Whilst reading a piece on The Kinks history, one of the most influential quintessentially English and important bands that had come out of the sixties, I became aware that after 1968, none of their albums (bar compilations) managed to reach the UK charts. How is that possible?
It all went wrong after the 1967 album, Something Else and even though it contained one of the most loved songs of the era, Waterloo Sunset, it could only manage Number 35 on the British charts. The band surely had everything going for them, starting with their third single You Really Got Me that had been a major hit for Pye Records in 1964 on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching Number 1 in the UK and Number 7 in the US. All Day And All Of The Night had followed reaching Number 7 in the US charts and Number 2 in the UK in the same year with Top Ten singles galore, over the coming years. Tired Of Waiting went to Number 1 in the UK and Number 6 in the US in 1965. Over a six year period The Kinks would have twenty Top 40 Uk singles from 1964- 1970. One Top 20 in 1972 and then a massive gap until the eighties when Come Dancing made Number 12 in 1982. In the period between 1968 and the band’s break up in 1996 not one album made the charts at all in the UK. So why had the great British public deserted them?
One clue is the next album, The Kinks Are The Village Green Appreciation Society 1968 was just too ambitious for the audience and failed to chart in the US or the UK. The audience seemed to prefer the band as a singles band and this nostalgic ‘concept’ album lamenting the loss of the village green and the small village English lifestyle might not have been interesting to the modern generation of the day in the US or the UK despite its favourable reviews. Also the album had no successful singles, the European and New Zealand release included Days but that version of the album had been withdrawn and consequently the album didn’t benefit from Days being a hit in the UK when it reached Number 12 in 1968. In 1967 Dave Davies had hit the Top 20 twice with the solo singles Death Of A Clown (Number 3) and Susannah’s Still Alive (Number 20). Autumn Almanac had been a Top 3 for the band in 1968 but Wonderboy had been the first song since the very early days that a Kinks song hadn’t reached the Top 30, although it did reach Number 36. Starstuck and the title track were released from the album but both failed to chart.
This from Wikipedia :
“The album theme was inspired by the November 1966 track “Village Green”, which was inspired by the Kinks’ performances in rustic Devon, England in late 1966. (Davies has also stated that Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood was an indirect inspiration for the concept). This song neatly sums up the album’s broad theme: “I miss the village green, and all the simple people…” In addition to nostalgia, the album’s songs touch on a wide range of emotions and experiences, from lost friends (“Do You Remember Walter?”), memories (“People Take Pictures of Each Other”, “Picture Book”), technological obsolescence (“Last of the Steam-Powered Trains”), bucolic escape (“Animal Farm”), social marginalization (“Johnny Thunder”, “Wicked Annabella”), public embarrassment (“All of My Friends Were There”), childlike fantasy (“Phenomenal Cat”), straying from home (“Starstruck”) and stoical acceptance of life (“Big Sky”, “Sitting By the Riverside”). Davies did not compose many of the songs to fit the predetermined theme of the album; rather, their commonality developed naturally from his nostalgic songwriting interests at the time. The title track, one of the last written and recorded (in August 1968), effectively unifies the songs through an appeal to preserve a litany of sentimental objects, experiences, and fictional characters from progress and modern indifference: “God save little shops, china cups, and virginity”. This last lyric inspired the slogan “God Save the Kinks” which was used in the US promotion for the album, and was associated with the band through the 1970s”.
The strangest thing is that this was only the first album of twenty years of chart failures. Even though Victoria and Plastic Man were moderate hits, Shangri-La one of Davies’ best songs only hit the bottom of the Top 30 and only in Holland. Lola and Apeman were both big hits in the UK, hitting Number 2 and Number 5 respectively, but the albums still didn’t chart. So even though Arthur (or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) and Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part One, had hit singles, it made no difference. But, it was from this period till Phobia in 1993 that ALL the Kinks albums charted in America. Of seventeen released albums all but six cracked the Top 100, four hit the top twenty or thereabouts and another two made the Top 40. By this time the band had become a successful touring attraction there, selling their English wares to an appreciative American public.
In 1978 Van Halen released You Really Got Me as a single and reached Number 36 in the US charts as they became one of the biggest bands in the world. Also in 1978 The Jam released David Watts with bassist Bruce Foxton singing and it reached Number 25 on The UK chart. The Pretenders released Stop Your Sobbin’ in 1979 reaching Number 34 in the UK chart and I Go To Sleep in 1981 reaching Number 7 – all Kinks classics. Even The Knack recorded a Kinks’ song, The Hard Way from Schoolboys In Disgrace 1975, on their second album, But The Little Girls Understand 1980. Still, with this boost in the public awareness of The Kinks, their records failed to sell to the British public. This must have been so disillusioning to the band and main songwriter Ray Davies who was poignantly describing the English condition in his songs. In the eighties the youth fell for Morrissey as he did the very same thing.
Peter Quaife the original bass player left the band after this album to be replaced by John Dalton in 1969 and died in 2010. Dave Davies suffered stroke in 2004 but is reported to be recovering.
The Spotify version of the album is the 3 disc version with outtakes and mono and stereo mixes.