English Pride in The Kinks Album, Village Green Preservation Society
The Kinks have been around since the 1960’s, and I have always loved their songs. I lost track of them after I purchased their album, Word of Mouth, back in the 1980’s.
Recently I started listening to the Kinks Essential cd on my ipod, and I started loving the songs that came from the album, The Village Green Preservation Society. The album was released in 1968, and is considered one of the Kinks best albums. I ordered the CD, and I could kick myself for not getting it sooner.
When the album was first released, back in 1968, it didn’t even chart, but now it is considered one of The Kinks' most influential albums. It has been said that this album was one of the first concept albums. It was released before The Who released their album, Tommy.
The album came about after Ray went to visit Devonshire. He had originally wanted to do a concept album about London.
Although the album only sold 100,000 copies and failed to chart upon its release, it has always been a favorite of the band leader, Ray Davies.
What is it that makes this album so special? Let us look and see.
"The Village Green Preservation Society"
“The Village Green Preservation Society” is the first song on the album, and it really sets the tone for everything to come. The song starts off quaint, and paints a picture of rural England and its history. The singer wants to preserve the old ways, save the little shops, china cups, and virginity. The song bounces along. You feel like you are motoring out in the country, and you can appreciate the preservation of all the old things that should not be forgotten. It is a great song to start the album.
“Do you Remember Walter”
“Do you Remember Walter” this song appeared on the B side of Village Green Preservation Society, but it could have been a single. Ray Davies sings the song with feeling. Ray is thinking of an old mate of his, as he puts it, and wondering what he is up to now. The song has the singer reminiscing about their early days playing Cricket out in the thunder and rain and imagining that now Walter is probably fat and in bed by 10. The song has a piano that creates a steady beat that goes throughout the song. There are some great verses in the song, “…I knew you then, but would I know you now?” and the best lines come at the end of the song with Ray singing, “...yes people often change, but memories of people can remain.” That line says it all. How often have we remembered people the way they looked back then, and remembered something about the person that will keep them with us forever.
“Picture Book” the third song from the album has a sound that is reminiscent of the song “Walk Right In” by the Rooftop Singers because of the jangly guitar. The drummer took the snare off his drum for this song to give it a different sound it, and it works. This song is sweet starting out, picture yourself as you’re getting old sitting by the fire and looking through a photo album. The song is very visual as it brings up pictures taken by your father of your mother, taken a long time ago. The singer says the pictures were taken to prove they loved each other. It is the essence of a family. You get married, have children, take pictures and have the pictures to look upon all your life. It helps to keep the memory alive.
“Johnny Thunder” is a song that is inspired by Marlon Brando in the Wild Ones. When I first heard the song, it reminded me of a Who song, but in fact Pete Townshend from the Who was inspired by the Kinks when he heard this song. He then wrote the song “I Can’t Explain”, and he used the riff from the song “Johnny Thunder” in two more of his songs which were “Overture” and “Go to The Mirror” from his concept album Tommy. It is a mutual admiration society because Ray said he would have liked to hear the Who perform the song. It is a catchy, lyrical song. The character Johnny Thunder appears in one more song in the album Preservation Society, and the song on that album is just as good.
“Last of the Steam Powered Trains”
“Last of the Steam Powered Trains” is the fifth song from the album. It is a bluesy song, with guitar, bass, drum, and harmonica pounding down the beat. Ray wrote it inspired by the song “Smokestack Lightin” by Howlin’ Wolf. The singer compares himself to the Steam Powered Train a renegade, and hopefully, he won’t be forgotten. Ray Davies has said it is funny, but he never did like steam-powered trains. This song rocks though and it has a great R&B sound that is a great tribute to blues artists of the past.
“Big Sky” starts off with the singer talking instead of singing saying that Big Sky was looking down on the people, and the people had their troubles and were feeling down, but Big Sky was too big to sympathize.,
Ray said he got the idea for the song when he was in Cannes. He had stayed up all night doing deals with all the big people and the next day he was looking down on them doing their deal. He was asked if this song referred to God, but he didn’t really have an answer. Ray has said this is one of his favorite songs, but he didn’t like the way he sounded on the song and it could have been done better.
“Sitting by the Riverside”
“Sitting by the Riverside” sounds like an old-fashioned song with the piano sounding like something you would hear back in the 1800’s. As the song goes on it almost sounds like a French song as well. Some parts are jarring as if to show that when life gets rough he can think back to those blissful days when things were laid back and easy. Ray did a lot of fishing when he was eight and that is how he got inspired to do this song.
“Animal Farm” is song number eight off the album. It has a folk like sound to it. It is a story of escape once again with the singer wishing to escape his troubles to go to Animal Farm with all the animals. Dreams can fail, and he can take his girl to a place where there are pigs, goats, dogs and cats. Sounds like a great place to be, and one can’t blame him for wanting to go there.
“Village Green” begins with a harpsichord, and then the song as medieval sounds with horn. It is a treat for the ears to hear all the instruments, and then the singer comes in anxious to get out of the sooty city and get back to the rural countryside. You can see the small town unfold with each verse, the horns and harpsichord whiff throughout, and it is a perfect song to capture days gone by, and how our fantasies of how life would be there are probably better than reality.
“Star Struck” is a song that doesn’t seem to fit with other songs on this album. It is a song about a girl who is looking for fame and fortune and finding stars to hang out with. It is a catchy tune, but Ray has said it is a song that is strange for the Kinks to record, and should have been on someone else’s solo album.
“Phenomenal Cat” song number 11 from the album tips its hat to the psychedelic times that were going on in the late 60’s. The Beatles had Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and the Kinks had this song. Each time hearing the song I am drawn into it as if it were the first time. It has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it about a cat who loved to sit in the tree and eat all day. The flutes begin the song and it feels like it takes place in a land long ago with the cat traveling all around. The adjective Phenomenal is all I need to like this song. A strange song, but a good song.
“All My Friends Were There”
“All My Friends Were There” this song sound like a polka and waltz at the same time. It is a cheery sounding song, but the song itself was about an embarrassing experience. Ray said he had a temperature of 104 and was drinking. He didn’t want to go onstage, but he was under contract to perform. He thought why not it doesn’t matter. He got on stage and then he noticed that there were friends sitting out on the first rows. He was brave to right a song about a night he would have preferred to forget.
“Wicked Annabella” is a song with a heavy rock sound. It has a dark theme and doesn’t seem to fit with the upbeat themes in the other songs of the album. The song was written by Ray Davies, but the vocals were done by Dave his brother which was unusual. The song is about a witch in the woods and it would be a great Halloween song. I love the drumming in this song it is out front and heavy. The guitar riff is also catchy. A dark song, but a good rock song.
“Monica” is a calypso sounding song about a guy in love with a prostitute. The song has a nice sound to it but probably would have been better as an instrumental. It is another song that like “Wicked Annabella” that doesn’t quite fit the theme of the album.
“People Take Pictures of Each Other”
“People Take Pictures of Each Other” is another song about pictures on the album. It states that people take pictures of each other to show they loved one another, and to prove summer really happened. It is a sarcastic look at why people take photos, but the singer says he can’t take it anymore. Now days more than ever with the ease of taking pictures on your phone it can be overdone. People seem to take pictures of anything and everything. I am guilty of snapping a few pics myself. The song is very catchy and comic, and was well received by the critics.
What Makes It a Classic?
Village Green Preservation Society is a classic album by the Kinks. It was one of the first concept albums. It took the listener to a Utopia where the singer envisioned a place that he felt safe and serene in. Ray looked at England in the past. He didn't look at the bad parts of its history, but looked only towards the greatness of England. Its greatness in history and the greatness of its people. It is a place that a lot of us would like to visit, and maybe stay in. It is true, for this album, the more you hear it, the more you want to stay in the Kinks Village Green Preservation Society.