The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    Location:
    New Mexico
    See My Friends
    The songwriting here is a mixed bag for me. The overall way of characterizing and relating lost love is all new and nothing short of brilliant. On the other hand, there is more repetition than I like. Combine that repetition with a style which can be grating if overplayed and we have a song which, for all its brilliance, I really don't want to listen to often.

    Never Met A Girl Like You Beforem
    Even if it doesn't always strike the right chord with me, I can appreciate the previous song for its innovation and uniqueness. This one is just standard issue stuff. Adequate as filler and nothing more.
     
  2. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    'Never Met A Girl Like You Before' is definitely among their weaker B sides of the 60s, and the Kinks usually had double A worthy flips, but this isn't one. It's a B side that sounds like a B side, in that it's pretty undeveloped.

    'Sitting On My Sofa' and 'Act Nice And Gentle' might be it's only competition in terms of Kinks flips that posed no challenge to the A side. I do enjoy all of them though (esp 'Sofa') but they're all that tiny bit closer to being jammed out vamping than fully realised songs.
     
  3. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    1994 live in the studio remake for the 'To The Bone' album: (or should we wait until that album comes up in the chronology to discuss the versions it contains?)

     
  4. James H.

    James H. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Runnemede, NJ
    We might have to wait 3 years for your commentary.
     
  5. Wildest cat from montana

    Wildest cat from montana Humble Reader

    Location:
    ontario canada
    ' See My Friends ' is fantastic .

    Dave Davies tells the story of the time that he was in some club's bathroom when Paul McCartney walked in and told him ' See My Friends ' was so good that he himself could have written it.
    Dave replied : " Yeah , but you didn't "
     
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  6. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Nice
     
  7. Endicott

    Endicott Forum Resident

    See My Friends -- With this release, Ray's songwriting leaps to the next level. He had been steadily improving, adding more and more sophistication to his craft -- but this is the biggest departure from his style and the band's established sound yet. It wasn't just a groundbreaker for the Kinks -- it was a seminal record for all of British Invasion pop. If the previous single was Ray not mucking with the formula, on this one he's saying, "I'll muck with the formula all I want and you can't stop me." The result is a haunting, arresting midtempo record that must have sounded really out there to the 1965 pop audience, and probably why it barely scraped into the top ten in the UK. The drone, the less-accessible lyrical theme (it's a relationship song, but what kind of relationship?) -- it's every bit as much a precursor of the Velvet Underground as it is of raga-rock. That flourish at the end seals the deal.

    One distinguishing characteristic of Ray's songwriting, throughout his career in and out of the Kinks, is how straightforward his lyrics usually are. He's always eloquent, but almost never obtuse. In "See My Friends", though, he's as vague and suggestive as he ever get -- part of what makes this single so special. We're in the next era now.

    Never Met A Girl Like You Before -- I find this one rote and uninvolving, almost like Ray trying to compensate for his experimentation with a more normal track on the other side. It starts with the "Tired Of Waiting" intro and then just kind of flatlines.
     
  8. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Location:
    Maplewood, NJ
    See My Friends - Long ago, I had always gotten this one confused with Set Me Free just because of they share the same first initials... But yeah, like others, I also just assumed this was influenced by the Beatles, Byrds and Stones doing the Eastern influenced/Indian raga music. But it was interesting to learn the actual timeline and how the Kinks were perhaps the first. Regarding the lyrics, I have thought of "across the river" as being about death, but its certainly open to interpretation. The guitar tone and layers, the vocals, the drums, the droning melody... it's all so unique and a great leap in songwriting.

    Never Met A Girl Like You Before - the intro is so weird. If this was an actual album track, and it was a planned concept album, then it'd sorta make sense as a reprise of the "Tired of Waiting for you" theme/intro. But here it sounds like it's almost just copied and pasted for no real reason other than to trick listeners for 4 seconds? Not crazy about the song itself.
     
  9. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Up until now I’ve been busily culling nominees to my playlist but, upon review (and everybody’s knowledgeable input), will pluck See My Friends from ‘good song/but no playlist’ status and place it amongst the Elite Eight.
     
  10. Martyj

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

    Location:
    Maryland, USA
    See My Friends

    Some great insights this morning from the usual suspects touching many of the angles one can approach with this song. I’ll avoid rehashing those (Yay! Less work for me!) There’s a reason this song’s wikipedia entry is longer that any other Kinks single up to this point (save for You Really Got Me)—it’s because there is lot to be said about it’s history, innovation, recording technique, etc.

    For me it is mostly notable for being the first song Ray has written that has lyrical significance. Indeed, the only one so far that is even worthy of dissection to uncover Ray’s genius as a man of words. Every song he as written to this point is direct. This is his first song written around a metaphor.

    The river in this song is not meant to be taken literally. A body of water as a metaphor is an old literary trope. Generally when it is used it is to signify a gulf between two things. It can also suggest a means for a journey to join those things that are apart. So, what does that river represent in “See My Friends”?

    There has been much written over the years that this is Ray’s first of several gay songs (actually, it’s the second after “This Strange Effect,” but the Kinks never properly released that). He did in fact claim at the time that this was a song about homosexuality. Presumably it is a protagonist, having lost his girl, finds the only option left are his same sex friends who are in a place he isn’t (i.e across the river) because, well, he is not gay…but is contemplating it, since, well… with there being “no one else, ‘cept my friends…” it may be a journey worth taking (He must be really horny).

    Personally, I’m not buying it…especially since there is a line that reveals the girl has also “gone across the river.” Ray is a consummate showman, and even in an interview he will say something to get a reaction without weighing whether or not someone calls him out on it. That could have been the case here, because on other occasions he has said the song is about death. Specifically inspired by memories of the death of his sister. He uses the song in this context in his “Storyteller” live show. It make more sense, too, when considering the words in combination with the Eastern drone music; a river is a typical metaphor for death in Eastern culture.

    So, whether about losing a girl and considering switching sides or death, both interpretations have the commonality of loss, with the source of comfort being at a distance that he can’t reach. But regardless of what the narrative of the song is about, its true lyrical greatness comes with Ray’s choice of words, and one word in particular.

    His friends are not merely across the river. They are emphatically playing. That single word elevates these words from lyrics to poetry, for it introduces multilayers to the protagonist’s view point. It changes the song from the sadness of loss to the frustration of being without loss, e.g. happy people—playing, if you will—that he is estranged from. To gaze from a distance at something that he can’t reach. The listener, then, can identify with this song a multitude of universal human feelings: he see’s his friends with envy; he see’s his friends with longing; he see’s his friends feeling estranged; he see’s his friends and takes comfort; he see’s his friends etc., etc., etc. (When you think about it, this is more or less what Waterloo Sunset is about, too)

    And that, there, answers the question of what the song is about. Not homosexuals, death, a girl, a relationship, etc. It is about seeing his friends. Hell, it’s right in there in front of our eyes, IN THE TITLE!!.

    Never Met a Girl Like You Before

    I love the Kink’s cheeky humor in the “Is this Tired of Waiting…oh, wait, no it isn’t…” fake-out beginning. That kind of musical whimsey is a trait the Kinks share with the Beatles; I find the Kinks the most “playful” of all the British 60’s bands (not counting acts that strive for outright comedy, like Bonzo Dog). And I love that bobbing baseline.

    Otherwise, it’s just a dance number. Never meant to be anything other than a b-side or album filler. The lyrics are inconsequential, but Mark makes an insightful point that the trick “Tired of Waiting” intro indicates that this might be a sequel of sorts. That could well be the band’s intent and I never considered that. So well done, Mark.

    However….

    …if one wanted to take the Ray/gay lyrical interpretation to it’s most ridiculous extreme, perhaps the protagonist has “never met a girl like you” is because “she” behaves more like a “he,” and they are “very hard to find” because that kind of behavior was—at the time—illegal in Britain, and…and….and…..

    ….okay. I‘ll show myself to the door….
     
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  11. Martyj

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

    Location:
    Maryland, USA
    Damn. I've got to stop this. That post I made earlier took over an hour to write, and I'm delaying starting my work day more and more. Oh, how those cruel Kinks have got me obsessed...They've Really Got Me
     
  12. Martyj

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

    Location:
    Maryland, USA
    Well observed.

    I, too, see "See My Friends" as the moment that the band transcends from hit-makers (albeit influential ones) to something more substantial.
     
  13. Martyj

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

    Location:
    Maryland, USA

    Nice reading your post. Just one observation: Since you were around age 10 in 1975, then you were born in the mid-1960’s. Now, I wouldn’t know your mothers age, but for arguments sake I will assume she had you at an early child-bearing age in her teens, which mean she was likely born late 40’s, early 50’s. And if her mother—your grandmother—similarly birthed your mother in her teens, means she would have been born sometime in the early 30’s.

    My Point being, your Grandmother was was building a kick-ass rock and roll collection with Zeppelin, Who, Stones, etc. at aged 40-50? You have the coolest grandma on the planet!
     
  14. Martyj

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

    Location:
    Maryland, USA
    I agree.

    But even some of those later straight forward lyrics--while overtly direct--have a clever, hidden complexity and deeper literary heft which was lacking in his work prior to See My Friends.
     
  15. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    And it’s been 25 minutes since you wrote this. :D
     
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  16. ooan

    ooan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scotland
    Preparing the world for " Fancy " !?
     
  17. Wildest cat from montana

    Wildest cat from montana Humble Reader

    Location:
    ontario canada
    They've got us all.
     
  18. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    @mark winstanley : what’s the longest running song-by-song thread that you’ve helmed? You mentioned a 2-year Elvis thread. Anything longer?
     
  19. Pawnmower

    Pawnmower Senior Member

    Location:
    Dearborn, MI
    "See My Friends" - I first heard this on the 2001 BBC Sessions 1964-1977 release. It immediately stuck out as something special. Like everyone has already said, it's a very nice song. I've never really picked up on the drone effect since the mix is so squashed and lo-fi as it is. The single didn't do very good, causing Ray to remark: "[It's] the only one I've really liked, and they're not buying it. You know, I put everything I've got into it ... It makes me think they must be morons or something. Look, I'm not a great singer, nor a great writer, not a great musician. But I do give everything I have ... and I did for this disc."

    "Never Met a Girl Like You Before" - One step forward and two steps back. The Kinks don't seem to care as much about b-sides as many of their peers did. This is as unremarkable a song as they've put out since the Bald pair.

    After three straight singles, it looks like Kwyet Kinks is next.
     
  20. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    I think you're 100% correct (which doesn't mean the death of his sister and homosexual interpretations are not correct as well, in their own way). But yes, you're right, and I think Ray himself ultimately gave a big clue in that direction when he quoted the song in "Calling Home", off his latest solo LP "Our Country : Americana 2". Listen to this, and hear what he makes of the "see my friends" refrain and all the "river" symbolism. It's about homesickness, thinking about his friends back home and, of course, about the importance of this one song in the way he found his true voice as a writer, an english writer.
     
  21. fr in sc

    fr in sc Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hanahan, SC
    I remember Townshend saying (in his Rolling Stone review of Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy IIRC) that singles were what you bought all the time in England but albums were what you got for Christmas.
     
  22. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I reckon over the 5 threads Elvis would be the longest....
    Genesis ran about 4/500 pages.
    I think Rush was about the same....
    Was the Who around there?
    I don't know really, I don't pay much attention to that

    I get the distinct impression this is going to probably eclipse those though lol
    It's all good though, the amount of pages is neither here nor there for me, it's what's in them... and I am really enjoying everyone's input here
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2021
  23. Luckless Pedestrian

    Luckless Pedestrian Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Hampshire, USA
    It's a nice touch how the repetition in the lyrics reinforces the droning, repetitive music, the river that flows.

    Although, there is a brief interruption in the flow, with a couple extra beats added in the line "She is gone and now there's no one left". But the human drama fades and still there is the flow of the river.

    I find the western style "middle eight" a bit jarring to the eastern mood that was established - a bridge over the river I suppose!
     
  24. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    “In England albums were what you got for Christmas, singles were what you bought for prestige.”
    Pete Townshend on the Who's 'Tommy'
     
  25. fr in sc

    fr in sc Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hanahan, SC
    I like my way better. ;)
     
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