice and unexpected.

“Sitting In My Hotel” is a straightforward, earnest, rock ballad. Starting with the solo piano, then kicking in the rest. It’s repetitive but comforting despite the melancholy. It’s a very pleasant song, though kind of cliche.

The resonator guitar kicks off “Motorway” kind of like “Powerman”, but not so ominous. Instead of a heavy rock song we get a picking country-esque song about driving on the motorway. It’s pretty cheesy, but also jaunty and pleasant. I can’t hate.

“Look A Little On The Sunny Side” is another throwback to the old English beer hall songs. It’s kind of drunken and OK.

Now we have a live version of “Alcohol” – I wasn’t a huge fan of it on Muswell Hillbillies because the lyrics aren’t great and it’s painfully obvious. The drunken looseness of the live version works though, much more than the studio version.

“Hot Potatoes” is another country rock track that’s laid back about something as mundane as domestic strife and simple meals. It’s repetitive and easy to sing along, so kind of catchy, but not great.

“Supersonic Rocket Ship” is precious, but also doesn’t really work. It remind me of “Apeman” in the novelty factor, (it has steel drums!) but the song doesn’t really go anywhere.

This live version of “Brainwashed” is tight and much faster than the version on Arthur. It’s pretty good.

So that’s 1972. Will things get better with 1973? Could you sense my apathy? We’ll see.

Top Kinks Songs 1971

1971 - 49 - Kinks, The - God's Children - D

We all knew this would happen. I’d hit a year in the Kinks discography where it was more work to endure than a pleasure to listen to. I thought that year might have been 1972, but alas it was 1971. They released two albums that year – the often forgotten soundtrack Percy and the trite Muswell Hillbillies. My parents own both albums. I remember listening to Percy on my own volition. I remember my parents had a fondness for Muswell Hillbillies, perhaps because it was the album that was around when they were courting. When I listened to it for this project I asked my mom what was up with that and she confessed she doesn’t really like it – it’s a dad thing. That explains why I kind of hated it. So anyhow, here’s the list.

  1. God’s Children
  2. Oklahoma U.S.A.
  3. 20th Century Man
  4. Dreams
  5. Muswell Hillbilly
  6. Complicated Life
  7. Moments
  8. The Way Love Used To Be
  9. Have A Cuppa Tea
  10. Lavender Lane

“God’s Children” starts with a really lovely guitar riff and then some soft, sincere vocals. It’s a tender song about our place in the world. You wouldn’t know it was about the hubris of progress and science as told through the story of a penis transplant. This is one of my all time favourite Kinks’ songs and showed up at no. 3 on my original list. This would be the top song regardless of anything else in 1971.

“Oklahoma U.S.A.” is another tender song. Lyrically, Ray Davies tries to put himself in the heart of America, with a tedious melancholy and faded dreams. This is the kind of wistful song Ray Davies is the master of, and it has the right balance of sentiment and kitsch.

I can’t say I actually like “20th Century Man” but I can respect it. It’s a good example of Ray Davies’ song writing that’s too literal and too derivative. The resonator guitar is back and it’s trying to be Delta blues, but it’s just OK until you get to the vaguely medieval sounding bridge, which leads to the rock. This song could stand to miss out on the first half basically.

“Dreams” is a very traditional song of reaching akin to “David Watts” from Percy, but I think it’s a pretty decent example of semi-orchestral early 70s rock production. The song is a gem.

The best thing about “Muswell Hillbillies” is the bright guitar lick in the intro. It’s got that 70s country rock mid-tempo sing along feel that I’m just not a fan of. The lyrics are kind of entertaining in that they evoke the feelings of Tennessee or Kentucky, but in London. Only it’s also hokey and I’d rather just listen to some Buck Owens. The guitars though… really nice.

“Complicated Life” is a sloppy Southern rock dirge with some slide guitar. Lyrically I think Ray Davies does some interesting things, but I also think this is too hokey. I like the sing-along chorus. I also feel drunk listening to it.

Another song from Percy is “Moments”, which is kind of an odd song with a really nice climb going into the chorus-like thing. I don’t know… I appreciate the off-kilter time, the strings, minimal beat, and how it meanders.

“The Way Love Used To Be” is also from Percy. It’s a slow, dark song  that starts almost with a whisper. It’s a good song to look out a window onto a rainy, empty street. Feel lonely. Love is over.

We already know by this point how much the Kinks like traditional music hall music – and this is another song in that vein. It’s cute. It’s not as country as much of Muswell Hillbillies, which is most likely why I don’t mind it. It’s too corny to be higher on the list.

The last song is “Lavender Lane”. This is like what a Mungo Jerry song should aspire to be. That’s definitely damning with faint praise.

That’s the list. “Skin and Bone” barely made it but I was also scraping the bottom of the barrel for this. Even writing this was a chore. 1972 will be easier since there’s just Everybody’s In Show-Biz.


Top 10 Kinks Songs 1970

1969 - 43 - Kinks, The - Lola - first cover - D


1970 might be the last great year for the Kinks, but I never really listened to Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround, Part One that much. I mean, I knew the hits but the album as a whole wasn’t etched into my psyche like Village Green Preservation Society or Arthur. Listening to this album a bunch of times to make this list was a pleasurable exercise. I don’t think there’s anything really surprising or controversial here. Overall I think the whole album is cohesive, but there are some songs that are kind of clunky and slavish to the theme. Other songs totally transcend it. Clearly Ray Davies was pretty bitter about the industry by this point. So with that note, here’s the list!

  1. Lola
  2. This Time Tomorrow
  3. A Long Way From Home
  4. Strangers
  5. Denmark Street
  6. Powerman
  7. Get Back In The Line
  8. The Moneygoround
  9. Apeman
  10. Rats

I really did not want to put “Lola” at the top of the list because it’s probably their most iconic song besides “You Really Got Me”. Weird Al even covered it! It’s a song like that. It’s also really good. The opening chords on the resonator guitar immediately hook you to the song, and nothing else sounds quite like it. (Just like “You Really Got Me”.) The chorus is easy to sing along to drunkenly, kind of like “Hey Jude”. Nowadays, I do struggle with whether or not the lyrics are transphobic, but I take comfort in how positive the song ends. It’s modern love. It’s also a well recorded and arranged hit. The bass line, whoa. Yeah, I get why everybody loves it.

“This Time Tomorrow” is such a lovely song, despite the airplane noises mixed throughout it. I think it was used in some Wes Anderson film which I’ve yet to watch. I know it’s a song about touring specifically, but it really captures the feeling of distance and longing from travel that seems near universal. It also really uses that resonator guitar very well. It makes me maudlin as hell.

The most beautiful song on the list is “A Long Way From Home”. Its measured wistfulness keeps it tasteful without being overly sentimental. It’s balanced and poignant. I don’t think I have the vocabulary to adequately describe it, but it haunts me.

“Strangers” is a great song sung by Dave Davies. Paste magazine loves it. I really like it. It’s so stripped down and kind of raw in a really lovely and vulnerable way. They try to work out the point of life, and it seems like it’s all about the journey.

The surprise on this list to me was “Denmark Street”. It’s about the street where the music publishing industry in the UK was centered for a long time. Despite being painfully obvious about the music business, the music carries the song. It’s one of the most bombastic and poppy songs on the album but it doesn’t sound too trite or like a novelty song.

“Powerman” starts with some ominous plucking of the resonator guitar and then the guitar riffs kick in. Lyrically the song is OK but not great. It stands out though for being a pretty hard rocking song with good riffs, but it’s not quite as good as other bands in the day like Black Sabbath. (Really though, who is?) It adds a lot of weight to the album.

“Get Back In Line” is one of those songs that really grows on you. It’s a working man’s song with a country twinge that kind of sounds like to could be on Muswell Hillbillies. Anyhow, this song is well constructed and well rounded and I think we should listen to it on Labor Day.

I struggled with “The Moneygoround” because it’s so short and a throwback to English beer halls. The bouncy piano is a nice juxtaposition to the cynical lyrics. Everybody gets their cut. It’s a really good little thing.

“Apeman” is a total novelty song. I kind of hate it but it’s also well crafted and perfectly cheesy. I don’t actively like listening to this song much though I do like this performance of theirs from Top of the Pops. It’s like Mungo Jerry, only good.

The last song on the list is “Rats” – the only Dave Davies penned song on the list (and of the year). It’s also rocking and has some of Dave’s signature guitar chords. The lyrics are kind of stupid though, so I like it but I don’t love it.

That’s the list! I dropped off some dumb ass songs like “Top of the Pops” or “The Contenders.” Also not on the list is the UK B-side to “Lola”, “Berkeley Mews”. It’s a fine song but was originally recorded in 1968 and was supposed to be on Village Green Preservation Society but didn’t make the cut. It’s OK and I like it, but it didn’t make the cut in 1970 or 1968.

Top 10 Kinks Songs 1969

1969 - 39 - Kinks, The - Shangrila - D

This is probably my most controversial Kinks ranking yet. 1969 was perhaps the apex of the Kinks discography with the release of Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) – their most cohesive and fully realized album that had a proper balance of creativity and grit. It kind of hurt to pick the album apart, but it also made me re-evaluate my relationship with it, getting past childhood nostalgia of my mom singing “Victoria” to me at the top of her lungs.

  1. Shangri-La
  2. Some Mother’s Son
  3. King Kong
  4. Mindless Child Of Motherhood
  5. Victoria
  6. Arthur
  7. Young and Innocent Days
  8. Yes Sir, No Sir
  9. Nothing To Say
  10. Brainwashed

Putting “Shangri-La” at the top is an obvious choice. Structurally and musically, the song is complex and almost operatic. From beginning to end it really feels like you’re observing the rise of suburban consumerism, but not in an entirely dismissive way. Lyrically, this is some of Ray Davies’ finest work. It’s an anthem for a generation.

“Some Mother’s Son” might not be the most popular or well regarded song, but I think they really achieved something with it. Similar to “Shangri-La”, this song starts softly and grows into a flourish, but instead of the horrors of keeping up with the Joneses, it’s the horrors of World War I. Every time I listen to this song I feel on the verge of tears, thinking of young Englishmen laying in trenches and field while their mothers at home try to keep their memories intact. It’s sentimental enough to be one of the great anti-war songs without being ham-fisted and preachy.

“King Kong” was the B-side to “Plastic Man” (which didn’t make the cut). It’s a silly song about a bomb but it’s also one of the most hard rocking songs they ever recorded, well before Dave went pseudo-metal. This song needs to be played very loud.

“Mindless Child of Motherhood” was the B-side to “Drivin'” (another song that didn’t make the cut). It was originally supposed to be on Dave Davies’ aborted solo album. The lyrics are kind of dumb, I’ll admit that. The music though… oh the guitar riff in the beginning and the arpeggiated part at the are great.

Putting “Victoria” fifth seems sacrilegious but I think the song is good but not that great. The guitars are iconic and perfectly recorded. The melody is hard not to sing along with. I guess lyrically it falls apart for me though… maybe because I am such a staunch republican and despise the thought of the monarchy? Maybe also that I now see the expansive  British Empire as not a great thing. It’s hard for me to not feel a swell of emotion when this song comes on, but it’s not a weird mix of wistfulness and loathing. I know my mom almost named me Victoria after this song.

The title track “Arthur” is sort of a dumb song, but it is a nice summation of the life of the man the album is about. It’s definitely trying to be country (which they will take into more extremes in later year). I think Ray and Dave do a nice job of singing about a guy trying to get buy in a messed up world. I also think the guitars have a great tone. “Somebody loves you, don’t you know it.”

The most sentimental and maudlin song on Arthur is “Young and Innocent Days”. It’s kind of trite, but it does an excellent job of capturing the bittersweet emotions of time passing and thinking back about how great used to be. It’s like an extension of “Days” only total resignation to the past. I also don’t think I hate any Kinks song with a harpsichord. I think this is one of the most dynamic and well recorded songs on the album. (Play this song when I die.)

“Yes Sir, No Sir” is a song I always place in my head with the Jam’s “Little Boy Soldiers”. The only things they have in common are being illustrative about English soldiers written by white Englishmen. I think this song is good for its structure and complexity, as well as its lyrics. It’s just a little bit too obvious of a song and doesn’t capture the emotional hell of war quite as well as “Some Mother’s Son”.

I don’t really have much to say about “Nothing To Say”. It has a piano and is vaguely reminiscent of a Beatles song. It does talk about the transition of children negotiating adult relationships with their parents, which is kind of interesting. It’s also got that kind of weird Ray Davies deep throaty voice which is always fun. And horns.

Lyrically “Brainwashed” is pretty dumb but it’s saved by the guitar riff. If the guitars had a bit more overdrive or distortion this song would probably a bit higher. Basically, the bridge makes this song good.

There are some big songs missing on this list I know. “Drivin'” is popular but I think it’s too trite and doesn’t stand up well. “Australia” is long and rambling and just descends into a wank session, which is not the Kinks’ strong suit. “Mr. Churchill Says” is goofy but did help me learn a lot of British politicians names. “She Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina” is a good attempt at a kind of English beer hall song, but it also didn’t age well. “Plastic Man” is a decent bit of social commentary but it’s also very gimmicky. The only song I wish I could put on here that didn’t make it is Dave’s other great song of the year – “This Man He Weeps Tonight”. I love it, but it just doesn’t seem like it should knock off “Brainwashed”.

1970 will be the last hard year probably. Lola Versus Powerman And the Moneygoround, Part One is the logical place for the Kinks to go in many ways but it also seems like Icarus flying too close to the sun… I’ll save that for later. I know for me at least, 1969 is where the Kinks peaked but that’s also true for most things.

Top 10 Kinks Songs 1968

1968 - 33 - Kinks, The - Days - D

Making this list was like cutting off my fingers and toes. It was nearly impossible to cull songs. I’ve grown up listening to Village Green Preservation Society in its entirety so often that the lyrics, harmonies, and rhythms are forever burned in my brain. I have distinct memories of my mother singing it animatedly with gusto. This year of the Kinks turned out to be viscerally a part of me in ways I wasn’t quite expecting. So with that, the list:

  1. Days
  2. Village Green Preservation Society
  3. Big Sky
  4. Do You Remember Walter?
  5. Wonderboy
  6. Animal Farm
  7. Picture Book
  8. Village Green
  9. Starstruck
  10. Pretty Polly

It’s not a surprise that “Days” tops this list. I can’t really say it’s my favourite song of the year, but I deeply respect its lyrics and music. The rhythm of the guitar is counter to the melody, which really makes it feel disjointed, dreamlike, and wistful. They lyrics painfully capture the fondness in goodbyes. This is one of Ray Davies’ best songs period. I can’t think of more poignant and universal lyrics. (This is my brother’s favourite Kinks song, not “Death of a Clown.”)

“Village Green Preservation Society” is kind of a weird sing-a-long song that probably still introduces affected American kids to anoraky corners of English culture. The drums really anchor the song in a kind of laid back way, but it continues to drive on. The way the lyrics just go on and on without a real chorus help push the song as well. The little guitar flourish at the end of every line is a great touch. The lyrics though… “We are the Skyscraper condemnation Affiliate / God save Tudor houses, antique tables and billiards” That’s the sort of twee precociousness that many people emulate and fail.

The opening of “Big Sky” might be the best part. It might be the second best opening after the title track. (When I was 14 years old, I won over Dr. Frank after a MTX show with a long, detailed discussion of this song after he played the opening riff on stage.) Then when the acoustic guitar kicks in… it gives me chills. I think the way the bass and electric guitar play the riff signal what’s going to happen in 1969. The lyrics, about God and not caring, are also great and kind of a thematic outlier in the album. I also like the way Ray Davies juxtaposes the talking and singing parts.

“Do You Remember Walter?” is probably so high up the list because of my own personal feelings of nostalgia, but that’s kind of fitting for the song. It’s a good song about distance of time, growing old, and drifting apart. Facebook has really made it easy to keep track of the Walters, but “isn’t it a shame our little world has changed” will most likely always be true. “I knew you then, but do I know you now?” Not really.

If there’s a song to play anytime a child is born, “Wonderboy” is a pretty good choice (for any gender). It has the sort of dreamy harpsichord (you know Ray Davies has been using it for a couple of years now), but the line “I see you, and you see me, and ain’t that wonder” accurately describes first eye contact with a new life.

“Animal Farm” is another song that’s probably so high on the list because of my own nostalgia. It’s bouncy and kind of danceable, though also kind of slow. It’s midtempo, but I like the dynamics of the song, the bridge taking it down, and the imagery of an idyllic farm to escape the rigors of city life. The line that follows the bridge, “I’ll take you where real animals are playing,” hooks you in and immediately makes it seem like things might get wild. It doesn’t, but I think the song is charming as hell.

Talk about riffs on Village Green Preservation Society and “Picture Book” might be the tops. The running bass line during the chorus really anchors the song despite the light acoustic guitars and the silly lyrics.

The harpsichord is back (along with an oboe) for “Village Green”. Where “Village Green Preservation Society” is jubilant and defiant, “Village Green” is a dirge of what was. I don’t know many people who really like this song, but I think it has it all going on. It paints a kind of sad, antiquated scene where cute English villages are now just tourist traps. Prescient? In some ways it’s like a proto Pulp song.

“Pretty Polly” was the B-side to “Wonderboy”, so it’s probably having a revival thanks to the long tail of reissues and the internet. Musically I think this is one of the strongest songs of the year, but the lyrics are kind of weak. The piano really pushes this song into raucous territory, which isn’t said very often. I also think Ray Davies does a great job balancing between his over enunciation of priggish singing with his more normal full bodies singing.

I rounded it out with “Starstruck” because I had to pick another song. The intro and the hook are quite good, setting a weird tone that’s hard to describe other than maybe hippy vaudeville? The lyrics describe the allure (and possible folly) of big city living. It’s amusing because they were so famously from very urban London, but we always idealize what we don’t have. This kind of cynicism will be the basis of many albums to come.

I have major regret about leaving several songs out of this list, but I am trying to limit myself to 10 per year for brevity. “Phenomenal Cat” is wonderfully trite and cute. “Wicked Annabella” has such a good fuzz guitar line. “Monica” has a distinctive Latin beat. “Johnny Thunder” is a sing song. The only lesson I got from this year’s exercise is that “She’s Got Everything” was actually from 1966 and one really can’t separate out tracks from Village Green Preservation Society without destroying the album.

Stay tuned to 1969 where I try to do this all over again and break up Arthur, which will be another painful experience.


Top 10 Kinks Songs 1967

12 - Kinks, The - Waterloo Sunset - D - EP - 1967

Edited: “Pretty Polly” was the b-side to “Wonderboy” and belongs in 1968.

I knew making this list would be difficult and controversial with myself, let alone anybody who might read this. The 1967 output of the Kinks was focused, transitional, and solid. When I listened to the singles and Something Else a few times through to make my initial list of songs to consider I only cut 3 of the 21 songs in consideration; “Mr. Pleasant”, “No Return”, and “Afternoon Tea”. After several more listens I conservatively selected 9 songs that had to be on the list, which caused me to obsess over the ones on the edge of 10. I’m still flip flopping over it in my heart, but this list reflects a mix of emotion, opinion, nostalgia, and respect. It goes:

  1. Waterloo Sunset
  2. Love Me Till The Sun Shines
  3. Autumn Almanac
  4. David Watts
  5. This Is Where I Belong
  6. Two Sisters
  7. Susannah’s Still Alive
  8. Situation Vacant
  9. Death of a Clown
  10. Lazy Old Sun

I strongly considered not putting “Waterloo Sunset” at the top because that’s so obvious. The song is overplayed and used in too many melancholic montages. It’s ubiquitous for a reason though. I’m not one for lyrics, but these stand apart as some of Ray Davies’ best. The guitar line, which plays off the main melody nicely throughout the song, is a lovely counterpoint. The whole thing seems to be stuck in my brain and probably in my DNA for a reason, so I can’t fight it just to be contrarian. Accept it, this is one of the best songs in the canon.

Putting “Love Me Till The Sun Shines” this high might be provocative for a number of reasons; it was originally a b-side to Dave Davies’ solo single “Death of a Clown”, the lyrics are kind of cheesy, it’s mostly still talked about thanks to long tail anoraks. Well, we sometimes resurrect gems. Lyrically this is a realistic and sweet love song. Musically, the guitar riff is one of the best of this year and you can’t ignore it.

“Autumn Almanac” is a perennial favourite of Kinks fans who appreciate a little weirdness but fantastic lyrics. It’s often mentioned along other intellectual efforts of scene making such as “Days” (which was released in 1968). The song is a bit off kilter, which makes it enjoyable.

I often forget that “David Watts” was released in 1967. It seems like it was a punk song because of its snotty aggression. It kicks off the album with the count in, “nice and smooth”. Now it’s been covered to death but we have to remember it was ahead of its time and respect Ray Davies’ effort to call out private school mugs. Weller wishes he had such craftsmanship.

“This Is Where I Belong” is another Dylan-esque song that overcomes the obvious feelings of alienation and awkwardness and resonates as a song a lot of people can relate to. This would have been the big hit for many lesser bands, but because the Kinks had such a robust and stellar catalog this is often overlooked.

The harpsichord is back with “Two Sisters”, which is another observational tale of family and Englishness. Ray Davies provides a portrait of very mundane sibling rivalry (something he was very familiar with), that goes beyond class problems. Maybe it’s because I’m older, but this song speaks to me. The strings, the way the song just meanders and ends with hums, it’s an oddity but lovely.

We have another Dave Davies song with “Susannah’s Still Alive” (it was his second solo single). There arrangement is a bit odd and kind of tinny with a harmonica in the mix and not much bass. The piano run really anchors the song. In some ways it sounds like a vaudevillian rock song.

Half the time when I hear “Situation Vacant” it sounds like it’s an out take from Village Green Preservation Society. If that’s not foreshadowing of things to come, I don’t know what is. The beat, the off key verses that softly resolve into something like a verse, it’s a well constructed song that has a very old time English beer hall feeling. The false ending re-start is also unexpected. This is a really good song that deserves more attention.

I almost didn’t put “Death of a Clown” on the list. I hated this song at times because it’s over the top with the drinking and misery. It’s amusing on one level until you meet people who this song speaks to lyrically. I just can’t take it seriously! (I wonder if my brother still says this is his favourite Kinks song to piss people off. I never believed him.) That said, there is something remarkable about this song. The imagery works. The instrumentation works. The whole thing is quirky but effective and while I wouldn’t say it’s Dave Davies’ best effort, there’s a reason people know the song.

“Lazy Old Sun” starts off lethargically and a bit warped, conveying the feeling of napping out in the sun. It’s kind of dated but I think it really works as a freak out hippy song. It’s fairly contained actually, and I really enjoy it. Probably because of the maracas.

Some of the songs that didn’t quite make the cut but almost did included “Harry Rag”, but it’s a little too novelty compared to some of the other songs. I get it… it’s Cockney rhyming slang! “Tin Soldier Man” is also a good song that didn’t quite stand up. “End Of The Season” is a really nice jazz pop song.

Stay tuned for 1968. It’s going to be difficult to tear apart one of the top albums of my childhood (and my being).


Top 10 Kinks Songs 1966

1966 - Kinks, The - Sunny Afternoon - D

Alright, let’s talk about 1966 Kinks. It was a big year for Ray Davies despite Arsenal finishing 14th in the football league: England won the World Cup and the Kinks released Face to Face. (“Sunny Afternoon” was released in early June, just in time for the World Cup in a way…) Ranking the Kinks’ recordings of 1966 was more difficult than 1965 because there were fewer songs, but they were more focused. Let’s try this fool’s errand.

  1. I’m Not Like Everybody Else
  2. Dedicated Follower of Fashion
  3. Sunny Afternoon
  4. Rosie Won’t You Please Come Home
  5. I’ll Remember
  6. Dead End Street
  7. Session Man
  8. Dandy
  9. Party Line
  10. Too Much On My Mind

It seems a little sacrilegious to put a song sung by Dave Davies in at the top spot, but “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” is one of the best songs about alienation ever recorded. It’s an anthem for weird kids who feel disconnected from those around them. It’s such a B-side gem.

The opening chords of “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” are warming and comforting like a velvet jacket. Nothing else sounds like it. This song might have been number one if I were in a different mood. Ray Davies’ lyrics are witty without being too trite. It really sets to mood of the Carnabitian army.

It’s hard not to talk about opening hooks without mentioning the downward chord progression of “Sunny Afternoon.” They set the mood of the malaise of taxes and first world problems. It’s jaunty and dark. There’s definitely a reason it’s captured people’s imaginations. I also like it because he rhymes “car” and “pa”.

“Rosie Won’t You Please Come Home” might be my most left field song on this list, and I really struggled to place it higher. It’s kind of a dirge, but I think it’s got some really interesting stuff going on in rhythm and the structure. The balance between the baroque pop and the bluesy off-key chorus is unique. And the blend of the bass and the guitar… oh my. It’s about their sister who moved to Australia.

“I’ll Remember” is totally a cute pop song, but it’s just so well done. It really captures some feelings of love. The intro with the bass, the drum beat, and the sharp guitar line. It’s a delight.

“Dead End Street” is such a typical Ray Davies observational song about English life. It’s a sign of what’s to come in the next few years. It’s definitely about Muswell Hill.

We have more harpsichord with “Session Man”, a song about Nicky Hopkins. Some of the rhymes are so forced they’re almost charming, but this is a good bit of cynicism about the music industry. It’s also got a good beat.

“Dandy” has to be one of the most trite sounding pop songs Ray Davies ever wrote, which explains why Herman’s Hermits had a hit with it. The lyrics are quite clever and it gets stuck in your head easily.

I don’t know why I love the song “Party Line” other than its cute affectation for outdated technology most people won’t understand today. It’s such an ordinary song in that way, but it’s also got the old R&B beat. The phone ringing in the intro and the man speaking are kind of a novelty, but it just shows how they were really reaching with recording and branching out in new ways.

This list ends with the mellow, sweet ballad of “Too Much On My Mind.” It could have easily been Rolling Stones-esque “Holiday in Waikiki”, or the song about excess “House in the Country”, or even the slow “You’re Looking Fine”. Maybe it’s because I’m older now and I often lose sleep because of matters weighing on my mind? Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for baroque Ray Davies? I don’t know, but I think this song deserve more attention.

So that’s 1966. It’s a good year as far as The Kinks go. (Arsenal would go on to win the double in 66-67, which might foreshadow the heights The Kinks achieved in 1967? That’s probably not true.) It’s only getting harder from here.

Top 10 Kinks Songs 1965

1965 - Kinks, The - Tired Of Waiting - D

It’s been over a year since the first installment of this project, but I’m gonna finish it before the end of the year. I promise! As a refresher: I am listening to the entire Kinks discography year by year to figure out my Top 10 by year, and then hopefully figure out my overall Top 10 and the best year of the Kinks recorded output. Simple (and obsessive), no?

1965 was a more prolific year for the Kinks than 1964 – two albums and two EPs – which made this year a bit more difficult. I listened to Kinda Kinks and The Kinks Kontroversy (and the singles) twice through making notes of songs that stuck out for a re-listen. That list had 29 songs. So I culled it and listened through again marking out the ones that just had to be in the Top 10 somehow, which left 9 standouts and I slid in the one that was on the cusp to round it out. I tried to keep many things in mind when I ranked them: music, lyrics, catchiness, is it iconic, should it be iconic? So here’s my list for 1965:

  1. Tired of Waiting For You
  2. Till The End of The Day
  3. Set Me Free
  4. Come On Now
  5. A Well Respected Man
  6. Something Better Beginning
  7. Where Have All The Good Times Gone
  8. Ring The Bells
  9. World Keeps Going Round
  10. Such A Shame

Unlike 1964, there wasn’t the toss up of hits in 1965. “Tired of Waiting For You” stands out for good reason. It was the hit! The lyrics are classically cynical, but the really hook for me is the rhythm guitar. I just love the tone. It’s hard to ignore.

“Till The End Of The Day” is a stomper, very much like “Your Really Got Me” and the like. It’s in that vein that all my favourite bands tap, but it’s so well recorded and mixed it’s just classic. “Set Me Free” is just behind it with an even crunchier guitar tone, but it’s not as danceable which is why it’s third.

“Come On Now” is Dave Davies first appearance on these lists, and it’s kind of an attempt at a Kinks does Motown (hence the backup singers). The guitar riff and the vocals make this a fun one to dance to and it stands out as a great pop song.

You can’t really dance to “A Well Respected Man”. It foreshadows the future of Ray Davies observational songwriting about English life. (Lots more about that to come in later years.)

“Something Better Beginning” is a great melancholic song, not least because The Honeycombs covered it. I think we’ve all been there in that zone of uncertainty and Ray Davies captures it. It’s just kind of a simple pop song when he’s clearly moving beyond that.

Something about the opening of “Where Have All The Good Times Gone?” reminds me of when Dylan went electric, only the lyrics aren’t quite so pretentious and Dave Davies has a great guitar tone. This is a good song of nostalgia and I have fond memories of my mom singing it to me.

“Ring The Bells” might be one of the lesser known songs on this list, appearing on The Kinks Kontroversy so it’s kind of a deep cut. I think this is another early song of observation and could have easily been on some later albums. The balance of melancholy and wistfulness is beautiful and this song deserves a spin.

“World Keeps Going Round” is very much a mid-sixties song about the pace of progress. I think it has an interesting beat and Ray Davies captures the mix of uncertainty and fatalism quite will with this song.

“Such A Shame” was on the Kwyet Kinks EP that came out in the fall of 1965. It’s a slow, dark pop song that really embodies Ray Davies’ brand of sad. There’s not much too the song, but I think it’s interesting a little lyrically and I love the guitar tone.

I did leave off a lot of my favourite pop songs, like “Ev’rybody’s Gonna Be Happy” and “Who’ll Be Next In Line”, but this is a tight list and I think some of the lesser known songs were better as pop songs go. Same with the dirge “See My Friends”.

Stay tuned for 1966, which was a lot more difficult song for song.

Top 10 Kinks Songs 1964

1964 - Kinks, The - All Day And All Of The Night - D

I said I would blog about listening to every Kinks record to come up with an educated Top 10. I’ve been listening to them all, even UK Jive, but haven’t blogged a jot. Well read this!

One point before we get started, I am only considering songs written by Ray (or Dave) Davies. This excludes my personal favourites like “Cadillac” and  “Bald Headed Woman”.

I figure the easiest way to break this up, especially in the earlier stages of their career, is to do it by year. In 1964, the Kinks release their first four singles and their eponymous debut album. Based on that, here are my rankings for 1964:

  1. All Day And All Of The Night
  2. You Really Got Me
  3. You Still Want Me
  4. I Gotta Move
  5. I Took My Baby Home
  6. Stop Your Sobbing
  7. Revenge
  8. Just Can’t Go To Sleep
  9. It’s All Right

When I was ranking these, there was definitely a tinge of shame and contrarianism about placing “All Day And All Of The Night” ahead of “You Really Got Me”, but after listening to the two back to back several times in a row I am sticking with it. There’s no arguing that “You Really Got Me” is iconic and the guitar riff helped spawn a genre of music I love. There’s just something about “All Day And All Of The Night” that resonates more with me. Maybe it’s the production, as it sounds more like a group just playing in a room, not as produced. Maybe it’s the lack of a piano? I just feel it’s a stronger song.

“You Still Want Me” is a somewhat peculiar song, but I think it’s under appreciated. It sounds like something the Searchers would have done. Regardless, the song construction is well done and the beat is great. “I Gotta Move” is pretty R&B and it works. It also has a good beat you can dance to. I always had the impression my mom thought “I Took My Baby Home” was a throw away pop song, which isn’t exactly wrong. I will give it credit though for being an excellent example of a cheesy pop tune from 1964. It’s very much a Beatles rip off, only much better. “Stop Your Sobbing” is good for a slow song. I know lots of people remember the Pretenders’ cover, but the original is so much better. I think it’s a nice, sweet song with an old school rhythm and blues feel. It’s just a little too mid-tempo. “Revenge” is a frenetic instrumental that is also largely forgotten, don’t make that mistake. The other slow song is “Just Can’t Go To Sleep”, which also sounds like something the Searchers would have done. It’s a fine song, just not as good as others. The same is true for the total R&B pastiche of “It’s Alright”. Fine son, just not a stand out in this crowd.

So that’s 1964. Stay tuned for 1965.

The Kinks Top 10 – a project.

The Kinks by vagabondMusicCo
The Kinks, a photo by vagabondMusicCo on Flickr.

My friend Mary Carmen shared a link to the 10 best Kinks songs on some website. It’s link bait. Very obvious link bait.

Their list:

  1. Waterloo Sunset
  2. You Really Got Me
  3. Lola
  4. ‘Til the End of the Day
  5. Tired of Waiting For You
  6. Victoria
  7. Sunny Afternoon
  8. A Well Respected Man
  9. 20th Century Man

There are some omissions but all the hits are there. All the hits are there.

So I said I would give you my 10 best, but that seems like it’d be foolish without working. So here’s the project. I am going to name 10 best right now, listen to all the records. Yes… all of the albums and singles… and then get back to you with my refreshed list after studying them all.

Preface this: you know my parents reared me on the Kinks to such a degree I thought the Beatles were some obscure footnote of pop history. No doubt this education has made it easier for me to love 60s garage and beat music. I sort of ascribe to the school of thought that it’s not really worth venturing past Arthur. So of course this initial list will be largely from the 60s.

OK – my list!

  1. All Day and All Of The Night
  2. Days
  3. All Gods Children
  4. You Really Got Me
  5. David Watts
  6. Autumn Almanac
  7. Shangri-La
  8. Do You Remember Walter?
  9. I’m Not Like Everybody Else
  10. Sunny Afternoon

Not on the list every will be “Bald Headed Woman”.

10 is a pretty small number. I will report back. Listening to their first album not, it’s so remarkable.

My Top 10 Bond Themes

Today Joe and I met Patrick at the theater and saw Skyfall. In 2011, the three of us watched all 22 Eon Bond Films. It was a project that really bonded us together. We also recently re-watched Dr. No on October 5 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. So we were going into Skyfall well versed with the Bond franchise. The film was pretty great and did the franchise proud. When the theme was released last month, the internet went sort of insane, but then again… right now most of the world is insane for Adele. I’ll admit… I wasn’t really impressed. It was a perfectly fine song, but was it a great Bond theme? Well… today I wondered (as I hobbled back to the car) would it even make my top 10 Bond themes. So I came home and went through them all so that I may run down the top ones.

  1. Goldfinger is probably the theme most people would say is “the best”, and it’s hard to argue with that. It starts with the bombastic brass that you really come to expect with Bond music. Shirley Bassey’s vocals are powerful and really match the drama of the strings and horns. It should be on everybody’s list. It also does a really nice job of incorporating the James Bond theme (first heard in the intro to Dr. No) into the song. I’m a sucker for that.
  2. Thunderball is really similar to “Goldfinger” in that is has the brass and the strings, but it also has Tom Jones. Tom Jones is cheesy, but you know what? It’s perfect in this song. Listen to it, it makes no sense but it just has that swagger that you expect from Bond. Even though this song was rushed in to replace “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (also sung by Shirley Bassey) when the studio changed the name of the film, it’s still one of the best.
  3. The Man With The Golden Gun is sung by another one of my favourites – Lulu. It definitely swings. It has the trademark brass, which also makes it a hit in my opinion. It’s just a fun song and gets stuck in my head a lot.
  4. Diamonds Are Forever is probably the most sampled of the lot, but it’s deserved. Shirley Bassey nails the vocals again. It is more string driven than brassy, which makes it not quite as bombastic as I’d like. The bass line though is very solid and has a groove.
  5. You Only Live Twice is one of the more mellow Bond themes, but it has a haunting quality that makes it very memorable. I think Nancy Sinatra’s vocals balance very nicely with the electric guitar that’s so twangy that it almost sounds like a sitar. I think this is one of most forgotten songs, but it shouldn’t be. Everybody should have it stuck in their head all the time.
  6. Goldeneye was a reboot of the franchise with Pierce Brosnan, but they Tina Turner and The Edge do a pretty decent job of honouring the Bond theme tradition, but also keeping it contemporary. Yeah… it sounds a but dated now, but it definitely feels like a Bond intro, and really… can you mess with Tina? No.
  7. Tomorrow Never Dies was a weird film that was ahead of its time. Its song by Sheryl Crow is weird because it doesn’t really sound like Sheryl Crow song. It captures the moody and dark side of the Bond franchise quite well. It doesn’t really have the brass, but it definitely does have a kick.
  8. Live and Let Die is a great film because it has Yaphet Kotto (and in spite of Roger Moore). If you know me, you know I hate Paul McCartney with more intensity than is healthy, so it sort of pains me to include this song on the list. It was a hit outside the film so it’s sort of easy to forget that it’s Bond theme. For Bond themes though, it hits all the high notes – it has the brass, it has the swagger, and it’s bombastic- even if it’s from one of the most annoying, smarmy mugs in show business.
  9. The Living Daylights is sort of weird, I’ll admit, but I have a soft spot for this song. It’s better than Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill (though that film is better), and it has the novelty of being by a-ha. Part of the problem it suffers (and I think all Bond themes are vulnerable to this point) is that it’s too much a product of its time. It’s very much stuck in a moment.
  10. Skyfall is also very much a product of its time, but it just so happens that the Daniel Craig Bond reboot consciously goes back to the original Bond. This is sort of evident in “You Know My Name” (Casino Royale) and “Another Way To Die” (Quantum of Solace). They have the horns, they have the moodiness, but they also clearly sound like they were made in the 2000s. Maybe if I actually liked Chris Cornell or Jack White then I’d like those songs, but they’re just not very good. I’ll admit, I think Adele is sort of predictable and I’m not really fond of her music, but “Skyfall” does have the same feel of “Diamonds are Forever” and “You Only Live Twice”, so it makes the list.

So there you have it. I’m a little surprised that “Skyfall” made it, but holy shit there are lots of bad Bond themes. I mean, Shirley Bassey nailed “Goldfinger” and “Diamonds are Forever” and then tanks with “Moonraker” (but that movie is just bad). Octopussy’s “All Time High” is just odd and out of place, though Pulp’s cover of it is pretty great. Actually, if Pulp’s “Tomorrow Never Lies” was selected, it might be in the top 5, but alas… they went with Sheryl Crow.

I feel like I have to acknowledge a couple of things though – of course I’m going to like earlier songs better because I just like 60s music (and production) more. I also think those films are stronger. The wilderness years of Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton aren’t really worth remembering, other than the kitsch factor. So… yeah.

I really think the next Bond theme should be by Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley. Throw in Shirley Bassey and it’d be amazing.

The long, slow road to normal.

My buddy., originally uploaded by kendrak.

On Friday June 22, 2012 I subbed for an indoor soccer team. I’d been itching to play since my team was taking the season off. It was a fun game until 10 minutes into the second half when I jumped up for a header. The ball sailed 6″ over my head, I landed on my left leg and it popped. I crumpled to the turf in pain and pretty much everybody knew I did something. I was able to walk off the pitch, so I thought I dodged the ACL bullet… after a month of resting, taking it easy, and still having my knee buckle, I got an MRI which showed I tore my ACL.

As my soccer friends say, I’d finally done my ACL. What did it mean? I could walk around and ride my bike, but I couldn’t really dance or play soccer. So I tried PT for a few months on the outside chance it would work… but I had to get the surgery. That was two weeks ago. Two weeks of my knee in a very large, heavy brace. Hobbling around on crutches. Unable to wear real pants. Trapped in my apartment. It’s not fun.

This is me and my new buddy, the STEN machine – which is basically mild electroshock therapy to stimulate my quads. PT is going to be a long slog, but my therapist has been great before and after the surgery. I’m looking forward to getting back on the pitch, but it’ll be a long while.

Biggest thanks goes to the man who’s kept me clean and fed – RoboJoe. Without him, I’d be laying in my own filth.

God, I can’t wait to get off these crutches. I miss walking, cooking, and playing my records.

Mixtape – Welcome to My Mind

Mixtape, originally uploaded by kendrak.

On the first Saturday of every month, one of my favourite record shops in the world, Phono Select in Sacramento, hosts a mixtape swap. I’ve wanted to go for months, but was usually booked that weekend. Family visits, friend visits, work, band stuff, lots of excuses. I made a vow that I would get my act together and make it up to Sac for the October one. I barely got my stuff done. My mix tape skills were really rusty, so I compensated for the creative and technical gaffes with nice artwork. Here is the mix:

Welcome To My Mind: A Mixtape by Kendra K

Side A.

  1. The Hi-Fives – “Welcome to My Mind” Welcome to My Mind
  2. The Lincolns – “Pop Kat” V/A Riot City
  3. Nickles and Dimes – “Story of Love” Nickles and Dimes
  4. The Alarm Clocks – “No Reasons to Complain” V/A Back From The Grave v. 1
  5. The Discords – “Second to No One’ Second to No One
  6. The Evaporators – “Waaa” I Gotta Rash
  7. Onion Flavored Rings – “Venus De Milo” 7” Split with Bitchin’
  8. New Bad Things – “I’ll Arrest Myself” Nestim 7”
  9. The Smugglers – “BABE” Atlanta Whiskey Flats
  10. Sonny & Cher – “I Got You Babe” Greatest Hits
  11. LuLu – “Boat that I Row” To Sir With Love
  12. Magic Kids – “Hey Boy” Memphis
  13. NOBUNNY – “I am a Girlfriend” Love Visions
  14. Hunx & His Punx – “You Don’t Like Rock and Roll” Gay Singles
  15. Pansy Division – “Femme in a Black Leather Jacket” Undressed
  16. Helen Love – “Punk Boy” We Love You 7”
  17. Mates of State – “Invitation Inn” It’s the Law 7”
  18. Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark: Electricity Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark/li>
  19. Fuzzy Wuz She – “Frick it!”

Side B.

  1. The Ne’er Do Wells – “Where’s Mickey?” Hello It Is I, Thee Intolerable Bastard Child Genius 7”
  2. The Milkshalkes – “You Did Her Wrong” Last Night at the MIC
  3. The Prisoners – “Melanie” The Milkshakes vs. The Prisoners Live
  4. The Monkees – “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” I’m a Believer 7”
  5. The Tikimen – “That’s the Way it Goes” Twelve Dusty Diamonds
  6. The Troublemakers – “You Make A Better Door” The Great Lost Troublemakers Album
  7. The Mummies – “I’m Gonna Kill My Baby Tonight” Runnin’ On Empty v. 2
  8. The Statics – “I Hate Your Guts’ Japan Tour 97 7”
  9. Frankie Ventura and the Crescents – “Pain” V/A Hang it Out to Dry
  10. The Tantrums – “Big Dress” Big Dress 7”
  11. The Budget Girls – “Go Away Geek” Get in Your Ear 7”
  12. Betty and the Werewolves – “Paper Thin” Paper Thin 7”
  13. The Ronettes – “Baby I Love You” Baby I Love You 7”
  14. Millie Small – “Oh Henry” My Boy Lollipop
  15. The Younger Lovers – “The Boy From Leeds” The Boy From Senegal 7”
  16. The Rondelles – “He’s Out Of Sight”
  17. The Greefs – “I’d Be a Good Man To Have Around the House”*
  18. The Primitive Hearts – “Primitive Heart” Self-titled 7”
  19. Midnite Snaxxx – “You Kill Me”
  20. Frick the Cat – “El Gato”

*This is actually Don Grady and the b-side to “The Children of Santa Monica”

Two copies of this tape were made. One for Dal and Nich at the shop, and one to swap. I sort of thought about ripping a copy before I handed them over so that I’d have a digital copy for posterity, but decided against it. There’s something precious and pretentious about these analog mixes from analog media, that will most likely only ever be analog. I’ll admit that’s sort of elitist, but that’s also some of the fun. This mix was from the heart, full of song I love and enjoy. Hopefully somebody will enjoy it. The format is just a layer of the presentation. I grew up collecting records pre-mpfree. I still have some of the first mixes people made for me in junior high and high school. They were transformative for sure. (Francing used to make me the best mixes that introduced me to bands like The Housemartins and the the Style Council. Seriously, how did I not know of those bands before that?)

I’m going to try to work on a mix for this month’s swap. It might have to be a CD since I’m laid up post-knee surgery (a whole other story) and can’t reach the tape deck.

U Didn’t Build That

It’s election season for all its warts. For the past two days, “U Didn’t Build That” by MCBAMA has been a really popular song in our house, getting lots of spins. “The guinea pigs love it.” “Well, the one who’s not afraid of life. She’s a Romney girl.” Thanks to Know Your Meme for the background on this.

Maybe it’s because I’m more liberal than not, or because I like old school Oaktown rap (I had Hammer pants when I was 7, don’t hate), or because I am just sick of politicians lying to the public and find the current state of the GOP especially galling, but I am more worried about Romney winning in November than Bush in 2000 or 2004. Think about that… Bush was pretty incompetent and disgusting, but I could sort of resign myself to his inevitable victory. Now though, it’s so clear how dogmatic the Republicans are in a way that really has nothing to do with small governments and fiscal responsibility. Romney’s 47% gaffe shows this disconnect from Bush’s agenda, and also show the malice they have for the poor. I’m fortunate to have a job with health insurance and be pretty OK, but I still feel we have a social obligation to the most vulnerable in society. I also feel that investing in our nation’s infrastructure is good for all. (Yeah…. that also pays my bills. I get it.) So really, while I don’t like a lot of what Obama has done (or hasn’t), I don’t think he’s going to govern like Montgomery Burns.