Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.
Found another source for the Mr Pleasant Beat Club clip: see if this works better for everyone:
Mr. Pleasant: wow! First time I’ve heard this and am blown away. A lot packed into that song. The trombone, harmonies, Ray’s lead vocal, the bridge, a snapshot in time (I searched for average television sizes and found this in Orlando Sentinel:
“Zenith Monet Y4528H
Introduced: 1968 Cost: $350 (approx.)
Screen size: 23 inches
Must-know: Color TV sales didn't overtake black-and-whites until 1967, but when they did, this was one of the most popular models. This bulky set was almost 31 inches high, 34 inches wide and 20 inches deep.“)
... is a little harder to take. Unlike earlier stabs at the upper crust, here we're told Mr. Pleasant works late. He's not just some rich wanker born into the idle rich... he is "a success," a term we don't associate with silver spooners. So while we can easily have scorn for earlier protagonists, this one isn't so black and white. I was already tiring of all the class warfare, but this bit of sarcasm seems rather misplaced.
Ethical arguments in the lyrics aside, the song is musically brilliant. The whole sideshow atmosphere is perfectly executed. It does musically lend legitimacy to the central theme of the song. It's not a sound I want to listen to a lot, but it most certainly is perfect here.
This is Where I Belong
I like the musical phrasing of the verses with each line starting with long drawn out vocal notes that transition in to half time notes followed by a fast melodic instrumental lick and finishing with a clever drum fill that leads back into the next line. All this in service of a thoughtful if not particularly complex lyric.
A very fine b side that also would have made a solid album track.
I’ve always been intrigued by the lyrics to this song because I feel Mr Pleasant isn’t one of Ray’s generic characters. If he is, he’s a very specific subset of society. Mr Pleasant is someone who has worked his way from poverty to prosperity while forgetting about his family and wife. ‘How’s your father?’ etc sound like rhetorical questions. Mr Pleasant wouldn’t know because he’s too busy. Ray might have encountered one or two Misters Pleasant in north London.
This is Where I Belong
To me this is quintessential sixties Kinks. The opening chords couldn’t be any other band. Musically the song verges on the edge of sloppiness, garage rock style, but manages to stay in the groove. I love that aspect of the Kinks.
Lyrically, this song taps one of Ray’s enduring themes - that of belonging or sense of place (which he explores more in VGPS and especially Arthur). Unlike his character in Dead End Street, Ray is content with his lot. He recognises the push and pull factors but is happy to stay, however tough it is. He’s tapping into reality. Despite emigration, the vast majority of British working class people don’t stray more than about 30 miles from where their parents live (I think that number was in David Goodhart’s 2017 book The Road to Somewhere - which I have in another box somewhere…). Someone will correct me if I’m very wrong. But I still love this song.
Mr. Pleasant - I've loved this song for years now. The bounciness of that trombone accent/answer after those first couple "hey hey"s and "how are you today?"s is great. What's interesting now that I pay more attention to the song, is that in the second half of the song, the trombone doesn't do that bouncy answer anymore. The trombone is pretty much just playing Ray's lead along with him. Seems like a conscious choice, for some reason. Perhaps life isn't so bouncy and pleasant anymore? And now the last verses are rounded out with that sadder trombone sound to fill the gaps? Perhaps I'm reading too much into that.
This Is Where I Belong - I've had this on my F2F deluxe CD for several years now, but for whatever reason never really played this song too much until the past few weeks as we have been exploring this era's album and singles. I have grown to really enjoy this song. It's got that classic 60s sound, and I thought the lead vocal (especially in the chorus section) reminded me of a more modern artist. And then finally it hit me. Now, call me crazy, but I do wonder whether Radiohead (mid-late 90s: Bends/OK Computer era Radiohead) were inspired by this. To my ears, I can hear Thom York belting out the vocal melody of the chorus (and to a slightly lesser extent, the verses too) in that kind of long drawn-out way. Anybody else hear that? Anyway, love the song and its just incredible how many cylinders Ray was firing on at this time. I think he was firing on ALL cylinders.
Final version of Mr. Pleasant is in D. That alt take (which I had never heard before) is in E-- a little high for Ray's voice.
I'm with those who feel that the lyrics here are a little heavy-handed and cruel compared to most of Ray's songs from this era. But.... it's a cartoon. And a cartoon with fantastic music. Also, I'm not sure that it is devoid of compassion, or at least pity, mixed in with the schadenfreude. Nicky Hopkins gets to go to town on this one, and I am a massive Nicky fan. I agree that it's a 4/5. In spite of my slight reservations, I never skip it -- the music is too good. And, I like it enough that recently, I bought the French "cloverleaf" EP on Ebay. Far too much money given that it was a trashed copy (which I predicted), but I hadda have it.
The single was recorded, and then pressed up, at least at the "Advance Promo" stage, by Pye for the UK. It was gonna be the next single.
Then Ray wrote and recorded "Waterloo Sunset." This was such an obviously more important song, and Pye felt it had so much more commercial potential, that the label decided to skip "Mr. Pleasant" for the British market, to give the best chance to the new song. (Would have been nice if they treated the albums the same way, instead of releasing Marble Arch comps against them). But they had all these advanced promo records pressed and ready to go. So those ones were sent to Denmark and mixed in with those already pressed up for the Danish market:
The Kinks - Mister Pleasant
The following is from Doug Hinman's book. I think we now know that it was released in many more places than just the Netherlands. Turkey, Greece, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Italy. In the US with "Harry Rag" as the B-Side:
Kinks '67 - April - Friday 21st
"Mister Pleasant" / "This Is Where I Belong" single briefly planned for UK release is instead released in The Netherlands. Plans for the British release are apparently advanced enough that copies have been pressed ready for sale, but once "Waterloo Sunset" appears as a contender it is decided to hold back UK release and export copies instead to sell on the Continent - where it becomes hugely popular.
Solo instrumental single by Nicky Hopkins and the Whistling Piano. I wonder who the other musicians are? Is this an outtake from the session with a whistling overdub? I suspect it's a separate session, but who knows. Nicky's part is almost identical.
I don't think you are. It's the sound of the facade unraveling... I think
Spring... and Living Room... were also included on the BBC set, fwiw.
I don't disagree with this at all.... I think Mr Pleasant's problem is a disconnect... more about ignoring your loved ones and being self centred or oriented...
It is a quite complicated lyric for interpretation, because this guy has much more going on than first meets the eye.
How many “Mr.” songs do The Kinks have? Quite a few!
I guess we'll be talking about a couple of songs recorded in November 1966 tomorrow, with orchestral overdub added February 1967. I'd like to note here that a song released a year later is reportedly recorded at in the same month as "Mr. Pleasant," perhaps at the same session: "Polly," aka "Pretty Polly." I don't want to jump the gun by talking about it in depth, but it gives us a little idea of what is going on behind the scenes.
I'd love to know the source of this information, which I'm assuming is from Doug Hinman's research. I've got a certain suspicion that this may be a typo, given that its a-side, "Wonderboy," was recorded in March 1968, and shares cello and some sonic elements. Also given that it feels like too strong a song to have been held back for so long. Unless it was being held back for that "Under Milk Wood" album Ray was thinking about.... Which makes sense, given that "Polly Garter" is a character in Dylan Thomas' play.
"No Return" was recorded in January 1967, and I think "Sand in my Shoes," an early version of "Tin Soldier Man," was recorded in late 1966. This is all from memory, and yet I have no idea when anything has taken place in my own life over the last 18 months.
Under Milk Wood - Wikipedia
Another thing about "Mr. Pleasant" -- who is narrating? Is it just one person? I feel like we are hearing a documentation of fragments of small talk, of meaningless pleasantries exchanged within a community, in the street. Also, maybe, we are hearing the meaningless voices in people's heads as they pass Mr. Pleasant and decide that he's "all right" and "ok.". Or maybe it's the chatter in his own head, or the agreements and categorizations during gossip. Or all these things.
The voices seem like neighborhood suburban spirits, and maybe they are the real subject of the song. In that way, they seem related to the sneering spirits singing backup in "Big Black Smoke," mysterious forces, maybe malevolent and oppressive, that one must contend with as one copes with civilization.
Dave’s backing vocal at the end blandly chanting ‘Mr Pleasant Is Good, Mr Pleasant is Fine' always seemed to represent to me the sunny official public image of the titular character being repeated like a mantra, either by the guy himself in denial or his PR rep making a 'no comment' statement as the scandal comes out. I'm sure you'll get to it in the right place in the timeline, but the BBC version from later in 1967 has Rasa take this line singing in a very Nico esque European accent that definitely emphasises the German/schlager/Cabaret/Weimar vibes that the track was already channel fairly strongly.
Unravelling as you put it is spot on.. the whole song has a queasiness to it.. it's the sound of a beautiful lie curdling.. on paper it always seemed a curveball that the 80s goth band The Mission did a faithful cover of this track, but really the barely masked darkness and entropic downward drive of this track is right in that genre's wheelhouse.
This Is Where I Belong
A bit retro and the reflection and positivity remind me of I'll Remember and like that piece I too feel this would have fit very well on the Face To Face album.
Yes this also sounds circa 1965 & is a bit sloppy but it more than makes up for that with it's great charm.
A very well written and arranged piece that I still enjoy but I somehow fell out of (my initial) adoring love with.
Fine lyrics and I don't have a problem with any cutting lyrical message however at times I do find the piece a bit grating, perhaps in part due to the toppy sound that could have had more bass frequency to actually be more pleasant.
So a very good song no doubt and I too have the French Mr Pleasant EP for years now but I don't regularly play the track.
Mr Big Man
Mr Churchill says
Mr Shoemakers Daughter
Edit: it kind of fits in with the idea of the longform conceptual continuity of the Vallage Green... it almost seems to be the underlying theme of the Kinks
There have been some suggestions that the song title was changed after Larry Page concluded the single might receive a ban if radio stations thought the song had homosexual undertones. The record appeared as 'See My Friend' and was also listed in the first week in the charts under that name.
Apparently, the singular 'Friend' was very suggestive at the time and Page feared a ban or reduced airplay if broadcasters analysed it too much.
"It is patently obvious that the friends I'm singing about are not girls", Davies said in 1994.
Too bad he didn’t add a ‘Mr’ to ‘Session Man.’
I'm pretty sure Tin Soldier Man and Plastic Man are both Mr's.
I’ve got some time today, so….
I’m reading here a lot of interesting takes on the lyrics. As always with Ray he is oblique enough that no interpretation is necessarily wrong or right. It works however you chose to make it work.
My take: youth-driven pop culture of the 60’s was especially attuned to the idea that the young were the enlightened among the populace. They were “with it,” as it were. The older generation were out-of-touch squares. (Dylan: “…your old road is rapidly aging. Get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand…”). This attitude was part of the growing 1966-67 hippie ethos. From Berkeley a catch phrase—‘never trust anyone over 30’—became part of the vernacular of the times.
This attitude was embraced fully by rock and roll’s young crop of attitude-shaping auteurs. Except by Ray. Whereas many of his contemporaries were celebrating the divide (with the Who’s “My Generation” perhaps serving as its anthem) Ray’s songs of this period offer an extraordinary display of understanding of his elders. From “Autumn Almanac” to the entirety of Arthur, there is a consistent level of insight, empathy and compassion towards people, things and institutions that are, well, over 30.
This resolve to be his own man in the face of what everyone else was doing is one of the things I admire so much about Ray Davies the Songwriter.
So what makes “Mister Pleasant” lyrically such a rare bird is that it is an uncharacteristic example of Ray Davies falling in line with the prevailing sentiments of his fellow rock auteurs. I agree with Orino and Steve E in their recognition of a mean-spiritedness towards the protagonist of the song. Whereas the similarly targeted “Well Respected Man” is offered up as observation without judgement, “Mister Pleasant” mocks the man for his cluelessness. Ray suggests that in being a conformist (in goals, deed, and expectations) the protagonist lacks the ability of genuine insight. I’m not sure a Dandy-like reassurance in the last-line that he’s “okay” can undue the overall feel of a younger, insightful guy making fun of an older guy who aspires only to chase old-model goals. He’ll approach this with much more characteristic compassion in “Shangri-La” in a few years.
Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t love this song. I do. It’s just my observation that the lyrics are out of character for the Ray Davies of 1966-71. But that’s okay; it’s his prerogative to explore as many approaches to songwriting as he wants. And we the fans are all the richer for it.
Musically, Nicky Hopkin’s OWNS this track. To say piano features prominently in this song is like saying a string quartet merely gives Eleanor Rigby texture. No, this would be a completely different song without that Western Saloon road house piano feel. If they edited out the guitar intro and the trombone flourishes it would still be the same song, but you could never lose the keys without this becoming something else. Could Ray or Talmy have conceptualized this any other way? Nicky deserves a “Get Back featuring Billy Preston”-like credit on this one. Session man, indeed! I picture him at an upright in a stripped vest, a sleeve garter around his bicep, a derby cocked on his head. Leave it to Ray to juxtapose that kind of 1890’s musical imagery with lyrical imagery that suggests mid-20th century Mister button-down conformist business suit. Just one of the many reasons I find the Kinks so fascinating.
This is Where I Belong.
I had no idea the degree to which this was a mystery track in Britain and France. In my experience it popped up early in my awareness because of its presence on the U.S. Kinks Kronikles, which I actually owned before many of the full albums that the tracks from this collection were culled. Considering it was tucked among such a great assemblage of jewels, can you blame me for being initially underwhelmed by “This Is Where I Belong” when it appeared on a side of a disc that opens with “Victoria” and ends with “Waterloo Sunset?” It took the cover version by Ron Sexsmith on that titular cover versions collection for it to be rehabilitated in my mind. After all, if it was good enough to name the album after…
Thematically, its contentment-with-where-I-am stance makes it a cousin to “Autumn Almanac” and it probably would have worked on VGPS more appropriately than either “Monica,” or “Wicked Anabella.” But the band would have had to rerecord the song to make it sonically feel right for that LP. It definitely has a Face to Face feel.
I’m with the group that finds this one a little obvious compared to earlier Kinks character portraits. It’s still a significant rung higher on the scale than the later Plastic Man. The live television appearance shows it at its most appealing, with Ray’s bemused grin and the antics with the trombone.
This is Where I Belong
This is one of my favorite Kinks tracks. It hits me physically when I hear it. I’m surprised that more here don’t rate it as highly. Verse, chorus and bridge are all just wonderful. Being from the States, I first heard it on Kinks Kronikles. I suppose it has become hip, as the 2002 Ray tribute album is named after it.
Dead End Street
I was going to comment the other day on how The Clash borrowed the horn riff from Dead End Street for the bass line in London Calling, but A.J. Smith beat me to it. It obviously didn’t escape Ray, as A.J. also pointed out, as Ray recast the song for To the Bone as a Clashalike. The Clash (well, in both cases my friend Mick Jones) also borrowed the descending riff from Waterloo Sunset and sped it up for I’m Not Down, also from the London Calling album.
I have the bootleg of that show. I had no idea Kronikles had not been released at the time, because as soon as Ray launches into the vocal part the audience applauds as if recognizing a familiar tune.
That a fan was invited to sit in with the band reveals a casual informality between the group and its cult-like fan base in those pre-Lola US touring years. John Mendelsson has written about during these years Ray agreed to let him come on stage to play tamborine for a number, but he was prevented by a security guy.
Great story and surprisingly good audio too. Thanks for sharing!
Reading how non-US members of this thread haven't heard "Mr. Pleasant" nor "This Is Where I Belong" until fairly recently to me underscores what a great compilation the Kinks Kronikles is. It was one of my first Kinks records when I got into them & I would recommend it to anyone as a gateway album.
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