Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"Starstruck" / The Kinks

This Ray Davies gem from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is not one of the half-dozen Kinks songs that EVERYBODY KNOWS ("You Really Got Me" or "All Day and All of the Night" or "Lola"), just a winsome, tuneful pop confection. And yet, and yet....

As usual, it finds Ray Davies chiseling a perfect little cameo of someone else rather than going for self-confession -- and as usual, his own neuroses percolate up into the song anyway. While he waggles a finger at this girl who's "starstruck on me," at the same time he eyes sardonically all the trappings of celebrity (has anybody ever felt more conflicted about being a star than Ray Davies?). And as Ray bops along, in his breathy, slightly mincing delivery, he's dissing himself too -- "'cos once you're addicted to wine and champagne, it's gonna drive you insane..." Yes indeedy -- Ray makes fun of Ray for feeling sorry for Ray. Mirrors within mirrors.

One thing I hadn't noticed until today is that the whole first chorus has nothing on the backing track but Mick Avory's punchy drumming and a few bass-like electric piano chords, with the "ba-ba-da-duh"s" of Dave Davies and the other Kinks chiming in on the chorus. After that, a few strings come in...but I hear no guitars. What's this, no guitars in a ROCK SONG? (Okay, they come in later, but just barely.)

But then, very little on this Village Green album is traditional rock music; it's astonishing to realize that it was made in 1968. Those were the years when the Kinks had been banned from the US and had given up on out-Stoning the Stones and the Who in favor of exploring their own Englishness. I for one completely lost the Kinks from my radar in 1968. What a pleasure to discover this LP years later. It wasn't of its time even then; that's why it hasn't dated. It's in my head today, and I like it.

1 comment:

JB Publicpolicy said...

Glad you look at so many Kinks songs, especially from VGPS and that great lost era. Your insights are consistently interesting and insightful. I remember, like you, hearing "Picture Book" in the HP commercial and smiling.

Only I had had the great good fortune to get and hear VGPS when it first came out and to almost immediately conclude that it was a masterpiece, not just a worthy follow-up to FTF and Something Else, both of which got my attention immediately as well.

"Starstruck" was an attempt at a single that didn't really fit VGPS's theme, but still seemed to fit. It definitely plays in my head every once in a while and, with various other relatively obscure songs that are second nature to me but almost completely unknown to so many others, reminds me how fortunate I've been to know this music. It's fun to be reminded of it from another member of that "club," and to read your thoughts. It's great to know there are others who appreciate the fact that one Ray Davies still walks among us and has written so much unbelievable music.