The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    The silly bulls must’ve been in the same field as the cows Ray was talking to in the same song…:hide:

    A related question: Is a silly bull an oxymoron?
     
  2. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Yes Sir No Sir.

    stereo mix (3:44), recorded May-Jun 1969 at Pye Studios (No. 2), London

    Yes Sir, no Sir
    Where do I go Sir
    What do I do Sir
    What do I say

    Yes Sir, no Sir
    Where do I go Sir
    What do I do Sir
    How do I behave

    Yes Sir, no Sir
    Permission to speak Sir
    Permission to breathe Sir
    What do I say, how do I behave, what do I say

    So you think that you've got ambition
    Stop your dreaming and your idle wishing
    You're outside and there ain't no admission
    To our play
    Pack up your ambition in your old kit bag
    Soon you'll be happy with a packet of fags
    Chest out stomach in
    Do what I say, do what I say
    Yes right away

    Yes Sir, no Sir
    Where do I go Sir
    What do I do Sir
    What do I say

    Yes Sir, no Sir
    Permission to speak Sir
    Permission to breathe Sir
    What do I say, how do I behave, what do I say

    Doesn't matter who you are
    You're there and there you are
    Everything is in its place
    Authority must be maintained
    And then we know exactly where we are
    Let them feel that they're important to the cause
    But let them know that they are fighting for their homes
    Just be sure that they're contributing their all
    Give the scum a gun and make the bugger fight
    And be sure to have deserters shot on sight
    If he dies we'll send a medal to his wife

    Yes Sir, no Sir
    Please let me die Sir
    I think this life is affecting my brain
    Yes Sir, no Sir
    Three bags full Sir
    What do I do Sir, what do I say
    What do I say, how do I behave, what do I say

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

    We enter the song with the drums coming in with a nice slow rise.... like a march coming in from a distance.
    An acoustic guitar lays down the chords in the background and then the vocal comes in.

    When I was growing up "Yes Sir No Sir Three Bags Full Sir" was a phrase used to basically dismiss a command from a teacher, though rarely ever used to their face.
    The origins of this actually come from Baa Baa Black Sheep.

    Baa Baa Black Sheep
    This little nursery rhyme seems to have first appeared around 1744 in Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book, but was slightly different in its lyric.
    The melody comes from a French track around the same era, and is essentially the same melody as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the Alphabet Song.

    Apparently the phrase Yes Sir No Sir Three Bags Full Sir is very connected to the British Royal Navy from about 1910.

    So it seems again we have Ray reaching into his knowledge of history to put something together that is contextually correct with the era he seems to be addressing here.

    In the first verse we also get a twist on the Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag, which is morphed into Pack Up Your Ambition In Your Old Kit Bag.

    This song is much deeper than an initial first glance may suggest.
    Musically we get several different phases of the song, and they all work brilliantly. Again we get Ray singing with different voices to accent certain parts and give the lines particular characters particular lines. But before we get there lets look at the major change, which in written form appears as the second verse.

    The Doesn't Matter Who You Are section is a pretty amazing piece of writing in so many ways, because there are so many different tangents to what is being sung.

    The way the verse comes in is essentially a dose of reality. It really doesn't matter who you are. You are where you are at any given point in time, and you need to deal with what's in front of you, whether you want to or not. When what is in front of you is the Somme in 1916, it is likely a lot more difficult to come to terms with......

    Let them feel that they're important to the cause
    But let them know that they are fighting for their homes
    Just be sure that they're contributing their all
    This may seem somewhat cold and calculated, but the reality is that in a war type situation, as we have here, you need to be motivated, because throwing yourself over the top of a trench to likely be shot within the first thirty seconds of bobbing your head up, while you have trench foot, from a pair of rotting boots, containing a pair of rotting feet from being wet for months, and never getting a chance to dry out or get any air..... to achieve any success at all, you need to be motivated to do that. Every fibre of your being is going to want to sit by a warm fireside and sip some form of alcohol .....

    Then the lyric changes voices and we get a much less pragmatic perspective, and one with no sympathy or empathy, and sadly when we look at how things unfolded in the first world war, many consider Haig's tactics as fitting in with this particular mindset..... and all that comes back to the war of the classes again. In some ways this is the ultimate form of the class war. The general sits back at the field camp, out of range, calling orders for the working class to fight to the death to protect the comfort of those back home, in a manner of speaking

    Give the scum a gun and make the bugger fight
    And be sure to have deserters shot on sight
    If he dies we'll send a medal to his wife
    Here we get a certain type of dehumanising comment that speaks to the harsh reality of where we are at when we are on the frontline.
    You are stuck in a double bind. You can't afford to have deserters, because the fact of the matter is, just about every person there wants to desert at this stage of the game. They know they face almost certain death, and we have a survival instinct that tells us we need to GTF Out Of There .... but knowing that you will be shot if you do, gives you the focus to realise you need to do the best you can to survive in the face of the enemy, because otherwise friendly fire takes on a whole different meaning.
    If He Dies We'll Send A Medal To His Wife, comes across as incredibly cold here, particularly with the laughter that follows, and it could be interpreted as the madness of the soldier in this impossible situation, or in fact the manic attitude of a higher up ......

    In so many ways this is an incredibly deep song, and it has so many tangents in the lyrics, and so many hard truths about how a war needs to be fought, that it is quite an overwhelming piece of work.
    In many ways this is one of Ray's masterpieces of writing, because it takes every single angle and meshes them together into this collage that makes up all the mentalities that relate to being in the trenches in world war one.

    Just this lyric could probably have a three hour study and still have more to unravel, but the music also is quite wonderful ....

    We have the drums playing a cross between a rock beat and a military march.
    The bass leads the rhythm early, with a couple of nice little alternate licks in there.
    We have Dave's guitar cutting across the song like gun crossfire on the battle field.
    The horns come in beautifully to accent the song.... and the arrangement of the horns on here is excellent.

    The chord pattern sort of weaves through a key change, that you don't even realise occurred, in a way.
    The first verse has a completely different set up, and it also works beautifully. It bounces along like a soldier heading toward the war, still unaware of what awaits. Adrenaline and excitement to be away from the coal mines or whatever. This is an adventure....

    We roll back into the opening chorus type section.
    and then we hit that second verse, the change of feel is the realisation of where exactly we are, and the upbeat feel of the first verse disappears into a fear and anxiety. It brings an ominous feel that turns the adventure into something else again.

    Then we get a sort of Rule Britannia feel, and it becomes a straight up battle scene from an old black and white movie.

    Look it is just too difficult to break everything in this song down in the time I have, but this is sheer magnificence, and one of the highlights of Ray's writing so far .... it certainly isn't a pop hit, but man, this is brilliance.


     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2021
  3. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

  4. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    This is the alternate stereo mix from the 2019 box set.
    We notice the piano here quite a bit, and I overlooked it in the first stereo version up there.... and where are the horns? They some much less prominent

     
    All Down The Line and skisdlimit like this.
  5. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    Location:
    England
    "Yes Sir, No Sir"

    Listening to the original vinyl in headphones, what most strikes me about this track is how amazing the drums sound - they are mixed into the right channel but reverbing into the left channel so they come across very clearly.

    It's a fantastic song - Ray is clearly bursting with ideas at this point. We have two (or is is three?) non-repeating sections interspersed amongst the verses (or are they choruses?) Dave's lead guitar part during the "yes sir, no sir" parts is also worthy of mention. It's a track which some might think is too dark and complex for as early as track 2, but it utterly works.

    Wouldn't surprise me if Paul Weller was thinking of this when he wrote "Little Boy Soldiers".
     
    The MEZ, pablo fanques, FJFP and 10 others like this.
  6. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Yes, Sir No, Sir
    Begins with a military drum cadence signifying the marching off to war.

    I mentioned earlier how I’m reading G.J. Meyer’s ‘The World Undone: The Story of the Great War.’ This song and the next are remarkable in its insight. The young men all pumped up (buoyed by propaganda jacked up to Level 10) and rush to sign up for country and glory. And then the basic training starts:

    “Yes Sir, no Sir
    Where do I go Sir
    What do I do Sir
    What do I say
    Yes Sir, no Sir
    Where do I go Sir
    What do I do Sir
    How do I behave
    Yes Sir, no Sir
    Permission to speak Sir
    Permission to breathe Sir
    What do I say, how do I behave, what do I say”

    The NCO’s exerting their authority (and the music is jaunty and the vocals are cheery, in sharp contrast to the lyrical content)

    “So you think that you've got an ambition
    Stop your dreaming and your idle wishing
    You're outside and there ain't no admission
    To our play
    Pack up your ambition in your old kit bag
    Soon you be happy with a packet of fags
    Chest out stomach in
    Do what I say, do what I say”

    The generals: (abrupt change in music. Horns added, overall sound is ominous)

    “Doesn't matter who you are
    You're there and there you are
    Everything is in it's place
    Authority must be maintained
    And then we know exactly where we are”

    The government: (again a change, different deeper voice, maybe a touch of superficial sympathy)

    “Let them feel that they're important to the cause
    But let them know that they are fighting for their homes
    Just be sure that they're contributing their all”

    New voice. A different politician? Or the generals again?

    “Give the scum a gun and make the bugger fight
    And be sure to have deserters shot on sight
    If he dies we'll send a medal to his wife”

    And ...laughter. Just cannon fodder to these manipulators and people in power.

    “Yes Sir, no Sir
    Please let me die Sir
    I think this life is affecting my brain
    Yes Sir, no Sir
    Three bag full Sir
    What do I do Sir, what do I say
    What do I say, how do I behave, what do I say”

    Again, maybe my timing is bad to be reading this particular book but this song (and the next) hits me very hard. It’s during WWI that soldiers first experienced what was initially called shell shock (“affecting my brain”). No one knew what it was. Soldiers frozen immobile, couldn’t speak, etc. and the conclusion was that it was malingering and cowardice. Many were, in fact, shot.
    And all the armies had NCO’s in the rear of the front-line entrenched troops, ready and willing to shoot those who turned and ran from the tremendous artillery bombardments that rained down onto the trenches.

    Ray certainly did his homework. I don’t think he could have written this without it. Simply put, a brilliant piece of work.
     
  7. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    You nailed it in terms of who the various characters are I think! I was just writing a post trying to define who was who but you got there first and best! I agree the 'make them feel that they're important to the cause' voice is likely to represent be the 'official line' from the government, whereas the 'give the scum a gun' reflects the mask-off mess hall candid opinions of the upper ranks and classes. There's a kind of good cop/bad cop thing going on there, the blandly trite platitudes of the first section contrasted with the acidic meanness of the following bit.
     
  8. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    In 2012, Canadian band The Damn Truth won a competition run on the official Kinks website (and adjudicated by Ray) for best Kinks Kover (I think the prize was studio time recording at Konk or something) with their cover:

     
  9. DISKOJOE

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Location:
    Salem, MA
    There were passport issues due to Rasa's nationality & Ray did give Larry Page grief about it. I believe that according to Larry the gig that Ray refused to play was at the Hollywood Bowl, which led him to seek greener pastures w/Sonny & Cher.

    Also, that is a '69 Tour thingie, old piccy & all
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2021
  10. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Fantastic posts by @Mark and @Zeki. Just fantastic.
    And a fantastic track, with twists, turns, multi-parts, tempo shifts, lots of melodies, a bit like Autumn Almanac except it's not conceived as a pop single but as a “number” from the tv movie that never was. You hear it as you would’ve seen it, with different characters, roles and points of view, perfectly broken down by @Zeki (myself, I especially enjoy the brainwashing General's "doesn't matter who you are" robotic musical treatment). The listener gets it, he sees it like likes it's on the screen. It seems Ray put his innate genius for visual vignettes in service of a different narrative form. It would prove irresistible for him, as he’d continue writing in that very vein for the better part of the next decade. The "So you think that you've got an ambition" section in particular is pure RCA Ray, musically and vocally. Please, all you sixties Kinks fans that participate to this thread and prepare to jump ship when we get to the Preservation Acts, I urge you to trust me: if you like this track, you should definitely stick around then!
     
  11. Adam9

    Adam9 Senior Member

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    "Yes Sir No Sir" is the first of two consecutive anti-war songs. And actually you could count "Victoria" as anti-war as well ("For this land I will die") but while "Victoria" is gently mocking and "Some Mother's Son" is overwhelmingly sad, "Yes Sir No Sir" has no illusions about war and how the common soldier is perceived by those who make the decisions - the soldier is cannon fodder.
    This applies particularly to World War I, in which what I have read about it, was maybe the stupidest war both in its origins and how it was waged, with huge needless casualties. The bit about "deserters shot on sight" reminds me of the great Stanley Kubrick film, "Paths of Glory", one of the strongest anti-war films I've ever seen.
     
  12. malco49

    malco49 Forum Resident

    in retrospect i would include "preservation act 1" in their peak , and their last great lp"
     
  13. malco49

    malco49 Forum Resident

    i bought a copy of that a few years ago. have only listened in passing , sadly the copy i bought is not in great shape, guess i will have to give it a whirl on spotify. as noted by another poster when i did listen to turtle soup ( clicks and scratches included) it didn't come off as amazing. but as a semi kinks completist ( up throught the RCA years at least) i wanted a copy.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2021
    mark winstanley likes this.
  14. DISKOJOE

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Location:
    Salem, MA
    I really can't say too much about "Yes Sir, No Sir" that has been already & ably said by my fellow Avids Mark, Zeki, Fortuleo & Adam9, but it shows how the military hierarchy is from the young soldiers ready for battle to the government who basically uses them as mere instruments in their strategy game.
     
  15. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
  16. CheshireCat

    CheshireCat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cheshire
    Victoria
    Quite a statement of intent that this album is going to be different from its predecessor. A rocker, which should probably have been the first single, not the third and last one. I enjoy the harmony bridge section, a shame it was usually chopped out of live performances.
    Ray, of course named one of his daughters Victoria. Or Tor as she was going by when she formed a band 'Pout' who supported some of the final UK concerts in 1994. They did a nice version of 'Heart Of Gold'.
    Yes Sir No Sir
    A fantastic song, full of different characters, and Ray's voice seemingly managing to nail each one perfectly! I'd assume that if the play had been produced, this woould have been an 'ensemble piece' with different cast members taking their respective parts.
     
  17. CheshireCat

    CheshireCat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cheshire
  18. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Location:
    Murrumbateman
    Yes Sir No Sir
    I agree this is one of the highlights of this album, with Ray in top form with both the lyrics and the music. Also thanks to @Zeki for the breakdown of the speaking/singing parts which is very useful. As @Fortuleo comments this song highlights Ray's ability to paint visual vignettes. The song conjurs images of the Great War. While I never served in the armed forces I visited the battlefields and war cemeteries in northern France when I lived in Europe for a while. It's hard not to be overwhelmed by the scale of loss - seemingly endless rows of headstones in Commonwealth War Cemeteries, the 72,000 names on the Thiepval Memorial of soldiers who died on the Somme whose bodies were never found, the Ossuary at Verdun containing the remains of 130,000 French and German soldiers etc. And for what? Sadly, the same question is now being asked about the lives lost in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    I hope others don't mind me being a bit nit-picking on some of the history but I think the notion that the generals (officers/upper class) kept themselves safe while they sent the infantry (the working classes or poor) to slaughter is a caricature - and one that Ray possibly entertained in this song. Many generals did expose themselves to mortal risk even though they didn't need to in order to perform their duties. Among British generals in the First World War 34 were killed by artillery and 22 by small arms fire (in WW2 21 British generals were killed in action). It's true that officers were drawn from the upper classes but they were expected to lead their men. (ref John Keegan, The First World War, 1998).

    Anthony Eden, who is name-checked in another song on this album (She Wore a Hat...) was born into the landed gentry and fought on the western front: he survived the war with a medal for bravery but his older brother in the army was killed in action as was his younger brother in the navy. For the Americans here, you may know that Douglas MacArthur as a major in WW1 led his first trench raid dressed in a college sweater and armed with nothing more than a riding crop. I thought I'd mention that because it was so eccentric. Back to my point though, the officer ranks casualty rates in that war were even higher than those of the ordinary soldiers.....which is probably a key reason that desertion and mutiny was rare, even on the Western Front.

    Finally, here's something I found on the Western Front Associations website, which gets into the mentality of the ordinary soldier from the British perspective. The bolding is mine:
    "Embracing the full width of British society, from the landed aristocrat to the rural labourer, most of the soldiers of the New Armies and the conscripts had families and friends at home with whom they had strong emotional and family ties. They were unlikely to behave in any way liable to bring disgrace to themselves or their family. Also, all were used to an authoritative society strongly dependent on deference. These 'for the duration' soldiers both knew their place and understood the expectation that they maintain it. Orders were orders, be they ever so irrational, providing they were considered legal and morally right." Some of that is echoed in Ray's lyrics to this song.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2021
  19. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Location:
    Maplewood, NJ
    Yes Sir, No Sir

    All these sections. All these characters. All these points of view. All these voices (all by Ray!). This is like a whole act of a play, yet somehow it is all crammed into less than 4 minutes.

    Little things I love, and how I see the sections:

    intro - here comes the regimen marching in, from off in the distance
    :21 - the soldier, understanding his place but literally questioning authority. John's bass comes in thick and ominous.
    :32 - Love Dave's noodling guitar part layered on top, that sorta follows the overall melody in spots
    :57 - the first time we hear the military brass (both the horns and the character) putting down any ambition the soldier has.
    1:23 - the soldier again questioning authority, leading into the escalation of the march towards war
    1:49 - "Doesn't matter who you are" section - written so perfectly in time with staccato 8th notes (I assume they are 8th?), you can imagine a regimen marching in lockstep to this, with the general overseeing and approving. the boys are heading into battle.
    1:59 and 2:09 - that little "hey!" in the background
    2:20 - the softer, haughty voice of the royal family
    2:36 - "give the scum a gun" - the harder, dismissive voice of the military leader sending some other parent's son to fight and die, and then completing the paperwork after they die. I hear that laugh as a satirical "let's make it seem like we care" coming from the military brass.
    2:52 - literally, the military brass with the leaders singing "la la la la" along with
    3:08- now again from the soldier's point of view. he's doing what he's told, but he knows he'll either die or be haunted by his experiences for the rest of his life.

    When I first heard Arthur, this was one of the standout tracks to me. It only took a couple listens before I was singing along and changing my voice too.

    You can loop this song over and over, and it doesn't seem like you are listening the one song. It's at least 3 different songs combined into this mini-suite. It works perfectly.
     
  20. seanw

    seanw Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    With Victoria out of the way, Yes Sir's music remains fairly upbeat, but the narrative takes a much darker turn. Followed by Some Mother's Son and Drivin', it's three songs in row that deal with the trauma of war. That's quite a brave choice to top-load the record with such serious content. But underpinned by the band's top-notch playing and a marvellous, complex song structure that is delivered with ease, it works brilliantly.

    Shout-out to Mick for some compelling drumming. (I'll sound like a broken record complementing Mick's contributions to Arthur, but it's deserving.)
     
  21. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    I’m basing my view entirely from the book I’m reading now but I disagree with your “caricature” viewpoint. It didn’t matter which army it was, the upper echelon generals, with few exceptions, were far from being in immediate danger. I could give example after example.

    That’s the lower level officers like lieutenant and captain ranks.

    Churchill, after losing his job as First Lord of the Admiralty, was commissioned as a major and went off to “the front” with a servant and a bathtub! Complete with boiler.

    But! I’ll keep mum now and concentrate on the music (though I’ll probably say something war related tomorrow simply because the song calls for it).
     
  22. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Location:
    Murrumbateman
    I don’t think the exception proves the rule. All I am doing is providing some facts. Dozens of generals died in combat. Fact. That doesn’t mean dozens or hundreds more weren’t well away from danger.
     
    mark winstanley and Adam9 like this.
  23. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    Location:
    New Mexico
    Yes Sir No Sir

    At 3:46, this is so far in the katalog, a relatively long song. Still, Ray unpacks a whole lot in that space, and he really proves what a master he is at putting a lot into a much more compact space than one would think possible. Lots of ground covered here from multiple points of view (also reflected in the varied music supporting the lyrics) yet it all comes together as a coherent whole; quite an accomplishment!

    This is certainly an anti-war song, but it's really so much more than the usual war sucks theme. There is some prequel to Sabbath's War Pigs as the song touches on the separation between the leaders in the back (who come from the ruling class) and the cannon fodder in the trenches (who come from the working class). And while it would be easy to just malign the wealthy here as Sabbath does in War Pigs, Ray adds so much more depth in exploring the necessity of treating the rank and file as at least partially expendable. War sucks and should be avoided in the first place, but if you're going to do it, you can't be shy about employing your forces. Of course, the calculus changes there a bit with WWI being the first fully mechanized war, and the corollary futility of trench warfare, something the stodgy European generals were totally unprepared to deal with.

    The timing of this is also quite interesting. The west at this time was still embroiled in Vietnam, another war that brought new methods of fighting that western civil and military leadership were wholly unprepared for. So while this album and this song harken back to an earlier day, the themes remain shockingly constant. I'm these parallels were not lost on Ray and that they played a part in his process here; this is more than a mere period piece.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2021
  24. DISKOJOE

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Location:
    Salem, MA
    Props to Avids Donstemple & Steve62 for contributing their insights to "Yes Sir, No Sir". It seems to me that the English treat WWI, a horrible war as Avid Steve62 described it, more seriously than here in the States. Here's a link to a poem by Martin Newell, of the Cleaners From Venus, entitled Return to Flanders:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/east/series10/docs/newell_poem.doc
     
  25. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    DISKOJOE likes this.

Share This Page

molar-endocrine