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.

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