Salute to Ray Davies

Ray Davies.jpgThe first 45 I ever bought was Lou Christie’s “Lightning Strikes.” Not a bad song, but I’m prouder of the second single I bought, “Well-Respected Man” by the Kinks. It’s still one of my favorite songs, and the Kinks are one of my favorite bands. Two of their albums, “Village Green Preservation Society” and “Muswell Hillbillies” are on my MP3 player in their entireity, along with many other brilliant songs like “Days,” “Waterloo Sunset,” “Victoria,” “David Watts,” “Sunny Afternoon” and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone?”

The Kinks recorded dozens of great songs, mostly released in the 1960s. They also have quite a few terrible songs, mostly released in the 1970s and 80s, but even their bad songs have something lovable about them. Ray Davies was the principle songwriter and lead singer, although his brother and adversary Dave Davies contributed a few key tunes, especially “Death of A Clown” and “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.”

Ray Davies is a portrait artist. “Well-Respected Man” is a good example — a vivid portrayal of a certain kind of London young gentleman of the time.

And he plays at stocks and shares,
And he goes to the Regatta,
And he adores the girl next door,
‘Cause he’s dying to get at her,
But his mother knows the best about
The matrimonial stakes.

‘Cause he’s oh, so good,
And he’s oh, so fine,
And he’s oh, so healthy,
In his body and his mind.
He’s a well respected man about town,
Doing the best things so conservatively.

Davies manages to be both snotty about this fellow, and sympathetic to his deep longings, and that duality characterizes almost all his songs. He laughs at, and cries with, the characters he meets, gets to know, and captures in a three-minute single with a tune you never forget — at his peak, anyway. “Waterloo Sunset” never fails to move me:

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, makes me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright
But I don’t need no friends
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunset’s fine

Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station
Every Friday night
But I am so lazy, don’t want to wander
I stay at home at night
But I don’t feel afraid
As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

So it’s good news, if a bit under-reported, that after more than a decade of silence, Ray Davies has issued his first solo album, “Other People’s Lives.” (Which would be an appropriate title for a collection of the Kinks’ best songs.)

It’s a little scary, the prospect of new songs from Ray Davies. The final years of the Kinks were far from glorious. Had his muse deserted him, or was he just tired from the constant touring?

Based on two singles that are available to download, it sounds like Davies, who is now in his early 60s, benefited from the time off. But even if the album doesn’t compare with the brilliant achievements of Davies’ youth, its release is a fine occasion to salute this great, timeless artist.

3 thoughts on “Salute to Ray Davies

  1. Speaking of Dave Davies, I think I am the only person on earth that owns his 1981 album Glamour, but it gets regular play on my iPod (yes, i said iPod, which has un-DRMed songs from iMS, songs I ripped from vinyl, cd, tape and reel-to-reel.) I love my iPod (3g 30GB, bought the first week they were out).

    The harder kinks stuff is also a regular play.

    fwiw

  2. Pingback: Ray Davies on Regis and Kelly! « From the Desert to the Sea…

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