The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. The late man

    The late man Forum Resident


    I like this one. It's one of those I appreciated early. After this, there is only one song I always loved on this album, and one that grew on me. I still have to find interest in the others. I have one or two candidates in mind.

    The thing with this album is, I can appreciate the simpler songs if there are not too many of them. I think I will go for an alternate version of the album with a few worthy outtakes.

    A couple of things I wanted to say about past songs :

    I'm not like everybody else

    I always assumed the song was making fun of non-conformists. Is there a tiny chance that it could be the case ? nobody mentionned the possibility, so I guess not.

    Hold my hand

    Part of the chorus is in a very natural 7/4. I like it when pop songs manage to use odd time signatures incognito. Like All you need is love, Pink Floyd's Money or Solsbury Hill. Also, I love the lost Dave album. I love his voice at that time. Not so much afterwards.

    Percy's Lola Instrumental

    I like this, really. The organ is a bit of a nuisance, but the rythmic part is great. It reminds me of some bits of Gainsbourgs "Ballade de Melody Nelson" album, from the same year.

    More smuggling later.

    (And sorry about the thread anachronisms...)
  2. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Very possible... I never considered that at the time
  3. idleracer

    idleracer Forum Resident

    :kilroy: To me this has always sounded like Ray Davies mimicking Lionel Bart. I can easily imagine this being part of some west end production in which the main character sings all the verses with the entire cast joining in for the choruses. It's got that "You've Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two" / "Dey Don't Do Dat T'day Den Do Dey?" vibe about it.
  4. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Complicated Life.

    stereo mix (4:00), recorded Aug-Sep 1971 at Morgan Studios, Willesden, London

    Well I woke this morning with a pain in my neck,
    A pain in my heart and a pain in my chest,
    I went to the doctor and the good doctor said,
    You gotta slow down your life or you're gonna be dead,
    Cut out the struggle and strife,
    It only complicates your life.

    Well I cut down women, I cut out booze,
    I stopped ironing my shirts, cleaning my shoes,
    I stopped going to work, stopped reading the news,
    I sit and twiddle my thumbs cos I got nothing to do,
    Minimal exercise,
    To help uncomplicate my life,
    Gotta stand and face it life is so complicated,
    Ladi dah di dahdah, ladi dah di dah dah,
    You gotta get away from the complicated life, son,
    Life is overrated, life is complicated,
    Must alleviate this complicated life.

    Cut out the struggle and strife,
    It's such a complicated life.

    Like old Mother Hubbard
    I got nothin' in the cupboard,
    Got no dinner and I got no supper,
    Holes in my shoes, I got holes in my socks,
    I can't go to work cos I can't get a job,
    The bills are rising sky high,
    It's such a complicated life,
    Gotta stand and face it,
    Life is so complicated.
    Ladi dah di dahdah, ladi dah di dah dah
    Gotta get away from the complicated life, son,
    Life is overrated, life is complicated,
    Must alleviate this complicated life.

    Gotta get away from the complicated life, son,
    Gotta get away from the complicated life.

    Written by: Ray Davies
    Published by: Davray Music Ltd.

    This song reminds me of, but doesn’t particularly sound like, Joe South’s Games People Play…. And I think it just comes down to the ladi dadi dah section.

    This is a great song, and I agree with @Zeki that it seems like it could have been a single.

    So the album opens up with a guy that is struggling with the way the 20th century is going. Then we are introduced to 20th century induced paranoid schizophrenia. The guy goes on a holiday, which may or may not be at some form of institution. We are introduced to dieting problems, and body image issues, that are a direct result of 20th century mentalities. Then due to all of these troubles and stresses we become alcoholics to numb the pain of 20th century living…..

    So here we come to the point where we are starting to feel the effects of this counterproductive lifestyle that seems to be forced upon us, and we’re told that if we don’t uncomplicate our lives, we’re going to end up dead.
    Here Ray looks at how difficult it is to actually uncomplicate our lives. He cuts out doing all the things that cause him stress and trouble, and he is left bored and hungry with no food in the cupboard … I love this song lyrically because this is how I pretty much feel about things. The wall of bills and the perpetual stresses and strains of trying to live a life perpetually at work and dealing with everyone’s problems around the place, and the body and mind just slide into this mode of declining function and an inability to stop the perpetual motion machine from dragging us down the chute.

    Again, Ray’s writing and phrasing works perfectly, and his storytelling works on every level for me, as we roll through the song.

    Life is overrated is a very interesting and possibly contentious line I guess, but I don’t see it as a leaning towards suicide or anything. I think the idea is that we take all of this too damn seriously, and I think the balance between lightheartedness and serious issues, is an attempt to not take it too seriously, as a whole. Obviously some things are serious, but as we see these days, with people making pretty insignificant things, things to be hugely perturbed about, sometimes you just have to let it slide, rather than move into self-important moaning about everything.

    It’s somewhat odd to me that many see most of this side of the album as somewhat comedic, because although it has a tongue in cheek factor, it seems laced with the irony of our everyday modern lifestyles destroying our lives, and it seems far from comedic. It is a story of our environment creating a path of self-destruction that we seem to have no real choice but to walk down and see what happens …. And here again we are given the option of simplifying our lives, or we’re going to die, and we end up pretty much destitute in the process, because it has gotten to the stage where everything we do is stressful and complicated, yet in an ironic catch 22 type scenario, there is no other way to function in a society designed this way….

    We open with a beautiful sounding country blues. We have the guitars bring us in and then the organ gives us some extra textures and strengthens the melody, and we move into the first verse.
    A couple of things.
    The guitar sounds on this album are fantastic.
    Dave actually gives us some really nicely applied slide guitar on this album….. and slide guitar isn’t the easiest thing to adapt to, it is a very different way of playing, and I’m not sure how much slide Dave had played, but on this album, he does a really good job of it.

    I love the rhythmic structure we have here too.
    When the first verse starts rolling we have the guitars either side playing off each other, and again it isn’t the Stones, but it has a feel similar to something the Stones might do. The nice slide on the right, and the beautifully obnoxious crunchy rhythm on the left.
    Dalton is holding it down, again with some really nice walking basslines. He has a nice flowing feel about the way he plays his lines and it is always there, doing exactly what he needs to, but never feels showy or obtrusive.

    Ray gives us a semi-spoken verse, that comes across like a true narrative. He is in character … The start of the second verse section with that “Weeell” adds oodles to the character of the vocal. Again, he has this natural rhythmic delivery.
    At the end of the second verse we get this beautiful pause in the proceedings and Ray delivers the line in a sort of off the cuff manner that works beautifully, and it is another hook for me.

    We move into that wonderful sing songy chorus …
    The intro of the chorus is accented nicely by Mick and again we get this swinging groove … Mick is doing some great stuff on this album, but like Dalton it isn’t in yer face …. This has a sort of Summery feel to me…. But that’s working class Summery, with a beer in one hand, and a smoke in the other….
    I could see a bunch of Aussies at a BBQ singing along with this after too many beers, cooking up some snags and steaks and forget the salad.

    We head back into the bouncing joy of the verse and that pause comes around again, and it is a joyous thing Such a seemingly off the cuff vocal delivery and for me it just works perfectly. Then with the slide guitar and the drum accents and essentially the whole band swaying in one mildly drunken orgy of blues rock.
    The out-chorus has a bit of call and response with the over the top spoken responses from Ray giving us another little twist.
    This winds down to a more thoughtful, reflective outro and we end on a sweet slide guitar.

    For me this is easily 6 for 6 …. And again, for me, the opening 20th Century Man and the closing Complicated Life are bookend highlights of a really strong side of music.
    20th Century Man speaks to the issues of the time, and Complicated Life tries to encourage the listener to step away from all those over complications, after looking at a whole load of side effects, via types of mental illnesses in the middle.. Although sung about in a typically lighthearted Ray kind of way, these songs and this side of music is a very serious side of music, and the topics although dealt with on a personal, and understanding level are far from comical….. I guess this is where the dreary thing some people are finding here comes from. I suppose I don’t hear it that way, because it is fairly representative of me and my life, and various times in it, when many of these things have affected me…. But I have generally chosen to put on a smile … I say generally, because smiling constantly is more disturbing than comforting

    I get the impression that Ray was going through a lot of this stuff too, which makes me not doubt the sincerity of the thoughts and delivery.

  5. markelis

    markelis Forum Resident

    Miami Beach FL
    Complicated Life: ….and now we come to what has become one of my favorite tracks on the album. Funny lyrics and a good sing along chorus for certain, but I really like the circular nature of the story. All the stuff that complicates his life is identified and cut out, like work and healthy pursuits, but then he has a whole new set of complications resulting from the simplification of his life, like an inability to pay his bills and health issues. ….and I just love the way he sings “life is sooooo complicated”! Great stuff!
  6. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "Complicated Life"

    This is certainly one of those tracks which for me benefits from being heard in isolation rather than inside the album. By this point in the album I'm being worn down by the atmosphere, whether you call that "dreary", "boozy night in the pub" or just a lack of light and shade, and much of the rest of it tends to plod along and blur into each other. On its own, the tune and the humour come across much better. and I'm more encouraged to join in with the singalong chorus.

    Lyrically - again it's proto-Low Budget. In fact you can literally take the first four lines of verse 1 and the first four lines of verse 2 and transplant them into the corresponding points of "Superman" without changing the metre or meaning of that song at all!
  7. stewedandkeefed

    stewedandkeefed Came Ashore In The Dead Of The Night

    I enjoy "Complicated Life" but probably more in the context of this album than if I heard it as a stand alone recording. I find some songs are amplified on Muswell Hillbillies because they fit into the larger themes of the album very well. I agree with @mark winstanley that it provides a nice bookend with "20th Century Man" (and I first heard this on vinyl which tends to highlight the album as a construct when you have to physically flip the record over). It is also interesting how the song shows our narrator's quest for the simpler life and, yet, when he finds it, there is still dysfunction. And that tends to emphasize the larger theme that life has become so complicated to the detriment of our quality of life.
  8. GarySteel

    GarySteel Bastard of old

    Molde, Norway
    This is just as comedic as any other song on the rekkid. That is: not at all and also very much so. In addition to "20th Century Man" this is my favorite of the lot (but so are all the others) :D

    6 for 6 now, Marko. Incredible album. I'd say that it is more than a little like the Stones but only if filtered thru the same 'Englishness' as the Faces. Where the Stones are/were stylists (and evil) this way of adopting the blues feels a lot more heartfelt and 'real'.
  9. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Yep... I can't remember the technical term, but it is essentially the inability to reduce complex function
    DISKOJOE, Steve62 and stewedandkeefed like this.
  10. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    When we discussed "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues", I posted Paranoia Blues from Paul Simon's album released a mere two months after Muswell Hillbillies. Incredibly, there's another "twin song" from the same LP.

    What are the odds ?

    I tend to think of Complicated Life as an unlikely joyous feel good tune about depression. Life’s complicated, Hurray !, I’ll stop doing anything. Stop working, stop getting out of bed, stop taking care of any business, stop taking care of myself. Who cares ? Life’s overrated anyway… Nowadays, you would call it a “burnout”. Ray and the band give it this raucous infectious chorus, with Dave (at last !) joining in and singing his heart out on his soaring (if chaotic) harmony. The rest of the song has those interlocking rhythmic guitar licks which I adore, they sound sloppy as hell in a stonesian kind of way, as our good Captain remarked in his excellent opening. I'll add that Mick’s slightly off-beat drumming rarely sounded so “wattsian”. It all reminds me of that @stewedandkeefed phrase:
    … a rather perfect depiction of Complicated Life!
  11. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Complicated Life:
    This is the obvious lead-off single from the album; the successor to Lola, Apeman, A Well Respected Man and A Dedicated Follower of Fashion. I’m more than puzzled that it wasn’t released as one. (Was the move to RCA supposed to be a good move? It clearly doesn’t start off that way. I miss Pye already! (Well, I would if I had a financial stake in the band.)

    The lyrics are relatable to the average person, maybe not with the specifics…but generally. A very humorous song with an instant sing-along chorus:

    Ladi dah di dahdah, ladi dah di dah dah,
    You gotta get away from the complicated life, son,
    Life is overrated, life is complicated,
    Must alleviate this complicated life.

    Cut out the struggle and strife,
    It's such a complicated life.
  12. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Complicated Life
    I think it's worth pointing out one thing straight away: no horns. The horns used to colour Ray's tales of paranoia, alcoholism and extreme dieting have been given a rest for this song and for all of side two. So what we have here again is just the five members of the Kinks and it works. This is the first of six songs on this album that don't appear on compilations or live albums. Unlike the songs on side two, Complicated Life isn't either personal or poignant. But it is entertaining - from Ray's amusing lyrics to the high quality of the musicianship and the infectious ladi dah di dahdah chorus. A fine bookend for side one.
  13. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    Just out of interest, is there anyone who loves Muswell Hillbillies, who is not into the Stones, or at least indifferent about them?
  14. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I love Muswell, and I love the Stones....

    Although I hear some Stonesy things here, i think it is more American roots sourced similarities, rather than specifically Stones similarities.
  15. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    I've never thought of this album as being particularly Stonesy. I'm not a massive fan of this album though, to be honest. I think "Act Nice and Gentle" is an obvious precursor of the sound of "Muswell Hillbillies" - released in 1967!

  16. malco49

    malco49 Forum Resident

    well to my recollection this "complicated life" is the one that started it all for me , my life long love of the kinks and their music( at least up until they left RCA , but i am sure i will touch on that in a couple of weeks!). not sure how i first heard this song , was it on the radio or did i own the album. i was buying records by then so i might have had the record. i just remember one day in the lunchroom at school singing the "life is so complicated" refrain repeatedly while my lunch mates tried to eat lunch. not an exciting story for sure but the one i remember getting me into the kinks.
  17. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    Complicated Life.
    Had no use for this when I first got the album. Now I see it as perfectly placed and therefore worthwhile even if the heavy country buts aren't a good fit for my ear. No longer a skip.
  18. side3

    side3 Younger Than Yesterday

    Tulsa, OK
    Complicated Life

    This may be my favorite song on the album. Very catchy in a low key way. The first track on this album that I think might have fit nicely on the Lola album. Ladi dah di dahdah!
  19. I've been thinking a lot about why I don't much dig this album, with the ringing exception of "Alcohol" and one, maybe two, on side two. Perhaps I am noting a certain lyrical exhaustion. Ray's inventiveness seems at a low ebb. When I start seeing too many indictments of our modern, soulless world, I suspect that the tank has run a bit dry. Ray is less crafting lyrics than holding up placards. What I used to love about Ray's writing was the ambiguity: the deep love that might be too much of a good thing in "Days"; the portrayal of city life as dangerous but certainly alluring in "Big Black Smoke"; the delicate depictions of mental distress, or at least agoraphobia, in songs like "Waterloo Sunset" and "This Is Where I Belong." "Two Sisters" was seemingly uncomplicated and polemical, a placard protesting the Swinging' Sixties, but even then there was a twist: it's the "good" sister who has the epiphany, who realizes--or convinces herself--that family life is the better option, and then whistles a tune to cement her conviction. Of course careworn Priscilla's the happier one. Maybe.

    I just don't get that kind of stuff from these songs. Protests about The People In Grey? Come on....

    And I'm not even primarily a lyrics person. Often I don't even notice them. I do notice these, and not in a good way. But "Sad memories I can't recall" may be the best line ever in a rock and roll song.
  20. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Personally I don't see this at all.

    These, to me, are merely more observational songs, as has generally been Ray's thing.
    Much like Dead End Street, the focus is on straight forward truths in a big societal observation, rather than the individual character studies in something like Two Sisters, or David Watts....
    Perhaps there is slightly less subtlety at times, but sometimes that is necessary.

    As for People in Grey, we will address that poignant track tomorrow.
  21. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Ray Davies: “I wanted to celebrate our origins. My parents came from Islington and Holloway in the inner city. They moved to Muswell Hill when there was a lot of urban renewal and their area got knocked down. I wanted to write an album about their culture and the transition they made when they were shipped north a few miles to Muswell Hill.”
    This is what the album is centered on. The mental illness, the feeling that life is overrated, etc., centers on this forced relocation and it’s effects.
  22. CheshireCat

    CheshireCat Forum Resident

    I think it's much better for giving the horns a rest!
  23. CheshireCat

    CheshireCat Forum Resident

    Complicated Life
    It's nice to get back to the band on this track, without the brassy accompaniments which have adorned the previous few. I do prefer this one, and its a nice closer to this side of the album. I personally don't see it as a hit single though, although a song about a complicated life is going to resonate almost universally!

    I'm thinking that my view of 'Muswell Hillbillies' could well have been spoiled by the four 'horny' songs in a row on side one. They suit the theme where they are, and it's probably best to get them out of the way in one go, but I wonder if it would be better to have had them spread out across the album?

    I'm looking forward to side two.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2021
  24. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    There’s only been two horn songs (Schizophrenia and Alcohol), hasn’t there? Unless I’m missing something?
    Edit: and I think that’s it for this album re horns.
  25. CheshireCat

    CheshireCat Forum Resident

    Maybe it just sounds like more! Acute Schtzophrenia' yes, 'Holiday', nope, 'Skin and Bone', not really, 'Alcohol' yes. Must be me!

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