The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I got some crosstalk in my head while reading your post, and this came to mind .... and intriguingly the last lines are "'So long Norman' she said 'so long Norman'"

    Warren Zevon The French Inhaler
  2. CheshireCat

    CheshireCat Forum Resident

    Everything I've bought from them has been as described. Very pleased with them.
    Still waiting on the vinyl reissue of Dave's 'Kinked' album though, should have been out last November, due April now apparently.
  3. CheshireCat

    CheshireCat Forum Resident

    You could quite probably have got a pickled egg from a big glass jar behind the bar. Nowadays, most British pubs do food. It's where the money is - or was before Covid. Still a few traditional 'Boozers', or 'wet led' as they say in the trade, but they're a dying breed. Around here anyway.
  4. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    That’s a good thing. It increases the likelihood of living long enough to see this thread reach its conclusion.
  5. Adam9

    Adam9 Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    I visited it around 1996 and it was unrecognizable from the album cover.
  6. zipp

    zipp Forum Resident

    Have Another Drink

    Well, I suppose these days this song would have to come with some kind of a health warning concerning alcohol dependancy.

    As it is, it's a joyful, almost innocent, celebration of the convivial pub atmosphere (curtesy of the 'yeahs' and 'rights' and its singalongabilty).

    Ray's vocals are deliciously half-way American. At times he ends up sounding more Somerset than anything else.

    And the music is satisfyingly hoe-down.

    In my lifetime UK pubs have changed beyond recognition. When I was a child they were for drinking and for men. Women were only permitted in certain parts of the pub.

    When my children were small I knew one pub where there was a specific room set aside for families, but this was a rare exception. And even there children were not allowed in any other part of the establishment.

    As my children grew up pubs started to reserve certain areas where children were permitted, but only if they were having a meal.

    Nowadays most pubs have become thinly disguised restaurants doing all they can to attract the lucrative family market.

    So having a quiet drink after work or a more raucous evening drink among pals is now an the exception and certainly no longer the rule.
  7. Smiler

    Smiler Forum Resident

    Houston TX
    @The late man, I love how you express things! I'm thinking that's how I feel too (though maybe it's strange to think about how I feel..). I do know I've heard just about enough I-IV-V over my lifetime to last until the end of my listening days.
    LOL...I do now!
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2022
  8. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Well done and enjoy yourself!
    There seem to be 2 parts here though only running to early 1967 so a hunt for the rest might be on and some time around the mid to late 70's a different host/s may have taken over.
  9. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Underneath The Neon Sign.

    stereo mix, recorded Aug 1974, additional overdubs done Oct 1974 at Konk Studios, Hornsey, London


    Our hero leaves the pub his head still
    swimming with alcohol, his head
    buzzing with facts, figures and
    computers. Night is descending as he
    wearily makes his way home through
    the traffic jams and neon lights of the
    great metropolis.

    Underneath The Neon Sign

    All I see is imitation
    And there's no earth beneath my feet.
    There are no trees or fields in front of me
    Only slabs of concrete.
    Skyscrapers reaching up to the clouds,
    Don't give the moon a chance to shine,
    And I've got imitation moonlight
    Standing underneath the neon sign.

    Is it real or just illusion?
    Can there be day-time when it's night?
    Is it merely my delusion
    Or are my senses telling me lies.
    Is it just hallucination?
    Have I been drinking too much wine?
    I don't know if it's day or night,
    When I'm underneath the neon sign.
    Underneath the neon sign.

    Electronic nature made by man with robots in mind.
    Big city lights guide my way into the night, darkness shines
    When I'm standing underneath the neon sign.

    If there isn't any sunshine
    We'll sunbathe by the neon sign
    And if we can't see any stars at night
    We'll sit and watch the traffic lights.
    If there isn't any day-time
    I've got an imitation dawn,
    I've got a simulated sunshine
    Standing underneath the neon sign.

    Is it only an illusion?
    Have I been drinking too much wine?
    Can there be day-time when it's night
    Underneath the neon sign.
    Underneath the neon sign.
    Is it mother nature
    Playing tricks with my eyes
    For darkness shines
    When I'm standing underneath the neon sign.

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

    So I came to check through the write up I did for this on Saturday morning .... and it had magically vanished ... So let's try again.... mind you I didn't get much sleep, and I'm a bit doughy after the Elton concert last night, so we'll see how we go.

    So Norman is half cut, wandering the streets ... been there and done that, it's overrated.

    We open with the defining line here "All I See Is Imitation" .... unreal reality.
    He's walking but the ground isn't beneath his feet ... firstly because he is drunk and so it may keep moving on him, and secondly and more importantly here, he isn't walking on the naked earth, he is walking on the concrete and asphalt/bitumen, and the insinuation is it's like one degree separation from the real earth.
    There are no fields and trees, just a gigantic slab of concrete, as far as the eyes can see.
    We have skyscrapers surrounding us, that hide the gentle radiance of the moon.... but we also have imitation moonlight courtesy of the neon signs.

    The second verse somewhat expounds on this thought and uses illusion, delusion, hallucination as the descriptors here, and they are all valid. Norman is walking down the world of the manmade, the twilight world of the bars in the city at night. The neon signs radiating a colourful unearthly glow, while generally trying to sell us something, or direct us somewhere.

    The bridge lyric sums this up nicely "Electronic nature made by man", but more importantly, "with robots in mind".
    Plug in to the alternate reality. Do your work in the trenches, and come outside from your cubicle to the neon glow and the various mind numbers we have to help you cope, and while you're at it, lets see if the messages of the neon signs can direct you in the consumer direction we would like them to.
    That sounds all very cynical, but alas, what can I do, I am a cynic, and I fear Ray is one too :)

    The third verse suggests that we can't see the sunlight (or the moonlight) but the neon signs can give us our vitamin D glow, and while the stars have been obliterated as well, we can sit and drunkenly stare at the traffic lights as a substitute, garishly flashing out their alerts as any cars caught in the maze travel home?, or to a new destination that is still accepting cash for psychological sedatives.

    Everything around us has its own beauty, but is undeniably inauthentic.... it's a charade, a facade and it lures us into its glowing whirlwind or colours and seduces us to take the facade over the reality.

    The term Darkness Shines comes up a couple of times, and from critical reading, I have learned repeated statements are normally something to take note of.
    Darkness shines ... I guess we could take this to one extreme - that this facade is an evil controller that lulls us into a false sense of security within the realm of the pretty colours and warm glow ... or we could look at it as merely being a statement that it should be dark, but we have the neon signs, traffic lights and street lamps feeding a light to lead our footsteps .... or we could generally float somewhere around the middle.... I normally float around the middle, extremism just isn't for me, but in the context of these lyrics, I could see it floating either way.

    I really love the lyric here, it is engaging and picturesque, and I know this world which Ray is describing and Norman is walking, so I can connect with it quite easily.
    But it all ties into his 9 to 5 job. It is all part of the same matrix, and the same programming pattern.
    There is a reason we have this facade set up with robots in mind, because the system needs the robots to perform the mundane tasks that keep the currency flowing. The lights and floorshow of the nighttime pub crawl are pleasant distractions to keep the mind passive and keep us on the Yellow Brick Road of Oz, while the wizard hides behind the curtain laying the baits to lead us along.

    When we bring the music into this one though, we have this gentle, relaxing, reassuring groove and musical accompaniment. It sort of reminds me of JJ Cale, circa Grasshopper (think City Girls a song I dearly love)

    We have the electric piano gently rolling the chords with some sweet somewhat arpeggiated chords. We have Dave doing his best Mark Knopfler style playing, with that clean, melodic playing. The drums easing us along with that half time feel and the rim shots. The bass sliding into the notes so that nothing is too aggressive in its attack.

    These stylistic choices all work to bolster the lackadaisical attitude of our wandering drunk, as he turns this artificial landscape into a Riviera Paradise.

    Obviously everybody is playing well, but I really like Dave's contributions here. The bass, keys and drums, are really well arranged, but the little guitar interjections add so much colour and come in quite intermittently which gives them some added flavour for me.

    One thing .... I like the horns well enough, they work and they add some colour, but I can't help feeling that the song would actually work better without them ... from my perspective at least ... particularly the sax doing the call and response with Dave's guitar in the instrumental break. It is a textural thing for me, and the horns sort of bring me out of the zone in this song, somewhat, just a bit..... and you also know that I have had no problems with any of the horns on the albums up to here.

    As the song moves along, it gathers a gentle urgency.
    The bridge comes in and the horns give me a thought towards Van Morrison.

    After the bridge we get an energy boost with a double time beat coming into the picture.
    I like the instrumental break that comes up, but as I say, I think I would have preferred this to have just been Dave, because the start he gives us is beautiful.

    The harmonised, descending guitar line the recurs through the song is great too.

    This is a wonderful track, in spite of being unsure about the horns in it, I still really like this song. The imagery, and the music float along together beautifully, and I can see Norman skating along with his drunken wobble in the iridescent shadows (which makes me think of the greatly underappreciated Kevin Johnson )

    Side one had us following the Starmaker, and his goal of making an ordinary person a star in song. To achieve this he took on the life of an ordinary person, in Norman ... and whether we see Starmaker as Norman's fantasy, or Norman as Starmaker's fantasy, it really doesn't change the direction of the plot unfolding before us.
    The song Ordinary People is a loving, gentle dig at both parties, but then we move into the real world, and rush to get to our cubicle to perform our redundant tasks for the system. We struggle to maintain interest during the course of our benign work day function, longing for the escape of the evening. We then dive headlong into the revelry of Friday Night at the pub with our friends. First we wipe the days hard drive with the first couple, and then we upload a new persona by the time we get a few under our skin, and chant to the wonders of Demon Alcohol, and Have Another Drink.

    We open side two here with the aftermath of our night's imbibement, which is wandering the streets at night and realising that even this is all a facade ... Our lives are artificial, the environment we live them in is artificial, but it is what we know, and it has a comfortable, pleasant feel, so we snuggle back into the artificial blanket that is our reality .....

    Anyway, that's what came out this morning. A great song, that could be taken on many different levels, and I look forward to reading all your thoughts on this one.

  10. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    This is kind of the sleeper cut on the album for me, it sounds kinda nothingy on early listens but soon it subtly, shimmeringly slides it's way into your psyche. I think of this as a much improved re-dux of 'Unreal Reality' subject wise. Brilliant evocation of that wandering the streets half cut 3am atmosphere, and again, the addition of this song gives the story on the LP a lot more depth that the 'Starmaker' version.
  11. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    I've never really thought of this song as having anything to do with the plot, but I suppose the idea of our hero wandering through the empty streets after closing time works - I've done it myself plenty of times! Anyway, definitely a highlight of the album, and works as a stand alone song too. Admittedly, it is No. 25, or something, in the series of Ray Davies Moans About Modern Life songs, actually I've lost count. That descending guitar part reminds me something else.
  12. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
    Always liked the laid back rhythm of Underneath The Neon Sign. Just a fun song that gets under ones skin.

    Elton makes you feel doughy Mark @mark winstanley. LOL, me too.
  13. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Yeah, I guess it could be called repetition, this time, if we’re to focus on the message. Bits of Unreal Reality meet bits of 20th Century Man meet bits of God’s Children etc. But I choose not to listen to the message too much and more to the poetic sensorial images, like it’s Times Square, Tokyo's electronic town or the Hong Kong night life : the “darkness shines”, the traffic lights and neon signs stand in for the stars and the moon, yes, I can see that. It’s not even clever or imaginative but it’s really vivid, the song puts me in that dreamy semi hallucinatory late night daze, the feeling gets through. Now, the fact that it’s backed by soft Latin/Caribbean flavored music is very clever. You get the musical feel of a tropical night under the stars, while the lyrics tell you it’s all an electronic illusion.
    Love Dave’s guitar intro and his later licks in the instrumental break, that I find very close to what Harrison started doing around the same time (complete with his own love of saxophone!). It helps that the melody is so exquisite. Some of it follows a classic chord template/pattern (think Lonesome Tears in My Eyes), but the chord change at the end of the second verse makes a huge difference. I bet @The late man will appreciate this one… Overall, I see this as the follow up to Sitting in the Midday Sun (same metric and placing of the title hook) and a precursor to Stormy Sky from the Sleepwalker LP. The lineage is already apparent in the titles but also in the lounge pop almost yacht rock stylings of the three songs, and Ray’s high-pitched singing. Neon Sign probably lacks Midday Sun’s genius bridge to reach the same semi-classic status. As it is, it’s just one of those beautiful lost treasures, the deep deep kuts. We love those. We need those. In many ways, they’re what makes us deep deep fans.
  14. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    I feel that I should love this when I only like it - great lyric, excellent horns, nice delivery.
  15. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    nah I can't blame Elton for that .... It was a stressful day. I bought the tickets nearly two years ago, and after what felt like a hundred phone calls, but was probably about four, I finally got the tickets four hours before the concert.... then having been up from 3am to about 2am, and the dog waking me 5 hours later.... I was a bit burnt out :)
  16. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "Underneath The Neon Sign"

    Like many of the songs on Soap Opera, I don't have a lot to say about this as an individual song. It's a very nice track, and the album would certainly be poorer without it, but it hasn't stood out for me as an individual track that much in the short time I've owned it. There is a definite laid-back, yacht-rock feel about it (especially Dave's guitar tone) and I hear elements of the post-RCA sound starting to form here. Contextually it fits into the story (certainly more than the next track does!) but it's not a key part or a turning point of the plot, more a pause for reflection. It doesn't have any of the LOL moments that pop up elsewhere on the album. So overall it usually kind of passes me by, but I acknowledge its importance in the flow of the album.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2022
  17. stewedandkeefed

    stewedandkeefed Came Ashore In The Dead Of The Night

    This song had escaped my notice until this thread. It is a pretty strong ballad and it does deliver a classic Ray Davies point of view - feeling lost in the modern world. I have listened to three live versions of the Soap Opera presentation (Philadelphia, Tampa and the King Biscuit Flower Hour broadcast originating from London) and "Underneath The Neon Sign" struck me as a key part of the Soap Opera saga - a moment of reflection after a drunken night. Musically, it doesn't strike me as being particularly Kinks-like but as a ballad, it is an effective song.
  18. LX200GPS

    LX200GPS Forum Resident

    Underneath The Neon Sign

    Yes, I understand that this song is supposed to be about our office worker making his way home, after one too many drinks, and seeing neon adverts for holidays in far off places.

    I've never heard the song in that way. To me it brings to mind the curse of light pollution that has blighted our towns and cities for decades. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very small town where a sky full of stars was a common sight, where the milky way stretched from horizon to horizon, and where the night sky served as a reminder of how insignificant this world really is (Big Sky). It's a shame that children growing up today miss out on this stuff.

    This is one of the two strongest songs of the album. Love everything about it - the sound, the production, and the great lyrics. One for my Kinks Greatest playlist that's for sure.
  19. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    The songs on this album are in sharp contrast to the two Preservation Acts; this one, especially, is all polish and well-rounded corners. Predictable (listen to half a line and the listener knows exactly what’s next) with none of the twists and odd angles and where-the-hell-did-that-come-from of a ‘Second Hand Car Spiv.’

    I don’t hear anything of The Kinks in ‘Underneath the Neon Sign.’ But recognize that it’s well put together.
  20. Jasper Dailey

    Jasper Dailey Forum Resident

    Southeast US
    Underneath the Neon Sign: This one reminds me of a Mick Avory quote, something like "Ray could write a great song about some guy eating his dinner". Or some guy looking up at a sign! Seriously though, that lyric is so masterfully done (sort of "Ray Davies Presents Plato's 'Allegory of The Cave'"). The imagery is so evocative, and the yacht rock instrumentation provides that glitzy yet woozy atmosphere of "inspiration via intoxication".
  21. pantofis

    pantofis Senior Member

    Berlin, Germany
    Underneath The Neon Sign:

    This always reminded me of George Harrison solo material from the mid 70es. The guitars (probably not slide here though), the electric piano and the guitar / horn solo - straight out of Extra Texture - and most of all the the delivery of the word "sign" during the chorus and the overall reflective feel of the track.
    Lyrically it strikes me as a an unlikely precursor of later Kraftwerk themes, namely the neon lights and the man machine ("with robots in mind"). But it also makes clear that Norman (or Ray or whoever) is more than the average alcoholic. He's a keen observer, and even in that inebriated state manages to make some philosophical point of his surroundings.
    On the album, the track is a nice change of pace, and an unexpected turn of events.
  22. Martyj

    Martyj Who dares to wake me from my slumber? -- Mr. Flash

    Maryland, USA
    Lonesome Tears—yes—although when I first heard Underneath a Neon Sign the melody struck me as a slowed down, drawn out cop of Sweet Little Sixteen. Ray disguises it just enough with that one chord change to keep the lawsuits at bay.

    It’s a good song. Very good, but not great. A more interesting lyric than an imaginative melody. “Darkness Shines” is a great phrase. Yes, this song specifically addresses the affect neon has on darkness. But there is also Norman’s internal darkness—the unhappiness of a life so routine he seeks the escape of a fantasy as a rock star. Why would such darkness “shine?” Well…he just spent half the evening downing pint after pint! If booze can’t give you that kind of lift, it’s time to search for a new high.

    Also…if you think about the artifice the song addresses, this number could have worked in Preservation Act 2 just as well. An opportunity for the Tramp to wander among Flash’s skyscrapers, bemoaning how they have altered his beloved village green’s natural skies with the artificial glow of development.

    That's a good way of putting it. Other people have drawn yacht rock comparisons. I have never quite gone that far, but,'s drifting into those territorial waters. There's definitely something different to the "feel" of this song from the stuff on side one. If you are more of a Misfits-is-my-favorite-Kinks-album kind of fan, this one will probably be your favorite part of Soap Opera.
  23. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Maplewood, NJ
    Underneath the Neon Sign

    When I first heard this a couple weeks ago, I thought Van Morrison and while perhaps not on the boat for yacht rock, this is certainly at the marina — not far from where Sitting In the Midday Sun is docked. Even the meter of the title chorus is similar!

    Underneath the = sitting in the
    Neon sign = midday sun

    The bright here isn’t as memorable or different enough because unlike many other songs penned by Ray, I am never quite sure when I get to the bridge in this song.

    “Skyscrapers reaching up to the clouds don't give the moon a chance to shine” is such a wonderful thought-provoking line of poetry.

    This seems very Kinkish to me. We have identified other Kinks songs with this kind of vibe, and it contains numerous multi-syllabic rhymes with “preservation”: Imitation, illusion, delusion, hallucination..

    Not top tier for me, but a gentle groove song that certainly stands on its own and is enjoyable.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2022
  24. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    Underneath the Neon Sign

    Despite a couple rather distracting voice cracks from Ray, this is easily my favorite song on the album so far. Back in the day, I dismissed it just like the rest of the album, but now I think this is an absolute marvel. The lyrical melody is seductively sumptuous and when paired with the easy going groove, the song comes together in the most beautifully evocative way. And let's not overlook those tasty lead licks from Dave, further enhancing the mood and beauty of the song. Thematically, Ray's addressed this topic more than a few times, but this is a new take, unique and well worth the addition to the katalog.

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Salem, MA
    To me, "Underneath the Neon Sign", like " Mirror of Love" on the previous album, show that Ray could have done quite well as a West End show composer in the 1920s & 1930s. I can imagine a Bertie Wooster type character singing this wandering around London slightly blitzed on his way home from a night at the Drones Club to the safety & security of Jeeves and his guaranteed hangover remedy. This song also reminds me of the Box Tops' "Neon Rainbow". This song is a pleasant one and moves the story along unlike the next one, which, while also pleasant, really has nothing to do w/the rest of the album.

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