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speakerpic flag England - Full Moon 135 - 09/26/07

Speakers' corner
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....

coverpic The Kinks
Something Else By The Kinks
Pye

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!'

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

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