The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. Wondergirl

    Wondergirl Forum Resident

    Massachusetts, USA
    Yeah, Complicated Life is NOT single material. Nope.
  2. Wondergirl

    Wondergirl Forum Resident

    Massachusetts, USA
    Very cool! If Ray heard this, I'm sure he was delighted!
    And we get a little tour of New Orleans - it's such a great city!
  3. Allthingsmusic

    Allthingsmusic Forum Resident

    Great post. I think your thoughts reflect very tellingly why 60's Kinks fans jumped ship in the early 70's.Well done!
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2021
  4. WHMusical

    WHMusical Chameleon Comedian Corinthian & Caricature

    In a dissimilar theme to songs on MH which had corollaries on Paul Simon's solo debut--one of the best DCC Lps I own!--I was thinking that maybe some of the songs on MH had proto type predecessors in earlier Kinks songs. I say this cuz yesterday I was listening to a new Kinks reissue of Something Else in MONO? and I noted that a few songs had similar lyrical themes.

    "Death of a Clown" seems like a parent of "Alcohol."


    "Afternoon Tea" seemed like a parent to "Have A Cuppa Tea."

    I dunno, I could be off base here.

    But, anyone hear other anti?seed-dents in earlier Kinks songs to MH themes, either on Something Else, or other Kinks Klassics?

    (Got behind again):

    "Alcohol". This one hits far to close to home for this alcoholic, currently in dry dock, and the song has always fascinated me, made me smile, thrilled me, and killed me... Ray pulls no punches here, hear!:cheers:

    "Complicated Life". ??? Yeah.... Modern Life is Rubbish, and Mod Life--Zen and How--is just way too Phu~Kink kKKomplicated!
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2021
  5. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    More often than not, it works well for me.
    Which is a good thing because there's a lot more of it to come in subsequent albums!
  6. Wondergirl

    Wondergirl Forum Resident

    Massachusetts, USA
    I assume this is a Ray written lyrics to Alcohol or the embryonic version, i should say. I cannot say if it's real. anyone?

  7. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    I don’t know if it’s real but whoever wrote it appears to be meeting a 25-year old at Burlington St. At 5 0’clock. :D
  8. StevenTounsand

    StevenTounsand Waxidermy Refugee

    Austin, TX
    Listening to Complicated loud right now and am hearing in the last chorus a bit of Fairport Convention in the rousing singalong and jammy slide with those drums.
  9. Wondergirl

    Wondergirl Forum Resident

    Massachusetts, USA
    LOL. I remember discovering this awhile back and looked up 25 Burlington St in London. It's a place...not a person. :p
  10. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Ah! Got it.
    mark winstanley and DISKOJOE like this.
  11. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Maplewood, NJ
    Complicated Life

    I know some people mentioned that Alcohol is the centerpiece of the album, but for me, it’s this song. It wraps up the theme of first side — all the pressures that society throws at us, the vices they lead us to, and the need to get away. It’s got that great singalong chorus that you could just leave on repeat and you wouldn’t get tired of it.

    That intro slide guitar sound is wonderful, and the organ joining in adds some nice atmosphere. I wouldn’t say it’s country, but it again had that country-ish tinge that seems to be pretty popular in 1971-72 with the Stones and my two favorite groups. And then there’s that great lead-in to the chorus.

    Lyrically, you all dissected this so well and I too enjoy the twist that even after getting rid of these things, you still can’t live an easy life. If you’ll indulge me, I wonder if the fine lads from Spinal Tap used this song as their lyrical inspiration for Hell Hole:

    while he is down and out:

    “The window's dirty, The mattress stinks
    This ain't no place to be a man
    Ain't got no future, Ain't got no past
    And I don't think I ever can….”

    which leads to the first chorus:

    “I'm living in a hell hole
    Don't want to stay in this hell hole”

    But then he makes it big and realizes it’s even worse:

    “I rode the jet stream, I hit the top
    I'm eating steak and lobster tails
    The sauna's drafty, The pool's too hot
    The kitchen stinks of boiling snails.
    The tax man's coming, The butler quit
    This ain't no place to be a man
    I'm going back to where I started
    I'm flashing back into my pan….”

    And then the second chorus hits:

    “It's better in a hell hole
    You know where you stand in a hell hole
    Folks lend a hand in a hell hole
    Girl, get me back to my hell hole”

    i love that humor, and I love when Ray slips that kind of twist or humor with this lyrics. There is a decent amount of that on side 1 of this album.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2021
  12. pablo fanques

    pablo fanques Somebody's Bad Handwroter

    Poughkeepsie, NY
    "Complicated Life" has long been my fave cut from MH. I agree it should have been the single but still can't see it being a 'hit' necessarily. Instant earworm that should have been featured in the live set
  13. Pawnmower

    Pawnmower Senior Member

    Dearborn, MI
    "Skin and Bone" - Easily my least favorite song on Side 1. This just seems so tired and boring to me. I can't find anything interesting about it and I just want it to end.

    "Alcohol" - This one I love. Those horns at the beginning remind of Cab Calloway and those creepy Betty Boop cartoons he showed up in. (Edit: Oh I see others have pointed this out too!) What awesome feels all over this one. "Oh demon alcohol / Sad memories I cannot recall!" Live version is great too. "Rum, scotch, vodka on the rocks." haha.. what's not to love.. The chorus is so much different from the verses but it still fits. What a great track. I played this one several times the other day.

    "Complicated Life" is another one I've always loved. So catchy. I love singing "life is overrated, life is complicated" at the top of my lungs. That's tombstone s*** right there. Love the la-de-da sing-along at the end..

    "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"

    Shocked that anyone would skip these last 2.
  14. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    With that vocal?
    DISKOJOE and mark winstanley like this.
  15. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    It's sad mama re i can't recall!
  16. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Here Come The People In Grey.

    stereo mix (3:45), recorded Aug-Sep 1971 at Morgan Studios, Willesden, London

    I got a letter this morning with some serious news that's gone and ruined my day,
    The borough surveyor's used compulsory purchase to acquire my domain,
    They're gonna pull up the floors, they're gonna knock down the walls,
    They're gonna dig up the drains.

    Here come the people in grey, they're gonna take me away to Lord knows only where,
    But I'm so unprepared, I got no time to pack and I got nothing to wear,
    Here come the people in grey,
    To take me away.

    Me and my baby gonna get on a train that's gonna take us away,
    We're gonna live in a tent, we're gonna pay no more rent, we're gonna pay no more rates,
    We're gonna live in a field, we're gonna buy me gun to keep the policemen away.

    I'm gonna pass me a brand new resolution,
    I'm gonna fight me a one man revolution, someway,
    Gonna beat those people in grey,
    But here come the people in grey,
    To take me away.

    Here come the people in grey,
    To take me away.

    People in grey have gone and taken away my right to voice my complaint,
    Her Majesty's Government have sent me a form, I must complete it today.
    But it's making me blue, don't wanna tell all my secrets to
    The people in grey.

    Gonna pass me a brand new resolution,
    Gonna fight me a one man revolution, someway,
    Gonna start my rebellion today.
    But here come the people in grey,
    To take me away.

    Oh, Lord, those people in grey,
    I gotta get back at those people in grey,
    Here come the people in grey,
    To take me away.

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

    So, side one of the album contains a summary of the way the 20th century functions, and the problems it causes for those inside it. We open with that thought that this particular person is feeling oppressed by the way things are, We get the side effects of the way the 20th century functions, mental illness, the need to escape our lives, whether by choice or by force, health issues, alcohol and drug issues, and then we get it all summarized with the idea that live is really very complicated, and it is debatable if we can simplify things…..

    So, then we move to side two, and we start off with a focal point. It is like the long view on side one, is now focusing in on a particular thing…..
    Here is a focus on one particular issue that really complicates life. The Bureaucracy that was mentioned way back at the beginning has decided that these people’s houses need to be knocked down for a refurbishment of a particular neighbourhood…… this guys neighbourhood!

    This obviously sets off some anger in our protagonist and he moves from telling us about the letter, to telling us what he is going to do. He and his partner are going to stop paying rent for Council Houses due to them suddenly deciding to uproot them and move them away, against their will.
    We are getting out of here, and we are going to find a field and live in a tent, and I am going to get a gun to protect this freedom.
    This is a bold statement of freedom……

    Prior to looking more closely at the lyrics, I had assumed that the people in grey were mental health professionals, based on what had been going on with the first side of the album, but here the people in grey are the government workers (or whoever they are) that are uprooting these families from their homes for purposes of upgrading housing development areas…. Under the guise of fixing up the buildings, but we can cynically assume that it is probably more about being able to raise the rent for some newer houses.

    This sets the tone that these people in the houses have now been totally disempowered by a government mandate, that forces their hand and takes away any autonomy that they thought they may have. “Get out of these houses, we want to knock them down and rebuild”, and this is backed up with the idea that they have absolutely no room to discuss this. It is a done deal, and their opinions are not required.

    “People in grey have gone and taken away my right to voice my complaint,
    Her Majesty's Government have sent me a form, I must complete it today.
    But it's making me blue, don't wanna tell all my secrets to
    The people in grey.”

    You have no right to voice complaint, we have decided what is good for you, and you will comply.
    Along with that, they have sent a form to complete ….. but of course, when you are backed into a corner it is very hard to trust an entity that is given the power of rule, and abused it to back you in this corner in the first place. You don’t want to tell them anything, because based on the given information, they will almost certainly use it against you.

    This is a brilliantly written lyric, and it pulls no punches, it lays out the facts in simple straightforward basic terms, and leaves no doubt about what is going on, and how people feel about it. We are left with the statement that the oppressed person/people will get back at those people in grey….. which is what any realist should know, but of course those in power feel they above all of this and can’t be touched ….. of course, that in itself is unrealistic, and is the kind of attitude that led to all of the well-known revolutions through the history of our confused world.

    Musically we have the straightforward lyric backed by a straightforward rockin’ boogie, and I guess that isn’t going to suit everyone, but it suits me down to the ground. We get pretty much a straight I, IV, V, but we have a great feel, and delivery, and as much as I enjoy a technically well written piece of music, with nice chord changes and intriguing melodic structures, I also like some straight forward grunt as well……

    We open with the acoustic knocking out the rhythm and then another great sounding electric comes in with that beautiful clucky sound and rhythm of the early seventies blues rock boogie.
    We move through the verse and the Mick gives us a beautiful, yet simple, drum lead into the main groove. He also knocks out some nice fills through the course of the song.

    We get these layered guitars, with some more slide sitting in the mix.
    When we get to the “I'm gonna pass me a brand new resolution” section Ray moves into a sort flat 7th melody, and it is just the little spike in melodic flow needed to keep the sound interesting.
    This probably reminds me more of Canned Heat than Trex or the Stones or whoever else…. But its whole base and style is pure Kinks to me.

    Ray delivers a solid vocal, and adds some nice little vocal effects, with the late sixties early seventies vibrato. The delivery is sort of dead pan, yet has plenty of melody, and this fits in with the idea of the oppressed person who is having their home taken away. A sort of determined reservedness.

    Also, there is no missing the fact that Dave is here on the vocals again, and his voice comes in like one of the neighbours joining in the fight. We have a sort of feeling given, of the neighbourhood joining together against their oppressors ….. revolution is in the air.

    The song has almost a feeling of revelry… a sort of steadfast resignation to stand in the face of those that would cast you into the street, or some kind of project house with reduced facilities.

    So, this song sort of has us arriving at a point where the machinations of the system are effecting us personally. There isn’t a vague, things aren’t quite right scenario here. We have a direct action that effects us, and in quite a big way …. “we’re knocking your home down”, you need to get out … we have this place for you here….
    Blues, Rock and Roll, these are traditionally the music of the working class in the second half of the twentieth century, so it all fits the picture being painted for me.

  17. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Well, it’s gonna be hard discussing this one at length with no mention of politics at all, isn’t it ? Let’s just say the re-housing theme is a powerful one and Ray’s images are at the same time topical and still unsettling exactly 50 years later. What I find interesting is the “character voice” he adopts once more, while making it pretty clear he identifies with the protagonist with much less distance and humor than usual. The heavy/lazy slow boogie southern rock riffing and Ray’s working class stubborn vocals grounds the song deep in the mind of the protagonist, the rehashed lyrics and riffs turning around in his head with no release possible, except resorting to anger and eventual violence. It’s another powerful song of alienation but there’s no escape this time, no distance, whether “just” or ironic, no comedy, no brass band, no pub to sing in, no friends to drink with.
    The guy in this song is all the characters of side 1 wrapped into one, and he can only comply to the “people in grey” or rebel against the system itself (and even against the police). Ray doesn’t condone it but he doesn’t condemn it either, he just tells it as he sees it: inevitable. In France, in recent years, there's been the “gilets jaunes” (yellow jackets) movement, and I can see how, in many ways, Muswell Hillbillies could be their theme LP, with the combo 20th Century Man / Complicated Life / Here Comes the People in Grey their anthems. The fact that Ray matter of factly puts the idea of armed violence right in the middle of the song (and not only political revolt or social emotion) makes it a very disturbing listen, especially when you realize it's much more realistic right now in most of the western world than it was back then in northern London.
  18. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    Ray has rather painful memories of New Orleans ;)
  19. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "Here Come The People In Grey"

    Great write up as ever, Mark! I'm assuming the people in grey are the civil servants - the anonymous grey-suited government underlings - and town planners. People doing their jobs dutifully, but with little interest in the people whose lives they affect. If the "Tin Soldier Man" isn't one of them, he probably travels on the same trains or buses to work with them. They are also probably the same kind of people who will be in the pub with Norman at the end of the working day (but we have a few months yet to get to Soap Opera).

    The lyrics are fine - but to me it's another of those MH tracks that are great on paper, but less exciting in the flesh. I've tried numerous times, but can't find much here to interest me musically. It just kind of chugs along, with a lot of what Andy Partridge would describe as "ernie-ing" on the guitar. Doesn't really hold my attention too well either in isolation or in the middle of the album.
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  20. CheshireCat

    CheshireCat Forum Resident

    Here Come The People In Grey

    A key part of Ray's theme of the album, the urban displacement of people. And these anonymous civil servants who are moving statistics on paper around their desk causing displacement of people without any needs of the human consideration. I'd have had this track following '20th Century Man' and followed by 'Lavender Lane', to get to the key theme of the album earlier. 'Alcohol' could come next. (I'd scrap off 'Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues' and 'Skin And Bone' entirely and move 'Holiday' elsewhere on the album.
  21. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    Ah, the Bolan-ish vocal is back!

    I skipped yesterdays track as I was sick of being negative (I like the sing-along but not the C&W feel), but I'm back for the superior side 2 and this decent track.
  22. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    This is Ray in pre-Preservation Act mode, a lot of very broad brush strokes being used, completely lacking in his usual subtlety and nuance - the get out clause is it's another character study.

    The background to this rant inspired by rehousing is that the people being rehoused generally lived in inner city slums - rented from private landlords, for the most part - which were substandard and over-priced. They were rehoused in council housing, which, to begin with, i.e. in Ray's parents time, was a massive improvement on where they'd lived before, were often in nicer areas (e.g Muswell Hill), the policy was popular, though the downside was that communities were broken up. By the 60s and 70s, when they were sticking lots of people in high rise flats it didn't seem like such a good idea.
  23. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Here Come the People in Grey:

    Basic blues song addressing imminent domain and, consequently, Revolution against the government. Sounding a bit like Pete Townshend at a point or two this blues number provides a romp through being evicted from home and deciding, basically, to turn the narrator’s back on civilization and head, so to speak, for the hills (literally “the fields).

    Guns, one-man revolution, the singer could be talking about the real-time 21st century in many locales.

    This album is relentless in its perfection.
  24. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    I'm a day late with this, but it was in the live set! Don't think it lasted that long, but here's a 1972 version as featured on the expanded 'Everybodys' release:

  25. stewedandkeefed

    stewedandkeefed Came Ashore In The Dead Of The Night

    This is Ray's critique of what I am sure he saw as government overreach. I think part of Ray's ambivalence about the British welfare state may come from the fact that Ray would have been paying a ridiculous amount of tax at this stage. England had a ridiculously high top marginal tax rate in 1971 (The Beatles' "Taxman" refers to "one for me; nineteen for you" - a top income tax rate of 95%). 1971 was the year the Rolling Stones left England to become tax exiles. So England may have been the land that Ray was born in and the one he loved but there were plenty of things going on that Ray probably felt were unfair and financially oppressive.

    Of course, the people in grey are the massive government bureaucracy that sprung up when tax rates generated huge amounts of government revenue. And I understand why that might not sit well with people in Ray's position.

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