On the back of this record cover, the generic subtitle for all the Golden Hour records is blazoned across the top: “Sixty Minutes Of Entertainment”. Absolutely. Whether or not The Kinks truly invented “Glam-Rock” or not, their musical inventiveness, lyrical experimentation and unusual appearance ensured their place as Sixties’ trailblazers. In an essay from 2006, Nick Baxter-Moore wrote that “Although the members of the Kinks were quite clearly male, they were nonetheless willing to play with sexual identity.” In the 1960s, that meant long hair, frilly shirts matched with red hunting jackets, for a look that Baxter-Moore described as “effete rather than classy.” Let’s not forget the name of the group, either, which although so familiar now, was deliberately chosen to provoke a reaction. All of these features mean, to my mind, that David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Roxy Music and Freddie Mercury owe a lot to these Muswell Hill “dandies“. (In 1966 Ray Davies wrote a song called “Dandy”, allegedly about his brother Dave. It was covered by Herman’s Hermits. Peter Noonan later had a hit with David Bowie’s “Oh You Pretty Thing”. Point proven.)
“You Really Got Me” was released on August 4th 1964 and reached Number One in the U.K. charts. In a later solo album called “The Storyteller”, Ray Davies recounts how he was trying to encourage his brother, Dave Davies, for the second guitar solo by shouting at him. However, sibling rivalry was alive and well and Dave Davies shouted back “Fuck off“. Ray tried to cover this up by singing “Oh no“. According to Ray Davies, all this is audible on the track but my ears can’t pick this up.
“All Day And All Of The Night” was released in October 1964 and reached Number Two in the U.K. Charts. It has a very similar sound to “You Really Got Me” and Dave Davies reckons that The Doors copied the song when they produced “Hello I Love You”. He said “I did a show where I played “All Day and All of the Night” and stuck in a piece of “Hello, I Love You “. There was some response, there were a few smiles. But I’ve never understood why nobody’s ever said anything about it. You can’t say anything about the Doors. You’re not allowed to.”
“Tired Of Waiting For You” was released in January 1965 and reached Number One in the U.K. Charts. Dave Davies regarded this as “the perfect pop record.”
“Set Me Free” was released in May 1965 and reached Number Nine in the U.K. Charts. It marks a change of sound for the band and this possibly explains why it “only” reached Number Nine. The raunchy guitar sound was missing and the tempo was slower. The lyrics were more reflective than previous singles. “I don’t need nobody else. So if I can’t have you to myself, set me free.”
“See My Friends” was released in July 1965 and reached Number Ten in the U.K. Charts. Ray Davies said that the song is about homosexuality, “about being a youth who is not sure of his identity“. He also said that the song was inspired by the death of his sister, Rene. On a tour of Australia, The Kinks had an overnight stop in Bombay. Ray Davies heard the sounds of early morning fishermen chanting as they carried their nets. He used this sound to create the unusual drone sound for this single, often cited as the first example of “raga rock”.
“A Well Respected Man” was never a single in the U.K. but is one of band’s best known songs. It was released on an E.P. in the U.K. in September 1965. Pye, their record label, refused to release it because it was not like their previous hits. When staying at a luxury resort in 1965, Ray Davies had a bad experience with some entitled toffs and wrote this song in response. The song includes the lines “And he likes his own backyard and he likes his fags the best.” Although this was interpreted as a reference to homosexuals, Ray Davies claims it was either about cigarettes or, possibly, the way in which public schoolboys get junior pupils to run errands for them.
“‘Till The End Of The Day” was released in November 1965 and reached Number Eight in the U.K. Charts. The sound of the song was more similar to their 1964 singles than other releases in 1965. Ray Davies said “That song was about freedom, in the sense that someone’s been a slave or locked up in prison. It’s a song about escaping something. I didn’t know it was about my state of mind.“
“Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” was released in February 1966 and reached Number Four in the U.K. Charts. Ray Davies met a fashion designer at a party who liked to talk, at length, about fashion. An argument started in which Ray Davies said “I just wanted it to be the individual who created his own fashion.” The phrase “They seek him here, they seek him there” is from the 1905 “The Scarlet Pimpernel” which tells the tale of an English aristocrat who rescues aristocrats before they are sent to the guillotine. Dave Davies hated the song. For Ray Davies, there were difficult times later in his life when “people started coming up to me on the street and singing the chorus in my face: ‘Oh yes he is, oh yes he is,’ as if to say that I knew who I was. Unfortunately, my inner and somewhat distorted sense of reality told me that this was not who I wanted to be: I didn’t know who I was.” This was one of the contributing factors to Ray Davies’ subsequent identity crisis.
“Sunny Afternoon” was released on 3rd June 1966 and reached Number One in the Charts. In the Summer of 1966, songs you could hear on the pirate radio stations included “Sunny Afternoon”, and “Daydream” by The Lovin’ Spoonful, both of which may or may have not inspired Paul McCartney to write “Good Day Sunshine” – The Beatles started recording this on 8th June 1966. Ray Davies said that the song was about an aristocrat who had fallen on hard times and “I turned him into a scoundrel who fought with his girlfriend after a night of drunkenness and cruelty. “
“Dead End Street” was released in November 1966 and reached Number Five in the U.K. Charts. Dave Davies said “Dead End Street’ was the epitome, to me, of what The Kinks were all about. A song full of character, pathos, yet containing an underlying sense of hope. Reflecting a fondness for the past but at the same time expressing a determination and yearning for change. Anguished voices calling to a heartless world. A world where the plight of the ordinary person mattered little.” The promotional film was disliked by the BBC who refused to show it. The guy jumping out of the coffin was one of their roadies.
“Waterloo Sunset” is, possibly, The Kinks’ best known song. “Lola” may take that prize but, for some reason, it’s not on this compilation. Ray Davies claimed that the original title for the song was “Liverpool Sunset” because at heart, he felt he was a scouser and he loved playing in Liverpool. He also said “I was embarrassed by how personal the lyrics were. It was like an extract from a diary nobody was allowed to read.” The “AllMusic” website claims that this is “the most beautiful song of the rock and roll era“. According to “Rolling Stone”, it is the 42nd best song of all time. Really? “One” by U2 is better? “I Walk The Line”? “People Get Ready”? Oh well, every list is subjective.
“Autumn Almanac” was released in October 1967 and reached Number Three in the U.K. Charts. It was, allegedly, inspired by a group of hunchbacked gardeners in Muswell Hill.
“Wonderboy” was released in April 1968 and only reached Number 36 in the U.K. Charts. This was their first single not to reach the Top Twenty since “You Still Want Me”, the single before “You Really Got Me”. It was a favourite of John Lennon’s who was once observed at a club asking for this to be played repeatedly.
“Days” was released in June 1968 and reached Number 12 in the U.K. Charts. Kirsty MacColl released this song in 1989 and it also reached Number 12. This was the last Top 20 song that The Kinks had in the Sixties.
This great compilation also includes “Sittin’ On My Sofa”, “Victoria”, “Lovie Lovie”, “Animal Farm”, “Shangri-La” and “Where Have All The Good Times Gone”, but not “Lola” which got to Number Two and not “Apeman” which got to Number Five, both of them in 1970.
A run of singles like The Kinks had is unprecedented in quality and imagination; the way those songs are ingrained into our perspectives of the Sixties is unique. Unless you count The Who, The Rolling Stones or The Beatles, that is.