Wednesday 28 August 2013

Is This The Most English Song Ever?

I'm currently on holiday (well, couple of days off following the Bank Holiday), and have been engaging in the usual folly associated with going out for the day in Great Britain.
"Where shall we go?"
"Oh, lets go to the coast for the day.  Or we could just go out for a drive somewhere and see what we find"

If the above ("go out for a drive and find a nice pub or something") is ever suggested, then my best advice is: DON'T!
You'll never find anywhere, and end up driving down tiny little country roads (often with grass growing down the middle) in the vain hope of finding pub nirvana - the sort of place with loads of parking, cheap beer, loads of different cask ales and plentiful portions of pub grub.
Well, these places don't exist and you'll end up sitting in the garden of a Harvester (or worse, the car park of a Little Chef (do these still exist?)) and then turning round and going home again.

At least I managed to draw one positive from the whole futile escapade.
Whilst driving around, I passed through some small villages, often with double or triple barreled names (many sounding like they should be names of Blues musicians) and was struck by the "Olde Worlde" fell of some of them, which brought to mind one of the most quintessentially English songs ever.

The Kinks - The Village Green Preservation Society

How many other songs make mention of those elements that (partially) define what it is to be in England? 

We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do?
We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society
God save Mrs Mopp and good old Mother Riley
We are the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium
God save the George Cross and all those who were awarded them
We are the Sherlock Holmes english speaking vernacular
Help save Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula
We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity
God save little shops, china cups and virginity
We are the Skyscraper Condemnation Affiliate
God save tudor houses, antique tables and billiards
Preserving the old ways from being abused
Protecting the new ways for me and for you
What more can we do?
God save the Village Green

The parent album (full title - The Kinks Are: The Village Green Preservation Society) sold poorly in its release, but is now regarded as a genuine classic and one of the best (if not THE best) in The Kinks catalogue.
The poor sales were probably not helped by the fact that:
- many of their contemparies were going hippy-dippy psychedelic or focusing on the American market.  Releasing your album on the same day as The Beatles 'White Album' and a week before The Rolling Stones 'Beggars Banquet' probably didn't help much either.

The album is often referred to as a 'Concept Album', and whilst there is an underlying theme, I personally don't think it is.  It's certainly not a concept album when compared to the next album ('Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)'), The Pretty Things 'S F Sorrow' or The Who's 'Tommy').
What it is a collection of some of the best songs Ray Davies has written, touching on themes of loss ("Village Green", Do You Remember Walter"), family memories ("Picture Book", "People Take Picture Of Each Other"), child-like fantasy/whimsy "Phenominal Cat" and acceptance of the march of time ("The Last Of The Steam Powered Trains".  In fact the songs are that good they could afford to leave "Days" off of the UK release.

Much like when I'm reading P G Wodehouse, it seems to refers to a past that no longer exists, and probably never did, but you just want to spend some time in the world described.

Kate Rusby performing the title track The Village Green Preservation Society.
I suppose it would be called a tender and delicate reading of the song. with added Yorkshire twang.
Adds a new dimension to the song (to these ears)

And while I'm here, what is it about female voices and Ray Davies songs?
Here's two more examples.
Kirsty MacColl - Days (the hit single that didn't make the final cut of the Village Green Preservation Society)

Pretenders - Stop Your Sobbing (originally released in 1964 on the Kinks debut album)

No comments:

Post a Comment