Monday, 4 September 2017

Flowers in the Rain – Dave Davies


Like a perfect spider's web
Almost unbearably pretty, delicate, like a perfect, intricate cobweb spun across your path on a summer’s day, ephemeral, evanescent, something that cannot last, that a casual hand or gentle breeze might accidentally sunder. An evocation of another era, the innocence of all our childhoods. Suffused with sadness, regret, longing, tenderness, but also the understanding, forgiveness and acceptance that accompanies the passage of time. It reminds me in a way of Fleetwood Mac's Say Goodbye, written by Lindsey Buckingham.

A wistful but philosophical meditation on young love, from the vantage of the present, with Dave’s voice even more affecting as it breaks slightly reaching for a note, as if what he feels can't be restrained by his physical ability, that it transcends something so corporeal. A melancholy refrain gives way to a chorus that gently takes flight, never soaring but remaining in harmony with the simple restraint of the song. It refuses to aggrandise the sentiment into something it’s not.

More Artful Dodger than Oliver
in Dead End Street, wicked boy
The video of this on YouTube was my first sighting of a grown-up Dave. I only started liking the Kinks, as you can tell from these blogs, in 2011. And the fact that he was so much older than the wicked boy I had seen in Kinks videos, physically almost frail (post-stroke), increased the song’s poignancy, as a reflection on a youth that was over and the exuberance, purity and intensity of first love.

Pretty boy
Every time I heard this song I used to cry, particularly if I were watching Dave sing it live at those unforgettable Satsang events, detailed in Dave Davies Breaks My Heart (Again): Satsang I and Dave Davies: Satsang II: April 2012: You Only Live Twice. It’s like a snippet from someone’s diary, personal, intimate, authentic. I’m not sure that Ray could write a song like this because he has too much self-awareness. Dave has an emotional intelligence that, put into song, can transcend some of Ray’s writing. And here there’s something unadulterated, a truth, something that Ray perhaps can't access as easily (or chooses not to access) because his intelligence, his craft, get in the way, advising an ironic distance; he has too many options, too many personae, too many angles and ideas. He sees each side. And Ray rarely opens his heart like this. He keeps his heart under wraps, keeps it safe. Here Dave shares an experience, private and precious, at once individual and universal, lets his guard down, exposes his vulnerability. It was this song that made me like Dave. I went on to love the dis-ingenu Dave of the early Kinks, always more Artful Dodger than Oliver, the wicked boy.
Today as I'm sifting through these photographs of you/Never thought I'd feel this way/All these memories keep calling me to you/How I wish they'd go away/All these visions just remind me of better days/And I miss you most of all/When I see Flowers in the Rain/I see you laughing as we run across the fields/Through the thunder and the rain/Finding shelter in each other's arms that day/All the things I didn't say/All these words keep going round and round in my brain/And I miss you most of all/When I see Flowers in the Rain/Wish I could do something about it/Life can be cruel, no doubt about it/In life's many mysteries/It just wasn't meant to be, oh no/I miss you most of all/When I see Flowers in the Rain.
Another pretty boy
Ray’s style is more masterful, more knowing, more constructed, an artifice, in words and music. There’s truth and power but it’s one step removed. His songs make you think as well as feel. But when they’re simple and seem heartfelt, you know it’s a decision, the reflection of a thought, that this is how he meant them to sound although early Kinks songs had a similar immediate charm. I would say that Ray is probably a deeper thinker than Dave generally (and I'm sure that Dave would take issue with that), that Dave doesn't always consider before he acts, is more impetuous in life. And the result is songs that don't always make sense lyrically, don't necessarily follow any standard template but seem to arise organically and have an added impact because of that, for instance, This Man He Weeps Tonight and Mindless Child of Motherhood. I'm not going to say Ray's work is not emotionally affecting because I'm moved by so much of it, from the super successful (Waterloo Sunset - unbelievably, this seems to be the first time I've mentioned this fantastic song in any of my Kinks blogs, as if I didn't appreciate its consummate artistry) to the, to non-Kinks fans, relatively obscure (Get Back in the Line), not to mention the incredibly rousing I'm Not Like Everybody Else (this live version is particularly amazing). But he will never let his guard down (in his work at least). Dave is unguarded. There is an honesty and directness in this and many other Dave songs. It’s as if the song were born, rather than carefully crafted, although I know it wasn’t. There's something  uncomplicated, unostentatious, sincere, instinctual that we react to instinctively.

Dave then
This song is almost like when you pick a scab off a cut to reveal fresh skin underneath. It’s still tender but it’s healed, it's new. Love is lost; love is found; we lament, but scars fade and life goes on. Dave moves on, often burning his bridges behind him.

So, I’m out of love with Dave, but songs like this still touch me. And that’s not nothing. It’s something: to be moved by a tune, a lyric, a delivery, all of which are in their way, Dave’s way, immaculate here. Flowers in the Rain is a direct call from Dave's heart to our hearts to which our hearts cannot help but respond.

Dave in 2017

1 comment: