The Kinks’ Music — Muswell Hillbillies

A revised version of this essay appears in Preservation: The Kinks’ Music 1964-1974, available in paperback , hardback, Kindle (US), Kindle (UK) , and for all non-Kindle devices from Smashwords.

The Kinks’ first album for RCA Records is perhaps the last one that can be seen as an unalloyed artistic success. While the Kinks, and Ray and Dave Davies as solo artists, would occasionally produce great work after this point, usually the quality of the work was in inverse proportion to its artistic ambitions. Where Ray Davies came up with long, complex, narrative works, these fell flat, but the band could still create great pop songs as late as the mid-1980s and Come Dancing.

Muswell Hillbillies
, on the other hand, has a unity of theme and form that makes the album as a whole work better than the individual songs on it. While not a ‘concept album’ in the sense that many of the band’s later works would be, it is an album that has a definite theme, with every aspect of the record subordinate to it.

This is the most political work that Ray Davies ever created, and I have to say upfront that while sympathetic to many of the concerns in the album, it’s from a different point-of-view from my own, and that will necessarily come out in my reaction to the record. Davies’ argument (insofar as it’s a coherent argument rather than a set of contradictory emotional reactions) in this album is that eccentricity and difference are being crushed by an excessively interfering government, and by social planning that destroys communities.

While I can agree with that, my viewpoint is fundamentally liberal, while Davies’ argument appears to be a reactionary one — that all attempts to change people’s lives are necessarily for the worst, and that the old ways were always the best. Davies then contrasts the shattered, depressed lives of the British working classes with a rose-tinted view of the USA as filtered through film and TV, implicitly arguing that Britain in the early 1970s had had all its spirit crushed, to the point where even its dreams had to be imported from elsewhere.

For Britons of Davies’ generation, America had a totemic power it perhaps lacks today. While Britain went through austerity and rationing in the 1950s, when Davies was a small boy, and much of the landscape had been devastated by bombing during the Second World War, America was experiencing unprecedented prosperity, and this was never more evident than in its cultural exports. From the UK, it was very easy to ignore the horrors of segregation, the pressures to conform, and the growth of what President Eisenhower referred to as “the military-industrial complex”, and see a country that was youthful, energetic and growing, while Britain appeared to be in terminal decline.

Musically, the album reflects this with its use of very British versions of American musical idioms. At its base this is a country album, but it’s overlaid with trad jazz, courtesy of the latest additions to the band’s line-up, The Mike Cotton Sound [FOOTNOTE The Mike Cotton Sound started out as trad jazz group The Mike Cotton Jazzmen in the 1950s, before becoming a beat group and later a soul group in the 1960s (Jim Rodford, the bass player with this line-up, would become the Kinks’ bass player from 1978 to 1996, between being a member of Argent and of The Zombies). By this point, though, Cotton had dropped the rhythm section and vocalists from his band, becoming solely a horn section.].

Trad jazz is an odd musical form, which had enjoyed a brief flowering of popularity in Britain in the 1950s and early 60s. It was an attempt to slavishly recreate the music of 1920s jazzmen like Sidney Bechet and Bix Beiderbecke, but much like the later British blues bands (many of whom had their roots in trad bands) it grew into something distinct, with only a nodding similarity to its influences. Musicians like Humphrey Lyttleton, Acker Bilk and Chris Barber had been huge stars in the UK while the Davies brothers were children (and indeed Ray Davies’ first paying musical work was as a guitarist in a trad band) and so trad jazz perfectly encapsulated the album’s themes — a rather shabby British attempt to imitate the past glories of the US, itself now almost forgotten, but one which nevertheless had a power of its own.

The album also features a chorus of female backing vocalists — and like the Mike Cotton Sound, this would be added to the band for both tours and records over the next few years.

Unfortunately, while this album is much better than Lola Vs Powerman, it had no standout singles like Lola or Apeman, and it essentially marked the end of the Kinks’ career as a commercial force in their home country, even as they were slowly getting noticed in the US.

The Album

20th Century Man
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

The opening track sets out the blatantly reactionary tone of the album most clearly. Over a lumbering acoustic- and slide-guitar riff similar to the music the Rolling Stones were recording at the same time, Davies denounces the twentieth century and the very notion of progress, saying “You keep all your smart modern writers, give me William Shakespeare”, attacking the welfare state for “rul[ing] by bureaucracy”, and blaming the government for taking away his privacy and liberty.

Now, one’s reaction to this song will be almost entirely based on to what extent one agrees with Davies’ complaints, and I can sympathise with some of them, especially the concern for individual liberties (and if Davies thought that the early 1970s were a time when civil liberties were being eroded, what must he have made of the ensuing few decades?) but I also think it’s far easier to criticise the welfare state if you’ve lived your entire life with the knowledge that free healthcare and unemployment benefits were available to you if you needed them, than it was for the generation before Davies’, who had to fight for these things.

Possibly the line that sums the song up the most is “Whatever happened to the green pleasant fields of Jerusalem?” — Davies agrees with William Blake that industrialisation has a demeaning, degrading effect on people, but where Blake’s poem was a revolutionary call to arms — “I will not cease from mental fight/Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand/Til we have built Jerusalem/In England’s green and pleasant land” — Davies’ song is more of a Daily Mail leader.

However, we must not necessarily assume that this song represents Davies’ views exactly — the first few songs on the album, at least, seem to be connected and in character, sung by someone who, like the Mr Pilgrim of Lewis’ essay, is driven mad by a compulsory purchase order against his home, something that encapsulates the themes of the album, both an attachment to place and a resentment of unfeeling bureaucracy.

20th Century Man was released as a US-only single, in a much tighter edit (with two minutes lopped off the running time) but did not make the Hot 100.

Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

And here we see Davies lightly (self-?)mocking the obsessions of the previous song’s narrator. Over a honky-tonk background that sounds almost like the Lovin’ Spoonful, with some lovely touches from the new horn section, Davies repeats the complaints of the previous song (“the income tax collector’s got his beady eye on me” and “the man from the Social Security keeps invading my privacy”) but here the previous song’s passing mention of being “a paranoid schizoid product of the twentieth century” becomes the theme of the entire song. Along with the bureaucrats, the milkman, grocer and woman next door are all watching the narrator, who has been diagnosed with “acute schizophrenia disease”.

While the song is done with a light touch, it’s actually a rather scarily accurate portrayal of mental illness. I worked on a psychiatric ward for several years, and one patient, who fancied himself a songwriter, wrote songs which are very, very close to this, both in the expression of paranoia and the self-mocking acknowledgement that these are symptoms of illness rather than events in the real world.

Given Davies’ own well-publicised mental problems, one wonders just how tongue-in-cheek this actually is…

Holiday
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

One of the best things on the album, this seems to be written from the same point-of-view as the previous two songs. A superficially cheery song about a holiday, sung by Davies with a cigar in his mouth, this becomes darker when you realise the narrator has been “sent away” on his holiday, rather than having gone voluntarily. Given the protestations (“I don’t need no sedatives to pull me round/I don’t need no sleeping pills to help me sleep sound”) and the narrator’s claim that he “had to leave the city ‘cos it nearly broke me down”, maybe this “holiday” is to some kind of beach-side hospital.

The narrator tries to make the most of a holiday which sounds like most of my experiences of beach-side holidays (“lying on the beach with my back burned rare/And the salt gets in my blisters and the sand gets in my hair/And the sea’s an open sewer…”) but he’s clearly distressed and lonely.

Musically, as well as in the device of the unreliable narrator, this seems to owe a lot to some of Randy Newman’s music, with the simple chord sequence (most of the songs on this album are far more harmonically simplistic than those on earlier albums) played on piano with horn backing having a very New Orleans feel.

Skin And Bone
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

A wonderful little song, this seems to have started as a parody of the Newbeats’ Bread and Butter, which has a near-identical chord sequence (both songs have a I-V-I-V chorus in G, though Skin And Bone’s verse also has a IV chord and a passing IV# which aren’t in the earlier track) and whose lyrics (“I like bread and butter/I like toast and jam…She don’t cook mashed potato/She don’t cook T-bone steak”) are very close to those of this song (“She don’t eat no mashed potatoes/She don’t eat no buttered scones”). The similarity is most pronounced on the choruses, when there is a falsetto harmony, low in the mix, which sounds very like the Newbeats’ vocalist. Davies has combined that song with a touch of the old spiritual Dem Dry Bones to create this song.

Lyrically, the song is a paen to what is now referred to as Health At Every Size, telling of a woman (“fat flabby Annie”) who was “incredibly big and weighed about sixteen stone” before being put on a diet by “a fake dietician”. The result? “She used to be so cuddly…but oh what a sin, now she’s oh so thin” and she’s “living on the edge of starvation”, has “lost all the friends she had” and “looks like skin and bone” and “looks as if she’s ready to die”.

It may seem that this song has little to do with the wider political themes of the album, but in fact it fits them very well. The diet is portrayed as a new-fangled foreign import (Annie’s also started to “do the meditation and yoga”), and the subtext is that one should remain true to oneself, not go trying to change, and especially not try to change to be more like a foreigner.

Alcohol
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

Musically a beautiful mixture of hard rock and Kurt Weill, this song tells the story of an adulterous, drunken wife-beater and blaming every problem in his life on the women rather than on him. The Weillesque music manages to put this lyric in inverted commas, enough that it is clear that even though the song has a third-person narrator, he is still singing from the protagonist’s point of view.

Davies’ own relationship with the ‘demon alcohol’ apparently informed this song. Davies is apparently a very light drinker, but alcohol affects him very badly thanks to the pain medication he takes for his bad back. Unsurprisingly, then, the alcohol in this song is more like a force of nature than something that people willingly consume.

Complicated Life
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

Of all the songs on the album, this is the one that speaks to me, at least, the most. A simple three-chord country blues song with some nice slide guitar from Dave Davies (whose slide guitar tone is incredibly similar to his singing voice), this is one of the few songs on the album that look at the downside to the anti-modernist attitude Ray Davies takes for most of the record.

Our protagonist visits the doctor, complaining of “a pain in my neck, a pain my heart, and a pain in my chest”, and is told he’s ill from the stress caused by the complications of modern life, and that he needs to simplify his life considerably.

So far, so standard Ray Davies, but here the protagonist stops seeing women, drinking, going to work, exercising or doing anything else that causes him stress. And the result? He becomes unemployed and unemployable, has no food, has bills he can’t pay, and is more stressed than he was to start with.

It’s one of the few laugh-out-loud songs on the album, and one of even fewer to acknowledge that “the simple life” is not a panacea — and that makes the almost suicidal chorus of “life is overrated…got to get away from the complicated life” all the more easy to relate to. Yes, 20th (and 21st) century life is hard — but it’s hard precisely because the alternatives are even harder so we’re trapped in it.

In this song, by acknowledging that while he can see a problem he can’t necessarily see the solution, Davies redeems the album — it’s not just a political polemic for a return to an imagined golden age, but a work of art that’s trying to engage with the complexities of the real world.

Here Come The People In Grey
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

Musically, this is a chugging 12-bar blues in C, patterned after the work of bands like Canned Heat (the lead guitar part references their Let’s Work Together), with little to distinguish it.

Lyrically, it’s a story of one man’s descent into madness, except that he’s not going to be taken away by “the men in white coats”, but by the more sinister, because duller, “people in grey”.

Our protagonist’s house is scheduled for demolition by the government (a recurring nightmare of the middle class Englishman in the mid-twentieth century — see the first episode of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, or the Mr Pilgrim referenced earlier). And like all good liberals he doesn’t want to fill in a load of forms that the government are forcing him to fill in in order to legitimise this destruction.

But his response is to go and live in a tent with his “baby”, refuse to pay any rent or rates, and to take a gun with him to use against any policemen. Once again we see Davies’ main theme in this album — that the impersonal forces of bureaucracy are putting so much pressure on anyone who wants to be an individual that they’re likely to snap mentally.

Having not lived through this time period myself, I can’t say if that was actually the way things seemed in the early 70s, but while this is nowadays the lament of the Daily Mail reader, it does seem to have been a common complaint right across the political spectrum in the 70s and 80s (see the aforementioned Hitch-Hiker’s Guide, Terry Gilliam’s marvellous film Brazil, the work of scriptwriter Robert Holmes, Yes, Minister and so on — the perception was of a world governed by unimaginative little men who would gladly cut bits off people in order to make them fit the box they were meant to fit into).

Have A Cuppa Tea
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

One of the slightest songs on the album, this is very much a cousin of Harry Rag, this time singing the praises of tannin rather than nicotine. For most of the song it’s a three chord paen to the healing properties of tea (“It’s a cure for chronic insomnia/It’s a cure for water on the knee”), but it once again quotes another song (a recurring motif in this album is the reuse of bits of old popular songs), Sugartime (a hit in the US for The McGuire Sisters, but Davies probably knew either Alma Cogan’s UK hit version or Johnny Cash’s cover version). The “tea in the morning, tea in the evening” bit is a direct quote from the “sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening” refrain of the earlier song.

This is Davies trying to go back to the style he was using on Something Else and Face To Face, for the last time for many years, but it doesn’t really work — at that time he was concentrating on sophistication in his music and lyrics, while this is an album that generally eschews artifice in favour of emotional honesty.

Holloway Jail
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

A dark story song in the tradition of Big Black Smoke, this tells how the protagonist’s girlfriend fell in with a ‘spiv’ who framed her for a crime he’d committed. Musically, it’s a rewrite of the old blues song St James’ Infirmary, but with an incongruous line from the Everly Brothers’ Bye Bye Love (written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant) thrown in — compare the lines “She was a lady, when she went in” and “She was my baby, til he stepped in”.

Oklahoma USA
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

An absolutely lovely song, based around a repeating piano figure that almost acts as a drone, this ties together all the themes of the album in one beautiful, simple song — the monotony of British working-class life, and the dream of the America of films (and particularly in this case the America of film musicals) as the closest thing to a dream of heaven permitted in a society where even dreams are commercialised.

It’s just a touching little song about a woman who dreams of being “in Oklahoma U.S.A./With Shirley Jones and Gordon McRea”, but it’s quite, quite beautiful. There’s almost no harmonic movement in the main piano part (which for the most part plays simple arpeggios in A, D or E) but there’s a lot more implied in the interplay of the various instruments and the vocal lines — just as there’s more implied than said in the lyrics. The repeated line “All life we work but work is a bore,/If life’s for living then what’s living for?” in this context is absolutely heartbreaking.

On the next album, Davies would return to this theme in Celluloid Heroes, widely regarded as one of his best songs, but that song sounds like a less-good attempt at writing this, the emotional heart of this album.

Beautiful.

Uncle Son
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

Another simple three-chord song, this one is about the Davies’ brothers’ uncle Son, who was apparently an active socialist, but one who felt let down by leaders of all sorts.

While this album is conservative, by the definition used in this very song — “Liberals dream of equal rights/Conservatives live in a world gone by/Socialists preach of a promised land” — it’s a very strange, anti-authoritarian conservatism. Nowhere else I can think of would one get the reactionary overall feel of this album coupled with a chorus like “Bless you uncle Son/they won’t forget you when the revolution comes”.

With a verse like “Unionists tell you when to strike/Generals tell you when to fight/Preachers teach you wrong from right,/They’ll feed you when you’re born, and use you all your life”, Davies seems, in sentiment if not in satiric skill, to be writing from much the same type of anger as Jonathan Swift — as Orwell described it in Politics vs Literature, “Politically, Swift was one of those people who are driven into a sort of perverse Toryism by the follies of the progressive party of the moment.”

Davies seems to have a real anger against authority, to be almost physically pained by the destruction of working-class communities, and over and again in this album talk of revolution or armed insurrection comes up. Yet in the end (as we see especially in Complicated Life) he feels this is hopeless — the revolution is just another dead end, and all that is left is a retreat into the past, or into dreams.

Which is not a position I can agree with, but it’s one with which I can definitely sympathise.

Muswell Hillbilly
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

And we end with yet another three-chord song (actually six chords, but only because there’s a key change up a tone after the first chorus), this time seeing the slum clearances (when people were moved out of rough, often dilapidated or war-damaged, poverty-stricken areas of inner cities into newer suburban or small-town areas which quickly became even worse to live in than the original slums) as an attempt “to build a computerised community”, but our narrator vows “they’ll never make a zombie out of me”.

Meanwhile, the narrator’s “heart lies in old West Virginia” — while he’s never been to America, he sees the America of the cinema, and particularly the Wild West, as a symbol for the freedom that is being denied those who are being “put…in identical little boxes”.


Bonus Tracks

Mountain Woman
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

Another song with vaguely calypso rhythm, a la Apeman, but performed more in the style of Creedence Clearwater Revival, this isn’t a particularly good song, but probably should have made it to the album proper anyway. That’s because it paints America, the promised land of so many songs on the album, as being exactly like the Britain he described in the other songs — here a couple who live in the mountains have their home taken from them by the government so they can build a hydroelectric power station, and get moved to the thirty-first floor of an apartment block.

Kentucky Moon
Writer:
Ray Davies
Lead Vocalist: Ray Davies

This song has more chords in it than almost the entire rest of the album, and shows that Davies was making a very deliberate choice to limit himself harmonically. While it’s a sloppy performance, which sounds like a quick demo, the combination of Dave Davies’ slide guitar against the ninth chords in the piano is very effective.

The lyrics are possibly slightly too literal — “Never been to Kalamazoo/Never been to Timbuktu…Making up tunes in hotel rooms/’bout places I’ve never been to” — and they make the themes of the album a little too explicit, but it’s still a decent song.

If I’ve apparently given short shrift to many of these songs, it’s because as individual songs they don’t all stand up especially well — this is a much, much simpler set of songs than anything the band had done in years, and musically is much like the “back to our roots” sound that had dominated 1968-9 with albums like John Wesley Harding and the Beatles’ Get Back project. As ever, the Kinks were just a little behind the times. There’s a lot less to say about a three-chord blues song than there is about something as artfully constructed as, say, Autumn Almanac.

But that doesn’t mean that Ray Davies had lost his talent — this is meant to be heard as an album, not as a set of individual songs, and the cumulative effect of the album makes it much better than the sum of its parts. Other than the Something Else/Village Green/Arthur trilogy, this may be the best album the Kinks ever made.

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19 Responses to The Kinks’ Music — Muswell Hillbillies

  1. Larry says:

    Andrew,
    This is my favorite yet of your Kinks album reviews, you really place the lyrics in the context of what was going through Ray’s mind, and I truly have a deeper understanding of what he is singing about on the album. I also agree that it works better as an album than as a collection of individual tracks, I have never heard an album quite like “Muswell Hillbillies” (or for that matter, like “Village Green” or “Arthur”). Two things not mentioned – Mick Avory’s tremendous drumming on the opening track, and the slightly drunken, “shitkicker” feel of the entire album – The Faces’ “A Nod Is As Good As A Wink…To A Blind Horse” album, released in the same year, comes to mind in this regard. THANK YOU!

  2. Andrew Hickey says:

    Thanks for that — this one took far longer to write than it should have, so I’m glad it worked for you.
    You’re right — I don’t mention Avory’s drumming nearly enough generally. While I play most of the other instruments on these albums, I don’t play drums, so while I can tell the difference between a good drummer and a bad one, I don’t have the same technical knowledge I do for a guitarist or keyboard player. As a result, tend to ignore Avory more than I should.
    And you’re right about the similarity with the Faces — tehy’ve both got that proto-Pub Rock sound, haven’t they? And of course Rod Stewart was a schoolmate of the Davies brothers…

  3. prankster36 says:

    That “anti-authoritarian conservativism” thing is something that’s been sticking out the more I learn about the 60s and early 70s. The simplistic picture painted for people of my generation is that the counterculture of the 60s was liberal in nature, hence the constant “hippie” cracks at liberals to this day, but it quickly becomes clear that (in North America, I don’t know much about how it went in Britain) there was an undeniably reactionary streak running through some of it, and the modern conservative mindset seems to be a horrific mutation of this idea…”small government” and all that. I know that Charlton Heston, who marched with Martin Luther King, was very right-wing politically (and of course fixated on gun rights), and Dennis Hopper, director of “Easy Rider”, was a lifelong Republican. Certainly the idea of embracing old-fashioned values seems implicit in the whole back-to-the-land movement, and of course the idea of being a pioneer living out in the wilderness is something that most North Americans aren’t many generations removed from (some of us aren’t removed from it at all).

    That mindset–the idea of Americans as hard-working, salt-of-the-Earth cowboys who don’t need the government telling them what to do, or who they can and can’t enslave–seems to have been the crucial idea Ronald Reagan appealed to, and the root of the weird, contradictory mass of ideas towards which the American Republicans have drifted. They honestly seem to believe they’re the party of individual liberty, even as they endorse warrantless wiretapping and Guantanamo Bay–because surely the REAL oppression is having to pay taxes to support people on welfare or whatever. That definitely seems to be echoed in your analysis of this album, though I would hope Davies is less mean-spirited and more intellectually consistent.

    • TAD says:

      I would say that both American political parties (the Democrats and the Republicans) are heirs to a Libertarian ideal. But only in certain areas. Repbublicans want government out of the hair of business as much as possible….that’s their area. Democrats are (to an extent) Libertarian on the social issues, in terms of pushing for an expansion of gay rights, etc. Keep government out of the bedroom…..that’s their area. You could also broadly say that Liberals are guardians of the First Amendment, and Conservatives are guardians of the 2nd Amendment. Beyond those 2 Amendments, I doubt most Americans know )or care) what the remaining 3-27 are.

  4. S. Barrios says:

    ah, a remarkable assessment of what was my favorite Kinks record only 10 years ago!

    .. then i decided the album was “part of the problem” in the grand sense of “roots music” – or what is called “Americana” nowadays – vs. that grand flowering of Baroque Pop most associated with the year 1968 (in a very real sense, John Wesley Harding, highly-regarded product that doesn’t engage me on any level, *won*). but, jeez, that’s a little unfair, no? fact is, tho’ Muswell Hillbillies comes three years after Dylan’s pared-down, musically reactionary document, it appeared one year prior to Neil Young’s commercial triumph Harvest / and, sure, the Kinks provide the more cohesive, less spotty exemplar of “down-homeness.”

    .. but your fine review has brought me, sorta, Full Circle: up to now, i’ve generally been .. too thick to appreciate the conceptual connexion between the musical style an’ lyrical content. manythanks !

  5. Rommel says:

    I always liked “People In Grey ” & ” Skin & Bones” , they were toe tappers. 20th Century man came off a lot heavier when the Kinks did it live…

  6. Complicated Life says:

    Excellent review! Muswell Hillbillies is my all-time favorite LP and 20th Century Man is my all-time favorite single track. With “Complicated Life”, only Ray could compose a song bordering on feelings of suicide and turn it into a rousing, shit-kicking sing-along (I use the title as my screen name on Ray’s Fan forum and the Kinks Fan Club Forum). Muswell Hillbillies is the perfect blend of Brit rock/music hall andf American country/jazz. I refer to it as the Grateful Dead album the Grateful Dead wish they had made. Pure perfection!

  7. lucidfrenzy says:

    “Davies’ argument (insofar as it’s a coherent argument rather than a set of contradictory emotional reactions)”

    I’m enjoying these posts, including the comments by yourself and Prankster about ‘anti-authoritarian conservativism’. But for me the ambiguity is not a problem to be overcome but one of the positive draws of Davies’ music. That ambiguity about nostalgic English pastoralism is all over British music of this era (including ‘Pepper’), but it seems to me Davies plays it up the most, and the most deliberately. Partly it feels like a more genuine human response to a broad, emotive subject than a coherent argument would. But partly it serves to make the songs beguiling and mysterious, objects you can turn over and over without ever really discerning what they are.

    Of course straying into outright racism is something of a different matter.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Oh, I absolutely agree here. I only phrased it in that way because *Davies* himself apparently believed that he wasn’t being particularly ambiguous on this album — that he was setting out his political ideas very straightforwardly, in the hope that others would agree.

      Apologies, by the way, to the other commenters here. I’m having *IMMENSE* problems with WordPress at the moment, and am not replying to comments as much as I otherwise would.

      • lucidfrenzy says:

        Ah, I didn’t know that! Yet again your wider knowledge of the Kinks’ music comes to the fore!

        These posts have put back to the front of my mind that I really should catch up with the albums I’m ye to hear.

  8. cruth01 says:

    I’m not sure what “walking on the surrey with the fringe on top” means…she’s walking on top of the surrey?

    I just listened to this album today and it kicks ass. All the albums from Kinks Kontroversy to this are pretty great, although some more than others.

  9. cruth01 says:

    This is a general comment that might not belong on this thread specifically–I’m not sure why you at times complain about the songs having basic chord structures. I think some, if not most, of the best songs ever written are straight I-IV-V, it doesn’t seem in itself to be a criticism (of course you could just say that an interesting chord structure is a virtue in your book and I can’t argue the point, but I just wanted to break a lance for I-IV-V, it’s the backbone of civilization).

    • It’s not a complaint, as such, just an observation. In general, I do think that more complex chord structures are better, all else being equal, but there’s nothing wrong with I-IV-V. However, it palls when it’s used for an entire album.

  10. cruth01 says:

    “However, it palls when it’s used for an entire album.”

    As Samuel Johnson supposedly said, “I refute it thusly!” :

    http://www.amazon.com/Stanley-Brothers-Clinch-Mountain-Boys/dp/B000001784

    Of course there’s a ii chord in there here and there.

  11. cruth01 says:

    I assume that’s not sarcastic, but it’s OK too if it is…

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Not sarcastic in the slightest — I love good bluegrass music, though I’m not as educated in it as I am in some other genres. But I’ve seen people like Del McCoury live and play a little banjo myself, so I’m not ever going to dismiss the talents of the Stanley brothers.

  12. cruth01 says:

    Weird, the computer turned my link above into a little picture of the album (I don’t know if you can see it or what).

    Anyway, I am posting to say that “Mountain Woman” is hilarious; the lyrics are just about every cliche about rural southern people RD can think of all thrown together…I probably like it better than “People in Gray” or “Uncle Son,” so OK, we could have it on the album.

  13. cruth01 says:

    “Other than the Something Else/Village Green/Arthur trilogy, this may be the best album the Kinks ever made.”

    It may be, and those are certainly the best three, but I think I might like Lola better than this album. I can see why you (and seemingly most people) would say otherwise, but as good as the songs on here are a lot of them are half way to being genre exercises….really really good ones, but still.

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