The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. Aftermath

    Aftermath Senior Member

    Tin Soldier Man
    Not much to add about this one, although I like the diversity it adds and agree it's sequenced perfectly within the album. Rasa's vocals are a nice touch. Almost seems like it could be called "Toy Soldier Man" given the playful tone of the song and "set him on your knee" lyric. Kind of seems like Ray is just poking fun at conformity in a "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" kind of way.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2021
  2. Wondergirl

    Wondergirl Forum Resident

    Massachusetts, USA
    Tin Soldier Man
    I have a vague memory of this song being played as a kid. The music appealed to me then and still appeals to me. But now that I'm a big girl (in theory) and take a look at the lyrics, I do see a criticism of the 9-5 grind. I think Ray's worst nightmare is to be stuck in this hence why he grabbed onto music so tightly. He explores this man/woman as cog in the machine fully in the Soap Opera album which is to come (including everyone in their uniform marching off to work in the TV play he did called Starmaker).

    Of course this is not a highlight on the album, but another example of Ray exploring a different sound. It doesn't detract from the album, but isn't a must hear song.
  3. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    I do think there is a distinction between businessmen and salarymen (like the difference between officers and foot soldiers) and agree with you that a tin soldier man fits into the latter category.
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  4. Orino

    Orino Forum Resident

    I like this take. It's not knocking the foot soldiers/ commuters/ conformists. It's living in fear of becoming one of them. It's not mocking from a position of superiority, it's a loathing of an entire system that turns people into identikit. It helps explain why Ray's songs can't be accused of just laughing at the 'little people', from the POV of a successful pop star. There's a real humanity at play.. but naturally there is also an element of poking fun, in the best music hall tradition. No one want to become something that they've laughed at, do they? Please god let me not become THAT person.. I detect a touch of this Lennon's work too, a sort of fearful laughter at a lifestyle that deep down makes your blood run cold. The perpetual fear of the working class escapee, that one day they'll be caught and sentenced to life at the office..
  5. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    This would scan pretty well at the end of the chorus.

    Thanks for the link to the lyrics.
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  6. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    The closest match is at 0:35.
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  7. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    As it's the weekend and Sunday is a day off, and I have a spare bit of time here ....

    Situation Vacant.

    mono mix (3:11), recorded early-to-mid 1967 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London

    Suzy and Johnny were happy
    Earned enough to pay the rent
    But Johnny's mother-in-law had too much ambition
    And this made Johnny very upset
    So to keep his little mama satisfied
    He went and bought the weekly classified
    All for peace and quiet's sake

    Johnny gave up his position
    Just to please his mother-in-law
    So he left the job where he'd been all his life
    He left and turned his back on door[?]

    Now he's looking at the situations vacant
    Situations vacant
    Just to keep his little mama satisfied
    He went and bought the weekly classified
    All for peace and quiet's sake

    Then he had to leave the apartment
    And sought a less plush residence
    And poor Suzy and Johnny had to skimp and save
    Just to help to pay the weekly rent

    So to keep his little mama satisfied
    He went and bought the weekly classified
    All for peace and quiet's sake

    Johnny's got no money
    Got no where to go
    Johnny's in a great big hole
    Suzy's separated, living with her ma
    Now little mama's satisfied

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

    Lyrics for "Situation Vacant"

    So we have had an interesting journey so far...
    We open with a song about the young, rich kid David Watts, who can do no wrong, and there is jealousy and mockery and the desire to have his money and position.
    Then we move into The Death Of A Clown, where we have a rejection of the circus-like lifestyles we lead, and the telling line "nobody needs fortunes told anymore" ... is that because we all have already been designated our place in the line?
    We have the Two Sisters, where they both lead very different lifestyles, one untethered and roaming free, but with little substance, and the other who is again jealous, and leads a life locked to domestic "bliss", and has very little freedom, but realises that her life has substance, and takes comfort in the fact that although she lacks freedom, she has a legacy of sorts in her children.
    No Return sidesteps as we have someone pondering their relationship, wondering if their partner may leave never to return, such is the uncertainty of life.
    Harry Rag seems to look at the fact that in all of the social classes, and no matter what age, everyone has an addiction of some sort to help them cope with this psychotic little world and the way it all works. In this instance it is the insidious little cigarette.
    Tin Soldier Man takes a poke at the salaryman (nice distinction @Fortuleo) and his regimented life, that makes him no better than somebodies toy .....
    and we have a sort of theme building. It is a broad theme, but a theme none the less ...

    So now we move to Suzy And Johnny ...
    and as has been pointed out, Ray's characters are getting named on this album, there is nothing vague about who we are talking about, it is being pinpointed.
    David Watts, The Clown, Sybilla and Priscilla, Tom and his mother, the Taxman, and the smart young ladies of the land, and the poor old Tin Soldier Man ....

    Here we have Suzy and Johnny, and an interfering mother-in-law, who isn't satisfied with Johnny's paycheck....

    The most important line that defines this song, is the Suzy and Johnny were HAPPY!
    They were satisfied and content..... these are two of the most important things in life.... If one is content, they won't be jealous of David Watts, they won't get dragged into the circus of clowns, they won't worry that their sibbling has it better, they won't be worried that their love will leave, they won't require Harry Rag, or Harry Horse, or any other life crusher .....

    But the mother-in -law isn't content. Johnny just isn't earning enough, and that needs to be remedied.
    So to keep his little mama satisfied, he went and bought the weekly classified ...

    For the young folks that may perhaps read this. Back in the day you didn't really go to jobs-are-us online. In the newspaper there was not only news, sports and stuff like that, we also had the classifieds, where you could do everything from find secondhand records, pick up a mystery date, buy a house or a car, sell stuff you didn't want, read who had died and been born in your area, and also look for a job... hence the reason Johnny went to get the classifieds.

    There is a two-fold thing going on here. The Mother-in-law should have minded her own business and let the kids have their own life, and Johnny should have told her where to get off, but Johnny was trying to please everybody, and that is always a recipe for failure (by the same token being completely selfish is not best either, there is always a middle ground, and the world seems to have forgotten this)

    Anyway, this all ends in disaster and the once HAPPY couple end up separated, and perhaps mother got what she wanted.... maybe she wanted her daughter at home to care for her, but it is likely the daughter will grow to resent her mother.... that's just how these things go.

    So after the somewhat vague Tin Soldier Man we have an incredibly pointed life lesson, with a very particular and to the point story.... and it comes wrapped in a fantastic piece of music.

    We open with a beautiful little piece of piano, that gives us a home sweet home feeling, and then Mick's drums come in like the mother-in-law, pounding the comfy house into submission.
    The bass here slides back and forth nicely, and the guitars return to the rock side of the coin. We get a really nice lead riff that accents the vocals.

    The opening verses section leaves us feeling this might be a straight up blues rock type thing, but we end up getting a bunch of really good chord progressions that keep the melodic structure of the song flowing.
    We get Dave laying down a sort of stiff, tight lead. We have Nicky Hopkins moving between straight backing, and some really nice beer house rock and roll playing.

    Again Ray manages to put all the right emphasis on the vocal phrases, and the music, to me at least, is suitably aggressive, and almost angry, in light of the infuriating subject matter.
    We get a nice play out here, that works as a coda, and almost represents the now empty life of Johnny. I believe Ray is smooshing out some organ in there, and the side of the album ends with a suitable rocker, to bring everything back round.

    This is where the flow of this album is so superb for me.
    We open with this stomping rocker, move through Dylanesque folk/rock, into a beautiful ballad, a nice acoustic reflection, a raucous graveyard folk track, a bouncy cartoonish track, and we roll back round into another fantastic Kinks rocker.

    A superb side one, the equal of anything anyone has come up with, in my book.

    Last edited: Jun 19, 2021
  8. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Spot on again mate
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  9. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Here's the mono, just because we can

  10. Aftermath

    Aftermath Senior Member

    Situation Vacant
    Fantastic lyrical analysis @mark winstanley. Can't help but wonder how Ray's relation to his mother-in-law was at the time! "Situation Vacant" sounds analogous to a "Help Wanted" section on this side of the pond.

    Then there's the music. The fade is an absolute gem---the call and response between the guitar and organ followed by Rasa's vocal is terrific in itself. The unexpected reprise to a second fade was my first real "Ha!" moment of the album though, and left me grinning ear-to-ear because it seems so inspired. An exclamation point to end the album side.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2021
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  11. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Except for the obvious killers and singles (Watts/Clown/Sisters/Sunset), Situation Vacant is, with Lazy Old Sun, the song I always think of first whenever Something Else is discussed. If we’re talking “deep cuts”, here’s one for you, with plenty of hooks and excitement, a typical Davies little social story, straight out of a sixties Italian film, and a pastiche-like rock sound that is nonetheless super catchy and effective. Yes @Mark, Ray is the one having fun on the Hammond organ, like an amateurish Steve Nieve, on the fantastic chorus. With Look for Me Baby, I've always figured this tune serves as the musical template of Wilco’s Can’t Stand It. Good depiction by our host of the very comfy opening piano, before everything gets disturbed by the stepmother, creating havoc and pressure on a guy with no ambition.

    I think that’s the biggest theme in Ray’s writing : not money or success, but the dialectics between ambition and contentment. Does contentment equal a lack of ambition or is ambition a curse that will make any sort of contentment unreachable? Ray’s proven to be very ambivalent on this subject and he’s made just as many songs criticizing or satirizing either traits. Come to think of it, Johnny could even be one of the Tin Soldiers of the previous track ! It’s pretty clear there’s a battle going on inside Ray between those two impulses. This battle is at the heart of many Kinks songs and albums, and probably also at the heart of his in & out attitude towards the rock scene. In this song’s case, it’s a sad story, because the guy was (and would’ve remained) content, if not for his stepmother’s intrusion. A sad story turned into a rollicking pop’n’roll tune.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2021
  12. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

    Few points about this one

    1) in a late 1966 interview, Mick Avory claimed that The Kinks had been rehearsing a couple of Dylan numbers to add to their live set, including ‘Most Likely You’ll Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine’. When asked about this remarkable claim years later, Peter Quaife dismissed the idea that The Kinks would ever have done Dylan songs live, and indeed Hinman concludes that Avory was probably pulling the interviewers leg in his book, BUT… this track makes me wonder, as it’s organ riff is highly reminiscent of the one in ‘Most Likely’… Maybe (probably) they never played the Dylan song live, but I wonder if ‘Situation Vacant’ developed from a jam on ‘Most Likely’?

    2) I remember reading ages ago in a review I’ve long since forgotten any other details of that the story related in ‘Situation Vacant’ was based on a British kitchen sink film of a few years previously, though I can’t recall which one. The closest match I could find on doing a fresh search I could find was ‘Room At The Top’, where the lead couple have the same names, although the plot differs considerably while sharing some elements: Room at the Top (1959 film) - Wikipedia
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2021
  13. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    “He left and turned his back on the door”

    The big problem, of course, is the troublemaking mother-in-law. But the immediate problem is caused by Johnny quitting his job before securing another position. Been there, done that!
  14. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    It's altogether possible he was having a tongue in cheek dig at the brothers, because there are a couple of tips of the hat to Dylan on our journey
  15. Orino

    Orino Forum Resident

    "Stuation Vacant", yes is probably the album's fulcrum point, if that makes sense. I tend to feel most if not all albums have one song that you can say the full 40 minutes revolves around, or can be represented by, somehow.

    It's a slightly odd construction this one. If anything it's one of the first story songs where I feel the music/melody is slave to the narrative, rather than something that exists in its own right - compare to David Watts or Dead End Street. I'm a bit underwhelmed with the 'chorus', most of all, it's kind of a throwaway after all the build up.

    Is it in the end just a song about someone leaving his job without back up? What's it really getting at? Is it a hymn to small c conservatism, about not sacrificing the simple life on the altar of ambition? Maybe.. there's shades of Village Green and Big Black Smoke in there, perhaps.

    Trying to please his mother in law, he quites his happy job too soon and it all goes to pot.. maybe that's the point, one daft decision made for the wrong reason and you can lose everything. Actually, I can relate. Don't shoot yourself in the foot, trying to please others who ultimately don't care about you anyway.

    It's another kitchen sinker of course, others have said it very well. Once again I see formica table tops, fingers blackened with newsprint, a broken tea caddy with a handful of grubby coppers in it, as our disintegrating couple try to scrape by. (Speaking of Kitchen Sink, I always think of the mother in law in the film "A Kind of Loving" when I hear this song.. a highly recommended watch!)

    I do like the music. Especially when it goes all grungy, with those heavy descending scales and so on. It is indeed a sad story, and perhaps an angry one too.
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  16. Adam9

    Adam9 Русский военный корабль, иди на хуй.

    Toronto, Canada
    I think Situation Vacant is like a perfect short story with an O. Henryesque ending - the mother-in-law gets what she wants albeit in a different way that she or her son-in-law had imagined.

    Edit: Cymbals:
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2021

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Salem, MA
    My thoughts on "Situation Vacant" is that the mother-in-law never cared for Johnny in the first place. She probably thought that her daughter married beneath her & should have married somebody else (I've seen this situation up close). So she starts bugging Johnny to get a better job & she succeeds in getting under Johnny's skin so that's he not thinking straight & quits his job w/o a backup plan. His unemployent causes the couple to split & the mother-in-law is happy as hell because she can tell Suzie that he was a no good bum all along & to find someone else w/proper arm sweat or something like that. Fancy that this song was written in 1967 w/no mention of newspaper taxis, white rabbits or paper suns!
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  18. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    London, UK
    Situation Vacant
    Again, commenting after a first listen...
    The piano intro feels quite fresh at the start and I think its a good tune. I wasn't sure I followed why Johnny had to leave his job to please his mother in law only to end up with no money, but the explanation below helps!
    I like your interpretation, I was a bit confused by the storyline but that makes sense!
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  19. idleracer

    idleracer Forum Resident

    :kilroy: I'm glad I'm not the only person here who takes notice of these things. This is why, whenever I hear this song, I immediately think of The Beatles' "It Won't Be Long," which has a similarly unusual structure, because the first verse has different lyrics than the other two and is not preceded by a bridge. A few months later, Ray would come up with some of the greatest "curveballs" of this nature ever committed to wax in "Wonderboy," but more about that later.

    :kilroy: I can so easily imagine this song with barely audible drums, being sung at twice the speed over a scratchy 78. There were lots of records of this nature that utilized the term "Wicki Wacki Woo" back in the late teens and early 20s of the previous century. Click HERE and HERE for a couple of examples. Ray obviously still hadn't quite gotten over whatever he experienced in Waikiki a couple of years earlier.

    This became a hit in the the U.S. a couple of years after Hawaii became a state. It also uses the phrase (at 1:48).

  20. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    You made me go running to see the lyrics for John Prine’s ‘Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian’ but, alas, no ‘wicki wacki woo.’ (A lot of other stuff, though!)
  21. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    "Tin Soldier Man"

    One of the lesser songs on the album. It sounds like them clowning around and having a laugh. I'd say it has more in common with "Lazy Sunday" by the Small Faces instead of "Tin Soldier". Steve Marriott was embarrassed by the success of "Lazy Sunday" and thought they would now be labeled as a jokey band. I believe this is one of the reasons he formed Humble Pie. He wanted to be taken as a serious musician. Some say he became a bit too serious and lost his sense of musical humor. I wonder if "Tin Soldier Man" had become a huge hit if Ray would have also resented it as not clearly representing the band? It's a fine album track, but it has never made its way on any Kinks compilation I have ever put together. It does sit well in the sequencing of this album.

    "Situation Vacant"

    Strangely enough, when I was listening to this yesterday it was also reminding me of The Small Faces with the the little organ breaks and the style of the song. I can hear Steve Marriott ripping into "So to keep his little mama satisfied,
    he went and bought the weekly classified." I can also hear the Dylan influence of "Most Likely You Go Your Way" in the organ riff. After having so many songs that were purely Kinks in style and unlike anything else at the time, we start to hit upon a few songs that find The Kinks in that groovy summer of love. This song maybe feels more like 1966, but it's taking us right into 1967 with the next two songs. This is another good album track, but also seems like minor Kinks compared to the highlights on the album.
  22. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Maplewood, NJ
    Tin Soldier Man

    I will confess, I've known this song for about 20 years and always just assumed it was about an actual soldier (although the "Tin" must have been a metaphor or reference to the Wizard of Oz or something). But now I see that is about the salaried worker, working day and day out to support the family. Musically, I love the addition of what others have said was a tuba, but it almost sounds like a baritone sax to me. We heard the trombone on Dead End Street that added to a bit of the sadness of that song, but the trumpets here add a lot of fun color to this, and almost makes the bouncy melody a bit circus-y like Mr. Pleasant. Quality-wise, this is almost definitely in the lower half of songs on this album. But it does it's job and fits in pretty well right after Harry Rag.

    Situation Vacant

    Ok so did the Zombies steal the mood of the intro 4 bars here as a basis for their 1968 album Odessey and Oracle? The rest of this song is such a good fun rocker that I could imagine being on Face to Face, like maybe Suzy and Johnny lived next door to the Most Exclusive Residence for Sale. Musically, I love those little organ accents and Dave's clean little solo. Lyrically, I hear "And poor Suzy and Johnny had to skimp and scrape", not "And poor Suzy and Johnny had to skimp and save". I think that changes the story a bit in that they didn't really have enough to save, they were just scraping by. I find it interesting that even though again the characters are named here, "little mama" is not Suzy's mother... but rather, Johnny's mother-in-law. It's an interesting choice to frame her that way, and she has the conflict with Johnny (not Suzy), so we need to know the relationship between her and Johnny. After getting separated, I wonder if Johnny bought a motorcycle and got a new nickname, perhaps?

    Combining everything, it's so interesting that this is really like a full narrative... I don't really see this in a verse, verse, bridge, chorus, verse (or however you would order it) format. This just seems like one really long story over one really long melody. I don't know how else to describe it. In that aspect, it seems Dylanish to me.
  23. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    Are you sure that’s “arm” sweat?:whistle:
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2021
  24. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    Free at last, free at last. I am finally over my crush on Annette Funicello.
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  25. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I considered this too... I sort of figured some factors into this....
    I'm not sure that the mother-in-law necessarily directly got in Johnny's ear... From my experiences it is generally MIL nags wife - Wife nags husband -Husband starts drinking lol
    So I think Little Mama is Suzy

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