#258 – The Kinks – The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society

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The second of three listed albums from The Kinks is the band’s sixth studio album.  The 1968 release was the band’s last produced with the original band members.  The album failed to chart, only selling about 100,000 copies.

Sara

This is a super interesting add to the list because although it was almost universally praised by critics, this album didn’t chart when released. The title track starts this one off and really sets the tone for the experience. It’s inspired by a longing for traditional England, and even led to the band’s slogan “God Save the Kinks.” It’s hard to believe this song didn’t’ chart, because for a 60s pop tune it seems to have it all: simple yet meaningful lyrics, a light, upbeat rhythm, strong harmonies, and shy of 3 minutes.

Frequently stricken by nostalgia, this one really resonated with me.  I tend to remember past things really fondly and conveniently leave out things that don’t fit the perfect image of the past I’m creating, and this song was kind of a funny reflection on that.  As a parent, I sure hope I reflect back on the days I’m in now (with 2 kids under 3) and remember all the laughs and silly times as opposed to the sleeplessness and poop-covered scenarios. And yes, of course part of me wants to preserve this time exactly as it is and just freeze things here with my perfect little babies. Ray Davies said later that the ‘Village Green’ is just a metaphor for that place we all go in our heads when we are overwhelmed.  Maybe it’s in the past, maybe it’s imagined for some, but we all have that ideal place we think about when we are longing for something different. 

We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society
God save Mrs. Mopp and good Old Mother Riley
We are the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium
God save the George Cross and all those who were awarded them
We are the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular
Help save Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula
We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the Skyscraper condemnation Affiliate
God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do
God save the Village Green.

As I moved through the tracks, my affection for this album and the Kinks in general just skyrocketed. The Kinks have a cult following and I totally get it. They’re incredible.  I’d actually put this much higher on the list, in the 100s b/c it’s that good.  One of the coolest things about it is that, unlike many recent albums we’ve listened to, no one or two songs jump out as the winners. Every song is just solid and there’s just enough variety.

The bluesy “Last of the Steam Powered Trains” was a favorite of mine. It’s driven by a harmonica hook borrowed from Howlin Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” that evokes some serious head-bobbing and, although it starts off slow and straight bluesy, it speeds up midway and features some great bass work. It’s just a straight up cool song.

Some say it’s about the declining popularity of blues at the time, but it can be about anything that’s fading away. Instead of changing, sometimes we dig in and stand our ground, advocating for the old way that we are proud of.  I’m stubborn so I can relate, ha.  I’m also loving the theme of change that is incorporated into much of the album.

Like the last of the good ol’ puffer trains,
I’m the last of the blood and sweat brigade,
And I don’t know where I’m going, or why I came.
I’m the last of the good old fashioned steam-powered trains.

I’m the last of the good old renegades.
All my friends are all middle class and grey,
But I live in a museum, so I’m okay.
I’m the last of the good old fashioned steam-powered trains.

Like the last of the good ol’ choo-choo trains,
Huff and puff ’till I blow this world away,
And I’m gonna keep on rollin’ till my dying day.
I’m the last of the good old fashioned steam-powered trains
 

The other coolest song on this album is “Village Green,” which again covers change and longing for the past. The only critique I’d offer is that it should be the last song on the album because it ties  in so perfectly with the first. The album would truly be a start-to-finish experience if it came full circle in this way, but that’s not to slight it in the least—just a suggestion from this mere mortal.

The Kinks really delivered on this one and my instinct as it ended was to just play the whole thing again. I want to wake up to it. It’s a cool kids’ Sgt Pepper (Before the Beatles version of the Beygency starts coming for me, let me just say YES, I like Sgt Pepper for crying out loud, I’m just saying there’s a lot of other cool stuff out there that often gets overlooked because people focus way too much on the Beatles).

This one is going directly to my playlist and will be filed under the ‘I am so mad at myself for not already loving this’ category with my new boyfriend Tom Waits.

 

Steve

As I mentioned before I love The Kinks.  I had never listened to this album, but did know a few of the songs on it.  This was what exactly I expected, some really great music.  It is a shame that this album didn’t chart, because it is a very strong effort from the band.

One of my favorites on this album was “Big Sky.”  Ray Davies, the Kinks founder, and primary songwriter, counts this as one of his favorite Kinks songs.  However he wasn’t happy with the band’s performance of the track.  He regrets that in his opinion the song wasn’t performed properly.

Big Sky looked down on all the people looking up at the Big Sky.
Everybody pushing one another around
Big Sky feels sad when he sees the children scream and cry
But the Big Sky’s too big to let it get him down.

Big Sky too big to cry
Big Sky too high to see
People like you and me

One day we’ll be free, we won’t care, just you see
‘Til that day can be, don’t let it get you down
When I feel that the world is too much for me
I think of the Big Sky, and nothing matters much to me.

Big Sky looked down on all the people who think they got problems
They get depressed and they hold their head in their hands and cry.
People lift up their hands and they look up to the Big Sky
But Big Sky is too big to sympathize

Big Sky’s too occupied
Though he would like to try
And he feels bad inside
Big Sky’s too big to cry

One day we’ll be free, we won’t care, just you wait and see
‘Til that day can be, don’t let it get you down.
When I feel that the world is too much for me
I think of the Big Sky, and nothing matters much to me.

The only single from this album that charted, well, kind of charted (in The Netherlands), was “Starstruck.”  The song is about getting caught up in a fast paced social scene and losing who you are.  It’s easy to get caught up in the fun side of life and get carried away.

Baby, you don’t know what you’re saying,
Because you’re a victim of bright city lights,
And your mind is not right.
You think the world’s at your feet.

‘Cause you’re starstruck, baby, starstruck.
Taken in by the lights,
Think you’ll never look back,
You know you’re starstruck on me.

Baby, you’re running around like you’re crazy.
You go to a party and dance through the night,
And you’ll drink ’till you’re tight,
And then you’re out on your feet.

‘Cause you’re starstruck, baby, starstruck.
Taken in by the lights,
Think you’ll never look back,
You know you’re starstruck on me.

Baby, watch out or else you’ll be ruined,
‘Cause once you’re addicted to wine and champagne,
It’s gonna drive you insane,
Because the world’s not so tame.

And you’re starstruck, baby, starstruck.
You’re taken in by the lights,
Think you’ll never look back,
You know you’re starstruck on me.
Don’t you know that you are,
Starstruck on me.
And you always will be,
Starstruck on me.
Starstruck on me.

Probably my favorite song lyrically on the album was “All of My Friends Were There.”  The song tells the story of a drunken performer of some sort who messes up a performance in front of all of his friends.  He is distraught and hides for a time until he gathers the strength to perform again and redeems himself.  Ray Davies wrote the song after he got drunk before a show and played awfully in front of all of his friends who were sitting in the front row.

My big day, it was the biggest day of my life.
It was the summit of my long career,
But I felt so down, and I drank too much beer,
The management said that I shouldn’t appear.
I walked out onto the stage and started to speak.
The first night I’ve missed for a couple of years,
I explained to the crowed and they started to jeer,
And just when I wanted no one to be there,
All of my friends were there.
Not just my friends, but their best friends too.
All of my friends were there to stand and stare,
Say what they may, all of their friends need not stay.
Those who laughed were not friends anyway.
All of my friends were there to stand and stare.

Days went by, I walked around dressed in a disguise.
I wore a mustache and I parted my hair,
And gave the impression that I did not care,
But oh, the embarrassment, oh, the dispair.
Came the day, helped with a few large glasses of gin,
I nervously mounted the stage once again,
Got through my performance and no one complained,
Thank God I can go back to normal again.
I went to that old cafe,
Where I had been in much happier days,
And all of my friends were there,
And no one cared.
Say what they may, all of my friends were there.
Not just my friends, but their best friends too.
All of my friends were there,
Now I don’t care.

This was a great album, from a great band.  I cannot wait to see what their final album has in store for us.
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