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"


Marissa said...

Ahh, I'd have to put Waterloo Sunset at No. 1. I love that shit.

Louis said...

What? No Celluloid Heroes?

Jimbromski said...

I'm partial to Yes Sir No Sir, but overall, it's a good list.

Where the fuck were you guys for the last few weeks? This isn't France.

Betty C. said...

Great job on the list -- I would certainly hesitate to undertake the task.

I have to agree with marissa that I would put Waterloo Sunset first, and with louis -- Celluloid Heroes belongs somewhere.

"Australia?" Never really got into that one, not that it's a bad song. Let's call it your joker -- mine would be "Oklahoma USA," but I don't know if I would have a lot of support there.

Big Kinks fan kommenting here, BTW.

G.H. said...

Oklahoma USA was a tough one to pass up. Yeah, Australia was my personal touch. Yes Sir No Sir is great, great too -- probably deserved an honorable mention bid. I don't love Celluloid Heroes, but I'm starting to hear consensus that it merits its spot.

Jimbromski said...

Cell Heroes is a little too schmaltzy for me, just my $0.02.

In my opinion Ray Davies suffered from Paul McCartney-itis, which is where you exhibit tendencies to writing Tin Pan Alley/vaudeville songs. "Grandma music" as Lennon called it.

But like PM Davies is f--king awesome woo woo woo yeah

Also have to agree with betty c, I prefer Oklahoma USA to Muswell Hillbilly. BTW the liner notes on that album are an engrossing read.

Betty C. said...

jimbrowski, I can see your point of view on Celluloid H. It wasn't an all-time favorite of mine but I've seen some great live versions of it that put it at the top. I wouldn't go so far as to compare it to Paul McCartney, though -- not sure if that's what you were getting at.To me it's kind of a parallel song to "Rock and Roll Fantasy," which I see g.h. mentioned.

g.h. I wonder if you considered "This is Where I Belong" -- if I do sit down and do the list, I think that might be in the top five.

G.H. said...

Magnet put This is Where I Belong on their list. I like it and all, just didnt make mine.

Come to think of it, I also love "Days" and "I'll Remember" and "Autumn Almanac".

Christopher App said...

Great list! Googled "best kinks songs of all time" and you're right there on top! Some of my personal favorites I would put on my list; This Time Tomorrow, Strangers, Tired of Waiting For You, Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me From Worrying About That Girl. Love the Kinks!

Betty C. said...

"This Time Tomorrow" -- another great but little-known Kinks song! I had forgotten about it...also a favorite...

Nite Owl said...

I actually would even include some from the later years...

My fav's include

Big Sky
Some Mother's Son
Long Way from Home
This is Where I Belong
Celluloid Heroes
Missing Persons
Looney Balloon
No More Looking Back
Living on a Thin Line

Some honorable mentions...
When You Were a Child
Yes Sir No Sir
Where Oh Where Is Love?
Jukebox Music
Now and Then
Still Searching
Phobia (YEAH! I SAID IT!!! :) )
This Time Tomorrow
Too Much on My Mind
and others I'm forgetting...

I also think Ray's most recent album has a few classics on it, including the title track and "Imaginary Man."

Betty C. said...

Just dropping in again after picking up the last comment on my alert -- I actually did gather up enough steam to make my own top ten list, which can be consulted here:

Interesting we both have Lola at number 4.

Benjamin S. said...

Love to see a list that isn't just their earliest stuff. Although I can't believe that nobody has even listed "Days" or "I'm not Like Everybody Else" as a top 10 song. Also, listen to Ray's new stuff, it deserves mention.

Betty C. said...

Benjamin, Days is on my Top Ten List -- actually, it's number 2! You can see the list here, even though I've referred to it in a previous comment:

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Grant said...

1 Animal Farm
2 Johnny Thunder
3 When a Solution Comes
4 Victoria
5 Shangri-La
6 Yes sir, no Sir
7 Days
8 Waterloo Sunset
9 Sunny Afternoon
10 Do You Remember Walter?

Supra said...

This blog instantly had merit just for putting the stellar "Victoria" at the #1 spot.... for my money, not just the best Kinks song, but one of the best songs of the entire 1960's. When it kicks into high gear at the 2:08 mark, the Chuck-Berry-esque exuberance is just increidble. Ray never topped that one, despite all the brilliance he still had in him.