The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Totally agree mate.
    I was so impressed with the writing here, I posted it to @Rose River Bear 's most complex pop songs, and I hope the bear jumps in and does a breakdown of it, as a much better musically technical mind than I.
    I always loved Good Vibrations, but I'm not sure I think of it as being technical in the sense that this song is
     
  2. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    With reference to the 'My Street' section being reversed in order to create the main refrain of the song I've got to link to Mitch Friedman's tweet of last year where in reply to Dave mentioning this, Mitch retro reversed this section and what he then heard:

    https://twitter.com/mitch_friedman/status/1256350664998957056?s=21
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2021
  3. tables_turning

    tables_turning In The Groove

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic, USA
    Perhaps they loved to wallow all day as well?
     
  4. tables_turning

    tables_turning In The Groove

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic, USA
    And such a positive ending, too, with backwards horns and Ray repeating "yes" over and over...
     
  5. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    Location:
    England
    And of course, the last time it comes back to the "la-la-la" refrain is via the words "come on home", which the song is doing after having strayed a very long way.

    I've listened to "Autumn Almanac" several times today and each time the melody comes close to bringing a tear. This is what's great about standalone singles for me - as an album listener I come across them less often, so whenever I do hear them, they are always a treat and sound fresh. (The Jam's "Going Underground" is another classic example of that)
     
  6. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    It’s only fitting that this extraordinary single would follow directly on the heels of Something Else, as it’s almost like the song attempts to pack the whole diversity of this LP (at least Ray’s tunes) in no more than three little minutes. Here, you get everything at once: the Englishness, the music-hall, the pub singalong, the atmospheric psychedelia, the observational genius, the passing of the seasons, the musing melancholia, the pop sensibility, the bouncing street parades, the heavenly/ghostly female vocals. It’s all there! And it also elaborates on two previous stellar non-LP A-sides Dead End Street and Mr Pleasant. Of the former, you get the multi-part structure, of the latter the ability to create a seemingly never-ending melody, while still retaining a cohesive organic beauty.
    Autumn Almanac moves forward like a mad melodic train but it never loses you on the way. I read somewhere that XTC’s Andy Partridge tried to emulate this song for his whole career. But Partridge compositions can sometimes be too complex, or too rich, or too convoluted for their own good, while this crazy tune charges along with hooks, cohesiveness and, dare I say, logic. When I listen to it, I don’t experience it as a “mini suite” like Good Vibrations or A Day in the Life, with various bits and pieces spliced together. It’s incredibly complex (arguably even more complex than the Beach Boys/Beatles above masterpieces) but somehow, it sounds like the simplest catchiest verse/chorus song you’ve ever heard in your life.
    This is one rare tune where I wish I was English and could identify with it from the inside. But even from the outside – that is from the other side of the channel and the Eurostar – it’s utterly irresistible.
     
    The MEZ, The Quiet One, bato and 19 others like this.
  7. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Spot on mate.
    That doco has Partridge talking about trying to emulate this track his whole life, and although I am a pretty big fan of XTC, he never managed it, for the reasons you clearly state.
     
  8. Orino

    Orino Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Quite possibly my favourite Kinks song of all..

    I was track 2 after "Waterloo Sunset" on my kompilation.. I thought it funny and unusual, eccentric. It took a few listens to really appreciate it.

    Most of all this song is a journey; the rambunctious chorus refrain, suggestive of vigour and activity, flowing into a classic Kinsian reflection on local social happenings, leading into a gorgeously constructed, contemplative interior monologue.. then blam, straight back into the big chorus.

    The neat trick is that, much like the lyric, the melody ambles along quite naturally, and it never feels like it's forced - like a stroll through the leafy park and surrounding suburbs for me, one thing leading quite naturally to another. Until, before you know it, you're figuratively back in the street where you were born, remembering the past, hopefully making some sort of peace with the future.. just as you come back to your senses in the present day, where perhaps some leaves still need sweeping up.

    The vocal melody is so natural and free flowing that as I say, it just rolls along, but the underlying chord structure is incredible. If you play along on guitar you feel like it's never going to resolve, until the last piece miraculously falls into place.

    The "Yes, Yes, Yes" refrain finally sort of vindicates Macca's dad back in 63. Turns out you CAN have a hit record without having to go American with "Yeah Yeah Yeah".. something delightful about that.

    Yes.. and to stay Beatles-y for a moment I think these final repeated simple spoken "Yes"s, as the song fades, are life affirming in the same manner as Yoko's "Ceiling Painting" installation of the previous(?) year. You can always find your truth.

    So much else to say but I'm glad I'm not the only one besotted with this song. :)
     
  9. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Location:
    Murrumbateman
    Autumn Almanac
    I too love this song and feel it speaks to an England that I remember: not just the autumn leaves, but my grandmother went on holiday to Blackpool every year until she died and my aunties could have been the characters in the ‘this is my street’ section.
    Nick Hasted’s excellent book The Story of the Kinks has a nice passage on this song, which I’ll take the liberty of transcribing:

    The first Kinks single officially produced by Ray, Autumn Almanac was deceptively ambitious. It’s intro of acoustic guitar and biscuit box drums is followed by eight discrete yet flowing phases, in three minutes. “It’s got lots of little facets”, Ray agrees, “it’s like a little play. I like that song because its story blocks that all seem to fit together. That’s a nice bit of work. It’s comfortable, it feels good, and I’ve got through it. That’s the best part of writing songs. It’s like jewel making. When I was in art college, I wanted to be a good craftsman, and it’s great to build up a song like a little box. I was experimenting with backward tapes, and the melody in the beginning reversed in the middle. It’s called mirroring, but I didn’t know that.”
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2021
  10. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Location:
    Murrumbateman
    At the risk of revealing I have no original ideas (at least today) - and many thanks to those who do: I am very impressed with others’ contributions - here is another great book excerpt, this time from Johnny Rogan’s bio of Ray, A Complicated Life:
    ‘The song is debatably Davies’ most carefully constructed composition, a veritable triptych in which each symbol and stanza combines to create an intensely visual experience. Like a director filming a nature documentary… Davies daringly sets the scene with a close-focus image of a caterpillar crawling from a dew-soaked hedge at the break of dawn. It is an audacious opening for a supposedly commercial single, eschewing character or action in favour of a slow, almost static portrayal that is most remarkable for its ordinariness…..He does not seek or imply profundity when presenting these images or suggest any deep symbolism or subtle subtext.’

    Rogan is describing what we all hear - an everyday occurrence in nature - but is also arguing it was extraordinary for Ray to write about something so ordinary. It’s one of those quirks about Ray and the Kinks that has always appealed to me.
     
  11. Martyj

    Martyj Who dares to wake me from my slumber? -- Mr. Flash

    Location:
    Maryland, USA
    That's possibly the best interpretation of a single's contextual relevance to its period of existence that I've read in this thread's 200-plus pages. Well stated, my friend!
     
  12. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Location:
    Maplewood, NJ
    Here is a link to a YouTube that focuses on the "this is my street" section and plays it forward and reverse to find out where Ray discovered the "Autumn Almanac" lyric phrase:
     
  13. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Amazing (or maybe not so amazing given their Kinks influence at the time) how the backwards bit sounds a lot like early 00s Of Montreal!

    According to his Dave's autobiography, 'Mr Shoemakers Daughter' was written in a similar way by reversing 'Death Of A Clown' and writing a new song based around what they heard: would be interesting to see if someone could try playing that one backwards too!
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2021
  14. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I don't think I mentioned it, but among everything else, the vocal phrasing is superb.
     
  15. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Location:
    Maplewood, NJ
    Autumn Almanac
    I won't re-hash all the accolades that you all have already praised upon this song. It deserves all of them. But turns out this will be a long post anyway, sorry in advance. The only comment I'll add to what @ajsmith said about the reverence that "Good Vibrations" receives is that obviously that song is historic and what Brian did to create that in 1966 is just mindblowing -- BUT, it is rather painfully obvious that Good Vibrations is a cut & paste job of different recording sessions, studios, what have you. It all still sounds incredible and I wouldn't remove a section. But from a pure pocket-symphony perspective of sections and short movements, Autumn Almanac is far and away such a more cohesive single piece of art. The transitions are smooth, consistent, and it sounds like one take. I think my BB comparison to the hidden complexity of a mini-symphony would be "This Whole World" off of Sunflower.

    This Ray interview excerpt from @Steve62 is worth highlighting again:

    When I was in high school and college, I dabbled with poetry. I tried all different styles, but what really made me focus on the art of it was the sonnet. The structure and delicacy of it. In order for it be a proper Shakesperean Sonnet, it needs the ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyme scheme with iambic pentameter throughout. The challenge to do this in form, while also linking a story together was fascinating to me. I ended up experimenting a bit and threw in some additional rhymes within each single line, unrelated to the ABAB ending scheme. I think my creative peak was also around 22-23 years of age. Anyway, that's my comparison to Ray's artistry. It's like he invented his own particular form of songwriting, and Autumn Almanac was him experimenting and coming up with something that takes the art to a whole new level.

    Now to get into a bit of the details of why I love this song... little nuggets throughout.
    1) The first verse is just about the most beautifully descriptive poetry that has been put into a pop song. I want to focus a little bit on: "Breeze blows leaves of a musty-colored yellow, so I sweep them in my sack". The first part of that couplet is the gardener taking a moment to truly appreciate the beauty that surrounds him as the season is ending. He sings it with this jaunty, reflexive bounce. But then, reality sets in, he shakes his head to get out of his trance, and goes back to work to sweep them in his sack. Pardon me for getting a little ahead of our timeline, but to me, it is a similar sentiment to Verse 2 of "Some Mother's Son". I'll leave it at that. This little 2-line couplet, to me, has as much character development as an entire act of a play.

    2) How Ray sings "gone" in the "because the summer's all gone" line. It's so much.... something.. in that one word. Is it satire? Joy? "Oh too bad the summer's gone for you, but I love it because now it's turning to Autumn"?

    3) I have seen some lyrics have one of those be "Autumn Armangac" around 2:23... is that Ray being playful with the singing of "Almanac", or is he purposely saying "Armagnac", which is a lovely spirit?

    4) What is that ramping up sound at about 2:51? I assume a mellotron setting? Its seems unique and only used for that 1-2 seconds.

    5) The visual of the "Autumn Almanac" the phrase. @mark winstanley provided the details of what an almanac contains, but in my mind, it is an old leather bound book, filled with things worth remembering. But I guess it doesn't need to have an old leather cover. Perhaps a light-gray or off-white textured fabric, with some old drawn pictures of those that were important in your life, along with some little ornate frames for added depth.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2021
  16. Steve E.

    Steve E. Doc Wurly and Chief Lathe Troll

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    That's absolutely amazing!!!! Don't miss this!!
     
  17. DISKOJOE

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Location:
    Salem, MA
    How does one follow a song as profound & brilliant as "Waterloo Sunset"? Ray certainly did that w/"Autumn Almanac". There really hasn't been too many songs about Autumn in comparison w/the other seasons. This is definitely one of the most popular songs about Autumn (although I get the feeling that my fellow avids* on this thread will probably inform me of other songs). Anyway, the lyrics seem to indicate a person who is living a happy life despite the fact that he hasn't really left his neighborhood & is content w/roast beef dinners on Sunday & going to Blackpool every summer, probably to be ill treated by Basil Faulty. However the lyrics "...I can't get away, because it's calling me....." may seem to indicate that just maybe the narrator has some doubts about his present lifestyle, but it has a profound pull on him (fear?). Finally, isn't it ironic that we are discussing this song when I at least feel like laying in my yard, sipping an ice cold beer, blazing on a Sunny Afternoon?

    P.S.: The Farmer's Almanac is a famous US publication & which is still published every year.

    *Brian Matthew, RIP
     
  18. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    Location:
    England
    Ray is singing "the summer's all gorn" - this is a kind of exagerrated Cockney way of saying the word "gone" .

    My understanding was the when Ray played the song backwards, what came out was "Autumn Alman-I-ac", and this is what he is singing here. But listening to the backward samples posted here, it sounds like "almanac" anyway.
     
  19. tables_turning

    tables_turning In The Groove

    Location:
    Mid Atlantic, USA
    ...a theme soon to be revisited partly in "People Take Pictures Of Each Other".
     
  20. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Interesting, I have always heard Armagnac

    Armagnac is a distinctive kind of brandy produced in the Armagnac region in Gascony, southwest France.
    [​IMG]
     
  21. Adam9

    Adam9 Senior Member

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Autumn Almanac

    This song strikes a very personal note with me, in particular the "This is my street" section.

    For most of my life I lived in the same part of the city. In my teenage years and twenties I moved farther out to the suburbs and found it boring (think "Pleasant Valley Sunday" by the Monkees).

    Fortunately I was able to move back to more or less the same neighbourhood with the same streets I used to ride my bicycle on as a child. I moved again, but only one street west. That was 25 years ago and I feel like I'll stay here for as long as the character in the song.

    I find the tone of the "This is my street" section gently mocking but I don't care (although I've been fortunate to visit various continents, seemingly unlike the homebody in the song).
     
  22. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    I find it comforting to think that even all these years later, Ray still has another 20 plus years to go before he hits the big 99 as mentioned in this song. Hopefully by that point there will have been one more Kinks album!
     
  23. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Location:
    Evanston, IL
    In the 2009 solo version Ray clearly sings “almaniac”.
     
  24. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Autumn Almanac is my favourite Kinks song, bar none.

    I was trying to find out recently which Kinks songs my wife knows/likes. She likes a lot of them but when I played her this one her comment was that it's exactly the kind of song that I like and that she doesn't - the kind with lots of sections. Though I think it's still a viable pop single (and the British public clearly thought so) because, if you like, you can ignore all the sections and concentrate on the oft-repeated hook. In fact, this is how heard it as a child. Only when I was grown up did I notice all the complexity. It's like Lewis Carroll or something - immediately appealing to the little ones, but works on a whole different level for the adults.

    I don't know whether to be pleased or disappointed that people got to the "Good Vibrations" comparison before me - it occured to me one day it was the Kinks' equivilent to that song, and I was impressed at myself for thinking of it.

    The "This is my street" section is my favourite part.

    Wow, really? Do we know if this was because it was considered too English, or if the Kinks were so commercially dead in the water in the U.S. by this point that it made no difference if their singles were issued or not?

    I always heard it as "Armagnac" that time round, and I've always hoped that was the actual lyric. I thought it was because he was running out of rhymes for "almanac" and didn't want to be too repetitive. But the "copying the backwards tape" theory is also attractive.

    As with "Waterloo Sunset", its qualities are so deep I find myself wholly unqualified to describe them. It's a masterpiece.
     
  25. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    Location:
    New Mexico
    Today in Kinks history:

    Days, with b-side She's Got Everything, is released on this day in 1968. Recorded in early June at Pye Studios m(No.2) on 3-track mixed to mono.
     

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