The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    of course, of course, you're right. But it's the Canned Heat song that was on the radio when Ray was writing Arthur. Of course Ray must've known where they got it from, but my point is it's still possible/probable that the CH song gave him inspiration for the victorious Victoria chorus… because it didn't have one!!! It has nothing to do with "nicking" (well Canned Heat nicked, not the Kinks !), it has to do with bouncing off ideas from what they hear on the radio, sampling, being inspired, being creative etc. just like rock'n roll people do.
    Now, about the song itself, Ray's unusual voice tone is indicative of the fact he sings (partly) in character. I've heard everything about Victoria. That it's a patriotic song, that it's a satire, that it’s an anthem about the good old days/ways of the British Empire, or a criticism of colonisation. For me, the beauty of it is that it's all of that rolled into one masterpiece. The character is singing with a patriotic fervor, but he's still a poor lad, regurgitating propaganda notions. It doesn't mean he doesn't believe in them (he does), it doesn't even mean Ray doesn't believe in them (I'm sure he also does, to an extent). Because in my view, Ray and his character are intertwined, thus the mention of "village greens". The key line for that would be "I Was Born / Lucky Me / In a Land / That I Love". It's Ray that does the little tongue in cheek "between comas" satirical effect on the "lucky me" bit (like it means the character's not that lucky after all). The song's power lies in the fact that, as far as England goes, or Great Britain, satire and patriotism always used to go hand in hand, they seem to be one and the same, both being born out of affection. I should stress the fact that I say this from a french perspective : in my country, we don't have the same tradition at all. When we criticize our History or our institutions, past and present, it's often with violence, spiteful disenchantment and no tenderness whatsoever (remember what we do to our kings and queens). In France, it's either patriotism or hard criticism, and I'll argue we (mostly) suck at satire just because of that.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2021
  2. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Sorry! If it’s any consolation it I swiped it from somewhere else!
  3. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

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  4. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    @Fortuleo got in 30 minutes before me, anyway. So double-scooped.
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  5. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    A really interesting post.
    Working class England is terribly interesting and the dark humour (that may have been brought about by either, the pounding taken during the second world war, or if it has always been there, just merely a balanced realism) is a beautiful quirky trait, that I find to be a deep part of who I am..... even though I consider myself more Australian than British......
    National identity is such a strange thing....
    Even having been in the US for ten years, I don't really associate myself as remotely American.... but I was only in England for five years, and I strongly associate with the British part of me..... it's such a strange life
  6. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Cult post-punk band The Fall’s 1988 version, which reached the comparable UK chart position to the original of #35, though by Fall standards that was a smasheroonie:


    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Salem, MA
    "Victoria", what a perfect way to begin Arthur. The best opener of any Kinks album. It sets up the whole concept of Arthur by being loud, proud & bombastic about the British Empire under Queen Victoria. But, as so often in Ray's songs, there are some thorns among the lyrical roses, "sex was bad, called obscene, the rich were so mean",
    "Though I am poor, I am free, I shall fight and die...." Little things like that keep the song from being an unalloyed celebration of "Europe's Grandmother", whose grandkids plunged the world into a destructive war barely a dozen years after her death.
  8. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Sonic Youth ended up covering Victoria too by the back door as part of their ‘Fall covers’ Peel Session, even though this is really a cover of a cover:

  9. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I have always found this interesting.... we often feel this way, but most never have anything to compare it with.
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  10. Wondergirl

    Wondergirl Forum Resident

    Massachusetts, USA
    Thanks for finding that quote!
    It does seem he has been contradictory about his involvement on that cover. Maybe he meant for the butterflies to be black and white and that didn't happen(there was an earlier quote about that)?? who knows? Raymond Douglas is a slippery one.

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Salem, MA
    I also have that Uncut Special Issue. I think it refers to a French EP cover that shows the Kinks on a fire escape w/a young woman.
  12. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    Victoria is a brilliant album opener, and in the top three tracks on Arthur IMO.
  13. Orino

    Orino Forum Resident

    Quick chip in..

    "Arthur" came right after "Village Green" when I bought my Kinks Kollection as I'd hoped it was in the same vein. It sort of was, but heavier and not as musically or lyrically playful. However, I rate "Arthur" very very highly indeed. Like Village Green I play it rarely, it's a feast to be savoured, unlike say "Face to Face" which I can happily bung on anytime. If I have any criticism it's that Arthur is a bit 'rockier' in song terms, more about repeated motifs and so on, than before. My guess is this is where the band were headed (I am unfamiliar with much post Lola). However I agree with @A well respected man that there's also lot more emotion on here too, and a certain amount of rightous passion. Some of these songs are very moving indeed.

    Victoria is an astonishingly good pop song for my money. However I suppose it sets the album up without really establishing itself lyrically - back to 'rock' in song terms I guess, where Ray's previous songs seemed more self contained - well, that's part and parcel of concept albums, or in fact, rock albums in general, where the 'whole' is often the thing. In fact, this possibly marks a watershed for The Kinks, in the same way Tommy did for the Who, the moment where the lead writer opts for long form narratives, royally (ha!) p--ssing off the likes of the late Ian MacDonald who saw 70s rock as utterly inferior to the 60s pop that had spawned it.

    And yes, unlike a lot of previous Ray/Kinks singles "Victoria" wouldn't cut it in a Music Hall show because it's open ended, and keeps its purpose slightly guarded. And yet it's also just glorious, I love it.

    Even now the Victorian era remains the forging of the identity of "Britain" (however much we try to modernise) as much as WWII .. we are a funny old bunch..

    I've just spotted that @Fortuleo has dipped into this sort-of contradiction (as espoused in "Victoria") very eloquently (and from a French perspective!)
  14. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    I don’t think these words are lyrical thorns

    But, I guess, maybe you aren’t meaning it in the sense that the lyrics are bad or awkward? But, rather, that the scene being set isn’t one of all rosiness (for all)?
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  15. A well respected man

    A well respected man Some Mother's Son

    Madrid, Spain
    Victoria, as I said in my post about the album, is arguably the best opening track in a Kinks album, and one of the greatest in rock history. It's exhilarating and fun, and then one realizes the lyrical richness in it. In the Ray vein I love most, it's full of ambiguity. You can't decide if it's a patriotic anthem or a satiric kick in Great Britain's buttocks. As Fortuleo pointed out, it's actually both, and that's what's great about it. Isn't life that way after all? Don't we all feel ambivalent sometimes about our land, our friends, our football team?
    That ambivalence translates in the music: the frantic electric rock next to the "victorian" horns.
    Songwriting-wise, I love the middle-eight, the way the song picks up speed after it gives it an incredible boost at the end.
  16. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Maplewood, NJ

    So it begins. An incredible album opener. The band is rocking like we haven’t heard in a couple years. This is going to be a different album. That chorus is just infectious and you can’t help but raise your fist and yell it out!

    One thing I want to touch upon is @mark winstanley ’s point about the tying of the theme of “village green” to Victoria.

    “I miss the village green” was that theme. It’s not what it was. The village green is different now. And I miss what it was.

    This is way I also look at Victoria. After all, it’s in the past tense. “Long ago, life was clean” (not so anymore). “Sex was bad, called obscene” (look how promiscuous everyone is nowadays).“Croquet lawns, village greens” (I miss the village green). “Victoria was my queen” (I read this as the narrator saying he *is* England today, and he misses his old queen). “Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, 'toria” (we need to go back to those days).

    Things are changing. Since Queen Victoria died in 1901, we’ve had a World War and are at the cusp of a second. This is the world that Arthur has been born into. A life of freedom that requires fighting in trenches at 18 and blacking up your windows and nailing up your doors at 38. All this in a land that you love. “For this land, I shall die.”

    But Victoria was the one that loved them all. I get the sense that Arthur doesn’t feel the love. He longs for the days of Victoria. The time before he was born.

    And that sets up the rest of the album.
  17. Luckless Pedestrian

    Luckless Pedestrian Forum Resident

    New Hampshire, USA
    I think very often the difference between a good Kinks song and a great one is Ray’s use of irony in the lyrics. This was absent from the last two songs we discussed (Plastic Man and King Kong), but as many of you have already pointed out, it makes a welcome return in Victoria.

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Salem, MA
    Yes, Avid Zeki, what I meant is that not all was roses in Victorian England in the lyrics that I quoted.
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  19. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    For what it’s worth I don’t think Victoria’s lyrics reflect either Ray’s or Arthur’s views. At the outset the singer says ‘long ago … Victoria was my Queen’. The song imagines the pride and patriotism of even the working class in Britain and her empire under Queen Victoria. That notion doesn’t withstand 21st century scepticism but its a valid representation of views at the turn of the twentieth century. Even 13 years after Queen Victoria’s death hundreds of thousands of men in Britain and her colonies volunteered to fight on the Western Front in what some would now call misguided patriotism. Victoria and the next two songs are historical scene-setters for the Arthur story.
  20. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I totally agree with the context you set up here. That's exactly how I see it.
  21. kw21925

    kw21925 Lieutenant-Corporal; Gazpacho Police

    I love this song (Victoria) so much - it's not only my favorite Kinks song, on some days it's my favorite song by anybody. When Ray sings "I was born - lucky me, in a land that I love", I get goosebumps - and I'm not even British! Infectious is right; if some part of your body isn't moving when you listen to it, you're probably dead.
  22. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    :D Fortunately, that particular line can be sung with gusto by a lot of folks, worldwide.
  23. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    Vic tooooooooooo ri uhh!

    Killer song!

    Nothing left to add after Mark and Fortuleo.
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  24. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    I’ve had this running through my head over the last couple of days and have, multiple times now, found myself segueing from the last “Victoria” to the Stones’ “It’s Only Rock’n’roll.”

    It just happens. Edit: at first I was thinking, before the lyrics (going in my head) that it was T-Rex...until Mick starts singing. All in my head!
  25. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident


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