England - Full Moon 135 - 09/26/07
And now for something completely ...
Following up our retroscope series of last year - here's Speakers' corner! Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the history of rock. This moonth we take a look 40 years
back in time: to lazy, funny, lovely, Kinky September 1967 when Something Else happened....
Something Else By The Kinks
The musical vibes in London that surrounded the Kinks during the spring and summer of
love, eh, of 1967 didn't seem to affect the band substantially. Whereas the Beatles,
Small Faces, Pretty Things, even Rolling Stones went colourful and psychedelic, inspired
by new groups such as Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and Tomorrow, the Kinks kept to everyday
English life. While John Lennon flied high with "Lucy In The Sky" Ray Davies 'stayed at
home at night', close to the kitchen sink.
Well, the album isn't completely out of time. The cover design and its silvery front
suggest the late 1960s. There are a few examples of sound effects, even backwards at
the start of the first track "David Watts". The Kinks also leave the strict guitars,
bass and drums formula of rock and pop. Strings and brass and the occasional keyboards
give extra strength to some of the songs that might make them pass as pop-sike of the
era, i.e. pop-oriented psychedelia light. Especially "Two Sisters" with its delicate
harpsichord playing sounds as an eclectic example of pop-sike of 1967. Otherwise the
young quartet cover music hall, pub sing-along, crooner-bossanova and, of course, first
and foremost, pop and rock of the Kinky kind.
Apart from an effortless wider spread of musical directions, the majority of lyrics seem
more refined than on earlier albums. Ray Davies' way of expressing his observations of
distinctive English characters and incidents matured substantially in a couple of years
round 1967 and is unique, not least on Something Else. He continues his description of
persons you couldn't find in any other country, as he had done for a while with songs
like "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion", "A Well Respected Man" and "Dandy". By now they
were called "David Watts" (the annoying no. 1 pupil at school in every way) and "Tin
Soldier Man". There are also thick layers of Englishness, often tragic with a twinkle
in the eye, in the two or three minutes' stories about Sybilla who was jealous of Priscilla
because of the drudgery of being wed ("Two Sisters"), Tom's, his old dying ma's nad others' urge
for cigarettes ("Harry Rag"), Johnny who gave up his position in search of a more prestigious
one just to please his mother-in-law and had to study the "Situation(s) Vacant" without much
luck, and the most famous couple of them all: Terry and Julie ("Waterloo Sunset"). Some songs
deal with lost love. "End Of The Season" and particularly "Afternoon Tea" combine that matter
with the distinct humorous Englishness in an exemplary way.
Something Else is also the Kinks album that launched Dave Davies as a more than competent
songwriter. His signature number "Death Of A Clown" (with a little help from his elder
brother Ray) is present, also released as Dave's first solo single a couple of months
prior to the album. Here he seems inspired by the electric Bob Dylan of the previous
years (Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde) to some extent, in an English setting,
of course. The apparently carefree instrumentation and production fits the song perfectly.
"Funny Face" is not bad either, with a cool bass riff throughout, whereas "Love Me Till
The Sun Shines" probably is the only weak song of the album. Ray Davies produced most of
Something Else himself, for the first time. In retrospect he has admitted he wasn't quite
ready for the task by then. To me, most of the songs work really well with the aforementioned
brass and strings, echoed background vocals, dry bass and drums to mention some of the characteristics.
The album was released on September 15 1967. There hasn't been any fuzz about the 40 years' anniversary
as far as I have noticed, which is a shame. Something Else By The Kinks deserves more attention
than the majority of albums and events of that year. The album seems more relevant today than
your average forty-year-old. "Lazy Old Sun" for instance, with its wonderful laid-back Salvation
Army-like brass, worked as a perfect soundtrack for the summer of 2007 in northern Europe: 'Lazy
old sun, What have you done to summertime? Hiding away, Behind all those misty thunder clouds ...'.
Only one line in "David Watts" suggests several pints of water have passed under Waterloo Bridge
since the album was released: David was 'so gay and fancy free', without being homosexual, I guess.
I might be mistaken, though; maybe Ray Davies thought of both meanings of the word, because: 'All
the girls in the neighbourhood, Try to go out with David Watts, They try their best but can't succeed,
For he is of pure and noble breed'.
It's debatable if Something Else is Kinks' finest hour. It works better than 1966's Face To Face as an
entity, I think. Most people nowadays probably hold Village Green Preservation Society of 1968 for the
very best, where Ray Davies dug even deeper into the English national character, if possible. On the
other hand, Something Else is the only album to include a song like "Waterloo Sunset", worth the
investment in the album alone. I cannot think of a more touching, yet simple, Kinks' song. In fact
one of the finest songs ever written. 'As long as I gaze on/listen to "Waterloo Sunset", I am in paradise!'
Copyright © 2007 JP