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fromheadtoheart flag England - Full Moon 232 - 07/31/15

From head to heart
The Kinks' See My Friends

Following our retroscope series going on for several years, here we go again. Yes, for one more year! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart, or simply tapping our shoulder. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth we present a 50-year-old - well, in fact TWO 50-year-olds. This one is a single from one of the champ Brit bands from the 60s, and early 70s - their golden age (for some, well, quite a lot of people, they were also a band for the late 70s, the early 80s, even up to the band's 1993 swansong and mid 90s fadeout...). Well respected men. Their legacy - their songbook - lives on. Forever.

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The Kinks
See My Friends / Never Met a Girl Like You Before
Pye Records

By January 1965 The Kinks had had two rhythm'n'blues-flavoured hit singles. The band's third single "You Really Got Me" released in August 1964 went to no. 1 at home in the UK and "All Day And All Of The Night" released in December the same year climbed to no. 2. The success paved the way for a tour along with Manfred Mann and The Honeycombs to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore with a promotional stopover in the US of A on the way home. They left London on 16. January, the day after The Kinks' third hit single/second no. 1 to be, the great pop song "Tired Of Waiting For You", had been released. The party travelled to Perth in Australia via the strange route Moscow, New Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Singapore. In Bombay (now Mumbai) they stopped to get a few well-needed hours of sleep at the Sun'n'Sand Hotel. Main songwriter, rhythm guitarist and main vocalist Ray Davies explains his experiences during the early hours of 18. January in this way:

'Next stop was one of the most unforgettable of my life: Bombay. We were checked into the hotel late at night. It was built on the beach and was supposed to be the best hotel in the city. I couldn't sleep, partly from excitement at being in a mysterious continent, but mainly because of the cockroaches and ants crawling around, so I got up and watched the sun rise on the beach. It was there that I heard the chanting of native fishermen as they carried their nets to work. It was a sound that for some indescribable reason was immediately personal to me, and was to be very influential in my songwriting. It's difficult to describe how a sound or a song gets into your soul. It just connects and stays there. This sound later formed the basis of a song called "See My Friends".'

Ray wrote at least parts of the song during the tour. The first attempt to record the finished song was at record label Pye's studios in central London on 13. or 14. April. The Kinks' seventh single, "Set Me Free", another great little pop oriented gem to be released the following moonth, was completed during this session. (In the meantime, in March, the beat-number "Ev'rybody's Gonna Be Happy" had been launched as the sixth Kink single to less success than the previous three.) Also recorded during these two days of April was the B-side of the single we're supposed to be dealing with, the more back to the roots and r'n'b-founded "Never Met A Girl Like You Before" and a couple of other songs. The band managed to squeeze in another recording session in between live appearances in Britain and France on 3. May to have another go at "See My Friends", the version that was released as the eighth single on 30. July, and erroneously called "See My Friend" on the label. The original release included some tape hiss caused by several overdubs and compressor effect. Also, the Davies brothers Ray and Dave both play 12-string guitars close to the amp to get the drone'ish Eastern tinged feedback effect of the song, to some extent the sound of the guitars also reverberates the trademark sound of The Byrds. The previous moonth The Yardbirds had released the single "Heart Full Of Soul" with a sitar-sounding guitar played by Jeff Beck. Apart from this occasional sound, the song is pretty standard western pop-rock. "See My Friends" however, definitely is a very early example of hypnotising raga rock performed by western musicians, due to the melody of the verses and the 12-string guitars. It was probably the first of its kind. At least "Norwegian Wood" by The Beatles, where George Harrison played the sitar on record for the very first time, wasn't recorded until October and released in December the same year.

All in all the by now 50 years old A-side of the single lifted Ray Davies' song-writing and the sound of The Kinks to a new level even though the band didn't continue in this Eastern oriented direction apart from the even more overtly Indian inspired "Fancy" on the Face To Face album the following year. It demonstrated that Ray was capable of writing songs with other contents than the standard beat, r'n'b and pop of the pre-psychedelic era The lyrics of our song allegedly deals with the death of the eldest of the Davies brothers' six older sisters, Rene. She passed away while dancing at the Lyceum Ballroom due to a heart failure at the evening of Ray's 13th birthday. Just before she went dancing, she had given him the most important birthday present of his life, his very first guitar.

See my friends, see my friends
Layin' 'cross the river
See my friends, see my friends
Layin' 'cross the river

She is gone
She is gone and now there's no one left
'Cept my friends, layin' 'cross the river

She just went, she just went
Went across the river
Now she's gone, now she's gone
Wish that I'd gone with her

She is gone
She is gone and now there's no one left
'Cept my friends, layin' 'cross the river

She is gone and now there's no one else to take her place
She is gone and now there's no one else to love
'Cept my friends, layin' 'cross the river

See my friends, see my friends
Layin' 'cross the river
See my friends, see my friends
Layin' 'cross the river

The quote is taken from Ray Davies' great so called unauthorized autobiography X-Ray (Penguin 1994).

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You may also want to check out our Kinks articles/reviews: At The BBC, Dead End Street, Face to Face, Something Else, State of Confusion, You Really Got Me.

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