Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Some Kinks"
Clive saved the Kinks.
Or should I say "Klive"?
Credit John Mendelsohn, who wrote the liner notes for "The Kink Kronikles," for getting the ball rolling. Although Mendelsohn may not have hurt Zeppelin's career with his negative review in "Rolling Stone," (yes, I know who it was, a true rock fan is all about the OBSCURITIES!), he burnished the Kinks' image when they were considered toast by most, by calling the almost totally unknown in the U.S. "Waterloo Sunset" "simply one of the four or five most beautiful songs of our age." Huh? Almost nobody purchased "The Kink Kronikles," but everybody who did insisted their buddies listen to "Waterloo Sunset," after quoting Mr. Mendelsohn. I know, it happened to me. And then I went on to purchase not only this double album compilation after my buddy Andy Munro spun it for me, but every RCA album thereafter.
Yes, the Kinks had switched to RCA. You know the joke, right? I won't repeat the whole thing, just let you know the punch line. At Disneyland, the son of the sheikh asks his dad to buy him a Mickey Mouse outfit. So the sheikh buys him RCA Records. Yup, it was just about that bad, only MCA was worse. Despite a hard core of diehard fans who purchased every album and went to see the yearly show, the core never increased.
And then Clive signed them to Arista.
The concept albums were done. "Sleepwalker" was a straight-ahead rock record. And it even exceeded the hopes and desires of the hard core.
Start with "Juke Box Music."
We can debate all day long who played guitar on those initial Kinks hits, but this is definitely Dave Davies and he's WAILING!
"There's a lady plays her favorite records
On the juke box every day
All day long she plays the same old songs
And she believes the things that they say"
The same damn records! Spinning on the turntable as we stared at them! We would have jumped in the hole if we could! They were our truth, our raison d'etre.
"Other ladies like to prance around
And flirt and dance the whole night through
But she just sits and listens to her juke box records
'Cause that's all that she wants to do"
Come on, if you're reading this you understand. Our records were everything! We weren't on the football team, we weren't cool in school, but at home, we were SUPERSTARS!
"She sings along with all the saddest songs
And she believes the stories are real
She lets the music dictate the way that she feels"
No one's ever said it better. That's why we loved Ray. Our moods matched our music. We knew it WASN'T only juke box music.
And then there was "Life Goes On"...
"A friend of mine just had a real bad time
You see his life was shattered and he lost his mind
His girl ran off along with his best friend
And through emotional stress he brought his life to an end
It was such a tragedy
But that's the way it's got to be
Life goes on"
It most surely does.
The first question after someone dies? WHAT'S FOR DINNER? Then, there's the fight over possessions. And then you're just a memory, that comes up ever more infrequently, because life goes on.
"My bank went broke and my well ran dry
It was almost enough to contemplate suicide
I turned on the gas, but I soon realized
I hadn't settled my bill so they cut off my supply"
Ah, the irony! But what we loved even more was the use of the English "settled" instead of "paid." Ray was willing to toss the concept albums over the transom, but he still insisted on being himself, English to the core.
Meanwhile, in the seventies it was all right to sing about being a loser, on the wrong side of life. Today everybody's a winner. Huh? Has human nature changed? Is life somehow different? NO! But people are afraid of the truth, they can't handle it, just like Jack Nicholson said.
"Misfits" was even better. It's the apotheosis of the Arista years. It's the last best thing Ray's done, just listen to "A Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy."
But although the band's audience was growing, there was no hit single, they were still a cult item.
But then, suddenly, the band started to get airplay. The albums veered towards the mainstream, but it was weird to hear the Kinks on the radio after an absence of almost a decade. First it was "Catch Me Now I'm Falling" and "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman" from "Low Budget" and then it was "Destroyer," off "Give The People What They Want." And finally, in 1983, the band had a bona fide hit, with "Come Dancing." They were playing arenas. A deserved victory lap was taking place. It was a bit bittersweet, because the records were dumbed down, but the Arista years were rescued by one Dave Davies, with "Living On A Thin Line," from "Word Of Mouth."
We all are.
Especially mobsters. Like the Sopranos. Yup, "Living On A Thin Line" was featured in 2001's "University." It's got that seamy underbelly, New Jersey, life is dangerous and can end at any moment feel. You're worried about what's gonna happen. It's the SOUND that conveys this.
And then the Kinks took the money and absconded to MCA and never had another hit. But they wrote one! Yup, "Video Shop," from 1986's "Think Visual."
"The local factory's been pulled down
By an overseas corporation
Now all of my brothers are looking around
For alternative occupation"
Things were bleak in the mother country, but Englishmen are nothing if not industrious.
"I was sitting by the telly with my brother Kenny
When suddenly the penny dropped
While all of my brothers are sitting at home
I've got a bank loan and I've opened up my very own
Seems quaint now, but in the mid-eighties we were all video crazy. A trip to the video shop eclipsed a journey to the record shop for many. We were catching up on the new flicks we'd missed in the theatres, and the classics.
"I've got a bootleg version of 'Citizen Kane'
A second-hand copy of 'Psycho'
I've taped them off the telly so you shouldn't complain"
BOOTLEG TAPES! This was before the Blockbusterization of video shops, the mom and pops were populated by illicit wares. And in the corner, behind a curtain, was the truly illicit stuff...
"If you want to escape, I can rent you a tape
To relieve your situation
If you feel a bit low, I got a good peep show
'Cause everybody knows almost anything goes
At my video shop
At my video shop"
I was sitting in my living room listening to "Video Shop" telling myself THIS IS A HIT!
But MCA didn't know what to do with it.
A smash on Arista, but it wasn't. Clive could recognize hits, you've got to give him that.
Yes, Clive gave Ray Davies and the Kinks their victory lap.
And the Arista years weren't the best, but they contained some gems.
But if you want to dig down deep, check out "Money Talks" from "Preservation Act 2," now that's TRULY genius!