Monday, November 03, 2008

"Sitting in the Midday Sun" /
The Kinks


I've finished the book. I've finished the book. And yes, I know there'll be queries to answer, and proofs to read, and all that crap down the line, but I'VE FINISHED THE BOOK, and now I can get back to business here at last!

Frankly, while I was working there were no songs in my head. Well, only one song, Nick Lowe's "I Live On A Battlefield," which I've written about before, and besides I reckon you're tired of hearing me go on about Nick Lowe. I'm tired of hearing me go on about Nick Lowe. So this is how I know I've really finished the book; today I woke up singing this dreamy little Kinks tune, one of my favoritest mellow lazy tunes ever.

Ray Davies loves to play the quizzical observer of life, and so he's given us a passel of these "sitting" songs. First there was 1965's "Sittin' On My Sofa," a morose moan from a shellshocked guy whose girlfriend's left him. Next came his sly 1968 satiric hit "Sitting By the Riverside," about a wealthy guy blindsided by financial distress (how apt these days!). In 1972 we got the plaintive "Sitting In My Hotel," an (I assume) autobiographical track about a lonely celebrity isolated by fame, and one of my favorite Kinks songs ever.

Preservation Act I came along in 1973, one of Ray's forays into rock opera, a road which many of his former fans didn't "get." (Ray's still trying out musical theater -- he's got a new play in London right now called Come Dancing that I've heard is simply brilliant.) But I love both of the Preservation albums, and one of my favorite characters in this story is the Tramp, the narrator/observer of the play's action. He kinda disappears in Act II, but in Act I he gets all the best songs -- the wistful love song "Sweet Lady Genevieve," his nostalgic take on Swinging London, "Where Are They Now," and this little charmer.

It's a real musical theater tune -- you could almost do a soft shoe to it -- with its soaring woodwind intro, the ripply glockenspiels, and the Beach Boys-ish falsetto harmonized "ooohs." Of course it's a little ambivalent -- this wouldn't be Ray Davies without a little ambivalence -- but surely we're supposed to side with the Tramp. The guy's got nothing, as verse 2 tells us: "Everybody say I'm lazy / They tell me, 'Get a job you slob' / But I'd rather be a hobo, walking 'round with nothing / Than a rich man scared of losing all he's got" (echoes of "Sitting By the Riverside"). He freely admits, "I haven't got a steady occupation / And I can't afford a telephone / I haven't got a stereo, radio, or video" -- OR "A mortgage, overdraft, or bank loan." (I love how deftly Ray spins that list around.) Wouldn't we all like to be in that situation, especially nowadays? Suddenly this song is totally relevant.

"So I'm just sitting in the midday sun," he muses lazily, "Just soaking up that currant bun." (It took me years to find out that "currant bun" is Cockney rhyming slang for "sun.") And then, ever so casually, he points out, "Everybody thinks I'm crazy / Everybody says I'm dumb / But when I see the people shouting with each other / I'd rather be an out-of-work bum." So here I am, the night before the election, with nothing to do except finally clean my apartment and go walk my dog. Okay, today the weather's gray and overcast and a little chilly, but I'm heading outdoors anyway -- gotta go soak up that currant bun for a change.

Sitting in the Midday Sun sample

7 comments:

IƱaki said...

Congratulations Holly for finishing the book. Now the fact there is no sun is the only reason why you're not sitting on it.

This song brings me sad memories but I love it too, it's a perfect example of Ray being Ray. GSTK!

Uncle E said...

HUGE congrats! And I never tire of your Lowe kudos...Great Kinks song too, BTW, and I have forever been a big fan of the more flamboyant side of R and R. Just rediscovered the joys of the OST to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Still a blast!

Mark said...

Congrats on finishing the book!

This is a great song, Ray does have lots of sitting songs, never thought of that before. Even Sunny Afternoon is kind of a sitting song, as everything is collapsing all around the narrator. Sitting in the Midday Sun seems like a sequel to Sitting By the Riverside to me, and I don't mean that in a bad way. They're just similar songs. And Midday Sun also fits nicely into the long line of Ray songs criticizing modern civilization, and yearning for a return to a simpler time.

Thanks for the Cockney slang, I had never figured that out either. But I do know one rhyming Cockney slang that's a Kinks song: harry rag is a cigarette. (That's not tough to figure out, though.)

Natsthename said...

Congratulations on your book completion! WHew!!

Anonymous said...

No Kidding ,

I just read your article in the BlogsCritics Review, Published October 27, 2007 on Ray Davies - Working Man's Cafe album .

Your comments called my attention and I just came to your blog and ( coincidence happens ) your today´s title is: "Sitting in the Midday Sun" / The Kinks " .

This is my firt visit to your blog . I will read it first and shall come back with more comments, later today or tomorrow .

I´m a big fan of Kinks , Lowe and sixties groups

greetings from Brazil

Bob Carnier

Holly A Hughes said...

Greetings, Bob. It's probably no coincidence you hit me on a day I was writing about the Kinks -- it happens more often than not!

Thanks for all your congrats, guys. It does feel good to have that monkey off my back.

Anonymous said...

It's hard not to like "Sitting In The Midday Sun," with its carefree words and airy feel. I like it much better than "Sweet Genevieve," where I seem to get a little "Rocky Racoon" vibe.

I saw Ray and Kompany perform Preservation ACT I & II in both Brockport, NY, and at the magnificent (mini Radio City Music Hall) Lowe's Theatre in Buffalo, NY in the mid 70's.

Opening act was Steve Harley and The Cockney Rebels.

Rich