Oct 022020

Did anyone ever?

I became a diehard fan of the Kinks in the late ‘60s, around the time of Arthur. I loved that album, played it constantly, loved every song, everything about it. I went back from there and continued forward with them for quite a while, long past the time I should have bailed. They were the headliners at my first rock & roll concert, in Philly in 1971, with local Philly band Good God opening and Edgar Winter’s White Trash second billed. That was the first of my disappointments with The Kinks. Was there ever a more disappointing live band?

I still love Arthur but have to ask myself, how could I ever have liked “She’s Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina”? My only defense it that I was 13 years old and in love with the album and like the early days of love you may be a little blinded.

Here’s the worst of two worlds: “She’s Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina” live. Yes, that’s right, they released it twice –

I’m sure I could look back on a lot of albums from my first decade or so of buying records and there will likely be a lot of Princess Marinas but that one in particular sticks out in my mind.

I think of a song like “Honey Pie” from The White Album. I loved it then, probably for similar reasons to “Princess Marina,” but despite recognizing intellectually that it is a way minor song in the Beatles canon, I still love it. It’s part of the Beatles, part of my DNA, and intellect be damned, I still love it

But “Princess Marina”, sorry, no.

Does anyone else feel like confessing up to a similar lack in taste, an album you loved then, still love, but has this glaring “What was the matter with me” song in it?


  18 Responses to “Does Anyone Still Like “She’s Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina”?”

  1. diskojoe

    Well, I think that “Princess Marina” is an OK song. I wouldn’t call it a “Waterloo Sunset” or YRGM, but it’s a pleasant enough ditty to me. I think that one of the blemishes on the Arthur album was the way that “Australia” kept noodling on. There’s a version in the Arthur box set that was released as a single in Australia that took out the noodling.

  2. Super busy day, but I have to chime in real quick re: “Australia”: I LOVE the long, noodling guitar fadeout! It may be my favorite part of the album. That said, you’re still aces in my book, diskojoe! 🙂

  3. Busy as well. I love Arthur as well, I don’t bother with anything after that.

    Listening to Beggars’ Banquet for the umpteenth time. Just for the record, what the fuck is a methylated sandwich?

  4. Happiness Stan

    Even though I’d describe them as one of my favourite bands, thanks to their singles, I’ve always treated the Kinks’ albums with more caution than I probably should, and Arthur is a glaring hole in my knowledge. I came to them through the Supersonic Rocket Ship single, which I loved at the time but find almost unlistenable now.

    I’ve never heard that before, but it’s an instantly recognisable old time music hall trope and from the second or third note that stuff is so entrenched in my DNA it was instantly obvious where it was going. Growing up, we had an unfeasibly popular TV show called The Good Old Days, where popular entertainers dressed up in black suits with top hats or vast pink frocks with acres of petticoats and sang songs that sounded exactly like that.

    In normal times, the beautiful old Victorian theatre I volunteer at, which will hopefully open again one day, puts on a music hall night twice a year and it sells out instantly, it’s just about the most reliable event they host. If it wasn’t produced by amateurs with proper jobs to occupy themselves the rest of the time, they could probably run it for most of the year.

    For me, it’s more authentic than Honey Pie, even if that doesn’t make it more accessible. The Davies brothers would have had music hall on their doorstep while growing up, it was more of a London and home counties thing than northern, so Ray would have lived it and been far clearer about the mechanics of how it works, while Macca sounds like he’s just having a crack at something inspired by it. The Kinks are having far more fun with the genre and subverting British culture in that song than Macca ever did with anything, even when he’s playful he doesn’t let go of whatever anchors the song.

    Entire careers would have been derived from newspaper reports about stuff like the hat Princess Marina wore to the races or whatever. Even if the song is a bit rubbish, and I’m not denying it crosses a line I wouldn’t choose to, I understand exactly where it’s coming from. Given the theme of the album, it’s difficult to imagine Ray Davies not including a music hall parody, even if he tried to resist it.

    I see no shame in admitting liking something really naff as a young teenager which no longer stands up. Times change as well as tastes, I can’t think of anything offhand that I liked which I’m not prepared to revisit, although I’m bound to the moment I submit this. A lot of things fall under guilty pleasures, or would were I not prepared to embrace them, like Honey by Bobby Goldsboro and the mighty Seasons in the Sun album by Terry Jacks, which I I’ve spent many a happy ten minutes defending here against the massed disdain of the Hall.

  5. I listened to Abbey Road recently. Certainly, you can guess where this is going. I can.t claim that I always hated “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” but I can say I don’t remember ever having any particular affection for it, and as a 14 year old in the full grip of Beatles fever when it came out, that is saying something.

    I intended to ask in this post how the hell the other three guys ever let McCartney include it, but when I looked on Wikipedia, I found out that if there had been an actual vote, it would’ve been well gone. Everybody else hated it. Ringo (Ringo!) described it as “the worst track we ever had to record.” Lennon says, ” I was ill after the accident when they did most of that track, and it really ground George and Ringo into the ground recording it.” I can only imagine that the next best song Harrison had in him at the time after “Something” and “here Comes the Sun,” had to be head and shoulders above MSH.

  6. BigSteve

    I don’t listen to Arthur often enough to let this song bother me. That’s not a style I have any great affinity for, but obviously it’s meant to reflect the world the character lives in, though none of the other songs on Arthur do that. The style is not adhered to for any kind of authenticity. The middle section more or less rocks, and I like Dave’s guitar solo.

    On the live Showbiz recording that guitar solo is ditched for the woozy horn section. In a way the song fits the campy vibe of Showbiz better, and Ray really lays on that tremulous vibrato that he sometimes affected in this era.

    I admit that I cut Ray a lot more slack than I would ever be willing to do for McCartney’s music hall abominations.

  7. It’s been a busy week (plus)! I have never liked “She’s Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina.” To me, it sounds like Ray Davies was passive-aggressively throwing down a challenge to listeners, like he wanted to rub the most affected song possible in our faces. This is a game Davies had long been playing, often to great effect, such as on “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” and one of my favorite Kinks songs, “People Take Pictures of Each Other.” On this song, though, maybe it’s the production, but it sounds so much like the sort of stuff that makes me avoid musicals. I’m far from an Anglophobe, but that song makes me want to dunk Ray’s head in a toilet, seeing as how he was the kind of kid who would have been immune to the simple social training of a wedgie. To think that there’s even a second version on that godawful live album, which I’ve only heard once and never want to hear again… Yikes!

    The Kinks got so bad, so fast. I like most of Arthur and most of its production, but then came Muswell Hillbillies, which has a couple of songs I love (talk about my aversion to musicals, “Oklahoma USA” is so great that I’ve long been tempted to watch the musical…tempted), but sounds like it was pressed on wet cardboard. It may be the worst-sounding album to ever come out on a major label. Can you think of anything that sounds worse?

    Then there are all those concept albums, with Ray basically becoming a Sad Clown. Horrible. I know there are probably 7 worthwhile minutes of musical one could cull from any of those albums, leading up to the Arista rock concert-ready releases, but I feel like an investigation is in order. What do they call those things, a cold case? Go back to the supposed “union” issues that supposedly prevented the Kinks from coming to America during their best albums and get to the heart of the matter. I think there is a horribly dark secret that’s been buried.

    As for the other part of Al’s question, what is a song that I now look back on and say, “What was I thinking?” I’m still working on that. I don’t tend to have guilty pleasures. I’m pretty comfortable with whatever pleases me. Oh, I know what my song is: Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” or whatever that thing is called! When I was 10 years old, or however young I was when that first came on the radio, I thought that song was MAGIC! Growing up with the Beatles, that megaphone/radio voice effect was already a device that blew my mind, but over the years, as I got into my mid-20s, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey/Hands Across the Water” and XTC’s abuse of the effect ruined it. I am seriously bothered by the device to this day and regret using it once or twice myself, in my own band’s music.

    I am happy to say that I never bought Ram, but in recent years, despite revisiting it and realizing it’s actually beautifully crafted and kind of cool, I still don’t like. It gives me a creepy “Ew, don’t put your hand on my shoulder, like that!” response. I love Paul McCartney, but he has a way of being so glib that I’m suspicious that he’s up to no good.

  8. Muswell Hillbillies, I can’t believe I ever liked that album at all. I guess I was just refusing to believe the love affair was over. Were I ever to bother to put that on again I would have to stop after “20th Century Man”. I can take little solace from the fact that that song was my favorite from the first spin. Mr. Mod, tell me you were joking with the line “Oklahoma USA is so great”?!?!

    This album raises the question at who was worse attempting American C&W, the Rolling Stones or the Kinks? Or is it a philosophical question on the order of “can a while man sing the blues?” – “can a Brit sing C&W”?

  9. diskojoe

    Last night I was talking w/a friend who’s been a big Kinks fan since back in the day & who also saw a lot of concerts in Boston since the 70s & he said that one of the best concerts that he saw was the Kinks doing Preservation. I replied that I only got to see the Boston Rok Opera Company do it in the late 1990s & we both agreed that they did a great job of it as well.

    What I like to say is that the 1970s Kinks, while not as brilliant as the 1960s ones nor as profitable as the 1980s ones, has a certain idiosyncratic charm to them. I kinda like the slightly high school musical vibe as opposed to the overblown concepts of Tommy & the like. Ray was trying to do something different & he wasn’t always successful, but it was interesting. I believe that his problem was that due to various professional & personal circumstances, that his talent suffered a bit.

  10. Not joking at all re: “Oklahoma USA”! I love that opening line and quickly let myself sink into the daydream of that song. Love, love, love it.

    “20th Century Man” starts strong, but it runs out of gas for me. They should have given that song to Mott the Hoople. The Kinks weren’t build to dig in and kick ass into the ’70s.

    Now, let’s open that cold case file on The Kinks! I mean, diskojoe’s “various professional & personal circumstances” comment gets at the vague brush-offs given to the band’s decline. I haven’t read a ton of Kinks books, admittedly, but I don’t recall many specific examples of Ray’s problems. He went through a divorce at some point, right? He and his brother hate each other, for some reason, yet still manage to keep hope alive that they will one day reunite. His hair thinned. At the risk of being insensitive (as if I haven’t been already, sorry), what in Ray’s personal life made him incapable of writing and arranging anything near a great song for all those years? “Come Dancing” isn’t my idea of a GREAT Kinks song, but it’s a masterpiece compared with maybe the next best song from the preceding dozen or so years, that song about Hollywood Boulevard, which goes on for about 4 verses too long. Sorry to be so harsh on Ray, but for years we made a cottage industry over cutting up on Lou Reed. Lou maintained a much better track record than Ray.

  11. Al said: “who was worse attempting American C&W, the Rolling Stones or the Kinks? Or is it a philosophical question on the order of “can a while man sing the blues?” – “can a Brit sing C&W”?”

    I say: I love when rock guys try to play country, especially the Stones (although to be fair, Mick’s “country voice” is usually a bit too on-the-nose). They tend to not get it quite right but usually in an interesting way. But I hate when a rock band tries to play the blues. It could be tied up in my own baggage of not wanting to hear certain genres after a certain time. I have little interest in Blues or Jazz after about 1962 (come at me Ornette Coleman and Bitches Brew fans).

  12. Muswell Hillbillies is probably my favorite Kinks album. I didn’t expect to read the Hall bashing that one.

  13. diskojoe

    In 1973, Ray’s wife, Rasa, left him & took their two young daughters w/her. What happened was that Ray was obsessed w/controlling everything that he could after what happened to him in the 1960s. This included setting up Konk Studios & getting rid of his original managers Grenville Collins & Ribert Wace, as well as preparing a live version of VGPS to commentate the entry of the U.K. in the Common Market, which eventually morphed into Preservation. This obsession caused Ray’s marriage to collapse. Ray was devastated by this & attempted to get Rasa back w/o success. Ray then hatched a scheme for a gig in White City where he would announce that the Kinks would be no more. He did so, but no one was able to listen to him due to Mike problems. He took an overdose of pills & brought himself to the hospital for treatment.

    Again, I think what the problem was w/Ray that he was obsessed in controlling as much as he could, which included producing the records & that interfered w/his songwriting talent. He needed someone outside who could tell him what was working or not. He was also obsessed in cracking the US after the debacle of the 1965 tour, which he did at the cost of using his talent to conform to mainstream US AOR tastes of 1980s. Despite all this, I think that the Kinks did plenty of good songs from 1972-1996, which while not totally up to the standards of the 1964-71 period, that I enjoy.

    As for Lou Reed having a better track record than Ray, I do beg to differ. Lou only had a couple of Top 40 albums & only one Top 40 single. In contrast, the Kinks had @ least 7 albums in the Top 40 & about 12 Top 40 singles. Ray just received an award for YRGM being broadcast 8 million times on the radio. What Lou Reed song can come close to that? The Kinks’ Arista period was very profitable for the company compared to Lou’s.

  14. Was Rasa used as a background singer for the Kinks? I thought I remembered reading that Ray’s wife sang harmonies for them on a number of songs. The vocal is really really low in the mix.

  15. diskojoe

    Yes, Rasa was used as a backup singer for the Kinks, oftentimes singing w/Dave.

  16. diskojoe, fantastic – and heartbreaking – account there, most of which I was ignorant of. Thank you, sincerely! Ray getting into Control Freak mode to combat all that pain explains a lot.

  17. diskojoe

    You’re welcome, Mr. Mod. Now about your feeling about “Admiral Halsey”………….😀

  18. BigSteve

    There’s actually very little of what I would call country music on Muswell Hillbillies, except for the title song. I think Dave’s slide guitar playing makes people think of country, but what the Brits call ‘trad jazz’ is much more of an influence on the album than country.

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