Monday, 12 September 2011

Birth of an Obsession – The Kinks

Amazing how your life can change almost overnight. Before and after the Kinks. Of course, for Ray Davies, there’s probably a B.D. (Before Dave) and an A.D (After Dave). And it all hangs on my marking the Kinks programmes on BBC4 in the TV guide (Kinkdom Kome and Imaginary Man), thinking they might be interesting, wanting really a chance to hear ‘Celluloid Heroes’ again, a song that moved me long ago. Must have listened to it on a little transistor. Perhaps because of the poor reception, I always thought the line about Marilyn was ‘Should have been made of vinyl steel [rather than ‘iron or steel’] but she was only made of flesh and blood’. Can anyone tell me why these verses are not in later live versions of the song? But it was really only chance that I watched any of this retrospective. So completely random and now I’m so glad that I did. It seems that I was just waiting around for something to obsess about.

I don't know if it’s good or bad the way I am. At any point I can develop an obsessive interest in something. Obviously I liked them in the past. But only a little. Particular songs I remember hearing on oldies stations are ‘Celluloid Heroes’, ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘Waterloo Sunset’, ‘Lola’, ‘Sunny Afternoon’, ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’. Certain songs are very familiar to me when I hear them again – ‘Dead-End Street’, ‘Autumn Almanac’, ‘Set Me Free’, which I don’t think I realised was the Kinks but probably thought was the Beatles, and ‘Come Dancing’ but I never truly appreciated their genius till now. Plus in the old days, it wasn’t only the fact that I didn’t have the means to indulge an interest in something and I didn’t – I had no power at all, let alone purchasing power. In those days, I was acted upon and not acting because of the way I’d been brought up or maybe simply because I was a child. But the means itself didn’t even exist.

Now of course there’s youtube, which has enabled me to rediscover the Kinks, gradually, live and on record, at different stages in their career. I always thought of them as whimsical and witty, not quite serious but they’re so much more than this. Ray Davies, observing and commenting on the world around him, with accuracy, wry humour, irony and affection, long before Damon and Jarvis. Now I can't believe how much time I’ve spent in the last week just watching or listening to the Kinks, wondering about them, well, the brothers mainly and their fascinating relationship. It’s total immersion. And I wonder: is it only me that gets like this? Or do the Kinks do this to everyone who takes the time to really listen? I actually feel lucky to care so much about something, and that there is something special enough to involve me so completely. The music is paramount but let’s face it, the Davies brothers are intriguing and charismatic, in performance captivating, which doesn’t hurt. Now, when I’m working (so fortunate to work from home), I have to have a ‘Kinks break’ every half hour or so. After more than an hour, I start Jonesing for a song. The songs are something else.

So begins the voyage of discovery, a magical mystery tour entirely dependent on the efforts other music fans have made to download tracks (famous, rare, from obscure foreign TV shows, live, studio, audio only) and interviews onto the net. Thank you to everyone. Now the songs that we listen to most are not the ones we knew although all those songs are glorious but earlier or later ones, like ‘Tell Me Now So I’ll Know’, a perfect jewel of a 60s pop ballad, the angst-ridden ‘This Man He Weeps Tonight’, the Dylanesque ‘God’s Children’, the later, rocked-up version of ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’, with either brother singing lead or the melancholic anthem, 'Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy'. Not to mention the solo material – ‘Imaginary Man’, 'Flowers in the Rain'; I could go on but this is only meant to be an introduction.

And so it begins. From a stray spark on BBC4, a fire has been lit. (Sorry – I seem to have gone all Lord of the Rings). The fuel is inexhaustible with more interviews and songs coming online every day. At the moment, it feels like an eternal flame but I am anxious that, several ebay and Amazon purchases down the line, it will sputter and go out. Is it merely an infatuation or the real thing? Oh, who cares? At least I feel enthusiastic about something. As those other warring brothers might put it: ‘You gotta roll with it.’

More later.


  1. Great stuff - welcome to the Kinkdom!

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