Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Lost and Found" / The Kinks

Sure, I knew there was a hurricane on its way on September 27, 1985. The weather forecasts had been calling Hurricane Gloria the "storm of the century" all week; office workers in glass skyscrapers were frantically taping their windows, and plenty of folks I knew just didn't go to work. But I did, even though I worked on the 27th floor. I sat in that Midtown skyscraper that morning, feeling the girders around me sigh as the building swayed in the howling wind. My boss, Chuck, panicked and told us all to go home, before they turned the elevators off. I got to ground level and fought my way to the subway station, shouldering into fierce gusts of wind, splattered by lashing squalls of rain.

And by the time I emerged from the 1 train at 79th Street, the sky was blue and calm. A free day off from work!! Sweeeeeeeett! My husband and I hurried to the local video store to get a movie to watch on our unexpected vacation day -- only to discover that everybody else on the Upper West Side had had the same idea. The streets may have been sunny, but the video store shelves were swept bare.

I had no idea at the time that Ray Davies was living through the same storm that day, a mere seven blocks south of me. And because I had fallen off the Kinks bandwagon -- driven away by the arena-rock years -- I didn't hear the Kinks' 1986 album Think Visual, where Ray Davies sings, in the opening lines of "Lost and Found": "Waiting for the hurricane / To hit New York City. . . . " But eventually I found my way back into the Kinks fold, and when I finally discovered this album -- and this song -- I felt a shiver of recognition.


"Lost and Found" makes a frequent appearance on my floating list of Top Ten Kinks Songs (how hard it is to choose just ten); I think of it as the companion song to "Stormy Sky," not just because of the storm but because of its sexy syncopation, the tenderness of Ray's vocals, and the central image of lovers finding shelter in each others' arms. It ain't often you find a Ray Davies song about two people simply happy to be together; grab 'em wherever you can.

Of course the storm is a metaphor -- of course! -- for all the crises life is bound to bring; having a relationship that can help you through that is worth more than gold. But Ray works the metaphor beautifully here -- "Somebody said it's hit the bay . . . We're near the eye of the storm . . . They're putting up the barricades . . . " It's the anticipation that gets you, battening the hatches and all that, as he sees from afar "the hurricane crossing the coast line."

But it wouldn't be a Ray Davies song if he didn't also throw in some quirky details, like "And all the bag ladies / Better put their acts together" and "the old sea dog says shiver me timbers / The sky's gone black / And it's like the dead of winter." Why do I love those lines? I don't know. Maybe it's the whimsical way Ray sings them -- as if this love makes him so secure, he can even see absurdity in the face of disaster.

My favorite bit is the bridge: "This thing is bigger than the both of us / It's gonna put us in our place." It's a brilliant, dual-edged line -- on one hand, the storm is bigger than they are, but it's also their love that is bigger, like the old movie cliche (think Humphrey Bogart -- "This thing is bigger than the two of us, baby.") They're overwhelmed by love, amazed that they can give up being separate and start being a couple.

In "Stormy Sky" the "lost" part of the equation was still stronger; now it's the "found" that matters. He still seems astounded by it happening -- "in the nick of time," he marvels. "We were lost and found, just in time / Now we've got no time to waste." Or, as he realizes in a later version of the chorus: " We came through the storm / Now it all seems clear / We were lost and found, standing here / Looking at the new frontier." It's not just a clear sky he's seeing there; it's the possibility of where his life could go, now that he's got her.

This isn't the way a teenager sees life; this is how you see it when you're middle-aged and have been through your share of painful affairs. When you've given up hope that it's ever gonna happen for you, that you won't get your Hollywood ending. And then joy surprises you, just like that -- "in the nick of time." Bravo, Ray.


1 comment:

wwolfe said...

I'd never heard this song before listening to it while reading your critique. Lovely work - and by that I mean both Ray and you.

The "looking at the new frontier" is a nice acknowledgment of Ray's fresh status as an American. Musically, what strikes me is that this is the most comfortable the band ever sounded with the musical stylistic trademarks of the 1980s: the jumpy keyboard line, the lead guitar (recognizable as Dave, but clearly influenced by the arena rock sound of bands like REO), and the background vocals going "Doo doo doo." Each aspect makes me think "mid-1980s," but each also sounds like a natural expression of Kink-ness, rather than a labored aping of then-current trends. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.