"Village Green Preservation Society" / The Kinks
Forgive me for being a little out of the loop over the past few days -- but after last weekend's show, I'm deep in Ray Davies World, and once there it's always very hard to get out. So please forgive me one last Kinks-related post.
I really didn't expect to hear this song last Friday night. Ray has often enough sung the pensive ballad "Village Green" from the same 1968 album, but this title track is much more of an oddity. Forget music hall; this song goes all the way into military brass band territory, minus an oompah here or there. (The only thing that keeps it in the rock repertoire at all is Dave Davies' guitar licks, and some loony Beach Boy-ish oohs in the middle eight.) It's the earnest chirpy anthem of the village green's defenders, and I can almost imagine it done a la Monty Python, sung by men in tweed caps and women in twin sets and sensible shoes.
If you've ever seen Ray Davies live, you know that he really doesn't let you escape without singing along to every song -- and stumbling through the lyrics last Friday, I realized how hard it is to keep straight all the many aliases Ray claims for the Kinks: the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society, the Draught Beer Preservation Society, the Custard Pie Appreciation Consortium, the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular, the Office Block Persecution Affinity, the Skyscraper Condemnation Affiliate. (I think there really is a Draught Beer Preservation Society, isn't there?). Those last two are like lead-ins to "Muswell Hillbillies," those cookie-cutter towers where the relocated villagers are asked to move. The fact that Fortis Green -- the North London neighborhood where the Davies brothers grew up -- is hardly an idyllic English village is beside the point.
We did a little better with all the retro items that we are requested to help save: Donald Duck, Vaudeville, Variety, strawberry jam (and all the different varieties), Mrs. Mopp, Old Mother Riley, Fu Manchu, Moriarty, Dracula, Tudor houses, antique tables, billiards, and (my favorite trio) "little shops, china cups, and virginity." Some of this is incredibly arcane, but those three fragile items tucked lovingly in there are just too precious. And the cleverest rhyme of all? To rhyme with "consortium", "God save the George Cross and all those who were awarded 'em." You really have to be quick to get all those syllables in.
It's all about "preserving the old ways from being abused / Protecting the new ways for me and for you / What more can we do." What more can we do, indeed? These things needed preserving in 1968; it's even more urgent nowadays. This song should be dated, but it isn't at all -- in fact, Ray's still pleading the case of the dying High Street in "Working Man's Cafe," which came out just this year. It fit into Friday night's show just fine.
It must be amazing to have a catalog this deep. Ray can keep reaching into that treasure trove and pull out new songs for every tour; for every show, practically. I never thought I'd see him sing this song (or "Starstruck" or "Shangri-La"); we got all three Friday night. No wonder I'm still dazed!