The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.

  1. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

    Location:
    Glasgow
    A week late for the thread (keep up Shel!), but Shel Talmy just posted the 'Blueprint for Dead End Street' to his fb page.. FWIW he says Dalton is on the single and it was recorded 21st October 1966.. but of course as Ray has claimed the single version was a re recording they did in secret after Shel's take that still doesn't definitively resolve who's on the single!

    Shel Talmy
     
  2. FJFP

    FJFP Host for the 'Mixology' Mix Differences Podcast

    He does mention the French Horn too, which if I remember correctly is not on the final track?
     
  3. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Ahhh the Kinks Mystery catalog lol
    We need Sherlock Holmes ..... Moriarty and Dracula
     
  4. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    Ray's emotional intro to Days, especially when he glances to the sky for Pete just kills me every time.
     
  5. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Death Of A Clown.

    [​IMG]
    Single by Dave Davies
    from the album Something Else by the Kinks
    B-side
    "Love Me Till the Sun Shines"
    Released 7 July 1967
    Recorded June 1967
    Genre Chamber pop[1]
    Label Pye 7N 17356
    Songwriter(s) Dave Davies, Ray Davies
    Producer(s) Shel Talmy


    "Death of a Clown" is a song by Dave Davies, member of British rock group the Kinks, released as his debut solo single in 1967. The song was co-written with his brother Ray Davies, who contributed the 5-bar "La la la" hook; Ray's first wife, Rasa, sings this phrase as well as descant in the second verse, while Ray himself sings harmony in the refrain. Nicky Hopkins played the distinctive introduction, using fingerpicks on the strings of a piano. The single was credited to Dave Davies but the song also appeared on the Kinks' album Something Else by the Kinks, released later in 1967.

    Dave Davies said that "Death of a Clown" was written about the repetitive performing schedule he and the rest of the Kinks worked through. He said, "One night I nodded off at a party and woke up and saw all these decadent people running around. I had a vision of being a circus clown. I thought, “What are we doing?” We were going from day to day to day like performing seals. And that's where I got the idea for 'Death of a Clown.' I went back to me mum's house with the same old out-of-tune piano and I plunked out three notes, and it turned into the song."

    The single release was met with considerable success in the UK, hitting #3, thus prompting Dave Davies to consider embarking on a solo career. When subsequent singles were met with less success, the idea was set aside until 1980, with his debut album being AFL1-3603.

    In the July 2011 documentary
    Dave Davies: Kinkdom Come, Davies said this song resulted from him sitting at the piano and feeling unhappy with his life, that there should be something else. It was about disillusion, even though at the time he had fame, fortune, drugs and beautiful girls, there was something missing. He drew the analogy with a clown who makes everyone laugh but is really crying.

    By coincidence, one of the most famous clowns in history, Joseph Grimaldi, was born December 18, 1778 a few miles from where the Davies brothers grew up. Clowns celebrate his life with the Funeral of Grimaldi the first Sunday in February at All Saints Church, London.

    By 1967 Dave Davies had found the shine had begun to come off his late night carousing. "This song touches on that disillusionment," he told
    Q Magazine. "Am I just a party pleaser for everybody's amusement?"

    Here also is an article about the song in classic rock magazine ... thanks to @Arnold Grove for posting this in the unusual did Mike Nesmith write/inspire Death of A Clown thread
    The Stories Behind The Songs: Dave Davies' Death Of A Clown | Louder

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    stereo mix (3:12), recorded Jun 1967 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London

    My makeup is dry and it clags on my chin
    I'm drowning my sorrows in whisky and gin
    The lion tamer's whip doesn't crack anymore
    The lions they won't fight and the tigers won't roar

    La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
    So let's all drink to the death of a clown
    Won't someone help me to break up this crown
    Let's all drink to the death of a clown
    Let's all drink to the death of a clown

    The old fortune teller lies dead on the floor
    Nobody needs fortunes told anymore
    The trainer of insects is crouched on his knees
    And frantically looking for runaway fleas

    La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
    Let's all drink to the death of a clown
    So won't someone help me to break up this crown
    Let's all drink to the death of a clown
    La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
    Let's all drink to the death of a clown
    La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

    Written by: Ray Davies/Dave Davies
    Published by: Noma Music, Inc./Hi-Count Music, Inc. BMI

    So this song was released, somewhat bizarrely as a Dave Davies solo single, in spite of the Kinks playing on it, Ray and Rasa singing on it, and Ray writing the la la la hook..... and of course it also appears on the Kinks next album.
    I would certainly love those of you in the know, to fill us in on the details of how and why this came out this way.

    As someone completely unfamiliar with the behind the scenes politics of the band and management decisions, and someone who hasn't read any of the books, it seems like releasing this as a Dave solo single is somewhat like a decision to give Dave some due, in order to keep the peace, with Ray writing most of the songs, and also making most of the decisions, or so it would seem.

    In that info up the top I find the way this song came about to be really interesting. It almost marks the point where, a still very young, Dave grows up, and sees that the trappings of fame, and the culture he is tied to, isn't exactly all it seems to be.

    The styling of the lyric writing seems like an attempt to channel Bob Dylan and his poetic styling from the thin wild mercury sound era, and frankly I think it is really a very good, if not one of the best, attempts to do so.

    You can hear the state of mind Dave is in here. It is almost palpable.
    The circus truly is in town, but nothing is as it seems. In fact it isn't functioning at all. The clown is drunk and depressed, the lion tamers whip won't crack, the tigers won't roar, the fortune teller is dead, the insect trainer is looking for his fleas, who have run away in disgust ....
    The circus has become this empty, absolutely desolate joke, and nobody is laughing.

    It is really interesting, but I wondered if there was any connection to Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Henry Crosby's Tears Of A Clown, but in fact it was only released in August of 1967 on the Make It Happen album, and subsequently released as a single at what seems like the very late 1970 .... So I suppose it is altogether possible that Dave inspired it, rather than the other way around.

    I like the way the song starts off very realistic and then slowly moves into exaggerated absurdity, almost reaching a surreal type lyric. The line "Won't someone help me to break up this crown" is really interesting ... the first thing that comes to mind is an unusual request for a drinking partner, as Crown Lager comes to mind, but thinking about it a little deeper .... obviously a crown represents royalty, and so it is almost like a refusal of the throne in light of the ugly circus that surrounds is. A rejection of the circus that the music industry has become, or at least the "groovy" scene that surrounds it.

    To me here Dave shows quite clearly that he has moved forward a long way with his writing, and it also shows clearly that when you're inspired to write something, rather than forced or pressured into writing something, the results are generally so much better.
    Dave so far has contributed
    a co-write with Ray - Got My Feet On the Ground
    The Dylan-esque - I Am free
    and possibly some uncredited assists with/for Ray ...
    In some ways that makes this an even more remarkable track to me.

    Musically we open with the ghostly plucking of the piano strings by Nicky with an nice tape echo on them, and then we burst into this acoustic guitar driven, and quite punchy folk meets burlesque track.
    The arrangement builds beautifully, and then almost becomes a celebration of this fiasco we are surrounded by.
    Rasa's backing vocal on the la la section has a ghostly, childlike sound to it and adds a lot to the overall atmosphere of the track.

    At about 1:28 we get a really interesting sound added in, I can't quite make out exactly what it is, but it hits just after we find the fortune teller dead on the floor. It has a lot of delay or reverb in it, and almost sounds like someone attacked the ppiano strings with a cricket bat. An effective little detail.

    Again Nicky Hopkins piano helps the song along nicely ... it almost seems as if Nicky should have been made a member of the band.

    We move into the la la la coda, and for me we have a really strong song, from a source unexpected, and it shows that Dave really could have been a very effective writer for the band..... We will find out later, that for all his interest in writing, and for the successes he did have, by Dave's own account he lost interest very quickly, and never really followed up after further songs ended up being less successful, but somewhere around the Arthur period we will look at the shelved Dave solo album.

    I reckon this is an excellent song, and it really adds to the upcoming album.

     
  6. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    The b-side for Death Of A Clown is a very good song, but in order to move into the album, and to try and keep the album track by track having some kind of flow, I will cover the b-side in context with the album.
    It seems remarkable that so many songs were released before the album was released, but I guess we will find out why it happened like that tomorrow.

    So tomorrow we will move into the album Something Else by the Kinks. So those of you who like to prepare stuff, have a heads up :righton:
     
  7. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Superb write up @Mark ! Are we already in one track mode or do we wait for the Something Else song by song days to do that ? As today is still about the single's release, I wonder what you will decide (oops edit : just seen you've made up your mind), especially as the two single sides have that usual Kinks thematic unity, one about partying all the way, the other about the results of doing so…
    Dave’s usual scruffy singing style is just perfect for that theme. As you mentioned, it's said to be autobiographical (and he confirmed so in interviews and books) but some people also link it to Stan Laurel, a real clown, a real alcoholic and a real dead person (in 1965). I like to think there’s also some truth to it, but let’s see if this thread's own Stan Laurel @Martyj will confirm this, if he’s around today.

    In any case, Death of a Clown is one of the greatest drunk songs, with a fabulous singalong quality, like all drunken songs should have. I can picture Harry Nilsson singing it or (especially) Ronnie Lane, whose gypsy/circus solo style was very close in spirit to this tune. The guy’s singing to himself, drinking to himself, embarrassing himself as nobody around him seems to react anymore. Maybe they’re passed out drunk themselves, maybe they just look another way because he’s so embarrassing to look at. In my mind, I'm not sure it’s even a real circus, it’s the usual “circus” of late parties, a metaphor of loneliness when one is so drunk the rest of the world doesn’t register anymore.

    This track is a great case of hearing Dave developing as a superb songwriter and Ray doing the same as a producer. From the get go, the music itself is staggering drunkenly, thanks to this extraordinary piano strings sound conceived by the bigger brother. The key changes for Rasa's bits (another Ray device) enhance this feeling, while adding melancholy and pathos to the proceedings.
    We've all marveled at Rasa’s contributions to the Kinks’ sound already, and many posts this week-end stated that what she did on Waterloo Sunset was the best of them, but I’ll argue what she adds to Death of a Clown is even greater, at the same time angelic and eerie, like in a gothic ghost tale. Some see this as a Kinks track, some as a Dave solo single, I like to think of it as a bona fide duet.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  8. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Yes we are :righton:
    Take your time from now :)
     
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  9. FJFP

    FJFP Host for the 'Mixology' Mix Differences Podcast

    I absolutely adore Death of a Clown. With it's truly ethereal quality (this comes up a lot for this album), it is unmistakeable, and has an undeniably catchy sing-along chorus. I'd be fascinated to know who contributed what, but for me the tape delay on that piano intro and throughout makes the track. Pure ear candy from start to finish, including all the little flourishes such as the aforementioned slide down the piano. Glorious stuff. Again, incredibly glad this made the album. Maybe a strange move in 1967, but a great one for us in 2021.
     
  10. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Actually Rasa is one of those surprise discoveries for me. I didn't know anything about her prior to the thread.
    The little touches she adds to the sound of the band most certainly deserved credit, and it is a little disappointing that it seems little or no credit was given
     
  11. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Dave performing 'Death Of A Clown' at time of release on 'Top Of The Pops'. The intro to this by Alan 'Fluff' Freeman and Dave's reaction is priceless!

    To explain the somewhat mangled state of this footage, it was recovered in 2009 from a tape made on a very early home video recording device, presumably owned by someone fairly well to do as these things were state of the art and not cheap at the time. Among other early adopters of home video were all 4 Beatles and Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees.

     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  12. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Live solo version from Belgian TV in 2002:

     
  13. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Dave was less than impressed with the winner of the 1968 Eurovision song contest, performed by Spain's Massiel. See if you can work out why:

     
  14. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    Location:
    England
    "Death Of A Clown"

    First time I heard this in stereo I was amazed by the amount of space in the mix - it sounded huge and it really allows the ghostly piano and backing vocals to take effect. It's actually a very good song and lyric - if there hasn't been a thread on "songs which use the circus as a metaphor" then there ought to be one. It's very catchy and surprisingly haunting - even so I'm surprised that it was such a big hit.

    A couple of things about the lyrics - I thought it was "cracks on my chin" in the opening line. Originally I thought that the trainer of insects was "furtively" looking for runaway fleas, but I later came to hear it as "frantically", which I suppose makes more sense. Ambiguities like this are perhaps another thing that makes it Dylaneseque (e.g. we split up on the docks that night/a dark sad night, fifteenth/thirteenth century etc)
     
  15. bvb1123

    bvb1123 Rock and Roll Martian

    Location:
    Cincinnati Ohio
    "Death Of A Clown"
    My favorite Kinks' song that I can't seem to remember. Whenever I'm asked what my favorite Minks' songs are I always answer with "Waterloo Sunset", "Celluloid Heroes" etc... because I never think of this song. Every time I put on Something Else By... I'm always very pleasantly surprised when this song comes on. I even have it on two of my Spotify playlists but can I ever think of it without actively hearing it? Apparently not. Despite all this, just an incredibly good song. Maybe one reason I like it so much is I didn't discover it until I got the album it's on in 2018/19 so it's still fairly new to me and, unlike some of their other wonderful songs, this one is definitely not overplayed anywhere. Interesting history to the song that I didn't know, which is one of the best things about this thread. Thanks, @mark winstanley if I haven't said it before. I love The Kinks and this thread is just making me enjoy them even more. Not much else to say about this song, but it's a killer tune.
     
  16. Arnold Grove

    Arnold Grove Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC
    :righton:
     
  17. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

    Location:
    Glasgow
  18. Pawnmower

    Pawnmower Senior Member

    Location:
    Dearborn, MI
    Oh wow.. you like the Minks too? First time I met a fellow fan.
     
  19. bvb1123

    bvb1123 Rock and Roll Martian

    Location:
    Cincinnati Ohio
    Damn. Too late to edit too. Oh well, God Save The Minks!
     
  20. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

    Location:
    Glasgow
    There actually is a (nearly) all female Kinks tribute band called The Minks:

     
  21. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    But aren't they in Sunday school?
     
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  22. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Location:
    Evanston, IL
    Nah. They’re just a cheap knockoff of the Ermines.
     
  23. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Location:
    Evanston, IL
    On the live Dave solo performance above it is “cracks”. Almost all the lyrics you see here are transcripts from the recordings, not the published lyrics.
     
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  24. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    Location:
    New Mexico
    Death of a Clown

    Possibly Dave's masterpiece.

    And I can't get into it at all. Such a downer. And that miserable vocal! Nothing in this song appeals to me aurally, emotionally, or intellectually. Three strikes is an automatic trip to the "next song" button.
     
  25. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    Won't comment just yet but spinning my UK 7" pictured right & left we have the Dutch P/s.

    Death Of A Clown / Love Me 'Till The Sun Shines
    Dave Davies 1967
    UK Pye Cat: 7N 17356

    [​IMG]
     

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