Wednesday, August 6, 2008
GH's Top Ten Kinks Songs of All Time
Inspired in part by Amanda's interesting but perhaps misguided list of the best Beatles songs and also by a recent cover story with Ray Davies in Magnet Magazine (done by none other than Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan, how's that for rockism?), I've decided to put together my top ten Kinks songs. A difficult task, but I'm up to it. Share your thoughts in the comments.
10. Dedicated Follower of Fashion - There is only one songwriter who can pen the lines "He flits from shop to shop just like a butterfly / In matters of the cloth, he is as fickle as can be" and that is Ray Davies.
9. You Really Got Me - The nasal whine of the Van Halen version doesn't do this justice; it gets the nod over like-minded riffers "All Day and All of the Night" and "Til the End of the Day" because it's what launched the Kinks into rock history. The story in Davies' autobiography X-Ray about the recording of the song is legendary and hilarious.
8. Little Miss Queen of Darkness - This has the gender-bending of "Lola" with a little more pop novelty, and also has the only recorded Mick Avery drum solo I know of.
7. Love Me Till the Sun Shines - Dave Davies was/is a great guitar player but was decidedly second-fiddle when it comes to songwriting contributions to his elder brother. Still, he deserves one spot on the list, and this rocker from Something Else beats out "Death of a Clown" with ease.
6. Muswell Hillbilly - The band went back to their roots -- blues, music hall, trad pop -- for Muswell Hillbillies (named after the neighborhood in London where they grew up). The quasi-title track found Davies dreaming of a half-mythologized America, done over rollicking country-rock licks -- a great performance by the band.
5. Australia - An underappreciated tune from an underappreciated LP, Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire, "Australia" has everything: typical Daviesian working class longing, bits of British history, and then a psych-freakout outro not to be found anywhere else in the band's catalog.
4. Lola - Kinks for beginners maybe, but there's a reason for that. A hilarious and nearly tragic tale of...well, you know the story. As maybe the catchiest of a very catchy discography, it deserves its place on melody alone.
3. Waterloo Sunset - Thee Klassic Kinks Kut, capturing in three short minutes the whimsy, nostalgia, and heartache of Davies best pop songs. My only time in London I must've crossed Waterloo Bridge five or six times, but Davies' alchemy in turning a not particularly attractive scene (dirty old river, train station on a Friday night) into something so beautiful is pretty stunning.
2. The Village Green Preservation Society - Hard to pick one off the album of the same title ("Picture Book" and "Big Sky" running hard in second and third), but again the group's playfulness wins out. You could pick half a dozen lines, but I like "We are the Skyscraper Condemnation Affiliate / God save Tudor houses, antique tables, and billiards".
1. Victoria - I may be a member of a select (read: small) group of those that long for rock and rollers to write catchy songs about historical figures (Davy Crockett, anyone?), but Victoria could be about an old flame, a lost relative, or just sad, old England -- it doesn't matter. It opens Arthur with a thumping bass drum, Dave's proto-jangle guitar, and the shouted group vocals that elevated much of the album to anthem status. What more could you want in a Kinks song?
Honorable Mentions: "Drivin'", "Well Respected Man", "Rock and Roll Fantasy", "Stop Your Sobbing"