The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. CheshireCat

    CheshireCat Forum Resident

    We have a couple of pubs in the area, one called The Dandy Cock, the other the Soldier Dick, if we're back in Percy territory...
  2. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    At least I'm not alone. I appreciate it more now, but it's still most likely my least favorite on the album. Although, it is far from my least favorite song of theirs.

    I always thought this as well, but taking a closer look has improved my feelings on side B. I now think the entire record is almost flawless. Side A is so great that it was always easy to overlook side B.

    "Uncle Son" has now been occupying my brain all afternoon. I'm not sure why this one never resonated with me. I've been listening to this album for decades and it's always escaped me. I guess I have played the A side far more in my life than the B side.
  3. Luckless Pedestrian

    Luckless Pedestrian Forum Resident

    New Hampshire, USA
    Uncle Son -

    For me the song hinges on the line "They won't forget you when the revolution comes". It's the pivotal moment, with a complexity of composition that keeps the song fresh and appealing.

    First of all, the lyric "They won't forget you when the revolution comes" can be read in several ways. For Uncle Son, when the revolution comes, either:

    a) They will reward you (the lyric taken at face value)
    b) They will forget you (the lyric read with irony)
    c) They will come for you (the lyric read as a threat)

    In addition this line stands out musically, as it takes 5 beats to perform the lyric, which breaks out of the heavy, 3-beat rhythm the song has established as a foundation. And speaking of that foundation - while it's slow, steady and solid, like Uncle Son himself, the sharp snare smack on the last upbeat of each measure threatens to throw the foundation off kilter - it's like a specter that haunts the song, and Uncle Son's simple life.

    This is a great example of how just about any Kinks song can get it's hooks into me - no matter the style, no matter the era, when one listens carefully one tends to find a subtle, creative touch - I'd call it "The mark of Sir Ray", that gives the song presence and value.
  4. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Nice observation.
    I leaned towards b) based on the rest of the lyrics.
  5. malco49

    malco49 Forum Resident

    southern records in london which distributed our bands records in europe was right down the road fom KONK if i remember.and one day as we were pulling our with our records , must likely cd's , to sell for that tour the driver pointed out KONK i thought i was gonna pop out of my seat i was so excited!
  6. The late man

    The late man Forum Resident

    I'm all for a good odd time signature, but here this is precisely where the song loses me. The organ/vocal unisson together with the clumsy 5-beat bar adds to the "ploddiness" of the song (this is probably not a word, more an English sound I associate with a slow and clumsy progression for some reason).
  7. TeddyB

    TeddyB Senior Member

    I think the five beat bar is the highlight of the song, which I think is brilliant. The “dragging” beautifully emphasizes the lyric which is the punchline, whatever one’s interpretation. They won’t forget you indeed…
  8. The late man

    The late man Forum Resident

    Maybe I would be more perceptive with a different arrangement. Or maybe I'm just not perceptive at all ! (Yes, "dragging", thanks for the correct word).

    I made up a blasphemously alternate Muswell Hillbillies album tracklist, and I was trying it this morning (thought I haven't reached the modified parts yet). I had never paid attention to Ray's mispronounciation of the word "schizophrenia". Now I heard it, and I fear I will never unhear it.
  9. CheshireCat

    CheshireCat Forum Resident

    I agree. Poor old Uncle Son's life won't improve.
  10. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    Yes, Ray doesn't believe in a) and c) is a bit too sinister and paranoid even for this album.
  11. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Nice run of tracks lately.

    Holloway Jail
    great "trad" feel.
    Oklahoma USA I've changed my mind about "Have A Cuppa Tea" being my favourite on the album- this one is. Gorgeous.
    Uncle Son another song, like "Holloway Jail" has the feel of an old Appalachian folk field recording... or a couple of them spliced together.

    This bodes well for the album as a whole growing on me.
  12. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I agree with this
    TeddyB and DISKOJOE like this.
  13. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Muswell Hillbilly.


    Single by The Kinks
    from the album Muswell Hillbillies
    B-side "Oklahoma U.S.A." (Japan)
    Released March 1972 (Japanese single)
    24 Nov 1971 (US LP)
    26 Nov 1971 (UK LP)
    Recorded Aug-Sep 1971 at Morgan Studios, Willesden, London
    Genre Country rock, blues rock
    Length 4:58
    Label RCA Victor
    Songwriter(s) Ray Davies
    Producer(s) Ray Davies

    stereo mix (4:55), recorded Aug-Sep 1971 at Morgan Studios, Willesden, London

    Well I said goodbye to Rosie Rooke this morning,
    I'm gonna miss her bloodshot alcoholic eyes,
    She wore her Sunday hat so she'd impress me,
    I'm gonna carry her memory 'til the day I die.

    They'll move me up to Muswell Hill tomorrow,
    Photographs and souvenirs are all I've got,
    They're gonna try and make me change my way of living,
    But they'll never make me something that I'm not.

    Cos I'm a Muswell Hillbilly boy,
    But my heart lies in old West Virginia,
    Never seen New Orleans, Oklahoma, Tennessee,
    Still I dream of the Black Hills that I ain't never seen.

    They're putting us in identical little boxes,
    No character just uniformity,
    They're trying to build a computerised community,
    But they'll never make a zombie out of me.

    They'll try and make me study elocution,
    Because they say my accent isn't right,
    They can clear the slums as part of their solution,
    But they're never gonna kill my cockney pride.

    Cos I'm a Muswell Hillbilly boy,
    But my heart lies in Old West Virginia,
    Though my hills, they're not green,
    I've seen them in my dreams,
    Take me back to those Black Hills,
    That I ain't never seen.

    Well I'm a Muswell Hillbilly boy,
    But my heart lies in Old West Virginia,
    Though my hills, they're not green,
    I've seen them in my dreams,
    Take me back to those Black Hills,
    That I ain't never seen.

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

    If you didn’t go to this link earlier, it is well worth having a look at it now, and a big thanks to @DISKOJOE for alerting me to it, and @Wondergirl for posting it … I love it when everybody is involved
    The Kinks vs. the People in Grey

    So apparently Rosie Rooke was a friend of the lads mother, and yes, the opening line is both affectionate and merciless…. For me it is a fantastic opening line, it certainly gets the attention, and it is such an unusual way to describe someone particularly when it is obviously meant in an affectionate way.

    This is possibly my favourite track on the album (but for me that’s a really hard call). We are looking at a scenario where this guy is being moved to Muswell Hill, but as we go on, there is an insinuation that there is something a little more insidious going on
    They’re going to try and change my way of living
    They’re trying to build a computerized community
    They’ll try and make me take elocution because they say my accent isn’t right
    They can clear the slums as part of their solution.

    But we get a gentle rebellion in the lyric
    They’ll never make me something that I’m not
    They’ll never make a zombie out of me
    They’re never going to kill my Cockney pride

    So, one underlying theme here is essentially “I’m working class and proud of it”, and no amount of manipulation is going to change that. You can’t change my identity by trying to manipulate me into who you would prefer me to be.

    Interestingly in the chorus we get our Muswell Hills lad identifying as an English Hillbilly, with a nice bit of wordplay.

    A Hillbilly is defined as
    an unsophisticated country person, associated originally with the remote regions of the Appalachians.
    For the record the Appalachians are in Northeastern USA and run up to Southeastern Canada. In real terms the Hillbilly term has been spread to include all folk that the sophisticates can look down on though.

    The Black Hills are in South Dakota and extend into Wyoming.

    In reality though I don’t think that the destination dreamed of here is particularly West Virginia. In the chorus we have obviously West Virginia, but we also have New Orleans, Oklahoma and Tennessee… and then there are the Black Hills of South Dakota …. So, these locations are all over the map. Five different places, but all these places are more than likely seen as more rural through the eyes of our Muswell Hills lad, and the romanticized version of them is more than likely due to the idea that it is far away and, in the USA,…. That shining beacon of freedom and democracy that has lured people from all over the world for decades (at the very least in the mind of our Muswell Hills lad).

    Also though let’s look at some of the music on this album … Oklahoma directly ties into the song on the album, and I suppose could represent show tunes, with the tie to the play/movie, but ….. West Virginia gives the impression of country music, particularly if you have heard John Denver singing Country Roads on the radio in 1971, New Orleans represents the swinging Jazz stuff on the album, and of course Tennessee brings to mind Memphis, and Beale Street, and the home of the blues….. so there is probably more going on in this chorus lyric than first meets the eye. This album has a bit of show tune, country, swinging jazz and blues and it all ties in together with that unique filter that is the Kinks to create the album, that we now get summarized in this song.

    But anyway, Initially I was just looking at the idea that our lad full of Cockney pride is looking at the broad idea of escaping this little urban jungle, for the rural landscapes, and the romanticized notion of the USA, much like our depressed working lady in Oklahoma USA. Since the wars, England has been in decay and there was a feeling of an end….. people wanted to see the sun shine again…… in a manner of speaking …. And in this way, it also carries on from the ideas put forward from the Village Green, and particularly Arthur. It seems like a natural progression of thought….. We want the world to return to the simple and beautiful place we once knew (Village Green) We see the decline of our country (Arthur) They’re trying to rebuild our homeland, but we’re dreaming of far away places (Muswell Hillbillies) … and you could also possibly throw in, our world is being taken over by money mad megalomaniacs (Lola album) …. But anyway, these are just thoughts, and I’m sure you have your own.

    The gist of the song seems to be that they are trying to change our lad into something else…. Locating him in a zone of uniform robot-like homes, in a computerized society, retraining him to be more acceptable, more presentable on the public/world stage. Creating an elaborate ruse to make things look different to how they actually are….. but our Muswell Hillbilly is having none of it, he knows who he is, and even if he only has his photos and souvenirs, and his memory of Rosie Rooke, there is no amount of fancy facades that can take away the heart of who he is…. Thoroughly working class….. and perhaps those rural folk in the USA, who seem to live those magic lives we see in the Hollywood movies (Celluloid Heroes anyone?), will accept us as we really are, instead of trying to manipulate us into something more acceptable to them.

    There has been some talk as to whether this album is a concept album, and I still think it remains a themed album, rather than a concept album as such, and it certainly isn’t a rock opera….
    The album is beautifully bookended with 20th Century Man and Muswell Hillbilly. With 20th Century Man laying out the issues, and a desire to escape the modern world that has become a diseased society. Then on the back end of that we have this dream of escaping in Muswell Hillbilly. Despite being placed in a new version of working-class slums where we have these uniform boxes that present well, and look nice, we’re dreaming of another land where we can just be and live, instead of being stuck in this façade of working-class suburbia …. And we know it is a dream, and the outcomes wouldn’t be what our protagonist would think, but it is nice to have a dream of something better, nonetheless.

    Anyway, maybe that is all bollocks, but they are the thoughts that went through my head this morning when looking at this lyric…. And I think it is a masterful piece of writing. In true Ray fashion we have multiple possibilities, in a fairly straight forward theme, and the deeper I look the more I see. We have humanity, oppression, manipulation, rebellion, and then again, we have hopes, dreams and fond memories…. You have to love how
    Ray manages to get all of these kinds of themes in here, and still manage to tell a coherent story, full of love and whimsical meanderings.

    And we haven’t even started on the music….. and man I love this music.

    We open up, sort of like 20th Century Man, with this acoustic just doing something fairly innocuous, but this time with a bit of punch and rhythm, and then it comes.

    The guitar riff that opens us up here is absolutely fantastic.
    It is actually sort of basic in some ways, but then it isn’t in others.
    I believe the opening acoustic is a i chord, and the riff comes in on the iv, rolls up to the v and then resolves back to the i… which essentially D (acoustic guitar) G (start of the riff) A (the first slide up) D (the resolve)
    So structurally it is somewhat simple, in that it is just rolling chord arpeggios, of a sort, but the rhythmic structure is just beautiful.
    It certainly has a country fried sound about it, and with the topic that makes perfect sense, but it is just such a damn cool riff. The phrasing is just perfect. It is engaging, interesting and kind of unique sounding, particularly for a rock band….. even the Kinks.
    Also if you listen to the way the strings sound as he plucks them, it sounds like he is picking really close to his fretting hand… he may even be using a banjo style of picking, because it is really distinctive….
    Anyway, I’m probably spending too long on that riff, but I love that riff.

    Dalton is playing a really nice bouncy bass line and it again helps the flow of the song.
    We have the guitars strumming along and the organ just holding down a flow of chords, creating a bed for the music to lay on.
    Also, we notice that there is a fair bit of Dave? adding backing vocals on every second line of the verse.
    The relaxed backing vocals in the chorus make it feel like a campfire song or something, and for me that works. I could also see them with a jug of moonshine to be honest
    It isn’t prominent in the mix, but the right-hand side rhythm guitar throws in some nice variations and riff-like bits and pieces through the song too.
    Mick is staying pretty straight on here, but that works well for the song, with just a few snare rolls as accent points.

    Then we get the return of the riff, and we come out of the riff with a direct key modulation up to E (if the D was right) and essentially it is a two step (or two fret) rise in pitch…. And if it seems like it isn’t that much, after you have listened to the chorus, drop the song back into the early verse, and it sounds quite odd….

    We roll through another verse and chorus, and that riff comes back, but this time it is sort of doubled with another guitar.
    Then we get a nice out-chorus, another roll through that riff, and it gets a double run and then we move into a fade.

    To me the great thing about the music here, aside from the fact that I love the feel of it, is that it shows very clearly how a simple chord pattern can be accented to create something really cool.
    Look I enjoy listening to prog, and jazz, and plenty of technically great playing and writing, but I personally think that a simple chord pattern is often the most effective way of getting your song across, obviously depending on the song…. By the same token though, when you take a simple chord pattern and arrange it in a super cool way like this, it is even better, because it takes the focus away from the chord pattern and brings it back to where your focus should be, and that is on the song as a whole….

    I love this song and it is among the great album closers… Personally I would probably put it on any kind of best of I may try and collate for the band…. Even though for me that would have to be a 2, or even 3 disc/record set.

  14. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I haven't seen this one before, I think it is actually the Everybody's in Showbiz version?
    I always miss that riff in the live versions I have heard.

  15. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Muswell Hillbillies.

    I really love this album.
    Leading up to this album I was actually concerned that my opinion of it may have been affected by my newfound love for the sixties output, which is no doubt top class, and my favourite discovery this year, but rest assured I have absolutely no sixties hangover and this remains a magnificent album that for me at least stands its ground solid.

    It was actually much more surprising to me that this album has created somewhat of a divide in the ranks, because, obviously I can only hear it through my own ears and perception, but I don’t particularly hear this as being too far removed from what we have heard so far.
    From my perspective we have a pretty nice natural flow through Something, the Village, Arthur and Lola, that in my mind is sort of building up to Muswell Hill, but I can understand that through the eyes of many it becomes a bridge too far….

    Anyway, for me this is an extremely well-balanced album, and although, as I say, I don’t see it as a concept album as such, I do see it as themed, and I think the theme holds together well.

    At the very least, to me, we have
    - A statement of intent at the very start.
    - A list of reasons and symptoms in the middle.
    - A resolve to be themselves, and, at least mentally, escape the oppression.

    Or of course we can just have a series of great character songs and situation songs, that fit together really nicely as an album anyway.

    I don’t mind how one looks at this album fitting together. I see it flowing together beautifully, whether musically or thematically, and it just works incredibly well for me as an album.

    I see themes flowing from Village Green and Arthur in particular, and Ray has put forward another wonderful album that can entertain, give one cause to think, and just be a kick-ass album, however you interpret it.

    To me one of the biggest factors that I love about this album, and I’ll say now, because I think I had missed it prior, is the unification of the UK and US working class, via the lyrics and the music. It is like Ray took the ideas and dreams of both countries and married them into a unifying blend. Almost a type of, we’re not all that different after all, kind of thing.
    The music reflects this with the gumbo of styles that could well be seen as somewhat Americana, but definitely not completely. We still have some music hall stuff in here. We have sort of a revisit to the roots of the Kinks with some of the early guitar rock sneaking back in for a look. But over it all we have that unique style and attitude that is distinctly Kinks, and I reckon that’s a great thing … and to my ears, that never really goes away.
  16. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    There are actually quite a few extra songs, so we'll be going through those in the next few days.
    I actually only know two of them, from the sacd, but I look forward to hearing the others, and it was nice to see they are available..... I'm still hoping we get a Lola type box for it :)
  17. ajsmith

    ajsmith Senior Member

    It’s from the 1972 Beat Club live TV session (the full uncut hour or so of which was linked to on Facebook by @Wondergirl earlier in this thread). This ‘Muswell Hillbilly’ section is the most commonly seen song from the tape as I believe unlike the bulk of the recording it was actually broadcast on TV at the time and was also issued commercially on a DVD in the early 00s. The full show is great but with those Johnny Cash esque band member intros, this is definitely one of the more memorable moments.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2021
  18. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    This should have been a single! It's totally infectious but maybe it was too long? I always think the line about trying to make me study elocution is a bit silly, but I wonder if working class kids who went to grammar school weren't occasionally pushed to take elocution lessons by teachers? No idea. Interestingly, Ray has always had a relatively cultured accent, still London though, while Dave sounds like a Cockney to this day.
  19. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    (Ray never made it to grammar school, by the way).
  20. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    Too much country twang for my tastes!

    As for the album, I was hoping to get into it more via this thread, and I do appreciate it more now, but I don’t love it any more.
  21. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "Muswell Hillbilly"

    Although the two songs don't sound that much alike if you put them side-by-side, to me it's very reminiscent of Arthur's closing title track. They have a similar kind of tempo, both act as a lyrical summing up of what we have heard previously on the album, and - most importantly - both are driven along by fantastic lead guitar riffs!

    That riff is by far my favourite thing about "Muswell Hillbilly" - the lyrics are fine, the song is OK although I feel that maybe the tempo is too slow for the lyrics and it tends to drag a bit, particularly in the chorus? Possibly the tempo of the drums should be doubled, as it was in subsequent live versions, but with the retention of the riff of course.

    As for the album - perhaps it's just a matter of timing. If I'd discovered this one back in the 80s/90s when I bought most of the other Kinks albums I own, I would have been able to create my own narrative around it without any preconceptions - as was the case with all the other albums. By leaving it until 2019, Muswell Hillbillies had already arrived in the "lost masterpiece" zone by then, and maybe its inability to live up to that billing for me means that I think less of it than I should.

    Or maybe it's just that I don't like Americana. I wasn't a fan at all of Ray's "Americana" album, to the extent that I've never even bothered getting Part 2.
  22. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    While not a particular personal favorite, I can’t say anything bad against this song, except I'd have preferred it to be plural, because of the sing along nature of it. I guess the meter and easy roll off the tongue was the reason ? Anyway, the song is remarkably consistent with the way Ray envisioned his finales at the time, since he’d started to explore concept/themed albums territory with Village Green: he wrote them more as thematic wrap-ups and summations of the general intent of the song cycle that preceded it than a culmination of its journey, big story ending or emotional peak (like Townshend always did, and Ray himself would attempt on some of the subsequent Kinks albums – see Celluloid Heroes/Salvation Road/You Can’t Stop the Music).

    People Take Pictures of Each Other / Arthur / Got To Be Free / Muswell Hillbilly, neither of those are particularly dramatic or climactic, they mostly play out as the last number of a musical, when the whole cast joyously comes back to the stage under the audience applause while the theater lightens up again. That’s how I hear it, even the light-hearted pastiche aspect of it (which Ray had managed to avoid for the eleven previous songs) is intended as a crowd-pleasing move. Nice to read the in-depth analysis of the intro-riff, it's definitely the highlight of the song for me. After that, I’m perfectly happy to stand up in the audience, dance a bit and clap along, thanking the band for the extraordinary visionary record that they’ve just given us.
  23. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Ahhh, I don't have access to facebook on my phone, so I would have missed the link.
    DISKOJOE likes this.
  24. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Muswell Hillbillies
    This song could be a pretty good representation of the album as a whole. The lyrics are about urban renewal (creative destruction?) in London with a nod to a dream of life in the United States, while the music is country flavoured. I can see how the country tinge to some of the songs would have been off-putting to Kinks fans wedded to the band's sixties sound. But times changed and so did musical styles. And of all the different musical styles that Ray could have turned to I'm glad it was country-roots-Americana or whatever we want to call this album. And I'm also glad he didn't abandon those music hall influences that help make the Kinks unique. This could be the last Kinks album I really like in which there's not at least one song I dislike. That's why I see Muswell Hillbillies as a culmination of their early career.
  25. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    That's interesting.
    In the south in the US, you have the southern accent, but you also get a bunch of folks that obviously trained the southern accent out of their speech
    Mark E. Moon, DISKOJOE and side3 like this.

Share This Page