Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite Kinks Songs

Given that I recently finished reading Ray Davies's autobiography, it seems imperative that I let all of you know my ten favorite Kinks songs.  I shall waste no more time.  Here they are, in order of release.

1.  "You Really Got Me" (1964)
We take that riff for granted now, don't we?  But in 1964, there was no such thing as a power chord, until this song, that is. And just like that, thousands of kids picked up guitars, realizing thanks to Dave Davies that the guitar could be raw, uninhibited, and exciting.

2.  "All Day and All of the Night" (1964)
This is probably The Kinks' second most popular song, in the States, anyway.  It's kind of like the slightly less attractive, but a little bit dirtier, younger sister of "You Really Got Me.  This is basically the song that every punk band ten to fifteen years later was trying write.

3.  "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" (1965)
This one, along with "You Really Got Me," has been covered by Van Halen -- so you know there's something good going on with it.  "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" was the B-side to "Till the End of the Day." I've always thought this was a strange song for a 21-year-old to write, since it would seem like all of his good times were ahead of him, but it's another example of Davies drawing inspiration from odd places (at least for a rock star), as it was said to be inspired by overhearing older people in pubs and hearing about the mundane problems that they faced.

4.  "Well-Respected Man" (1965)
One of the things I like about The Kinks is their sense of humor (or humour, as it were).  This song satirizes the white-collar, middle-class conservative, suburbia that was beginning to crumble a bit in the mid '60s.  The line "And he likes his fags the best" caused a bit of a stir in the U.S., where people didn't realized "fags" is an English slang term for cigarettes. Can you imagine how many sons of conservative fathers got the wrong end of a belt when the fathers heard that line coming out of the record player? At least one, I'd assume. Conservative fathers were dicks back then.

5.  "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" (1966)
This always seemed to me to be kind of a follow-up or partner song to "Well-Respected Man," but instead of satirizing the squares, it was satirizing the Carnaby Street mod set.  I've always found this song to be pretty funny, especially at the end, when Davies does his best Austin Powers impression.

6.  "Waterloo Sunset" (1967)
I became familiar with "Waterloo Sunset" as a result of Def Leppard's 2006 album of covers called Yeah!, which features a cover of this one.  The song is an ode to the British Empire's generation that grew up during World War II, and kind of paints a picture of tranquility.  While the song hit #2 in the UK and went Top 10 in several other countries, it failed to chart in the U.S., and it's just a song you don't hear at all on oldies radio (or anywhere else, for that matter).  Nonetheless, its impact can't be understated, as it often heralded as The Kinks' best song and was ranked by Rolling Stone as the #42 song on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all-time (higher than any other Kinks song).  To me, it's has a strange combination of psychedelia, nostalgia, and timelessness.  It puts me in a peaceful mood.

7.  "Victoria" (1969)
A tongue-in-cheek ode to Queen Victoria, this is a catchy, uptempo song, with Davies lowering his voice a little bit for the verses, before opening up for a singalong chorus that any woman named Victoria would be proud to have sung to her, unless she's a real bitch or something.  I also have a special place in my heart for the song because it played prominently in an episode of How I Met Your Mother, when we are reintroduced to Ted's ex-girlfriend Victoria.  Sure, she ended up breaking his heart again when she refused to marry him unless he broke off his friendship with Robin, but if she hadn't done that, kids, I never would have met your mother.

8.  "Lola" (1970)
Probably the first time I ever heard of The Kinks was during an episode of Family Ties.  When Mallory and her dimwitted yet lovable fiancĂ© Nick attempted to elope, the minister asked them if they had any requests for music.  Nick exclaimed, "Yeah, 'Lola' by The Kinks."  Given that Nick always wore leather and had kind of a punk vibe about him, I assumed this was a punk song.  When I later heard the song and put two and two together, it became even funnier because "Lola" is a song about a young man who leaves home for the big city, where he is seduced by Lola, who turns out to be a man.  In my opinion, "Lola" is the best song ever made about a transvestite (apologies to "Walk on the Wild Side" and "Dude Looks Like a Lady").  In typical Kinks fashion, the song has crunchy guitars and witty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.  When you're listening to the song, it just sounds like the story of an innocent guy having his first sexual experience with a more-experienced woman.  Then there's line, "Well, I'm not dumb, but I can't understand / Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man."  Okay, well maybe she just has a deeper voice than most women.  Then, you get to the line "Girls will be boys and boys will be girls / It's a mixed up, mumbled up, shook up world / Except for Lola."  That's weird, but it also implies that Lola is not mixed up, so maybe everything's cool.  And then there's the coup de grace shortly thereafter, appropriately yelled:  "Well, I'm not the world's most masculine man / But I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man / And so is Lola / Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo-Lola."  Ahh, and there you have it.

9.  "20th Century Man" (1971)
"20th Century Man" is kind of a bleak commentary on a welfare state, which would explain why the National Review put it #10 on their list of the top 50 conservative rock songs.  I don't know about all that, but I do like the song.  It's off of their Muswell Hillbillies album, which had more of a folky, acoustic rock feel to it.  This song fits into that mold.

10.  "Destroyer" (1981)
At the dawn of the '80s, The Kinks were still making great music.  "Destroyer" is a catchy, new wave tune, with a musical callback to "All Day and All of the Night" and the lyrical sequel to "Lola."  It's your classic song about a man's paranoia about bringing a transvestite back to his apartment.  Thanks, Obama.

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