The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    This is what @pyrrhicvictory posted several days ago. Ray talking:
    “When the guys first heard me play that, they looked at each other strangely, “What is this man trying to do to himself?”
    Me: No ****.

    Ray again:
    “But the song is pretty sad, really. It’s about this guy who has no family and spends his time looking at all the other families in the park on Sunday afternoon.’”
    —end paste—
    Yeah, right. There’s no mention about families. I can’t imagine sitting alongside this character in the song, glancing over and noticing what is being written onto a piece of paper. I’d be horrified and outta there with my daughter in tow.

    What a waste of a pretty melody.

    The Count: 5-3-1
  2. Michael Streett

    Michael Streett Senior Member

    Florence, SC
    Art Lover is the only song on this album that has an alternate version or alternate mix officially released.

    On the 1997 UK 2 CD set The Singles Collection / The Songs Of Ray Davies Waterloo Sunset, there is a version of this on there titled Art Lover (Remix).
    It's actually a different version, a different recording.

    A couple of differences that are easy to spot to confirm this are the drum fill right before the first "I'm not a ..." at :29 in the official album version posted earlier and :38 in the version I'm posting here. More importantly, this version is very piano(s) based. There are no electric guitars and no backing vocals, so this means no Dave. The marimba sound is still here however.
    The lead vocal and lyric is slightly different too. On that "I'm not " line, Ray sings "overcoat" instead of "raincoat". There's also a resigned extra "Come to Daddy" at the end. These two lyrical changes make it seem even more creepy to me.
    But I'll leave the lyric analysis to everyone else here as to whether or not this is significant or not since you all do this so well. I'll stick with the music and mixes side of things.

    Since we can't find this anywhere on the web, I ripped this from my own CD and made a "video" to upload here to share. The video itself is actually irrelevant, just album cover art of the album this is on. It's just a means to get the audio uploaded here. It's all about the audio. This is my first attempt at doing this so let me know if you can't view or access this. This will be unlisted so only available through the link here.

    Art Lover (Alternate Version)

    The 2008 Picture Book box set has the original album version only. It's listed as an alternate mix in the liners there, but it is not. Apologies for saying it was some time back in an old post. Bottom line, never trust the liner notes in a Kinks release. See how confusing this stuff is?
    Last edited: May 18, 2022
  3. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Art Lover
    I've gone through three phases with this song. In the eighties, it was just another Kinks song - catchy and pleasant enough music, but with lyrics that make you take notice. I didn't consider any sinister connotations (so naive was I in the ways of the world). But after I got married and we had a daughter I had a negative response on the rare occasion I played this album: that's likely because it preys on parents' fears about their child's safety - stranger danger etc. Fast forward to my daughter becoming an adult and I'm fine with this song again. It's a better song that I first thought - with layers of meaning. It's obvious to me that Ray isn't empathising with a child molester - not least because he has four daughters of his own. So while I now like the song I find it sad that it's hard to take the lyrics at face value because our natural inclination is to think the worst of people.
    Last edited: May 18, 2022
  4. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Cheers mate
  5. Martyj

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

    Maryland, USA
    Art Lover

    I liked this song from the moment I heard it. Plus…I got it. Immediately. There was no ‘complicated relationship’ with it for me. It’s a basic ol’ switcheroo, where one is set up to believe something is one way until it is revealed to be the opposite. That’s a standard construct of comedy and one can even recognize a comedic element in this piece—as a whole—if one cares to look for it.

    A throw back to the way Ray used to write ‘em. Plus, it’s melodic as hell.

    A GTPWTW highlight.
  6. sharedon

    sharedon Forum Zonophone

    It’s on most streaming platforms.

    Some Velvet Morning B/W Tired of Waiting for You

    And it’s a bonus track on the new reissue of the Nancy and Lee album.
  7. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    “Come to daddy” is a terrible lyric no matter what his intent was. This song just sounds creepy to me. I don’t care for any of the lyrics, and it’s not a good enough melody to make me try and appreciate what Ray was going for.

    “Art Lover” hasn’t aged well. I remember in the past being somewhat intrigued by it and thinking what an odd song. What in the hell is Ray singing about? He wrote a song to get your attention and clearly knew it would be controversial. Then he could say it’s not a song about a pedophile, it’s really a sweet song about a father who lost his child. I find none of it sweet or clever. This is one deranged “daddy”.

    I know it’s one of those Kinks songs you either love or you hate. Listening to it over the past week has made me realize I am completely annoyed by it.

    DISKOJOE Boredom That You Can Afford!

    Salem, MA
    "Art Lover": This was the song, along w/"Better Things", that popped out for me when I first head GTPWTW. I also remember seeing it performed live on SNL. It's still one of my favorites from the album. I didn't have any problems w/the lyrics because I knew a bit of Ray's personal life by then and that he was a divorced father w/daughters by that time. I figured that the song was about a divorced dad who for some reason didn't have custody of his child and goes to the park to see other children as a substitute, no harm intended, as stated in the lyrics, which, as Our Headmaster and several other Avids have pointed out, are subtle. However, I don't know if a song like this can be written today, even w/Ray's talent for subtlety. I think that in a post Gary Glitter/Jimmy Savile world, a lot of people would take this at face value and condemn it.

    Speaking of father-daughter relationships, Ray will have an ambiguous one coming up in the Return to Waterloo video.
  9. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Exactly. Try crooning this at a friend’s house with a young daughter and I can guarantee that’s the end of the friendship.

    (It ain’t no ‘Saturday In the Park’!)
  10. The late man

    The late man Forum Resident

    I first thought this song was about a repressed paedophile who knows his pulsions are wrong and sublimates them into aesthetics. That would be a legitimate angle, but maybe not really thinkable in 1981.

    The divorced father angle makes more sense, of course, but not 100%. Why the plural "little girls" at the beginning ? Ray's comments explain it, maybe: we're seeing the character through Ray's eyes, in that park. This first verse could be written in the third person, actually. He's depicting himself as he believes others see him. Still, I don't really understand if and when the character's daughter is involved her. If so, she's reduced to a superficial shape, which is really weird.

    I like the idea of the divorced dad though. The sudden feeling of illegitimacy, for a divorced father, in relationship to a kid who used to share your daily life. Very touching. I'm a divorced father, at a time where fathers' rights and duties are better acknowledged - in my opinion - but I really can sympathise with this.

    My main issue with the song is the weary I-V-vi-IV-V chord progression, grossly emphasized by the marima-style keyboard. I still like this song a lot, but it fails short of classical status for me because of this.
  11. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    Art Lover

    Like most, I was seriously creeped out at first.... but by the final verse, all was good, even upon first listen. I don't even see it as ambiguous at all. Even with Ray himself claiming deliberate ambiguity, I think that's no more than Ray leading us down a dubious path just to make the final twist more impactful. But once you've heard the final reveal, even just once, you can settle in and enjoy the song right from the start on subsequent listens. Which is particularly easy because of the lovely melodies.

    That said, this is still a song I don't turn to often. Even thought the protagonist is "not a dirty old man," I think there are healthier ways for him to handle his separation from his daughter. Pining after what you can't have tend only to perpetuate the misery. And besides, no matter how innocent, poignant, or heartbreaking his art appreciation may be, was another dad to see our protagonist checking out his little girl, well, hi might not be getting back home in one piece.
  12. markelis

    markelis Forum Resident

    Miami Beach FL
    I am going to have my deposition taken today in a lawsuit that involves my fiancé getting very sick from toxic mold in an apartment we were living in about four years ago in Santa Monica. I’m desperately memorizing dates as to when the significant events happened and as such I’m gonna keep my analysis of art lover even shorter than my explanation as to why it’s so short!

    Art lover: as with probably almost everybody on here, I hated this song when I thought it was actually a beautiful sounding song about a child molester. Several months ago I took the time to look into the song a bit and understood what it was really about. Now I like it. Do I think it’s an all-time kings classic? no , but I’d still stick it on a playlist because it’s pretty enjoyable now that I know what it’s really about.

    OK, actually my analysis of the song is about the same length as my explanation as to why it’s so short.

    Also, great write up as usual by our fearless leader! They say he was sitting in a park when he wrote it…
  13. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly 1964-73 rock's best decade

    Art Lover
    This was one of my favorite songs when the album came out. I do recall that I was a bit uncomfortable with the lyrics even in my early 20's.
    Listening to it today as a grandfather I'm a bit more uncomfortable with the lyrics, but not to the point of being offended or not wanting to hear the song, mainly because the music is excellent. It reminds me a lot of "A Little Bit Of Emotion", a favorite from LOW BUDGET. Ray really does these type of laid back ballads very well.
  14. Zerox

    Zerox Forum Resident

    Back in the days when Matt Lucas and David Walliams were funny (no, really), they did a sketch on their show 'Rock Profile' spoofing Blur. In it, 'Damon' says that people will assume that he's writing autobiographically when in fact he's an artiste who merely portrays a character in the song. He then proceeds to perform their latest composition (this was around the time Blur had released 'Tender'), the lyrics of which go "Justine...Justine Frischman...out of Elastica...who I used to go out with..."

    Why do I mention this? Well, partly because it's a funny sketch but also because there's a degree of truth to the point that many times when a songwriter portrays 'just a character' there is at least some of them in it. I mean, without the ability to empathise and relate, where would the compassion and soul come from?

    In the case of 'Art Lover', I'm sure RD was being deliberately provocative in the approach he took to the lyrics but I'm also convinced he is not condoning paedophilia. I would not be at all surprised if the lonely figure missing his kids is substantially Ray drawing on his own experiences. If you read the biographies and various interviews, he was not a happy bunny when Rasa left with the kids. That kind of experience is not going be repressed if you're writing a song on the subject of being a 'Sunday parent'.

    I fear you're right. You can see the lowest common denominator press headlines sensationalising it. Yet it works as a song because of the way it confounds the listener's expectations. I find it quite depressing that discussing a subject in an art form, even in a risque manner, is off-limits. There again, satire, which also has to push the boundaries to be effective, isn't in the best of health either.
  15. pantofis

    pantofis Senior Member

    Berlin, Germany
    The "creepy" factor of Art Lover still gives me an uncomfortable feeling even today, especially as the song comes up after a couple of faceless and increasingly dumbed-down hard rockers. Sorry, this is clearly not the album for me.
    Still Ray managed to notch up the creepy factor in his TV-film "Return To Waterloo" where the protagonists has some flashbacks / fantasies about his daughter. It's more ambiguous, but also more effective as far as the uncomfortable factor goes.

    Nevertheless, all that said I'm actually glad that "Art Lover" exists as a form of expression. Whatever the motivation or intent, art is also a free form of expression regardless how you judge it afterwards.
  16. Brian x

    Brian x half-animate bean

    Los Angeles
    Art Lover

    The soul is healed by being with children.
    - Dostoyevsky

    This is a sad song any way you look at it.

    There was a good long ten or fifteen year period where I was pretty sure I'd never find love and have a family. But I love children -- I have the kind of face, or something, that makes little kids wave and smile, and the cliche in the family is that, if there are kids at any grown-up party, I always wind up hanging out & playing with them rather than talking weather or sports or whatever with the grown-ups. Kids haven't repressed their imaginations, their playful disregard for linear time, or their unvarnished expression of emotions adults generally keep sealed under layers of denial and conventional behavior. A child feeding ducks or looking at a flower is just a totally different sight than an adult doing the same things -- their eyes are full of wonder and curiosity and deep cosmic appreciation that most grown-ups have long lost & forgotten. And when you spend time with children, you start seeing the world through their eyes, experiencing a flower for the first time all over again, feeling the duck's orange cardboard-y bill scraping at your palm while you look into its calm depthless black eyes --

    I remember being at a family gathering once when I became aware of an utterly bored 7 year old wandering around, ignored. I asked her if she wanted to play a game, and she dragged me to her room, shut the door, got out her doll house and a bunch of little bears, and brought me into some complex world she'd devised, with all kinds of impossible plot twists and transformations, where the bears became a family of witches, goblins, unicorns, and robots. Suddenly, the door was flung open, and the girl's mother stood staring at me in horror and accusation. As a parent now, I understand it, but the contrast between the purity of the child's imaginary bear game & her mother's interpretation of my presence was jarring and disturbing... because for a moment I saw myself through her eyes.

    Now, when people see me spending hours sharing my kids' imaginary worlds, they smile and say what a good father I am. But playing with my kids is the thing I most look forward to when my worldly obligations are done for the day. Like listening to music, or reading, or going to a gallery, it's a relief from my old worn consciousness, a complete emotional immersion in another way of seeing.

    I feel like, by exploring the creepiness of other people's assumptions, by triggering our suspicion and teasing our condemnation, by keeping the lyric ambiguous, RD is doing something really profound. His *pure* voice, the simple & beautiful melody, the use of the first person... it's so vulnerable that he almost has to arch an eyebrow and say "shame on you for thinking it was anything else." And the melancholy throughout is almost like a comment on that, on the idea that something as wholesome as sitting in the park and watching kids feed the ducks could be twisted into looking like the worst of all possible crimes.

    What I get from it at the end is, here is a guy who appreciates the beauty and innocence of children. He doesn't want to capture or, for God's sake, corrupt it -- he just wants to be there near it. Maybe he's the daddy of a lost child, maybe he's someone who never got to be a daddy. Something -- his daughter, his own youth, his own innocence -- has been taken from him, and he's reduced to watching from a distance, subject to the sick and unjustified assumptions of the people around him, including the listener.

    Deeply sad and beautiful song.
  17. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Maplewood, NJ
    Art Lover

    I agree this is a really sad song. But this doesn't seem like subtle ambiguity. It seems like purposefully obvious ambiguity, if such a thing exists. I was creeped out at first, which is I think what Ray was purposefully trying to do. "No, but I specifically said I'm NOT a flasher in a raincoat". The "Come to Daddy... come on" (and in the SNL version I think he changes it to "Come to Ray..." one time)... it is just stereotypically creepy! Yes, it has that M. Night Shyamalan twist at the end, but it doesn't save it from sounding creepy to me! The "pure white skin" line is also pretty cringy... and from the same cringe source as Black Messiah... There are historical connotations of the word "pure" and skin color... Not sure if that is a little blind spot in Ray's mind, because I know he chooses his words carefully and there is a lot of purpose in the lyrics of this song.

    It is sad, but there are touches of humor to add that dimension here... the shades... the "she's a work of art...and I should know, I'm at art lover!" is a great little bit and delivery. There is a great soft melody, and I think I prefer that more piano-driven version over this album version.

    I think the perspective is really interesting... the narrator is rather understanding that others may believe he has sinister intentions or is perverted... and, recalling a a word from the title track "Give 'em lots of sex, perversion and rape"... that's what people have on their mind, and what they fear. People assume the worst of people, when we should really assume the best. There's some advice that you never know if someone is having a particularly bad day, so just be kind to people by default and you may brighten someone's day. Hold the door open for someone behind you. That person at the park might be observing childhood innocence, which reminds them of something they have lost. Sometimes recalling memories can appear to be wallowing in the misery, but the memories can be comforting. Sometimes listening to sad songs makes you feel better, right?

    It's almost worth putting this on the playlist just to see what reaction it gets if someone does pay attention to the first 2 minutes of this song. "No, but he specifically said he's NOT a flasher in a raincoat."
    Last edited: May 18, 2022
  18. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Great post.
  19. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Hi brother lol
  20. Zerox

    Zerox Forum Resident

    Thank you for this post.

    How did it get to be that seeing someone in the worst light became not the exception but the rule?

    Yes, there ARE a lot of dodgy types out there but this is a sad state of affairs.

    Forgive me if I made this point previously but I think the reason Ray deliberately paints a picture that can be interpreted in a negative way is to underline how much people do want to see the worst. And that was forty years ago, so God knows how bad it would be now!
    Whoroger89, markelis, Smiler and 10 others like this.
  21. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Spot on mate.
    This utter corruption of the world too frequently brings a tear to my eye these days, and sometimes I'm not even quite sure why.... and the speed at which it's sliding is disturbing.
  22. Vangro

    Vangro Forum Resident

    I think Ray only has himself to blame if people misunderstand this song, though I'm not sure he was that bothered anyway. He seems a little too willing to play up the creepy aspects in a kind of blackly humorous way. I get the feeling he couldn't resist it, to be honest.
  23. The late man

    The late man Forum Resident

    If the song isn't acquitted after such a brilliant plea, the judge has been bought.
  24. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    I'm sure he wanted people to misunderstand it. The lyrics are clearly meant to sound creepy. Ray thinks he is being very clever, but he knows he has written a song that will make most people uncomfortable. I believe Ray enjoyed the Kontroversy that it may have caused. He wanted it as a single!

    Lots of great thoughts and opinions today! I have now listened to the song many more times. The lyrics and vocal delivery still make me cringe. "ahh come to daddy, come on". With a completely different set of lyrics I am not sure what I would think. The music is interesting with the guitar rhythms having a bit of that Jamaican swing. The marimba sound further gives it a tropical feel, not much different from the steel drum effect they used on "Come Dancing". Am I starting to somewhat enjoy this bizarre tune?
  25. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I think it all ties in to Give The People What They Want..... meanwhile Ray is singing Alice Cooper to himself "You Want It, You Got It"...
    As pointed out several times, Ray points out what the people seem to want in the title track, and he pushes it into their face raw and unseasoned...
    I can almost see him smirking over a beer, thinking "we'll see if that's what you really want now, won't we"

    He certainly twisted this to bait the audience..... I think it would have been just as effective with a little less bait.

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