The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly 1964-73 rock's best decade

    Last Of The Steam Powered Trains
    Probably the only song on this album I would call mediocre. It goes on too long. It does fit with the theme of the album, but otherwise is the least interesting song for me on this album.
  2. Wondergirl

    Wondergirl Forum Resident

    Massachusetts, USA
    The Last Of The Steam Powered Trains.
    I remember hearing this initially and being unsure of it. It's a grower though, isn't it? If I was forced at gun point I would say it's my least favorite on side 1, but that is not an indication that I don't hold it in high esteem. The rave up part is so great. And as I've said before I love a good harmonica. The band is all locked in and rockin' out.

    Though I usually don't love elongated songs like the live one posted earlier (nearly at the 10 min mark), it sounds like it would have been fun to witness it live. Dave's vocals really sound extra cool when he hits his high notes. His voice was made to complement Ray's voice so well.
  3. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    That sounds like a Winstanley!
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  4. Pawnmower

    Pawnmower Senior Member

    Dearborn, MI
    This is NOT good! One of my favorite albums ever is being discussed without me because I went out of town as soon as the discussion began and I've been trying to catch up with work since I got home. I'm going to have so much reading to do when I get the chance! I'm sure the thread's been as brilliant as its been since day one. Let me see what I can do right now.

    Congrats on your son @FJFP. Wonderful news!

    "Village Green Preservation Society" - A wonderful anthem to kick off the album. I don't usually go for theme songs but this one not only states the purpose of the album, but can also survive outside the context just fine. The lyrics are a colorful collection of people and things. The Donald Duck bit seems a bit left field but I just go with it. I don't remember another album where the drums command my attention this much. From the 0:19 mark when they kick in, they just slay. That earworm riff shows up throughout.. I'm assuming it's Dave's "woo's"... and that organ at 1:11! I love the arrangements on this album so much. There are so many great things going on all the time.

    "Do You Remember Walter" - I remember this song being one of the first I took a liking to when I discovered the album. It's a very easy topic to relate to. I had a particular friend from age 6 to about 15 and then he just changed on me and went a completely different way. I've wondered what we would talk about if we ever saw each other again. Would it even be friendly? The piano, pulsating bass, and those excellent drums again, drive this track. A favorite part is 1:31 when that instrument (flute?) is copying the vocal melody. Never tire of this. I love the backing track version we get on the 5CD box. You get to hear so much of what's going on under those vocals.

    "Picture Book" - How did Green Day get away with not giving Ray a co-write credit on their song "Warning"? Clearly another winner here, but it also struck me as a bit too obviously commercial. Which is odd since they didn't bother making it the single it should have been. I like the sentiment very much. The song starts with "Picture yourself when you're getting old." Now who wants to do that? Certainly not the young hip kids. But the song is so accessible and so damn catchy, you are helpless to its powers. Flourishes abound. The bass going up in the chorus is so addictive. The na-na-na-na-na-na. Pete and Mick are just killing it on this album. I also have to point out the climactic final note drenched in reverb.
  5. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Not just Muddy Waters but also Howlin' Wolf was pressured into making a psych/rock/blues LP at this time!
  6. Safeway 2

    Safeway 2 Forum Resident

    Manzanillo Mexico.
    The Last Of The Steam Powered Trains.“The Last of the Steam-Powered Trains” is about as close as The Kinks get to rocking out on this album, which isn’t close at all. This is more straight-ahead rock offering with the heavy use of the harmonica with a little nod to the blues. It's a distinct Kinks tune at any rate except this is a mid-tempoed bit of riff rock. The melody, again, is catchy, and this is a lot of fun. The electric guitars, while steady and smooth have bursts of stinging power. This piece about the Victorian locomotives that were the great symbol of both progress and destruction during that age has its value in the overall pattern. The superb song is equally as powerful, a nod to a noble breed of travel now confined ot the local museum. I picture the faster rocking instrumental section that builds in the last third of the song, back into the verses, as a dream sequence in which said train is flashbacking on its previous glory days. What a clever metaphor to fit in with the theme of changing times as it even picks up momentum as it passes, and ends at a faster tempo than started. Changing times in a blink of an eye.
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  7. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Great observational post!
  8. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    What I actually wrote was that it sounds like it's going to be a blues song when it starts.
  9. SCOTT1234

    SCOTT1234 Senior Member

    Last of the Steam Powered Trains : there's that faster section at 2:57 with 12 ascending chords. Surely Paul Weller knicked that for the AP OC AL YP SE ending of A-bomb in Wardour Street? Although he only goes up the scale 6 times.
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  10. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    The Last Of The Steam Powered Trains

    Great title and idea for the VGPS album with a pertinent lyric, fine backing vocals & back end rave up accompaniment to boot!

    Though I do like the song i don't hold it as high now as when I first heard it & borrowing such an iconic blues riff almost gives it a cover (or rewrite) feel.
    Also i wish Ray had got Dave to use a dirtier & greasier guitar tone closer to the live 1970 version posted up thread as i find it far more befitting of a grimy old steam train telling his tale.

    I never skip it but it just isn't top tier for me when I gaze across the tracks!
  11. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    I don’t even agree with that bit but I’d need to move to the blues pedant thread to discuss it any more. Now I’m looking forward - and upward - to Big Sky.
  12. zipp

    zipp Forum Resident


    Well I like trains and I love steam trains so I can't really not like this song.

    Musically fine and lyrically excellent.

    As has been pointed out "I live in a museum, so I'm OK" is one of the defining lines of the album.

    Ray sees the train as noisy and dirty and not adapted to clean smooth modern living. Like him it's a renegade resisting modern life.

    Anther line I love is where Ray appears to make up a new verb: "All my friends are middle-classed and grey".

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  13. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Big Sky.

    This is an extremely interesting lyric, and I have often wondered if people have been completely misinterpreting this as being about God .... with a quick look this morning it seems that it may well be about Big Business, High Rollers etc...
    I think the Sky part of the equation leans people in the God direction, but at the end of the day, we always put our own spin on lyrics, and folks seem to lean toward the idea of a God picture being drawn here.

    Ray originally wrote the song in Cannes, and this was the scenario "I spent an evening with all these people doing deals. The next morning at the Carlton Hotel I watched the sun come up and I looked at them all down there, all going out to do their deals. That's where I got the "Big sky looking down on all the people" line. It started from there."
    Ray has been asked if this song was about God, but apparently he has always avoided answering that.

    stereo mix (2:50), recorded Sep-Oct 1968 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London

    Big Sky looked down on all the people looking up at the Big Sky.
    Everybody pushing one another around
    Big Sky feels sad when he sees the children scream and cry
    But the Big Sky's too big to let it get him down.

    Big Sky too big to cry
    Big Sky too high to see
    People like you and me

    One day we'll be free, we won't care, just you see
    'Til that day can be, don't let it get you down
    When I feel that the world is too much for me
    I think of the Big Sky, and nothing matters much to me.

    Big Sky looked down on all the people who think they got problems
    They get depressed and they hold their head in their hands and cry.
    People lift up their hands and they look up to the Big Sky
    But Big Sky is too big to sympathize

    Big Sky's too occupied
    Though he would like to try
    And he feels bad inside
    Big Sky's too big to cry

    One day we'll be free, we won't care, just you wait and see
    'Til that day can be, don't let it get you down.
    When I feel that the world is too much for me
    I think of the Big Sky, and nothing matters much to me.

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

    Our character is looking down on all the people, and has little sympathy for their situations. He sees the people pushing each other around, jockeying for position .... to get themselves in a better position, for rewards.... Like beggars fighting over the scraps thrown their way.
    So the first verse seems more in line with a business man from my perspective, and the chorus seems to line up with that - Too big to cry, too high to see, people like you and me, the commoners working in the trenches. This would tie in with Ray's general writing on these kinds of matters......

    But the bridge has a really interesting twist, that seems to give the Big Sky a double meaning in the song....
    One Day We'll Be Free, We Won't Care, Just You See ... free from what one would wonder ... If we were talking about an omniscient God of some sort, there seems little chance that we would be free of that .... surely?
    Then we close it out by saying
    When I feel that the world is too much for me
    I think of the Big Sky, and nothing matters much to me.
    This sort of seems to be a different character than the one in the verses .... I'm not sure why we would take the comfort depicted in these lines in a tyrannical leader of some distinction....

    Anyway, lyrically this track is very interesting, but seems to have several double meanings, or perhaps changes of characters ... or perhaps it is just not quite as focused as we generally expect Ray to be.

    I have no idea if this was among the earlier pop songs to incorporate a spoken verse, augmented by sung sections, but it seems quite ahead of the game in that regard, and it certainly doesn't seem like a typical song delivery for 68 and prior.

    Musically this is fantastic. We open up with this wonderful accented riff. For dramatic effect we get the banging held chord underneath the riff to give us some contrast.
    Again Mick is giving us a great drum track, and the bass is solid and holding together the bottom end.
    We again get a scenario where the song isn't really hard rock or anything, but Dave is pounding out his guitar.... there is a sort of venom in his playing during the majority of the song.

    We move into the key change in the bridge beautifully, and it also gives us a dynamic contrast. The second half of the bridge is so delicate and reflective as well, it also really works to draw me into the song.

    It has interested me that several songs so far, people have suggested don't really tie into the thematic angle of the album.... if any, this one actually seems more likely to fit in that slot..... unless this is a wealthy business man in a big building looking down on the Village Green ... Remembering of course that Ray is in London....

    I think we sometimes look at the Village Green as being this country village, with farms and pole fences and cattle gates and a certain quietude or something, perhaps we are misreading Ray's interpretation of the Village Green with that.... I don't know.... Remembering that the Village Green is just a specific part of the place we are looking at, and we aren't told that there is nothing around the Village Green.... This may also explain why Johnny Thunder the rebel motorbike rider fits in the picture comfortably.

    Anyway, I guess I am raising more questions than answers this morning, but this is a great song, and the narrative is very interesting and it is probably going to be an interesting discussion.

    Please remember forum rules when posting about these lyrics, things could go sideways very quickly.


  14. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Big Sky alternate stereo mix.

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  15. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    A fantastic track, that always makes me think of the Kate Bush song with the same name from Hounds of Love - was Kate a Kinks fan?

    I also always presumed that The Big Sky = God.
  16. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    AGREED ! Up until then I love/like all the songs on the LP, but in a way, each one a touch less than the one that precedes it. And then it’s Big Sky – you could call it 'Big Bang' – and it’s back to serious business. Power, vision, originality. I remember it being the turning point when I first heard the album, the moment I knew there was something truly exceptional at play in it. An explosive sound, the talking hendrixian opening verse, the pre-ELO strings and especially the apocalyptic drum track, probably Mick’s crowning achievement… This masterpiece jumps at you, the music matches the ominous/fatalistic lyrics wonderfully, balancing between the presence and absence of God, and His asymmetric relationship to men. I appreciate this new interpretation about big business, but I'll stick in the God camp. Someone somewhere called it a deist anthem, which rings true and seems in line with Ray's constant humanistic stances, the way his empathy for little human problems and shortcomings are almost always drenched in relativity, humor and tenderness.
    I’m not sure it’s the very best song on this set but it has to be the most spectacular.
  17. pjc1

    pjc1 Forum Resident

    I hope this isn’t too off-topic to the thread, but there’s a new Record Collector coming out with an emphasis on the 60s and 70s albums of The Kinks:

    The Kinks Special
  18. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Not off topic at all. It's always good to have information. Cheers
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  19. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "Big Sky"

    Majestic. Probably a top ten Kinks track. Right from the very beginning the chord sequence is ominous and foreboding, and once the drums come in, and then the harpsichord, you are already inexorably drawn in. Ray's spoken word vocal conveys the haughty detachment of the "big sky". Then there is a wrenching chord change into the softly-sung chorus. Then it moves into the wondeful "when I feel..." bridge section - the first of its kind that we've had on the album so far - and back into the verse.

    There is so much to love about this track, but perhaps most of all Mick's drumming - it drives the track along with incredible power.

    I'm not going to speculate about what the lyrics are about, other than to note that it's the first track on the album where the lyrics appear to contain no nostalgic theme.

    It's quite likely that Paul Weller had this track in mind when he wrote "Burning Sky" for Setting Sons. Its lines "we'll all be happy and we'll all be wise and we'll all bow down to the burning sky" tie up with "one day we'll be free, we won't care, just you see".
  20. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

    Hear me out here: am I the only one who hears a sizeable ‘Big Sky’ influence in Crowded Houses 1991 classic ‘Weather With You’? The ringing guitar riff and general atmosphere: am I tripping here or is there a similarity?
  21. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

  22. Zack

    Zack Senior Member

    Easton, MD
    Big Sky is definitely one of my most beloved Kinks tracks. The ambiguity about who or what the Big Sky is is part of what makes it great. A goosebumps song for me. A particular favorite bit is "they get depressed, they hold their head in their hands and they cry." Genius.
  23. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Very well spotted, it's definitely there.
    But Big Sky's ringing one note guitar attack on the intro is also very similar to the While My Guitar Gently Weeps opening piano, almost done on the same rhythm pattern, which is an incredible coincidence for two (stupendous) songs released on the very same day !
  24. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    They're both good observations....

    I had never thought about it, but as soon as you mentioned While My Guitar.... it was instantly acknowledged in my brain....
    It is almost creepy that they came out on the same day
  25. FJFP

    FJFP Host for the 'Mixology' Mix Differences Podcast

    I thought I’d save myself some time and write my notes earlier, so I can see some of my highlights have been mentioned (right down to Kate Bush). Here’s what I wrote anyway:

    Big Sky:

    This was also one that didn’t utterly captivate me at first, but my appreciation of it has certainly grown over time. The different mixes on the SDE, helping to highlight the backing vocals, really helped to showcase the many layers at play here, and breaking it down for the podcast really helped me to appreciate it even further. The backing vocals are definitely the highlight here, and it’s a shame they aren’t louder - but also their low volume adds a real mysticism to the mix itself.

    As for the song, Ray’s spoken word verse delivery is a fascinating choice, that suits the song well. Who is the Big Sky? One could maybe assume God, but Ray has declined to comment on this historically, which I think is a good thing. This is definitely a song that should get you thinking, and leaving it open ended makes those little brain gears click away. The chorus is a series of simple and held melody lines, but it bring the verses to a natural round, and contrasts beautifully with the spoken word delivery.

    And I almost forgot! The “some day, we’ll be free” section. Quite simply, I melt. Ray’s soft vocals, this backings vocals, the understated backing...

    I think I love this song even more now.

    Off Topic, but I guess the song title is one that works magic in itself, because Kate Bush’s “Big Sky” on ‘Hounds of Love’ is an equally fantastic track. I know it has no other relation here, but one always makes me think of the other due to the title and I can’t not slip it in here.

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