The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    I like your post but I don’t think this point I’ve quoted is correct. Shangri-la isn’t about Terry in the promised land; it’s about Arthur’s home in England. There are several clues, the main one being identical houses in a street yet owners bestowing fancy names on them, like Shangri-la. I know we’ll get into this when we get to the song, but the main point is that the album is written from the English perspective - it never gets into what life is really like in Australia for his son Terry.
    I agree with all the points made about the cover. The front is dark, yet also a bit Pythonesque. The enormous kangaroo - which incidentally looks nothing like a real kangaroo - seems a waste of all that gatefold space. It’s not subtle and it’s not that witty.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2021
  2. Wondergirl

    Wondergirl Forum Resident

    Massachusetts, USA
    I look at other top bands/singers and there is at least an album cover or two that are iconic. Or iconography that announces them (like the Stones lips/tongue). but the Kinks don't have anything that sticks out as THEM visually to the world. Which one can argue may not be that important if you're a music group. it's all about what's going in the ears, right? But I do think the visual appeal can go a long way to connecting to the music. I'm a very visually-minded person, so I do dig a good album cover. I can't say that any Kinks albums makes the cut. Some are "fine". But nothing I would term as iconic.

    thank goodness their music is so outstanding that I forgive them for this. :angel:
  3. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Maplewood, NJ
    It’s no lips/tongue, but i really like all these, and I see them on some vintage merch t-shirts:




    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Salem, MA
    The first logo is probably the most classic. I have a black T shirt w/that logo in white.
    mark winstanley and donstemple like this.
  5. Wondergirl

    Wondergirl Forum Resident

    Massachusetts, USA
    Yes, the boots one is close to iconic. I own a tshirt with that logo on it. But I'm not sure this is on par with other covers/iconography. Like the Who has their bullseye and arrow pointing upward. Is the boots logo up there with that? I'm not sure.
  6. jethrotoe

    jethrotoe Forum Resident

    United States
    The Led Zeppelin Swan Song falling angel, The Who’s target and male symbol, The Rolling Stones’ lip, Pink Floyd’s prism and hammers and flying pig, the Misfits’ skull, The Grateful Deads’ skull and dancing bear, Metallica’s font, AC/DC’s font, The Beatles’ font, etc.

    The Kinky Boots don’t come close!
  7. Smiler

    Smiler Forum Resident

    Houston TX
    Ray has been contradictory on this!

    "I mean, Pye must have something against us," smiled Ray, indicating the LP sleeves. "Look at those pictures - especially that one." He indicated the second album showing The Kinks waving at a pretty model from a fire escape.

    Ray is at present designing the next LP sleeve himself and showed me a couple of rough sketches he had made in the office.

    "I'm going to have this kind of theatrical mask with the head lifted up and butterflies fluttering out from the inside. Huge butterflies all over the cover and just the word 'Kinks' on the front."
    - Keith Altham, New Musical Express, July 8, 1966 (from Uncut's Ultimate Music Guide)
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2021
  8. jethrotoe

    jethrotoe Forum Resident

    United States
    Thank you! I was worried I was going crazy! I knew I had read he had designed the sleeve somewhere!

    I have that Uncut issue floating around somewhere, so I definitely read it there.
  9. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Thanks for the quote on the on the Face To Face sleeve art, @Smiler ! Very interesting to quote Arte Johnson. It’s fascinating to see a contemporary quote from Ray about the Kinks early sleeve art as there’s so little known about the motivations behind this stuff. I always assumed, as he later said he was dissatisfied with the Face To Facs cover that he has nothing to do with it, but it looks like at the very least it was entirely his concept.

    Only one other question though: what is this ‘second album with the band waving at a pretty model from a fire escape?’ that’s mentioned? Is that the wider context of the ‘Kinda Kinks’ sleeve photo shoot? If so it’s not exactly what ended up on the cover!
    Smiler, Steve E., DISKOJOE and 2 others like this.
  10. idleracer

    idleracer Forum Resident

    :kilroy: And so the beginning of the group's "wordy" phase begins. No question that this is their best sounding album. It sounds like the studio upgraded from 4-track to 8-track. The material however, is quite uneven. The three singles off of this album are noticeably far superior to everything else on it, at least to my ears. Not that the rest of the album is awful, it just has a lot of tunes that don't seem to stick with me.

    It's worth mentioning three other much ballyhooed British LPs that were also released in or around October of 1969:

    Abbey Road
    Led Zeppelin II
    Let It Bleed

    Interestingly, although the style of the music is obviously miles away from it, the production is sonically quite similar to "Let It Bleed."
  11. WHMusical

    WHMusical Chameleon Comedian Corinthian & Caricature

    I was lucky enough to get Ray to sign my original 1969 US Reprise "Two-Tone" label copy of Arthur back on the Storyteller Tour back on April 9th, 1997, SLO, CA, USA.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2021
  12. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    Does anyone else find that the original Arthur sleeve is very flimsy? It's one of those unusual gatefolds where the disc comes out from the centre rather than the edge, and it seems to barely have a spine - such that when I try to place the sleeve on my "now playing" stand it just droops over it!
  13. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Single by the Kinks
    from the album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)

    • 15 October 1969 (US)
    • 12 December 1969 (UK)
    Recorded May–June 1969
    Studio Pye (No. 2), London
    Genre Rock
    Length 3:37
    Label Pye (UK, 7N 17865) Reprise (US, 0863)
    Songwriter(s) Ray Davies
    Producer(s) Ray Davies

    stereo mix (3:38), recorded May-Jun 1969 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London

    Long ago life was clean
    Sex was bad, called obscene
    And the rich were so mean
    Stately homes for the Lords
    Croquet lawns, village greens
    Victoria was my queen
    Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, 'toria

    I was born, lucky me
    In a land that I love
    Though I am poor, I am free
    When I grow I shall fight
    For this land I shall die
    Let her sun never set
    Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, 'toria
    Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, 'toria

    Land of hope and gloria
    Land of my Victoria
    Land of hope and gloria
    Land of my Victoria
    Victoria, 'toria
    Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, 'toria

    Canada to India
    Australia to Cornwall
    Singapore to Hong Kong
    From the West to the East
    From the rich to the poor
    Victoria loved them all
    Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, 'toria
    Victoria, Victoria, Victoria

    Written by: Ray Davies
    Published by: Hill & Range Songs BMI

    Interestingly Victoria was the third single released in the UK, and the first single released in the US.
    To me Victoria is the most obvious choice for a single on the album, and it charted in both countries.
    In the US it reached number 62, and was the first charting single for the band since Sunny Afternoon in 1966 ..... which in some ways is not surprising, due to the ban that was placed on the band between 1965 and 1969. In some ways also this reflects the hugely damaging effect of that touring ban.
    In the UK the song managed to reach number 33, and its lower ranking in the charts seems to reflect the fact that for some reason in the UK the band had just fallen from grace. It is inexplicable to me, and it would be really interesting to know why the band had become so alienated from the UK public.

    We are directly tied to the previous album in the first verse. This is part of that sort of conceptual continuity that I mentioned earlier on. The Kinks seemed to subtly link a lot of their material, and here we have the Village Green being referenced in an historical sense.
    The first verse sets the scene of Victoria's reign.

    Queen Victoria is one of the most famous monarchs around, and the use of the term the Victorian age reflects her influence. She became a national icon who was identified with strict standards of personal morality. She has also been referred to as the Grandmother of Europe, due to her children marrying into and through the royal families of the continent.
    A lot of people have a lot to say about royalty, and from the picture that we see from the outside, that is very understandable, because it looks like a picture of indulgence and privilege.... and certainly to some degree it is, but I don't know anyone that would want the life most are forced to live. During the eighties, and to a lesser degree the seventies, the royal family were seen as jetsetters and party animals to some degree and that somewhat stained the idea of who and what royalty were.
    The fact of the matter though, is traditionally these folks were locked away and made to live in strict confines that were totally designed to prepare them for the job of ruling the country. Victoria is a perfect example of that.
    She described her childhood as "rather melancholy". During her childhood she was isolated from other children and locked to a strict and elaborate set of rules and protocols.
    Victoria became the Queen of England in 1837 .... she was eighteen years old .... to my mind it seems completely bizarre that a teenage girl would be the ruler of a nation, but historically, due to the way the system worked there had certainly been much younger children set upon the throne over the centuries.
    One thing we learn from the history involved here, is the power struggles, lies and corruption that currently drags the world down into the gutter, has always been there, it just wasn't plastered all over the news, in quite the same way it is now.
    Anyway, for anyone interested, the English monarchy is an extremely interesting study, and for all the chaos and disorder that there is, and for all the early(ish) years of Catholic and Protestant nonsense, there are some extremely interesting stories.... and frankly, being royalty isn't all it's cracked up to be, and I cannot imagine having to completely give up my life, to spend it being trained how to be one of these people.

    Interestingly the two most successful and longest ruling monarchs of England/Great Britain are Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II, the current Queen.
    Under Victoria, England certainly became the dominant empire of the world, and this lasted up until about world war II, when it seems that the USA became the dominant empire .... and sadly it seems like that is currently winding down also..... and frankly it is quite scary to consider who will be next....... anyway.

    The lyrics in the song lay out a history of Victoria that is somewhat a bet each way. The social indications are that the rich were mean and in control, but really that hasn't changed much, but we also get the idea put forward that the commoners were proud of their country, because there was a mentality of all working together as a team to further the empire.

    It's interesting that the line "sex was bad, called obscene" ... to some degree Victoria's famous mentality towards this could have been from growing up in a court that was constantly in turmoil due to sexual promiscuity..... and as much fun or whatever as sex is, it also causes us all, and untold amount of problems when taken out of its context.

    Victoria's Empire was as stated in the song, was huge, and that is portrayed in the song also.

    What I get from these lyrics is a certain amount of discontent, but also a lot of love, which is an interesting contrast.
    I think it is a great and rather concise lyric that works well.

    Just this song's lyric is probably a hundred page essay, and I am trying and failing to nutshell it.... but anyway.....

    We come in with this fantastic pulsing guitar, and then the dual guitar riff that drives us through the song.
    The first thing that struck me about this studio version of the song, because the One For The Road version was the first I was aware of, and I lived with it a long time before I heard this, was the very different tone and timbre of Ray's vocals. When I first heard this album, I think was what initially put me off, because it sounded almost like a different singer. Now I have become familiar with it, I actually like it, and it gives the song a different character.

    The drums come in hard and fast and Mick does a great job, as he does through the whole album.
    John Dalton makes and excellent debut and for me lays down some fantastic bass. Perhaps more traditional, I guess, but he is right on it and the choices he makes are excellent. With solid sections holding it down and nice melody runs and accents.

    We have some nice augmentation by the horns. There are several guitars and some are really quite edgy.

    The bridge is excellent and it also works to introduce us to the fact that on this album we are going to get quite a few tempo and time signature changes that really give is a broad textural feel across the album.

    Although to some degree this songs could well be heard as a fairly straight forward three minute pop/rock song, there is so much going on in here, that I think it would take me two of three hours to be able to satisfactorily break it all down...... so for now lets say that this is among my favourite Kinks rockers. It is a driving, musical, and thoughtful song that has so much going for it.

    Also, think about how odd it is in the face of the sixties to be singing about a monarch who died over half a century prior.

    This is a fantastic opener, that sets a high bar, that once one gets accustomed to the album, the album upholds this high standard all the way through, in my opinion at least.

    So much to say, and so little time, I'm going to leave it there ... and I know you guys will take up the slack.

  14. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

  15. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

  16. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Ahah, what a fabulous track. Hands down the Kink’s best opener for me so far, along with the Village Green Preservation Society, both of them working as prologues, declarations of intents and standalone statements. The song is what it is (a masterstroke) and the performance makes it a towering rock moment, with Mick leading the way, Dalton rising up to the challenge and Dave… well, a simple listen to his 2’31’’ joyful scream gives the proper idea of the kicks he gets out of the whole thing and the level of excitement his playing raises in the listener’s body and mind. Victoria could be the catchiest thing the Davies boys did (bar from those early epochal singles). The resemblance with Canned Heat’s Going up the Country can’t be missed, and it’s like Ray thought “yeah, good track that one, but it lacks a chorus… there.” So he wrote it. And what a chorus it is! You can’t help but sing along with it, move along with it, scream along with it! It’s so infectious, even they do it twice the second time around, like they can’t help it themselves. The fact that it (also) works as an anthem for Ray’s newborn daughter must have something to do with its pumping fists quality. And the bridge… I always forget it and then it hits me with a vengeance, with those horns, those harmonies, and this indelible Ray Davies melancholic melodicism. A lot of us explained their “difficulties” with this LP, and I think the cathartic power of this song could be a a part of it : it’s so strong, it almost sucks the air out of the LP once it’s gone. Can an opener be too great ?
  17. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Seriously? A few pages ago I suggested we needed to rule out all the blues and fifties music we know these sixties acts were influenced by before we claim they were nicking bits of songs off each other. Canned Heat's Going up the Country itself is hardly original:

  18. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Victoria; sung in a voice that seems as if his nose is stuffed up; traces of Canned Heat’s Going Up the Country. Then the chorus sung in Ray’s traditional voice (backed up by his exuberant brother).

    The above is what I scribbled down in my notes three weeks or so ago before the thread veered off into Dave’s direction.

    “Victoria,” lyrically setting the scene of Great Britain at the peek of empire:

    Canada to India
    Australia to Cornwall
    Singapore to Hong Kong
    From the west to the east
    From the rich to the poor
    Victoria loved them all
    When I grow, I shall fight
    For this land, I shall die
    Let her sun never set

    Victoria! Victoria! Well, now we have the setting that segues right into the military drum beat of the song that follows.

    A terrific opening track.
  19. A well respected man

    A well respected man Some Mother's Son

    Madrid, Spain
    Yes, you are right. It still creates an interesting contrast between the end of the first chapter with the dream of Australia, and the ordinary burgeois life depicted in Shangri-La, that's what I got from it, even though I assumed it was about the same character.

    Now that I think about it, it's nice that we never get to "see" Australia, it remains the dream land. Since this is a very cinematic album, it reminds me of one of the greatest Spanish films ever made, "El Sur" (the south) by Víctor Erice. The whole movie takes place in the north of Spain. The protagonist (a young girl) dreams of going to the south, she idealizes it through the stories she is told by her caretaker. At the end of the movie she starts her journey, but we never get to see her there.
  20. A well respected man

    A well respected man Some Mother's Son

    Madrid, Spain
    You are absolutely right. I guess Face to Face would be the most iconic cover in their career, and it still is just fine. The same can be said about their stage presentation, they never settled on anything so iconic that they could be immediately identified with. The red hunting jackets at the start of their career, for example, was too generic and they used them only briefly.

    It's a curious thing considering Ray's interest in the visual arts.

    This is the one I prefer.
  21. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    I reckon this is the best rock song of all time about colonialism - and certainly the most upbeat. If this song were a statue in Oxford, young activists would be demanding it be torn down. But the song isn't so much a celebration of Empire as a requiem for it. The first three songs of the album are scene-setters for Arthur's life: the Victorian era - over six decades earlier - was the pinnacle of the British Empire (but why Ray specifically mentions Cornwall in South-West England is odd); Yes Sir, No Sir is about the tradition of military service, given Britain was more often at war than at peace; and Some Mother's Son is a snapshot of the human cost of that military action.
    This is as infectious a song as the Kinks ever did - with a fantastic driving rhythm and sing-along chorus. Little wonder it became a live favourite. An excellent start to the album.
  22. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Canned Heat may have got it elsewhere but the odds that Ray absorbed it from Canned Heat is probably pretty high.
  23. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Interestingly, until it was pointed out by @Fortuleo , it had never grabbed my attention.
    All Down The Line and Zeki like this.
  24. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Someone else mentioned it the other day, too. @ajsmith (?), maybe? And I was thinking, “damn, that’s my brilliant insight but we’re still talking about Dave songs!” :)D) I was scooped!
  25. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Ahhh, I must have missed it. It's been a crazy week...

    I certainly hear it in the opening guitar rhythm. I think the similarities disappear fairly quickly in the arrangement though

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