The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    This has always been my favourite song on the album from first listen, and tbh it still is. Here’s the thing: purple emoticon under the chair time, but I was a bit disappointed by VGPS when I first heard it: after all the accolades, it wasn’t really what I was expecting musically (it wasn’t just the cover I was a bit nonplussed by!) Why? Well I have (and had) a big thing for the very music hall British side of The Kinks late 60s sound, and the way this album is mentioned as the ultimate flowering of that phase, you’d think it’d be busting at the seams with rinderdink eccentric off kilter tracks of that nature.

    But it’s not. If you want an album that’s actually like that from 1968, get ‘The Birthday Party’ by The Idle Race instead. VGPS is instead musically (not lyrically) probably the most diverse, cosmopolitan collection of pop songs that the group ever assembled, taking in blues, folk, ska, calypso, rock, proto-metal, psyche and several others. I think this is one of the main reasons for the albums endurance and wider appeal, the fact it has that musical eclecticism and richness in a way none of their other LPs quite do.

    So in such a wide musical spectrum, there can only be a small sliver of space allotted for music hall/vaudeville type stuff: thus ‘Sitting By The Riverside’ and ‘All Of My Friends Were There’ are the only two songs to betray that influence. Perhaps not coincidentally, they’re also 2 songs that were left off the 12 track LP, have (as Mark notes above) no real alternate versions, and (outside of the 2011 Meltdown full album show where Ray had to perform them), never been attempted live by the Davies bros. That and the fact that they’re rarely considered highlights of the album (and are sometimes marked out as lowlights) has led me to kind of group them together as the ‘unloved music hall duo’ on an album that otherwise eskews that idiom. God I’ve digressed a bit too much here.

    Anyway, about ‘All Of My Friends’ and why I love it: the campy bouncy verse is probably immediately repugnant to a significant per cent of listeners, but it was ‘THIS is what I’m talking about!!’ to me when I first heard it. And it’s really there to set up the contrast with the chorus which is what makes the song. The structure reminds me of the Them hit ‘Here Comes The Night’ with the daffy, nerdy so un-Van Morrison like verse and then BOOM the dark night of the soul wailing on the chorus. The latter wouldn’t have half its power if it hadn’t been preceded by the former. Long shot for comedy, then close up for tragedy.

    ‘All Of My Friends’ works in a similar way, except here it’s contrasting highly strung internalised nervous tension on the verse with (ultimately) the redemption of communal acceptance on the chorus. When I hear that chorus, I get a filmic image in my head of a slo mo pan across a crowd of happy drunks raising their glasses, captured in eternal carefree revel. It really evokes those moments at alcohol assisted seasonal family gatherings where (if you’re lucky enough) you feel accepted into the bosom of family, warm and safe and all daily stresses forgotten in that bucolic moment, fleeting but always to return on another occasion. To me, that chorus, more than even the title track, is the sound of the soul and essence of this LP.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
  2. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    All Of My Friends Were There

    I find myself very aligned here with our thread host in a number of ways.

    I don't think I realised it was 2 performances either so clearly the lyric also didn't stand out to me for closer examination.

    What did stand out for me was Ray's superb (& the band's) music hall delivery evoking anticipation, anxiety, panic, freneticism, acknowledgement, embarrassment & relief!

    Just as the main verses march frantically, teetering nervously whilst somehow staying in control, the musical chorus offers some repose & relief with it's now leisurely pace & gentle melody as Ray sits at his old *cafe.

    N.b. *At songs end does Ray sit in the cafe and happily recall his (possibly pre-fame) past in relative solitude or does he actually discover that "All Of His Friends Were There?"
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
  3. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Really nice post mate
  4. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Just for the record.... and in always being willing to learn, I don't mind showing my ignorance.... prior to this thread, I had never even heard the word bucolic before lol
    It seems to have become the word of this thread... or perhaps just this album...
    So for anyone that is also unfamiliar
    Bucolic -
    relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life.
    "the church is lovely for its bucolic setting"
  5. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    It was the first song I fell in love with on this record. It happened on the chorus, this extraordinary dramatic vivid chorus (and I love how you describe the cinematic feel of it)… It was such a magical pop moment, with majestic chord and rhythmic changes and an impossibly expressive vocal, in the middle of this goofy music-hall story song. It just killed me right there and then. I could (and still can) picture Bowie taking notes. There’s something irresistible in Ray’s theatrical voice at that point and in the way he puts emotion and drama, intensity and intent, heart wrenching meaning and beauty in what could’ve just been a kind of interlude. You've got to admire how he paradoxically manages to let loose but with absolute control. In the polka verse, he's just telling the story, like he's in a nervously fast conversation/reminiscence. It builds and builds and all of a sudden, he stops on his tracks and it seems he’s overwhelmed by some deep realization. The emotions of the traumatic stage fiasco come back full force. At this point, he’s not just telling the story anymore, he’s conveying the feeling, the memory, the repressed trauma itself. And of course, there's some kind of lesson therein, thus the second chorus, working as a liberation. Genius stuff. For quite some time, those were my favorite Kinks moments : this specific chorus and the one on The Moneygoround (from Lola), both working as sudden emotional (or psychoanalytical) breakthroughs. But my personal revelation was this particular song. To this day, I sing the title whenever I read it: all of my friends / were thEEEEERe!
  6. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    While I enjoyed the descriptive phrase, “rinderdink eccentric off kilter tracks of that nature”.
    As usual, it’s a pleasure to read this thread.
  7. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Yes! Same thought for me, along with an image of Burton Cummings singing Glamour Boy.
  8. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "All Of My Friends Were There"

    A fantastic track - the contrast between the ludicrously bunny-hopping verse and the slow, reflective chorus is amazing. Don't know if it's just my interpretation of it, but it seems to have a rather sad ending. On the first show his friends are there to see his train wreck performance, and sit there watching stony-faced. He then comes back some time later to give a triumphant performance, but on going to the cafe finds that his friends are no longer interested - as though they cancelled him after the first disastrous show. At which point he finds that he no longer cares about his fairweather friends.
    skisdlimit, Smiler, Fischman and 12 others like this.

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Salem, MA
    "All of My Friends Were There" As my fellow Avids have pointed out, an excellent music hall derived song that's two songs in one. As for the lyrics, I believe that this song is about Ray's nervous breakdown that he had in 1966. To me, the big clue in the lyrics is when he states that he grew a mustache, which he actually did when he came back from performing. This song is probably about how he felt before the breakdown happened, feeling unable to perform, especially before his friends & peers and also after he recovered, knowing, as some of my fellow Avids have pointed out, who his real friends. This music hall description of Ray's dilemmas, this time financial, will pop up several years (& some thread pages) later in "The Money Go Round".
  10. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly 1964-73 rock's best decade

    All Of My Friends Were There
    I like this song with the jaunty opening and then the more melancholic middle part. The music fits the lyrics perfectly.
  11. Orino

    Orino Forum Resident

    All of my friends were there

    Back to the music hall! In fact listening carefully the other day I thought of our character here as a vaudevillian entertainer, certainly not a musician. It's another song where Ray's skill for painting musical pictures comes to the fore, cf Dead End Street etc. I can see that theatre, the friends on the front row, the cafe.
    Like a few here, I've lived this moment. Did a few gigs 'relaxed' and hated myself for it. And it's always when your "friends are there" that you're hideously aware things really aren't going very well. Verse two is just perfect, when you've done that lousy show in front of everyone and the next day you just want to vanish/die.. (and Ray's delivery is brilliant!)

    I enjoy that there's a rounding off of sorts. He manages to do the follow up OK, and no one cared that much anyway.

    Quite a peculiar drive to place ourselves in front of multitudes, so why on earth do we do it? No wonder many 'show' people go crackers..

    Really a very effective song about the reality of live performance, for some of us at least. This is not, for example, Bob Seger's "Sunburst", which has recently been looked at in another thread. :)
  12. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    All of My Friends Were There

    The vaudevillian sound has never been my thing, and this is an especially strong example of that. I always hated lifting the needle, but for this song I would do it. I also don't get the performance anxiety thing. Gimme the stage and the mic! An indifferent or hostile audience only makes me relish the challenge even more.

    So I could not connect with this song, either musically or lyrically. I never actually thought it was a bad song, but it took me years to be okay letting the album flow through uninterrupted.

    This commentary so far regarding this song is a perfect example of why I love this thread. Hearing what makes this song so special to everyone else, so well articulated, enhances my appreciation of the song tremendously.
  13. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    All My Friends Were There
    I love this song! Music Hall song extrordinaire. Like ajsmith this is the kind of thing I hoped there would be a lot more of on the album when I first heard it - still do, to be honest.

    I had no idea the lyrics were so autobiographical- I assumed they were about a character who had never appeared on stage before, but got roped into doing so at the village hall or the village fete.

    The deeper meaning of the song- that your real friends will support you no matter what - is so beautiful.

    I love the two contrasting key signatures. The verses are very much along the lines of "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" but the 3/4 time chorus takes it to a new level of greatness.
  14. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I have no idea what other thread you could mean :)

    Interestingly, playing gigs/performing is a weird and interesting combination of these song lyrics.... to me at least.
    Initially, heart and head are in the verses here, but once you get passed that anxiety, and fear of judgement, and things are going well, it turns into Sunburst at some point.... where you have this otherworldly thing going on, and it's pretty magic stuff.....
  15. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Definitely. Probably the main thing I missed this morning.
  16. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Some crazy mofo (not me) just uploaded the audio of the Colour Me Pop show (minus ‘She’s Got Everything) to YouTube on its 53rd anniversary!

  17. Allthingsmusic

    Allthingsmusic Forum Resident

    My bad!
    mark winstanley likes this.
  18. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Nahhh... I'm sure everyone knew what was meant.

    My typo, and brainfart count is super high, so i have no leg to stand on :)
  19. Steve E.

    Steve E. Doc Wurly and Chief Lathe Troll

    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    This is a fantastic interpretation of the lyrics, and one I hadn't considered. It's true -- in the second, good performance, his friends _aren't_ there. The lyrics' structure surprises us here: We may expect him to sing "All of my friends were there" right away, as he did in the prior chorus, but he sings "I went to that small cafe," instead.... and that's where his friends are.

    I've always found much in the song to be ambiguous and a little confusing -- and this has not decreased my enjoyment of the song. Is it a partial relief that his friends were there in his worst hour, because they would be forgiving? Or (more likely) it was all the worse, because they'd talked the narrator up to their friends, and he was humiliating them as much as himself? Given that he walked around dressed in a disguise, it seems to be the latter.

    And, at the end, what do "no one cared" and "I don't care" mean? I'm not sure I agree with ARL that he's now apathetic about his friends. But maybe. "In much happier days...." Are the happy days restored at the end of the song, or not? I think it can be heard either way.

    It could mean that his friends have forgotten about the disaster, because they love him. "Say what they may" reverses meaning here -- in the first verse, they were staring and mortified, even if they said it was fine. Now they are ribbing him, but they don't really care. And so, he's gotten over the disaster as well, and gotten over himself. He's also making a distinction between his work and his friendships. Your friends are your friends -- they don't even need to be those who are the most invested in your art --they may not be your fans-- and it may even be a relief if they aren't. If your art fails, and if you fail as an artist, you still have them.

    The scenario in this song is something most performers can relate to. Early on, every single upcoming performance brings so much anticipation and anxiety. One gets precious about everything. In fact, in my case, I woodshedded, perfectionistic, for years before even playing my songs in small clubs, which in retrospect was absurd. After you survive a few terrible performances, every show doesn't mean so much, and that's a tremendous relief. You just try to be present, prepared, and to do your best, and think of the whole thing as an ongoing journey.

    I've pretty much had this exact scenario, by the way, minus the drinking. I first started playing in New York clubs about a year before my 10-year high school reunion. I talked up my upcoming show at the reunion. The show was, to this day, the absolute worst one I've ever done, just horribly programmed and full of bummer songs ... and a huge number of people from my high school showed up at it. And not just my friends: Also the people who had been rather nasty or snubby to me back in the day, who were now seemingly nicer adults. People I would have loved to impress for old times' sake. People were nice and polite afterwords. It was clearly a disaster. I don't think any of these people ever came to another of my shows. But, I have soldiered on. :)

    There is something beautifully intimate about this performance. The band could be playing in a closet, and Ray seems to be singing extremely close to the mic, quietly. In spite of the performative quality of the whole thing, and the sense that Ray is playing a character, it also feels like an intensely personal and naked song. Lovely, unique.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
  20. Steve E.

    Steve E. Doc Wurly and Chief Lathe Troll

    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    Was this ever played live? In fact, which songs from this album were played live when the Kinks were still a functioning band? It's even clear from the "Kelvin Hall" album that there was a growing chasm between the Kinks as an onstage entity and as a studio outfit.

    I think much of what some of us love about the Kinks in this period is the fragility and intimacy of many of Ray's best songs. And these are traits that would get swallowed up when plunked into a rock venue, or a rock audience, of any significant size. This Kinks "problem" is discussed a bit in Greil Marcus' book "Mystery Train," as a sidebar (pp. 111-2 in my copy, with notes at pp.232-3), as he discusses how the demands of the live audiences of both Randy Newman and Sly Stone affected performances of their more subtle, "insulated," ambivalent works.

    In a way, especially without being able to tour the States, the Kinks had become a studio band almost as much as the Beatles had.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
  21. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    I really doubt this song was ever played live at the time by the original group with Quaife: and with set list/recordings incredibly scarce before late ‘69, it’s a big mystery if any of the VGPS material was ever played live by the original band. Making a semi-educated guess, I’d say it’s likely that some of the tracks were played live at the time, but hard to say for sure. A lot of tracks were played live by later versions of the band though. Not this one though!
  22. GarySteel

    GarySteel Bastard of old

    Molde, Norway
    I know that it is not very Hoffman-y of me, but I never want to change anything about performances I enjoy. It is what it is and I get rather saddened about a lot of posts on this forum where people all the time want to change songs and releases according to their own personal tastes and views (not saying that you are like this, Mark). It is after all the artist's song, lyrics and choices, not ours. What is wrong with enjoying what is, instead focusing of what we (think we) want form it? :)

    As for the rest of the post, I agree 100%. Perhaps my favorite on the album. Well, this and the psychedelic wonder that is "Big Sky". Lots of great posts here, people, as usual. Keep it up.
  23. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    The lyric discussion here is really interesting....

    I guess I have always assumed that the friends were at the second show, but the reality is, they seem not to have been, not just his friends, but their best friends too.

    At the start of the second verse, he's pretending he does care.... yet disguised, and hiding in plain sight.... oh the embarrassment oh the despair....

    This ends up being quite a sad song, if we follow it literally.
    The second performance wasn't a success really... it's just that no one complained...
    I assume "thank God I can go back to normal again", means he didn't feel the need to be disguised....

    So he goes to that old cafe, but he isn't happy anymore, according to our lyric....
    He gets there and all the people who were at the first gig, were at the cafe...

    "And no one cared"..... a lot hinges on how we interpret this.
    No one cared
    - about the second gig
    - that he showed up
    - about what had happened at the first gig
    - about him at all?
    That's some heart shattering stuff potentially in there.

    A bit hinges on the context of "say what they may" here also.
    Does "they" mean
    - the friends
    - other people

    As suggested, the friends could have been ribbing him ... others could have been saying these people weren't his friends anymore.

    So Ray leaves it wide open as to the result here.

    Prior to looking at the lyrics and just catching the bits and bobs I heard normally, I thought it suggested his friends didn't care about the gig, and they were his friends whatever.
    Scrutinizing the lyrics, and it seems like his supposed friends, don't care about him anymore.

    And we end with "now I don't care" and this may be the most crucial line.
    He doesn't care what people think? .... well based on the start of the second verse, that seems unlikely, unless he had one of those growths of character, and learned to just soldier on....
    Is this guy now despairing to the ultimate level?

    Thanks for opening that up for me @ARL

    The song now feels a lot heavier in its story. Does it end up a tragedy?.....
  24. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    “I have nothing against your leg. The problem is, neither have you.”
  25. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    No fear mate. It was merely a turn of phrase in that instance :)

    It's rare I want to change much stuff...

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