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

    It nice hearing Ray in an intimate environment just playing his songs, in the way he likely wrote them.
    Personally the album version has more impact for me with the dynamics, but it makes a nice Nebraska style alternative
  2. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Have to admit I never liked the lines about punks (although admittedly as @Vangro mentioned, Ray probably didn’t mean Sex Pistols style punks) and the gay muscleman: always came off to me as a bit self consciously cutesy, as in ‘hey y’know we pioneered punk and lgbt themes in rock, so here’s a lid’l two for one reminder in this verse’. It seems more like the kind of thing that you’d imagine happening to the now established character of Ray Davies rather than something that really happened if that makes sense. It also seems kind of a portent of more heavy self referencing Ray would indulge in in the 80s.

    I do always find it faintly amusing to imagine someone’s pick up line being literally ‘hey, are you gay can you come out to play?’ and the protagonist just shrugging and saying ‘okay!’
  3. Brian x

    Brian x half-animate bean

    Los Angeles
    Okay, "Life on the Road," album opener after the Record Executive told a chastened and compliant Ray Davies that he had to reinvent the Kinks to make them acceptable to the American arena rock crowd.

    Let me guess, this is going to be your generic power chord stomp-along about how great it is to be zoomin' along the superhighway in your souped-up tour bus, gettin' high, nailin' chicks, plugin' in and jammin' hard for hockey stadiums full of fist-pumpin' frat boys.

    But wait, the first verse is Ray singing tenderly about his childhood dreams and his *friends*, and name-checking a bunch of places that the average American has never heard of (other than maybe "the Abbey Road").

    But then there's a rousing upswing in the music, like they're punching the accelerator -- the crowd lets out a rebel yell, leaps to its feet -- and somehow, after a moment, they're pumping their fists about some place called... Euston (not Houston?!).

    Oh but wait, it's got hot chicks and dive bars! Here comes a girl in a flatbed Ford, right?

    Nope. Nobody notices him. He's sick and broke and exhausted. And then a guy propositions him (I can't think of any... '70s... arena rock song that ever went there)... and, okay, it's the Kinks, he's not going to beat the guy up, but he wouldn't... he couldn't... he'd never... say "okay." ?!?!?!

    The music slows, and now all he wants is to go home and visit his *friends.* He hates the road, but -- still in thrall to his crushed childhood fantasies -- it's the only life he knows.

    So when we get back to the rousing chorus, it's -- ambiguous and contradictory and melancholy, like Education or Schooldays or Top of the Pops or Victoria. Hockey stadium bros, return to your seats.

    Of course there's the music, and the music is different. I read somewhere that they'd gotten a 24 track at Konk and, anyway, there's an obvious technical upgrade. And the [not-a-musician disclaimer] idiom is different. It seems more rooted in its contemporary musical surroundings than e.g. Village Green or Muswell (though as @mark winstanley notes, we've heard similar passages on Soap Opera and Schoolboys in Disgrace; and, as @Ziki notes, on Showbiz). The harmonies (swoon) are still intuitive, alternately husky and "sloppy" and soaring and pure, but each voice is sharp and distinct. The guitars are sharp and "separated" too [getting out of my depth here], which helps communicate the energy, exuberance, and skill in Dave's playing.

    Love this song. It's got subtle, weird, funny, sad lyrics, incredible singing, and cracking guitar. Despite what Clive Davis said or how Ray responded or what '70s critics wrote, I love this song every single bit as much as I love Shangri-la. (Woah, didn't know I was going to write that until I wrote it, but I think it's true).

    Side note: I play Black and Blue 100x more often than Some Girls. Is this a Kinks fan thing?

    Also: I am going to try to compile all references to “friends” going forward (and maybe going back). Working hypothesis: The mention of old friends is often tied to reflecting on life as a musician/performer.

    Also: To round out the kid trifecta, my 2 year old son and I were building a network of magna-tile garages and highways last night while I played this song in the living room. He picked up on the "Life on the Road" melody immediately and started singing "car on road, car on road, CAR ON ROAD!"

    Also: (Chatty today, it's a 3 day weekend here), when I was facing a bunch of professors to defend my honors thesis, one of their questions was "do you see the Soviet Union as a continuation of Imperial Russia or an abrupt break from previous Russian history?" With trepidation, given the politics of the time, I said I saw it as a continuation. Same here. I don't see Sleepwalker as an abrupt break from anything the Kinks had done before. Let's see how I feel about Low Budget.
  4. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    This is great. It shows that his songwriting skills are still intact, and that this song could have went in another direction. I’d love to hear him sing this entire album with just his acoustic. Kind of makes you wish he did a solo acoustic album around this time.
  5. Jack White

    Jack White Senior Member

    "And Ray does say, as an introduction to the tune, that it's about his own experience of "wanting to see Piccadilly". I don't know about that ..."

    I love this song. Within the context of the song , Ray presents an attractively romantic vision of a young guy from some small town yearning to go out into the wider world and see and experience the big city (and all he found may not have been what he expected), but ... Ray grew up in Fortis Green in North London. All those places he mentions in the song (Piccadilly, Soho, Pimlico, Savile Row, Abbey Road) are within a 30 minute bus or tube ride. He could have had lunch at home, caught the bus, wandered around Piccadilly to his heart's content and been back home for teatime.
  6. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Well, when you highlight it like that! :D
  7. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    That’s what I thought! I laughed when I listened to him say that; implying he’s from the countryside somewhere.
  8. Luckless Pedestrian

    Luckless Pedestrian Forum Resident

    New Hampshire, USA
    I think Ray had already gotten into character at that point.
  9. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    I don’t attach the song lyrics to being autobiographical but Ray does say in the interview that he always wanted to go to Piccadilly! But, yeah, maybe in character.
  10. side3

    side3 Younger Than Yesterday

    Tulsa, OK
    Life On The Road

    I haven't hard this in many years. I like it. A nice opener. I like the slow open and prefer it to the faster section. Nice to hear Dave very present both vocally and with his guitar, John Dalton's bass is great. He will be much missed on future releases. I was thinking it was be nice to hear the band stripped of horns on the album, but there are sections of this song where it appears that synth strings are used...the horns would have been much better there. All in all, a good start.
  11. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    It could also just be Ray being obtuse with a US audience that very likely has no idea where any of these places are.
  12. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    Thinking about this more… why would one expect Ray to “pick up” on punk? The thing that had set him apart from pretty much all of his peers by this point was the complete avoidance of any sounds that were trendy. Often he would pursue the precise opposite of what was popular. “Anachronistic” seems an odd criticism for a Kinks album, when the bulk of their work up to this point had been willfully anachronistic.
  13. dbeamer407

    dbeamer407 Forum Resident

    I am always surprised at how much I like Sleepwalker when I play it. I think Life On The Road gets me into it, there are plenty of good quality radio broadcasts from around this time. On the Winterland 77 broadcast Ray say: When I wrote this song I didn't know how much it meant to me because it's a song called Life On The Road. And it's about a rock n roll singer and he's reminiscing about his past life and his memories and his affairs and his romances. He then sings a line from Mr. Wonderful "It's a strange and tender magic you do". It's called Life On The Road. The Kinks then launch into a 9 minute version of the song (includes some band member intro's) and the crowd is clearly fired up at the end.
  14. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Pawtuckett live Dec 3 1977
    recorded by Dan Lampinski

    00:00 - Intro (You Really Got Me)
    01:41 - Sleepwalker
    06:00 - Life On The Road
    14:20 - Stormy Sky
    18:25 - Rush Hour Blues
    26:13 - Tired Of Waiting For You
    28:48 - A Well Respected Man
    30:26 - Death Of A Clown
    31:24 - Sunny Afternoon
    33:32 - All Day And All Of The Night
    36:39 - Slum Kids
    42:56 - Get Back In Line
    46:54 - Celluloid Heroes
    52:06 - The Hard Way
    57:55 - Education
    1:05:24 - Full Moon
    1:10:29 - Lola
    1:15:25 - Juke Box Music
    1:20:56 - Father Christmas
    1:25:03 - You Really Got Me (spliced)

    Last edited: Feb 21, 2022
  15. side3

    side3 Younger Than Yesterday

    Tulsa, OK
    Same here. I think Black and Blue is the last great Stones album, though I do rank Some Girls as being very good.
  16. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Winterland, San Francisco 02-19-1977

    Mick Avory - drums, percussion
    Dave Davies - lead guitar, backing, and harmony vocals
    Ray Davies - lead and backing vocals, guitar and keyboards
    Andy Pyle - bass guitar
    John Gosling - keyboards and backing vocals

    01. Opening
    02. One Of the Survivors
    03. Sleepwalker
    04. Rush Hour Blues
    05. You Make It All Worthwhile _Ordinary People _Everybody's A Star(Starmaker)
    06. Lola (with audience singalong) _Banana Boat Song
    07. A Well Respected Man
    08. Sunny Afternoon (with audience singalong)
    09. Waterloo Sunset
    10. Celluloid Heroes
    11. Schooldays
    12. Schooldays (reprise, instrumental) _ The Hard Way
    13. Education
    14. Brother
    15. Stormy Sky
    16. Life Goes On
    17. Full Moon
    18. Lola
    19. Alcohol
    20. You Really Got Me _All Day and All Of the Night
    21. Life On The Road
    22. Victoria

  17. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    I don't think they were "wilfully anachronistic" at all, mostly because I don't buy the notion that they were ever anachronistic in the first place. They ploughed their own furrow but where were they anachronistic? They might have sang about village greens and Queen Victoria but musically I don't think they were anachronistic. The thing is Ray did pick up on punk, only he did about two years too late, having ripped Tom Robinson to shreds for doing the same thing and having decided to go for the US AOR market instead.
  18. sharedon

    sharedon Forum Zonophone

    I was there! Great venue for the band, almost cozy and far from stadium size.
  19. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    I’m not crazy about Black and Blue, aside from “Hand of Fate”, which I love. I also think Some Girls is slightly overrated, but I play it more than Black and Blue. I like the next album, Emotional Rescue, more than either.
  20. markelis

    markelis Forum Resident

    Miami Beach FL
    I remember showing up to visit her in 1982 (when I was17) with the just released 1999 album by Prince and Scorpions’ Blackout album both in hand. After all the cool music she had introduced me to, I couldn’t wait to return the favor. I was quite disappointed when it turned out she had both of them already. So, yeah, she was pretty cool.
  21. markelis

    markelis Forum Resident

    Miami Beach FL
    Thank you for this. This will cause me to go back and re-listen to the live portion of Showbiz again. As huge a fan as I am of One from the Road, and even though I did listen to the studio portion of Showbiz probably 30+ times is the lead up to the discussion, I definitely didn’t give the live portion a fair shake. I will do so now and report back!
  22. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    "Willfully anachronistic" was perhaps overstating it. But certainly their music hall leanings in the mid 60s were anachronistic, as was the brass band sound of a lot of the RCA era work. At minimum, I can think of few examples of Davies actively chasing musical trends or trying to sound stylistically current in the manner that people like McCartney and Jagger always did. There's no psychedelic album by The Kinks, or a blues revival album, or (at this point) funk/disco influences. Given this, it would seem quite uncharacteristic of him to embrace or acknowledge punk to any great degree.

    Not to get ahead of ourselves, but in what way does he pick up on punk two years later? I don't hear any profound punk influences in anything they did in 1979-80. Yeah, he does unfortunately jump on the disco bandwagon for one song, but that seems an anomaly.

    I think a bit too much is being made of this "go for the AOR market" proposition. Sleepwalker is more slickly produced, but I don't hear him making any changes in his songwriting, either stylistically or lyrically. The songs themselves are very much of a piece with the stuff he was writing circa Lola or Show-Biz, to my ears.
  23. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Punk gets mentioned a fair bit around this time, but I don't hear Low Budget as really having anything particularly punk about it.
  24. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Nice one!
    All Down The Line and DISKOJOE like this.
  25. markelis

    markelis Forum Resident

    Miami Beach FL
    Life on the Road: This song was my third favorite on Sleepwalker back in the day, topped only by Sleepwalker and Juke Box music. We will see if that changes based on our analysis over the next two weeks because recent listens have caused a few songs to take a good hard run at third place. Great acoustic beginning which shifts gears rather effectively into a fast paced barroom rocker. Funny lyrics which bring a smile almost every time I put this one on, even after 40 years. Great sing along chorus. …and great playing by the band all around, but as always, special mention is required for Dave’s guitar work and his lovely background hollering towards the tail end of the song. I don’t hear anything here other than Grade A Kinks.

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