Monday, November 02, 2009

"Nothin' In the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl" / The Kinks

Back in the early 60s, when Kinda Kinks was released, singles and albums were more or less separate. The Kinks had a string of hit singles in 1965 -- "Tired of Waiting For You," "Set Me Free," "Who'll Be the Next in Line" -- but only "Tired of Waiting" was on this LP. And back then, I was 11 years old, with only enough babysitting money to buy 45s. Naturally I spent my nickels and dimes on "She's Not There," "I Don't Want to See You Again," and "Yesterday," not the Kinks' hard-rocking, sexually charged singles. I had my priorities.

If I had bought Kinda Kinks, though, I bet I would soon have been cutting photos of Ray and Dave Davies out of 16 Magazine and Tiger Beat, to tape to my mirror alongside Paul McCartney and Peter Asher. This album is packed with the yearning, sensitive side of Ray Davies. Just listen to the song titles: "Look For Me Baby," "Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight," "Don't Ever Change," "So Long," "You Shouldn't Be Sad." (Meanwhile oversexed brother Dave is tearing his way through "Got My Feet On the Ground" and "Come On Now"...). They were just the kind of dreamy stuff I would have loved at age 11.

I've already written about my favorite song on this album, "Something Better Beginning" -- a neglected masterpiece, IMO. But a close runner-up has to be "Nothin' In The World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl." I have to giggle at that crazy long title (you'd think it was a comic novelty song) and all those apostrophied contractions. But behind that oddball title is a brilliant little song. Ray probably tossed it off in half an hour, but that doesn't mean it isn't great.

While most songs on this album start off with a bang, "NITWCSMWBTG" (gotta go for the acronym) begins gently, in a melancholy minor key, with Ray singing softly over an acoustic guitar. Eventually we get a little percussion and electric guitar, stepping up the bluesy factor, but it remains marvelously stripped-down and intimate -- you can just imagine the singer lying in his bed brooding late at night. Despite that word-drunk title, the lyrics are fairly basic, in true blues style. "Met a girl, fell in love, glad as I can be" -- the old story. But Ray Davies in love is never a happy man; he's not worrying about that girl because he wants to protect and care for her. No, he's jealous, suspicious, possessive, and obsessive. (Remember, this is the man who wrote "All Day and All Of the Night"). "But I think all the time, is she true to me?" -- does this man have trust issues or what?

Not that he doesn't have reason. As the song picks up steam, he reveals that she has been two-timing him (he may be paranoid, but people ARE out to get him). "Now she tries to tell the truth, and I just can't believe" -- he's wracked with doubt. He can't quit her, as he explains in verse three, "Tried to put her out of my mind, she'll only cause me grief / I love that girl, whatever she's done." But his wounded ego is caught up in it too, as he admits in verse four: "I ache inside every time I think, I know it's just my pride." The lyrics may sound simple, but their psychological acuity is dead-on.

I love how the melodic line mirrors the singer's anguished to-and-fro. Line one of each verse morosely works its way down the scale, hitting the gravelly bottom of Ray's register. Line two goes the opposite direction, fluttering upward in his high voice, as if reaching for hope. Line three shifts into major key, but hangs anxiously on two chromatic notes; line four resolves it all, cresting over the top and coming home to roost on "worryin' 'bout that girl." For worrying IS his home state, where he's bound to end up.

Ah, the torture of being Ray Davies. It just makes a girl want to hold his hand, mop his fevered brow, smooth his ruffled hair...well, like I said, I'd have been cutting out those photos from the teen magazines. That sensitive soul -- he needs a better girlfriend. Any volunteers?

TOMORROW: The Kink Kontroversy and "Where Have All The Good Times Gone"


Vivalabeat said...

*rises hand*
I'm a volunteer! :) I've always been. :)

Holly, I enjoy your blog A LOT although I've never told your about it I've been reading it for a long time (I found it long before I appeared on gRayboard :)).

Holly A Hughes said...

How sweet, Viva, thanks! (And you know I'm volunteering right next to you...)

wwolfe said...

Did Ray use this same blues riff for "Last of the Steam Powered Trains"? Not that I'm complaining: like a Plains Indian, a good songwriter uses every part of the buffalo - and if he can figure out a way to use it twice, so much the better. The early Kinks never sounded comfortable, or convincing, when they played one of the de rigueur blues or R&B staples trotted out by English bands of the day to prove their street cred to their peers. This song, however, is both a good pop song AND good use of a blues element. They don't sound like their speaking a foreign language, in other words - they sound like they've folded the blues into their own unique idiom.

Holly A Hughes said...

Not LOTSPT, but possibly "Big Sky," although it's considerably modified there. Mind you, it would be Dave using the riff, not Ray. (Gotta give Dave credit where credit is due.)