Apr 042008

Mr. Moderator posted a thread back in October about albums with no duds.

In that vein I would like to nominate The KinksArthur. And I’m going to start with the assumption that there is only one song on this album that could be considered a dud,

She’s Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina.

If you think there are others, feel free to offer them up. Sadly you’ll just be making a fool of yourself, but you know, free-world and shit.

For an album to be dud-less does each and every song have to be “great” or in other words, does it have to be a song that you’d search out and play on its own? “Hey man, let’s do some gummers and crank up She’s Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina!”

I say a resounding “NO!” This is my least favorite song on the album and I would never seek it out. However when I listen to the album, I know it’s coming, enjoy it and would miss it if it were gone. Similar to my feelings for Hello, Goodbye which has a way trippy vibe for me in context but not so much on its own.

Though this is cool

Not to mention that as far as these Grandma Aunty’s Bespectacled Bicycle Shoppe & Pennywhistle Emporium songs go, Marina is pretty tight.

Anyhooo, my specific question is really two-fold. 1. What’s your take on She’s Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina? 2. Does context play a role in your opinion?

My broader question is: Can, does, when does, context make a difference?

Please show your work.


  65 Responses to “Gummers: Reinvigorating the “No Dud” Post”

  1. I say dud. But I still love the record and wouldn’t edit out that song. My take is that a “no dud” record must be full of songs that stand on their own, without the need for context. Otherwise, there would be too many “no dud” albums and it would cheapen the whole concept.

  2. Mr. Moderator

    Of all the great Kinks albums you choose to qualify for your watered-down “no dud” you choose Arthur? Along with the dud you mention, no amount of “context” helps me allow “Driving” to play all the way through every time I listen to that album. I think there are at least 2 other songs I rarely listen to all the way through, but I can’t be sure because I HAVEN’T LISTENED TO THEM IN 15 YEARS!

    I’ll try to revisit this album tomorrow and chime in with more thoughts.

    It does help that this album has that concept thing going for it – and maybe the best rocking production of ANY Kinks album following the spectacular Kinks Kontroversy. The rocking makes some of the weaker songs work more than they should…in context. Still, this is not a no-dud album by any loose definition.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    PS – In the poll, I want to be able to write in my favorite “Grandma Aunty’s Bespectacled Bicycle Shoppe & Pennywhistle Emporium” song! I KNOW what this is all about.

  4. sammymaudlin

    You can write in a granny entry now. “What this is all about” is forgetting to put a frickin’ check mark in a virtual box.

    15 years! I will not accept any further comments from you until you listen to it again. As an adult.

    This album is perfect with a capital P.

    As individual singles, not so much. (Though I consider Victoria one of the absolute rockingest pop songs ever recorded.)

    As an album though, the sum is greater and it is perfect.

    No “dud” sir!

    You are dismissed.


    wouldn’t edit out that song

    We reach my friend. I’m afraid that you are simply unaware of it.

  5. sammymaudlin

    PS- Driving deserves a premium pony on the “Autumn Carousel”.

  6. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks for checking that box, man. The site can stay up another day.

  7. Ya lost me. But I’m kind of slow.

  8. BigSteve

    Princess Marina is probably my least favorite song on Arthur, but only because the others are so great. It’s not rock (actually the ‘buddy can you spare me a dime’ middle part rocks pretty hard), but the music hall vibe has a place given the theme of the album — 20th century English working class culture.

    Context is always important, but even moreso for a concept album. And I’ve got to say I love Driving. The sound of the guitar alone does it for me.

  9. Mr. Moderator

    Loophole, my apologies for the in-jokes. Sammy and I have had a running joke offlist concerning his dragging up this thread again. There’s really nothing to it. Carry on with discussion of the possible no-dud status of this album.

  10. The townsman formerly know as Loophole (a kind of stupid nickname foisted on me by another but used online sometimes) will not be known by his proper name, Paul with an initial “S” just in case there are more Paul’s out there.

    Also, I love the song Driving. It’s not as great as Victoria, Shangri-La, or Mr. Churchill Says, but it’s still great.

  11. typo: not = now. Changes the meaning completely. Ugh!

  12. Mr. Moderator

    Townsman Paul S, this is an historic day on RTH! Folks, if you’re not checking in on Paul’s blog, Setting the Woods on Fire, you’re missing some treats and good discussion!

  13. Thanks Mod. But I’m jealous of the discussion you get going here. This blog has more active commenting than any other music blog I’ve read. You really know how to get people talking.

    What about Who’s Next as a no dud album? The sticking point might be Getting In Tune.

  14. Naw Paul S – you nailed it – I always had ‘Who’s Next’ on the perfect album list. In tune? Hell yes! I got it all here in my head – nothing more needs to be said! Also Dark Side, among the high profile works. Hard to NOT listen to that one all the way thru, every time.

    My own nomination for perfect Kinks record was and always will be ‘Muswell Hillbillies’ though for personal reasons I have always mentally replaced ‘Alcohol’ with the live version after ‘Show Business’ came out.

    I also once had ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’ on the perfect album list. It’s been a while since I heard that one all the way through, though, so I must needs pull it out and spin it before leaving a definitive vote in my adult skin.

    Also ‘A Wizard – a True Star’ makes my top five. Partly cuz it leaves no gaps fa ya to pick em up and set em down, partly cuz you off into a new groove every minute and a half, and partly cuz those are some of the best songs TR ever put together in a row…

  15. alexmagic

    I’m with Maudlin on this one. Hell, I like Princess Marina, though I’ll admit there are probably fewer than five people on the planet who should be allowed to write a Grandma Aunty’s Emporium-style song, and “You’re A Good Man Albert Brown” probably should have been the last one anybody was allowed to do.

    Like BigSteve says, the “buddy can you spare a dime” part rocks, and I love the drunken vibe of the last run through the song at the end. While you get a few comedy bike horns and the like, it also could have been a lot worse and been Spike Jones-ed, kazoo-laden and slide-whistled up the entire time. As far as context goes, not only does it fit in the overall concept of the album, I also think Marina helps make “Young and Innocent Days” sound that much nicer when it comes next.

    I’ll go no duds for Arthur, though I’ll say again that I think the lack of a side 1/side 2 gap on CD hurts a little as far as “Australia” and “Shangri-La” now coming back-to-back without a pause. I’ll also echo a past Oats’ sentiment that Mick Avory is amazing on the album.

    And while Shangri-La is clearly the best song and “Victoria” can stand alone, “Mr. Churchill Says” is the song that usually stays in my head most after hearing it. I love the little vocal hitch at the end of each verse. It also has the distinction of being in a much smaller musical genre than the Aunty Grandma, that being the “songs that recreate battles” genre (and, with Sands’ “Listen to the Sky”, the even more obscure “songs that recreate the Battle of Britain” subgenre).

    “Phenomenal Cat” is the only dud on Village Green, yeah?

  16. Mr. Moderator

    Paul S, Who’s Next is a no-dud album for me. “Behind Blue Eyes” is the only song I sometimes need to skip. I LOVE “Getting in Tune”. I didn’t always feel that way about the song, but a couple of years ago I sat down at our piano and realized I could play along with almost that entire album. I’m nowhere near a piano player – just a guitarist who can figure out the chords on a piano now and then and switch a beat late as I play along with a simple song. Playing along with “Getting in Tune” brought out the simplicity and humility that’s key to that song’s emotional pull more than any time I’d simply listened to it. Now, whenever I hear it, I really love the song. I associate it with my “getting in tune” with the song while I figured it out on piano.

    Alexmagic, yes, “Phenomenal Cat” is the only dud for me on Village Green.

  17. BigSteve

    Hey, I like Phenomenal Cat! Especially when the heavy baroque guitar comes is. And the mellotron flutes. Ok, I could do without fumfumdiddledumdum. Actually I’d be hard-pressed to find a true dud on VGPS, Arthur, Lola, or Muswell.

    Is dud being defined as ‘song I don’t especially like’ but not a true ‘needle-lifter’?

    Other ones for me:
    Velvet Underground & Nico
    Astral Weeks
    Workingman’s Dead
    Exile on Main St.
    Electric Ladyland
    This Year’s Model
    Tonight’s the Night

  18. trolleyvox

    Off the top of me head:

    Led Zep I
    Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model
    Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced (US version)
    Beatles – Help! (UK version)
    Pell Mell – Interstate
    Pell Mell – Star City
    Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
    Pretenders – s/t first album (still on the fence about that one)

    Nick Drake – Pink Moon
    Robyn Hitchcock – I Often Dream of Trains

    For the sake of not causing offense to some on this list, I will not list electronica/ambient/acoustic guitar instrumental albums.

    Oh, and no so much a fan of Muswell Hillbillies. I tried, man, I really tried with that one.

  19. Actually I’d be hard-pressed to find a true dud on VGPS, Arthur, Lola, or Muswell.

    My thoughts exactly.

  20. Mr. Moderator

    Good question, BigSteve. When I first posted the “no-dud albums” thread a couple of months back, I meant albums that you had to listen to all the way through as soon as you dropped the needle (for those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s like hitting Play on your iPod and listening to an album all the way through, not in Shuffle mode). So that would rule out albums with needle-lifters, which are NOT necessarily terrible songs or “duds” on their own. In the case of “Phenomenal Cat”, for instance, if a lesser band, like Nixon’s Head, had written that song, it might actually be a relative “go-to” track. In the context of that remarkable Kinks album, however, it’s a waste of my time, it doesn’t fit thematically or sonically with the rest of the album, and I sometimes lift the needle. Contrary to what I initially thought about Sammy’s points here, context can matter.

    I just got done listening to side 1 of Arthur. I remember now why this is my least favorite of the “great” Kinks albums: beside the tremendous bookends of “Victoria” and “Australia”, I prefer to skip the middle section of that album. The sound of this album is excellent. I really like the way Mick Avory’s drums and the guitars sound. Those sounds alone get me through some of those plot-heavy, hermetically sealed numbers on side 1.

    “Yes Sir, No Sir”? No sir, the best thing I can say about it is that it sets up the superior “Nothing to Say”, which has a similar hook, on side 2.

    “Some Mother’s Son”? I don’t need some musical equivalent of a Tom Hanks-produced war movie. I don’t know if those Tom Hanks statements on the war are any good because I’ve never been interested in seeing them. You know why? Because of songs like this one. Ray Davies has the tendency to get too married to his song titles/themes. More than most artists who try what I call these “Mr. _____”, he comes up with a winner. But he does this so often that he’s bound to rack up more failures than most. This is one of many “paint-by-numbers” songs that at least sound good on this album. It’s like all-time records for strikeouts among batters in Major League Baseball. You’ve got to be a great player to accumulate as many strikeouts as a Babe Ruth over the course of a 20-year career. Anyhow, as Davies got married to his string of concept albums, he could get too stuck to the plot to allow a song to breathe. I’m not a big plot-driven guy for novels and movies to begin with, but I especially don’t ask for plotlines in 3-minute pop songs.

    “Driving” sounds nice, but it’s no “Picture Book” or even “Mr. Pleasant”. Davies would continue to repeat his own musical themes throughout the ’70s. I think that practice is just beginning to become distracting on Arthur.

    At least “Brainwashed” is groovy.

    I remember now, when I used to play this album more often, that I’d play the two songs I love on side 1 and then focus on side 2. Even the plot-driven songs, like “Mr. Churchill Says” and “Arthur” hit me like real songs, not commissioned pieces for a stage show. “She Bought a Hat…” is not so bad compared with the songs that bore me on side 1.

  21. saturnismine

    ‘face to face’ is the only dud-less kinks album as far as i’m concerned.

    t-vox, can you really sit through all of “black mountain side” as well as the two blues songs that sound almost exactly alike (were it not for the differing guitar sounds)?

    rubber soul (american) is a dud-less album, too.

    but there aren’t too many others, i must say…

  22. saturnismine

    oh…and “axis bold as love”, of course.

  23. I’ve always felt that Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys and Wilco’s Summerteeth were dud-free.

  24. Oh, and “Phenomenal Cat” is about complacency, so I’d say it’s pretty relevant to VGPS as a whole.

    Also, Mr. Mod, I’m afraid I can’t agree with your anti-“Drivin'” and pro-“Mr. Pleasant” stance.

  25. Mr. Moderator

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a great fan of “Mr. Pleasant”; it just seems to have a similar vibe that he’d already been running off fumes by the time of “Mr. Pleasant”. We may have to agree to disagree on this issue, my friend.

  26. trolleyvox

    t-vox, can you really sit through all of “black mountain side” as well as the two blues songs that sound almost exactly alike (were it not for the differing guitar sounds)?

    I have given this question some thought, and the answer is a qualified yes. But I think it’s about context, in that Phenomenal Cat sense. This was like my favorite record when I was 4 years old, thanks to my next older brother. I didn’t know about the blues or the blooze and so didn’t have anything to compare it to. I just loved the the sounds of instruments, what I’d later figure out was production. And I was fixated on the singing of Plant (who I thought was a woman. Hell, I thought half the band might be women, judging from the long-hair and baby-faced pink-ish back photo). And I like Black Mountain Side. Even after hearing the Bert Jensch version. It’s freak-folky cool in my book. Keep in mind that one of my other favorite records from around this time was Stand Up by Jethro Tull, a band my 4-year old self frequently conflated with Led Zep.

  27. Big Steve: Your ‘Astral Weeks’ is a deep tracks pick: it’s certainly not a mainstream work that EVERYBODY can get behind, but I think I know where you’re coming from.

    I was thinking of nominating Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’, but held off because even though in my book that’s a no-dudder, it only works if you’re already in a certain kind of melancholic mood, and have no desire to leave it behind…

    I think Astral Weeks is the same kind of pick: if you’re in the kind of mood to put it on, you’ll never take it off. But you already have to BE THERE to get on it, first…

  28. hrrundivbakshi

    I think Spirit’s “12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” is without flaw — *and* it’s one of those rare albums that I prefer to listen to from one end to the other without stopping.

  29. Neil Young, After the Goldrush
    Randy Newman, Sail Away
    Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed
    Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy

  30. One more that I NEARLY nominated: my deep and heartfelt love for the Rod Carew of rock – Warren Zevon – made me dig thru his discography to find HIS bummer free disc. I had to give up – ‘Sentimental Hygiene’ was as close as I could come.

    Despite the brilliance of the first seven tracks on that disk: ‘Sentimental Hygiene’, ‘Boom Boom Mancini’, ‘The Factory’, ‘Trouble Waiting To Happen’, ‘Reconsider Me’, Detox Mansion’, ‘Bad Karma’. – he rips a fart in the elevator with ‘Only A Dog Can Shake Hands’…what a letdown.

    I need youse guys to bail me out – that guy HAS to have a perfect CD! Warren! COME BACK!

    Or was he just too tortured a soul?

  31. I second hrr…’s nomination of ‘Dr. Sardonicus!’.

    It’s certainly one of the most intense and creative side ones of all time…

  32. sammymaudlin

    Mr. Moderator:

    Firstly, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to listen to one side of the album in question. I KNOW you have a large stack of Mick Jones live-boots that you’re dying to get to.

    Secondly, it takes a big man to admit when he has made a ridiculous fool of himself:

    Contrary to what I initially thought about Sammy’s points here, context can matter.

    Bravo sir.

    Thirdly, I will summarily dismiss your hyper-criticism of side-1 by chalking it up to your spending too much time with KingEd.

    With the exception of My Mother’s Son. Wasn’t it you that nominated this for best anti-war song in a post from last year that has gone mysteriously missing? Regardless, this is one of the best anti-war songs EVah. Gets right to the point and tears me up every time.

    For a guy who self-admittedly tears up at stuff like this, you gotta lotta nerve!

    I for one SUPPORT our troops!

    Don’t bother getting back to us on side 2. We see the one-way street that you’re on. Send us a postcard from Crank-Ville and make sure your buddy KingEd uses plenty of sunscreen. You know how sensitive he is.

  33. I think Warren Zevon’s first album is as close to dudless as he got.

    The only song that is weak is “Join Me in LA.” On the one hand the song continues the theme of wasted lives on the 2nd side of the record, and sets us up for the closer, “Desperados under the Eaves.” On that basis, I could give the song a pass.

    But, I think the song falls well below Zevon’s high standards of songwriting, and so a dud it must be.

  34. alexmagic

    Hey, I like Phenomenal Cat! Especially when the heavy baroque guitar comes is. And the mellotron flutes. Ok, I could do without fumfumdiddledumdum.

    Yeah, it’s that fumfumdiddledumdum gnome rock that’s the deal-breaker for me. Take that out for some more of the guitar or somebody playing a quick part on a harpsichord and it would be good to go. Anyway, I don’t hate the song or anything, but it’s the one song I’m willing to skip over, especially because I like the two that follow it so much more.

    “Yes Sir, No Sir” – I listen to that every time for the way the marching band horns veer off into Soft Parade-y weirdness under the “so you think that you’ve got ambition” part. It’s like the beginning of Live And Let Die when the funeral procession turns into the Mardi Gras march.

  35. mockcarr

    Actually, I think the jams on Arthur and Australia go on too long to make it a no-dud.

    Maybe Denmark St and Money-go-round aren’t good enough to hold up on their own from Lola. Very contexty. I’ll tell you what though, the songs used from this album in the Darjeeling Limited made that movie much better for me. It’s that brothers thing, guess. I have no idea what a soundtrack agreed upon by my brother and me would be, probably, sadly, not much rock I would think.

    Face to Face and Something Else don’t have duds, though, I believe.

    Big context album for me is the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle, all of those songs work.

    I submit for discussion:
    dB’s – Repercussion
    Feelies – The Good Earth (This one works along the same lines as the Spirit entry)
    Marshall Crenshaw – s/t
    Cars – s/t

  36. Mr. Moderator

    I listened to Repercussion on the drive in this morning. The only song I occasionally skip is “From a Window to a Screen” – isn’t that the one that starts “Wine in paper cups…”? It was the only one I skipped this morning. Very close for me, but you probably know I’m about the biggest hardass regarding this topic.

  37. sammymaudlin

    I love From a Window to a Screen.

  38. mockcarr

    That’s a well written song though, evokes a real sense of a situation. But “Ives on the stereo”? He was asking for it. I like that minor sounding bass bit in the middle and the guitar solo.

  39. mockcarr

    The funny thing is that I like Stands For better, even allowing for not really liking Cycles Per Second.

  40. I also love “Window to a Screen.” My problems with Repurcussion have more to do with the nasal quirk-fest that dominates side two.

    But “Ives on the stereo”? He was asking for it.

    Ha! I never really focused on that line before. Now I wonder, did he mean Charles or Burl? If it’s the former, I still think the song works. I compare the characters on the first two db’s albums to some of the folks who show up in Richard Linklater films: bored, overeducated, a little clueless around girls, etc.

  41. That Princess Marina song is pretty mediocre, I have to say. I suppose one could get used to it as a bit of downtime, but not much more. If it’s not a dud, quite, it’s not anything special either. Tea, anyone?

    Too much whole-hearted Kinks love going on here, if’n you ask me. I appreciate the Mod’s more balanced take. Case in point for me: Muswell Hillbillies. That album starts strong but runs out of gas several cuts before it gets to the end.

  42. Too much whole-hearted Kinks love going on here, if’n you ask me.

    Really? Singling out 3-5 years out of 32 as exemplary is too much?

  43. trolleyvox

    What artists must I appreciate to appreciate Muswell Hillbillies? For instance, do I need to like Randy Newman or Humble Pie?

  44. Really? Singling out 3-5 years out of 32 as exemplary is too much?

    Yes, when you single out those albums as “having no duds.” I do understand that there’s something about the Kinks that charms the rock nerd miniaturist though: such lovely little gems.

  45. What artists must I appreciate to appreciate Muswell Hillbillies?

    In all honesty, I would’ve thought an appreciation of The Kinks was all one needed.

    I’ve always loved this album for taking the themes of VGPS and transporting them onto darker, bluesier, more urban territory. I appreciated its use of blues, which was less bombastic than the kinds of early-’70s British rock I was hearing on ‘MMR and ‘YSP growing up. It’s boozy pub-rock that arguably sounds more like a real pub than something like Rockpile or Graham Parker. Or maybe I’m just buying into the album cover a bit too much. And when I got into Wilco in the mid-’90s, I immediately got a flashback to this album, so I think it may be a failure for the future good of alt-country.

    Abd, yeah, there is a Randy Newman flavor to a couple songs here.

  46. Mr. Moderator

    GOD BLESS TOWNSMAN MWALL – and not just for agreeing with my approach, but that doesn’t hurt. That hat song on Arthur isn’t fit to carry the colostomy bag of “When I’m 64”, yet how many of you would feel comfortable ripping that (much) less Beatles number new one.

    Who’s willing to answer my charges about Ray Davies’ increasing reliance on plots being a major hinderance to the music of The Kinks? Village Green and the earlier albums maintain a TONE. After that album, he got into the whole paint-by-numbers/commissioned works approach. I think Arthur suffers the most, even though it’s a pretty strong album if you just crank it up and tune out that stinking plotline. Lola vs the Money-go-round, or whatever the hell that album’s called, gets away with it a bit because the band sounds so downtrodden that it’s hard to tune into the grand CONCEPT. That album’s painful to listen to, although it has some great, failed moments and the awesome “Lola”.

    Muswell Hillbillies also gets bogged down in concept, but there’s less plot. The songs have more room to breath, and they actually execute the concept of Brits trying to be like Yanks. Again, though, the album is hampered by horrible production. I like half of the songs a lot, and I’ve come to appreciate the bad sound. It has some charm, and most importantly for me, it’s the return of tone (and emotional content) over plot (and 2-dimensional characters who, Johnny Bravo-like, fit the suit). Tvox, to answer your question, I think you’d have to dig more workingman’s pinky rock to better enjoy Muswell Hillbillies. I know you like some of that stuff, but I think you’ve got less interest in boogie stuff than I do.

  47. hrrundivbakshi

    Mod, I’ll let you off the hook on this “Arthur” hate-fest on one condition: that you describe this PLOT that’s bugging you so much. You seem to resent its intrusive specificity, but I seriously doubt you know what it actually is. And that’s not a pince-nez slam, by the way! What I mean is that I don’t think the plot *is* specific — *I* certainly couldn’t say anything about it beyond, you know, “it’s about a family in England that goes through the War and then partly emigrates to Australia. Or something.” Now, if your beef was that the PLOT is too weak, or ill-defined, I might be on board, in a brandy-snifter, pipe-tamping kind of way. But what I think you’re actually saying is: the fact that it *claims* to have a PLOT really bugs me! The fact that you’ve chosen to rip off my incredibly deep analytical methodology (see: VU, Dylan, et. al.) is flattering — but I expect so much more from you.

    Deeply disappointed and concerned,


  48. trolleyvox

    Tvox, to answer your question, I think you’d have to dig more workingman’s pinky rock to better enjoy Muswell Hillbillies. I know you like some of that stuff, but I think you’ve got less interest in boogie stuff than I do.

    That’s what I was afraid of. Maybe one day I’ll acquire a taste for pinky rock and boogie. I mean, I like beets now, so can brussels sprouts be just around the corner?

  49. sammymaudlin

    No one here is saying the song is great. Rather the argument I make is that it works in context and the album would be less for its loss. Clearly you disagree Mod. And that is your right, I suppose.

    But When I’m Sixty-Four?! April 1 is over dude.

    What happened to you man? You alright? You need a shoulder brother?

  50. sammymaudlin

    PS: D fucking W Washburn has more votes in the poll than 64.

  51. Mr. Moderator

    First of all, I like Arthur a good deal. Hate is not even close to the equation. It includes probably 4 fantastic songs and a few other good ones. I simply find it to be much weaker than most other Kinks fans of that golden era. And the bad songs are really bad SONGS, in my opinion. It’s like being a Beatles fanatic, which I also am, and saying I don’t like Abbey Road and The White Album as much as the others. Big deal! If you can’t handle that – and I speaking in the plural you, not to you specifically, Tough As Nails HVB – then you need to lick a big colorful lollipop.

    So the plot thing. I wish I could be more clear, but let me try again. There is a plot that supercedes everything else in Arthur. He clearly has to get from Point A to Point Z in his journey. I could repeat the actual plot, AMG-geek style, but that wouldn’t help anyone. BECAUSE Davies had to impose his plot, he occasionally has to plug in some naked number that serves little else than to move the plot along.

    “Need a song to represent Arthur’s complacency with The System…I can write something around the sniveling ‘Yes sir, no sir’ dynamic we face when confronted by The Man!”

    “Need a song to represent the horrors of war, Mama’s crying for her little boy…Mick, can you play a military snare roll for me?”

    The bad parts of the album, “bad” as in “weaker” as in “my opinion,” before anyone’s knickers get in a bunch, come off like a precurssor to The Wall. Is it any surprise that Sammy and Oats cut their teeth on that album?

    Again, BECAUSE he feels the need to tell some birth-to-grave story that also represents the rise and fall of the British Empire he’s got to flesh out all the boring parts of life in between. The Pretty Things’ SF Sorrow, another album that I can love primarily for its super cool sonics, has a similar middle-school English class plot. Jeez, why couldn’t these Brits have taken the lesson from Simon & Garfunkel and just set “Richard Cory” to a 3-minute pop tune and be done with it?

    You know what’s great about the cosmic “plots” of Pete Townshend’s attempts at Rock Opera? They’re so ridiculous that you don’t have to pay attention to them. You can just get off on the cosmic vibes of it all.

    It’s a matter of time, my friend, before Townspeople start writing me offlist, thanking me for my clearheaded approach to love.

  52. sammymaudlin

    Is it any surprise that Sammy and Oats cut their teeth on that album?

    Irrelevant and low. I call on you to repudiate this comment and to pledge to run a positive campaign. Let’s get back to the issues.

  53. sammymaudlin

    PS: Dave Davies has just endorsed my campaign.

  54. Going by the you-don’t-want-to-take-the-needle-off test, another perfect album for me is “Let It Be” by The Replacements. Heard on its own, “Gary’s Got A Boner” might not be much but a dumb joke, but once you get into the flow of “Let It Be” that and the Kiss cover work perfectly. Plus there are some true classics on that album like “Unsatisfied” and “Sixteen Blue.”

    On the Kinks, are we sure we all like “People Take Pictures Of Each Other”? It’s by far the second best “picture” song on VGPS. I’ve never really got into it. The end of side 2 should have been a better song.

  55. BigSteve

    There’s no real point Z to get to in Arthur and hardly any plot. A playwright was hired to write a script around Davies’ songs, not the other way around.

  56. Mr. Moderator

    I actually prefer “People Take Pictures of Each Other” to “Picture Book”. That’s funny. I never thought to put them into a Showdown.

    BigSteve, I guess a lot of rock writers (and maybe even Ray) lied to me. What’s with the backstory of his sister and brother-in-law, or whomever Arthur was supposed to have been modeled after? What’s with the closing song, “Arthur”, which seems to send off the beloved title character? The script was to be written for a tv show, right? You’re telling me that Ray Davies had no idea that the songs would be turned into some kind of narrative from the start? Granted, I’m sure I’ve not read as much as you on the band, but are you telling me that he simply wrote this batch of songs and then some wheeler-dealer showbiz types swarmed in and said they’d make it into a show! I’m having trouble believing that.

    I’m also having trouble believing that Townspeople are either scratching their heads or completely refusing to deal with the fact that the more Davies moved from setting an emotional tone to trying to tell a story with his albums, the more sketchy the band’s albums got. Seriously sketchy compared with the run of Face to Face through The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. (And, again, I like those couple of albums that followed more than I like most band’s best albums – plus, I much prefer Kinks Kontroversy to Face to Face, but that’s not quite of the band’s “golden era.”)

  57. BigSteve

    Ray worked with Julian Mitchell on the script (which has never surfaced). My point is just that the script was developed from the songs. Ray wasn’t writing songs to “advance the plot.” I think he had the basic idea, which was then fleshed out in collaboration.

    And Arthur is the old guy who spent his life laying carpet. It’s his son who is moving to Australia. It seems that the idea was to flashback through various moments in Arthur’s life on the day the son sets sail.

    This idea was supposedly inspired by the fact that one of Davies sisters (Rosie I think) moved to Australia, a decision made by her husband.

    And of course the ‘narrative’ albums are sketchy. So are operas. Moments are crystallized into separate songs. Music can’t really ‘tell a story’ any other way than sketchily. And then this happened and then this happened and then this happened doesn’t work.

  58. This discussion is starting to chase its tail a bit. Okay, so Ray Davies wrote some weak tunes. Mod, I do think you’re reading too much into this: isn’t it really the law of averages at work here, rather than Davies over-invested in telling a story?

  59. Mr. Moderator

    I agree. I already acknowledged the law of averages factor with a Babe Ruth analogy, what seemed weeks ago. I don’t blame you for not recalling it or missing it, Dr. John. I’ve had my say. I’m just a bit surprised at all that hasn’t been said. No biggie.

  60. Well I’m a bit curious about what you think “hasn’t been said.”

  61. Mr. Moderator

    Mostly, I’m curious to hear what’s so good about the 4 or 5 songs that I think are far below par and that even most unabashed lovers of Arthur have hinted at agreeing aren’t actually that great. I’ve heard stuff like, “the guitar at the middle eighth makes it all worthwhile.” THAT worthwhile, like The Kinks never had a song with a cool guitar part before? Or do people mean the guitar part makes it all worthwhile the way a killer Richard Thompson solo can rescue an otherwise boring dirge? It’s one thing if the song itself wasn’t tremendous but the lyrics were outstanding, as The Kinks have been able to do numerous times throughout their career, but “Driving” is completely justified by a guitar part? Whatever. (Please note that I’m also having fun here, so I won’t hold it against anybody if they can’t even begin to explain why 4 or 5 of the songs on this album aren’t much worse than the least-best songs on other Kinks albums from the golden age.)

  62. I’m with Big Steve on the fact that context matters on Princess Marina. This is a story about post WWII England when Auntie Granny loved a good music hall tune. It pays homage to that style, while also satirizing the class system using a musical genre from the working class. That song might not be so hot on other albums, but I enjoy it on Arthur. Is Heinz Baked Beans a dud from The Who Sell Out? No, it’s a “small” song that supports the concept. Same with Marina.

    And “Driving” is a winner, context or not. That song’s the bomb, not a dud. Guitars, drums, goofy yelping in the background. I like it all.

  63. mockcarr

    I think Marina’s pretty successful at what it seems to be tyring to do. The lyrics carry a small story about pretenses and status symbols important to a particular person; these minatures you hold up to such a high standard are much more interesting to me than the five thousandth version of I love you, girl, please love me back. Shangri-La is a much fuller version of this song in a way, but so what? This one is goofy. It juxtaposes her illusion and the reality in two styles and then throws it all together for a silly outchorus. She don’t care, so we don’t really either, it’s how she gets through the situation. OK by me, not a dud at all. I concur with Herr Frank’s synopsis of Driving. I enjoy Ray’s little acting roles in Yes Sir No Sir, in fact – a lot more than I usually do. I pay attention to the screetchy guitar counterpoint, am entertained by the several structures used to change points of view, and I particularly listen for that effete laugh after “when he dies we’ll send a medal to his wife”. Some Mother’s Son is great tearjerker for me. Hits me in the gut every time. It’s one of those songs where the keening sound of Dave’s backing vocals is very effective. Dave’s actually been able to put something into these songs that way that is perhaps unappreciated I think. I’m sure I don’t really understand his song “Strangers” on Lola but it affects me anyhow.

    I forget what else you don’t like, but as I’ve said, what holds the album back for me is the excessive jammy repetition in Australia and Arthur at the end of each side, but you know, when you do the vinyl, you can just flip it two minutes earlier and the album is damned fine.

  64. hrrundivbakshi

    I was going to post on this Arthur mini-thread, but Mockcarr beat me to it, stealing every single one of my finest points. I will add, jabbing my bony finger into Mod’s chest, that I think Mod’s problem with each of these songs is that he just doesn’t like the injection of play-acting, or “theatre,” into rock — and “Marina,” “Some Mother’s Son,” and the others he mentions have lesser or greater degrees of the stuff.

    Also: I’ve said it before on RTH Chess, but I think “Some Mother’s Son” is the best anti-war rock song ever written. The whole of the lyric is essentially perfect, but this is the couplet that, as it does Mockcarr, punches me in the stomach every time:

    Two soldiers fighting in a trench
    One soldier glances up to see the sun

    … the rest of that verse goes on to describe the precise instant the soldier loses his life, and is, as I say, perfectly written for me. But those particular two lines, delivered in the context of the melancholy of the melody, just give me the chills. Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of the dirty, bloody, muddy, filthy, tragic, absurd first line and the pure, free, simple, divine second one that does it. Ray makes it seem so easy!

    Anyhow, enough blather.


  65. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks to those of you who’ve added to what it is you like about the few songs I can do without. I know it’s often harder to write about what one likes.

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