Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunny Afternoon, The Kinks (1966)

One of the interesting aspects of the British Invasion was the inside look some bands provided into a society that was nothing like that of the U.S.

Sunny Afternoon, an acerbic satire by the Kinks on class and England's punitive tax system, was one of my favorite such inside looks. Some groups could be mistaken for any nationality, but you always knew where the Kinks hailed from.

Musically, the Kinks had their own peculiar rhythm and harmonies, personified by Ray Davies' nasal vocals. They started out as a hard-rocking band, but after a few years all that was put aside for songs that were typically vignettes of ordinary life or character studies that pinpointed the idiosyncracies of various strata of English humanity. Even the songs that sounded whimsical, such as Sunny Afternoon, weren't.

Some argue that it was precisely this nationalistic navel-gazing that was partly responsible for the Kinks failing to become as popular as other British groups. Nonetheless, in a 1995 interview with Pete Townshend commenting on influential British bands, he said, "I always think that Ray Davies should one day be Poet Laureate. He invented a new kind of poetry and a new kind of language for pop writing that influenced me from the very, very, very beginning."

Another treat I found, from 1968 - Days, from the European release of the album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society - a lovely song I have absolutely no memory of.

4 comments:

karmasartre said...

Great choice, I remember this well. I think that Face to Face album had "Dandy" and "Rainy Day in June" and other good ones, but it had difficulty getting turntable time because of the beauty of "Waterloo Sunset" on the Something Else album. The Kinks (Ray) wrote so many great songs: the early albums, the Lola phase, the Celluloid Heroes stuff, The Pretenders' "Stop Your Sobbin'", and (rocking again) "Father Christmas". Perhaps it's sacrilege, but I far prefer the Sunny Afternoon lyrical take on the tax system to the more bombastic Beatles' "Taxman". Sunny Afternoon has beauty on its side.

wendy said...

Hardly sacrilege - Taxman is a horrid song. Cacaphony of the highest order and thus unlistenable.

karmasartre said...

It's a George H. thing. In the book "Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties" (highly recommended) by Ian MacDonald, which analyzes every Beatles song, MacDonald concludes that other than "While My Guitar....", "Something", and "Here Comes the Sun", the rest of the George-penned songs are "desultory". In his autobio, George Martin seems to concur, saying the real talent was John/Paul (duh), and that he and George (and Ringo) were lesser lights. In "Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America" (highly recommended) by Jonathan Gould, the author appreciates "If I Needed Someone", but doesn't spend much time on George's output other than the three good ones. I remember that point on each album where I wished they had skipped a certain song...not just "Mr. Moonlight", and not always due to cacaphony (I agree), but just "blah" compared to the Lennon/McCartney compositions...

Holly A Hughes said...

I love your blog! Wish you'd write more about the Kinks, though. In many ways, as I trawl through your posts, I get this delicious feeling that you and I listened to exactly the same music growing up, and practically with the same pair of ears. Somewhere around 1972, though, I took a huge detour into Kinkdom, and I'd highly recommend you exploring that territory more. They really were the greatest band to come out of the British Invasion (always excepting the Beatles, of course) and they continued up through 1995 (personally I consider Ray Davies' solo work since as the Kinks under a different name). Where the Stones got stuck in "their" sound and the Who fell apart (I don't count the half-Who reunion), the Kinks stayed current, lively, and vital.