The Kinks At The BBC (Universal / August 13 2012)
In the final analysis, how do you measure the success of an artist? Damien Hirst, for example, is a multi-millionaire, whilst Van Gogh never sold a piece of work during his lifetime. Does that make Hirst better than Van Gogh? Soap operas have far higher viewing figures than documentaries. Robbie Williams has more Brit awards than anyone else…
When reflecting on the British music scene of the 1960s, the first two names that spring to mind tend to be The Beatles and The Stones. There is no getting away from the fact that the work in the Lennon/McCartney and Jagger/Richards canons deserves to be held in the very highest regard. But in terms of endurance, influence and the ability to be both acerbic and poignant, few can keep pace with Ray Davies and The Kinks. Davies is as archetypically English as the village green, warm beer, cricket and the BBC. And so is his songwriting.
The release of The Kinks at the BBC, a 2CD ‘Best Of’ collection and a limited edition collectors’ 5CD and DVD complete set, packaged to resemble Auntie’s niece, The Radio Times, is set for August 13. The weather will be predictably fickle and, as middle-aged men quaff frothy pints to a soundtrack of willow on cork and leather in a sleepy, verdant village, everything will be right with the world. Kinks aficionados the world over will stroke their collective beards and reflect on the career of a man who has generated affection and inspiration in equal measure for nearly half a century.
Dyed-in-the-wool fans, will be particularly interested in the full package. The track listing is as familiar and ingrained into the nation’s musical landscape as the Waterloo skyline, yet there are some real treats for those listeners of a certain vintage. Sessions from Maida Vale, Piccadilly Studios will undoubtedly elicit a warm flush of nostalgia as the intros and outros of DJs such as Johnnie Walker and John Peel are left intact. At one point I even caught myself saying to myself, “Dave Lee Travis – the hairy Cornflake!”
It is important, I think, to remember in the face of all this nostalgia, that The Kinks have left a musical legacy that is as influential now as it has ever been. The chord structure of ‘You Really Got Me’ is heavy rock – even almost metal and punk – years before these genres came to the fore. Davies’ exquisitely crafted and quintessentially English lyrics in ‘Days’ and ‘Waterloo Sunset’, for example, have inspired and influenced the likes of Weller, Albarn and countless other great British songwriters. The fact that ‘Waterloo Sunset’ has been covered by both David Bowie and Peter Gabriel speaks volumes.
In essence, fans will want the Collectors’ Edition (to my two daughters – this is as big a hint as your Dad will ever give you!). It may be a tad anorakish and at around £40, it’s no impulse purchase, but if you are new to the planet and, as yet, unfamiliar with The Kinks, the ‘Best Of’ collection is an absolute must. For me, they had a mastery of each musical phase of their career, equally adept at fast, loud, distorted rock as they were at quirky acoustic numbers and, by my reckoning at least, that is the definition of top quality songwriting.