Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.
Ray Thomas and the Moody Blues revisited this theme 14 years later. This one reaches me more.....
Around the time that "Death of A Clown" came out, it was speculated in the UK music press that Ray was going to do a "Brian Wilson", that is retire from live gigs to concentrate on studio & have Dave be the leader of the live band. There was also the idea that Dave have a solo career doing YRGM type rockers while the Kinks would do the stuff that Dave Marsh loved so much
"Death of A Clown" was certainly a milestone in many ways for Dave, being a big hit in its own right, as well as is in its Dylanesque lyrics. Also, the background vocals by Rasa point out what many here has been astute about, namely how Rasa's vocals were the "secret sauce" of many, if not all, of the Kinks songs of that era. When this thread comes to the post 1972 era, the disappearance of Rasa's vocals will be a major factor on the change in the Kinks.
Fun Fact #1 on Something Else: Its cover can be seen in a record store display in the movie Scrooged.
Sorry i am a day late with this one....
UK Pye 7" In Company Bag
Waterloo Sunset / Act Nice And Gentle
& the Dutch P/s issue on the left.
Act Nice And Gentle is........
A fun jaunty number that conjures music hall and perhaps also a barroom knee's up!
Very English, very Ray and an enjoyable tasty snack to try whilst awaiting a main course from the *Kink Kitchen!
N.b. *See Mark I didn't even have to gratuitously insert incorrect K's at the beginning of words to achieve the same effect!
That intro is amazing, but the warble is quite the trip!
I needed a laugh. Thanks... all three of you
"Death of a Clown" is excellent. Great catchy tune, but the production/arrangement keep it interesting. I love how the piano comes in one beat before the word "gin" at the end of the 2nd line. The intro, the la-la-la's, the built-in sing-along. Love how he sings the line "Nobody needs fortunes told anymore." These gems make you wish Dave were more prolific. He's entering a strong period of his own, so we should enjoy it while it lasted. Can't believe any Kinks fans don't like this one. Great job, Dave!
Death of a Clown - A friend of mine in the late 90s introduced me to the Kinks (other than YRGM and Lola) with Sunny Afternoon, Tin Solder Man, and Death of a Clown. So this is among the Kinks songs that I have known for the longest amount of time. It is very unique, to say the least. An odd sounding piano (I wonder if Nicky had heard about the piano tricks that Brian Wilson and Tony Asher performed on "I Still Believe In You" to get that distinct sound...). An odd sounding lead vocal. An odd sounding background vocal. I'm a bit surprised it was such a big hit! Such an odd sounding song. But such a great song to drink and sing along to.
I saw Dave perform this in a beautiful church in Montclair, NJ not too long ago in 2018. It was a pretty good setlist! A lot of the songs we have already discussed, and several more that we will in the future.
A colour photo from the b/W TOTP video I posted above!
Lotta Clowning going on in 1966/7… as well as Tears Of A and Death Of A, we have Ha Ha Said The, not to mention The Hollies ‘For Certain Because’ Clown, and the sinister circuscape of Mr Kite, and doubtless many others… I guess this commonality of carny imagery reflected something of the grotesque carnivalesque zeitgeist of the High Sixties.
I hadn’t planned on participating today…but since you called on me with this question…
No, I am unaware of a Stan Laurel inspiration for this song. First I’ve heard of it is from you. I think most people make a distinction between circus clowns and movie comedians, i.e. “clowns.” However, if one is fishing to find such a movie “clown” whose death (and news making obituary) was closer to the timeline of the possible compositional genesis of this song, I would suggest Ed Wynn, (see: Ed Wynn: The Perfect Fool) whose career and persona was much more identifiable with the clown tradition, although he wasn’t an outright circus clown, either. He died summer of 1966, a year before this song’s release. Unlike Stan Laurel, who was an occasional out of control drinker (including a DUI arrest) rather than an outright alcoholic, Ed Wynn suffered from bona fide alcoholism, spent time in rehab, and continued to struggle until his death.
But I would question if he, too, was an inspiration for DOAC in anyway at all. A clown as a term can have such a wide appropriation (which is why I don’t think Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” was influenced by this, anymore than the Everly’s “Cathy’s Clown” (1960) or Gary Lewis’s “Everybody Loves a Clown” (1965) inspired Dave.) This song is much more universally relatable if one comes at it not in terms of a literal collapse of a circus and a death of a clown but as it is a Dylan-esque metaphor for the good times are over, and having a drink to remember them.
That's how I've always heard it. He sings "cracks" on the "To the Bone" live version.
Oh boy, I hope clags/cracks doesn't devolve into another arm sweat/own sweat debate...
here is a picture from my vantage point of seeing Dave in 2018. I was in a balcony section of the church. He had two other musicians with him. It was such a great experience seeing him. I had tickets to see Ray back in 2010, but he had to cancel the show due to an illness… Never got to see him.
Death of a Clown
This and "Susannah's Still Alive" took longer to warm to than the rest of the hits on the compilation that introduced me to the band, thanks to Dave's raspier vocals. (There was one other song I wasn't keen on too, but I'm still not keen on it, actually. Still to come.) Also this song sounded like some kind of bar-room drinking song from an earlier age. I was also confused by the high voice on the la la la bit- weren't the Kinks an all-male band? (I hadn't noticed Rasa's less prominent singing on the other tracks).
Now, I like it a lot. My favourite Dave song and it goes very well with Ray's songs on the album.
I'm loving this thread but I've little to add.. I could just chime in every day and say "I like this one" I suppose, cos it's pretty much always true.
"Death of a Clown" ethereal, spooky, folky, etc.. a really unique sounding track, very indicative of the often peculiar "Something Else" I think. Crazy how little I've previously sensed Dylan in Dave's stuff but this is probably Exhibit A, mostly due to the not-quite-melodically-there vocal delivery.
The whole Dave Davies single by the Kinks on a Kinks album thing is sort of baffling.. but also not really. I find it useful to remember that albums and singles and even band names are often just labels/ marketing constructs. Hence talk about "but is it really the Kinks/Beatles/Beach Boys (or whoever) without member (x)?" is just academic. Is it any good, is more to the point (and it is!) NOT that it's been an issue here, in our happy Kinksdom, but I've seen it cause all manner of fighting elsewhere..
Yeah I knew nothing about Rasa's vocals but she seems to be everywhere in this classic era. I always assumed her vocals were Ray. It always sounded like an unguarded male falsetto to me, which added to the strange feel of many Kinks songs.. guess that's just her unusual timbre.
As for the lyric.. it obviously became a favourite go-to didn't it.. gather round all you clowns, etc. It's a useful metaphor, often used disparagingly, to do with fakery, disguise, playing a role. It becomes a terrible lyrical cliche later on I reckon, but this one passes with distinction.
I too was briefly intrigued by this when I first got the album, but then remembered 'Caroline, No', best known as the closing track on The Beach Boys' 1966 album Pet Sounds, had been previously released as a Brian Wilson solo 45. It only bothers me because I weirdly choose to file that Brian 45 under "Wilson, B", but the Dave singles under "Kinks, The".
Regarding Rasa, I stumbled upon this post this morning: Did A Teenage Girl Make The Kinks Great?
...which links to this, one of the only interviews with Rasa, apparently: Rasa Didzpetris
...which contains this tidbit:
Rasa, however, would sometimes take a very active role during the writing of the songs, many of which were written in the family home, even on occasion adding to the lyrics. She suggested the words “In the summertime” to ‘Sunny Afternoon’, it is claimed. She now says, “I would make suggestions for a backing melody, sing along while Ray was playing the song(s) on the piano; at times I would add a lyric line or word(s). It was rewarding for me and was a major part of our life.”
So, she may have added A LOT more than she is given credit for.
?? Aren’t you contradicting yourself?
Has anyone ever noticed the severe tape drag at 2:32 on the stereo mix of Death of a Clown? It’s most noticeable on the US Something Else stereo LP and the US Kink Kronicles LP.
It’s not there on the new remaster of the stereo mix. The song actually slows down in pitch at 2:32 and the piano sounds flat, bringing the last la-la-la chorus down almost a quarter-tone in pitch! I always assumed it was intentional, underlining the “drunk” (and depressed!) element of the song…
Death of a Clown
Firstly, I'd like to say that somehow this is the first I've heard of this thread! The Kinks are easily my favorite band and Something Else is my favorite album by them.
Death of a Clown is obviously a highlight of the album, and possibly Dave's best song. The contrast between the bouncy, upbeat music and the desperate lyrics is brilliant, and is what makes the album as a whole so great in my opinion.
Something Else and Village Green are often singled out as being "behind the times" and defiant of the technicolored-psych that was popular in England at the time, but I think the Kinks adapted to the sound very well. Some songs (like Lazy Old Sun and Phenomenal Cat) are very obviously psychedelic, but there are a lot of sounds in Death of a Clown that are very telling of 1967 too. And as a fan of that era, I think that's a good thing. Most noticeably, the angelic chorus (which could probably be taken literally if you really want to read into the song) contributed by Ray sounds like something out of early Pink Floyd. And the big piano crash that underscores the line "lies dead on the floor" really shows that the Kinks were more than up on the trends but chose to do Something Else instead.
Musically, I find it interesting how similar the compositional styles between the Davies brothers was... especially at this time. Not that Dave couldn't ever hold his own as a songwriter, but Ray took probably the biggest artistic leap of any of his peers (yes, even the Beatles imo) in mid 1965, and especially on Face to Face, it's clear that Ray was still ahead of his brother artistically. But Something Else proves that Dave caught up quick. And not only did Dave get good quickly, but he managed to do basically the same style as Ray.
The 12 string (?) guitar dominates the track and like the guitars on the rest of the album, it's mixed to sound really bright and tinny (I mean that in a good way, I love the production on there). There's a lot of music hall influence on the album, and while this song isn't often singled out as an example of one of their music hall songs, I think it definitely shows some influence, particularly lyrically. I'm sure somebody else has mentioned this already, but the 'angelic' chorus is provided by Ray's wife Rasa, who did the same type of singing on a lot of tracks from 66-69, but most noticeably on Something Else.
I can separate my personal reaction from the artistic qualities the song embodies. I can acknowledge the however if the song and the reactions it gets from others even if I don't share them. That was the whole point of my post.
It's really interesting you mention this, but I have been thinking a lot about this as I started really trying break down Something Else a couple of weeks ago....
There is quite a bit said about the Kinks avoiding, or not really participating in the psychedelic era much.... but I kind of feel that is misreading the music somewhat...
I'll go more into it tomorrow, but I think they did, but typically in their own way....
It's almost like they deliberately did their own version of psychedelic music, to set themselves apart from the trend, in a way... and I wonder if that was somewhat like they really altered their style to escape the early beat thing too
Anyway, just thoughts
I see. I would have understood your point if you’d phrased it as “often considered” or whatever (in a way that made it clear you were distancing your own opinion from what you consider to be more commonly held). But anyway, got it.
Personally, I like the song but don’t consider it to be in the masterpiece category. And, after watching a few of the live performances posted above, am beginning to question whether it was even meant to be a downer! He smiles while singing it.
Oh, and by the way... welcome to the thread.
If you head back to Saturday, there is a thread guide that will direct you to everything we've looked at so far
They were?!? I thought Lavender Hill was from a couple months after they wrapped up SE. I agree they sound similar, but there's a Mellotron there on Lavender Hill.
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