England - Full Moon 197 - 09/30/12
At The BBC
One of the top groups of Muswell Hill, London, England, Britain, Europe and the world. Here is about the definitive Kinks' whereabouts at the Beeb, as definitive as can be. Several of the early performances were erased soon after they had been broadcasted. This is what remains, crammed onto five CDs and one DVD. Most of the fifth CD includes dodgy home recordings of erased broadcasts to make it as complete as possible for the fanatics. The box gives a nice picture of the band's history from the early days of beat and r'n'b, including no less than nine different versions of the Kinks' great breakthrough "You Really Got Me". "Lola" and "All Day And All Of The Night"
are probably the next in line with five different versions each. There are quite a few "Milk Cow Blues", "Sunny Afternoon"s, and "Waterloo Sunset"s involved, too.
The earliest recordings here stem from From Top of The Pops in 1964, the radio version of the programme that was London's liveliest and Britain's grooviest radio show back then, as presenter Brian Mattew explains! They were normally cut in one take and serves as great next-to-live documents of the era.
Two songs recorded in 1965
and 67 are of special interest as they were never included on any original Kinks album. "This Strange Effect", written by Ray Davies especially for Dave Berry, is a charming ballad, luckily a little less soft and more interesting than the Berry original. "Good Luck Charm" is a short slightly music hall flavoured number recorded by brother Dave Davies (he didn't write it and no, it's not the Elvis song).
However, they were both present on the 35 tracks Kinks' BBC Sessions 1964-77 released by Sanctuary in 2001.
The most disappointing issue about the collection is the tracks of the golden era from about late 1965 towards the end of 1969 (and let's throw in the great 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies as well) with lots of splendid songs dealing with different matters of the British society. The Kinks was banned from playing in the USA in the mid to late 1960s and kept to domestic matters, to great effect. But the versions of the classics from these years sound very similar to the studio album versions, though with not quite as good sound quality. One reason might be a well rehearsed live band that cut the songs in the same manner as the "real"
studio recordings. Another
has to do with the musicians union in Britain that only allowed a limited time of record playing on the radio. This was the original reason for this great well of more or less live BBC sessions from the 1960s and first half of the 70s. But to avoid the regulations, some session used the official records and only overdubbed an extra voice or guitar, or changed a bit of or remixed the original multi-track studio recordings. The differences are hardly audible to my ears. Which means the BBC versions of classics like "Autumn Almanac", "David Watts", "Animal Farm", "Do You Remember Walter", "Victoria", "Apeman", "Days" (second recording) and the first rendition of "Lola" hardly add anything new. They were back with real live playing at a John Peel Show in May 1972. One more Peel session and lengthier live concerts followed in 1974 and 1977. This is not the most interesting Kinks era with the occasional more emphasis on the story of Ray's rock and soap operas than the music, but with some great songs in between. Also, the band added brass and female backing vocals during these years and seem to adjust more towards vaudeville and American mainstream than the unique English eccentricities of the previous decade. Anyhow, most of these shows work better than the average reputedly half-drunken live appearances of Ray and maybe also the other band members at the time. One notable exception being the song about the heart of the matter, 'a story about the old demon "Alcohol", from the Christmas concert, broadcasted both on radio and television simultaneously on Christmas eve 1977, sounding really sloppy. Otherwise they're quite tight despite the about ten men and women strong line-up.
One television and two radio shows documents the vital 1990s version of the band with a mixture of 1960s hits and songs off the new at the time and last Kinks studio album Phobia.
The box includes nearly 190 tracks if you count the several short and
- in the beginning at least - quite meaningless interviews with band members. 17 of the tracks show up in both radio and TV versions from the aforementioned Christmas concert. Lots of gems here, of course. The very first radio session from
7 September 1964 includes
a rough and raw version of "You Really Got Me" that really sparkles with playfulness, maybe the best version ever. "This Strange Effect"
mentioned above stands out. Another
limited song, "When I Turn Off The Living Room Lights", off the excellent American Great Lost Kinks Album that was withdrawn soon after its release is a treat.
Ray's rough and ready voice on some of the early blues numbers is a surprise. Mick Avory's drumming sounds surprisingly excellent, from day 1. He was not always allowed to play on the official Kinks studio recordings in 1964 and 1965. Stuff from the Preservation Acts from In Concert in 1974 works well and the same goes for songs off Sleepwalker from the 1977 gigs. And of course "Waterloo Sunset" is a one of a kind song anyhow; still probably the best pop song ever of this world.
The box misses a lot of what was going on with the band in 1966. The album Face To Face, the Dedicated Kinks EP and classic singles like "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion", "Sunny Afternoon", "Dandy" and "Dead End Street"
is not represented apart from a TV appearance of "Sunny Afternoon" from that year. Towards the end of the 1970s, when younger artists of the new wave showed new interest in the 1960s Kinks, like Paul Weller and his Jam who covered "David Watts" and Chrissie Hynde and her Pretenders that gave a go at "Stop Your Sobbing" [some years later, in 1988 The Fall released a cool cover of "Victoria" - editor's note], it seemed The Kinks regained some of the energy from former days, scrapped the brass and female vocals and turned into a quite tight little rock and pop combo again. This is not documented in the box at all. There's only one song from the 1980s altogether, the atypical and dreaded hit "Come Dancing" from Pop Of The Pops television 1983. Also, there's one song "Did You See His Name?" from the 2001 BBC compilation not included here. It was recorded for the BBC programme At The Eleventh Hour in 1968. The reason for its omission is probably it was recorded at Pye Studios, Pye being Kinks' record company until 1970.
Time for a conclusion then. The BBC box does not give a representative summary of the entire kinky career. Quite a few of the recordings don't add anything new compared to the ordinary studio recordings by the band and the sound of the bootleg sessions are definitely of mediocre bootleg quality. But, of course, the rest is very worthwhile checking out for any average Kinks fan and beyond. For others I guess the mid-priced 53 tracks audio only double-CD version of the box will do. For newcomers to the wonderful world of Kinks, the new compilation Waterloo Sunset: The Very Best Of The Kinks And Ray Davies might do, though it represents the entire career to even less extent than the box. I guess it would be a better idea to start with the classic albums Face to Face (1966), Something
Else (1967) and The Village Green Preservation Society (1968) and work your way backwards and forwards from there.
Copyright © 2012 JP