Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"The Way Love Used To Be" / The Kinks

Well, I had to buy Percy to be a Kinks kompletist -- but I can't say I listen to it much. As a film soundtrack (and by all accounts the film is truly dreadful), it caters to the story rather than telling its own tale. All the Kinks play on it, but it doesn't much sound like a Kinks album.


"The Way Love Used to Be" may not sound like a Kinks song, but it's still simply gorgeous. It isn't just the orchestral arrangement that's unusual (the Kinks never got hooked on string quartets like some bands did); its tender quality is something Ray Davies rarely employed on Kinks records. It's the sort of stuff he could handily turn out for TV themes, however, as he did for several BBC productions, like "Until Death Us Do Part" (the British series that America's All In the Family was copied from). A handful of these and other stray tracks are cobbled together on the rogue album The Great Lost Kinks Album, issued in the US by Reprise Records after the Kinks had moved to RCA. (Every time the Kinks changed labels, the old label would crank out a couple of tacky compilations to recoup their lost investment.) And what do you know, "The Way Love Used to Be" also appears on TGLKA, where it fits in just fine.

Listen carefully and you'll discover that "The Way Love Used To Be" has all the hallmarks of a Ray Davies song -- the secret handshake, if you will. There's the yearning to escape ("I know a place not far from here / It's not far away, love, but if you come / I know a place where we'll be alone"), the nostalgia for times past ("And we'll talk of life, the way love used to be"), the horror of modern civilization ("And we'll find a way through the city streets / We'll find a way through the mad rushing crowd"). Although Ray sings it with a tremulous flutter, for once it doesn't sound campy to me -- no, it's wistful and yearning, not hiding behind a scrim of irony.

Yes, the arrangement is old-fashioned, like something from the 1940s or early 1950s, with a pillow of strings and delicate classical accents. It's movie music, pure and simple -- something that wouldn't be out of place in a film like Brief Encounter or Mrs. Miniver. But I get the idea that Ray loves old movies, that he's totally into recreating this romantic, gently melancholy sound.

So what was a song like this doing in a movie about the comic adventures of a man with a penis transplant? I swear, it would almost be worth watching Percy to find out.


UP NEXT: Muswell Hillbillies and "Have a Cuppa Tea"


Gary said...

I'm greatly enjoying your Kinks series -- it's making me catch Kinks fever all over again. At the same time, I'm kicking myself for never having replaced my LPs with the expanded CDs. Guess I'd better get started -- hope I can still find them. But first it's off to the store for today's choral release!

Mister Pleasant said...

Another great post, Holly. And a very astute observation about "The Way Love Used To Be" sounding like classic 40s/50s movie music. Indeed it does. The variety of unusual musical styles on Percy - none of which really fit into the usual Kinks sound - is part of its charm for me.

I surmised from your comments on today's forum post that the upcoming LPs from the RCA years are among you favorite Kinks' recordings. For me the Pye/Reprise years were the peak, although I have fond memories of buying all the RCA albums when they were first released, and all of the live Kinks shows I attended are from that period. The fact that the Kinks produced good work through several different periods is part of what makes it so wonderful to be a fan.

Vivalabeat said...

Thanks for this post, Holly. I admire your style. This song is one of my favorite and several lines are always with me. "And we'll find a way through the city streets We'll find a way through the mad rushing crowd." I love Ray's voice here. (I know, I love Ray's voice in general but it sounds different on this record.)

The moive isn't worth watching, believe me. Ray's music was written for that film but as I remember I couldn't focus on the plot, I was listening to music when I was watching Percy.

Holly A Hughes said...

I don't know, Viva -- how bad can this movie be? (famous last words....)

Yes, Mr P -- I'm a Muswell Hillbilly girl at heart. Don't know why, though. As these past few days have shown, the Pye/Reprise years were extraordinary. It does amaze how many different musical tastes can be accommodated under the umbrella of being Kinks fans.

Gary, I'll be curious to know how you like the Choral Collection. It's a strange and wonderful record, I think -- but some folks tend to see it as sacrilege!

Vivalabeat said...

Well... It may not be bad but it's really hard to understand WHY Ray wrote music for this movie. Oh well... We're talking about Ray, then it's a silly question. :)

Vivalabeat said...

I'm listening to Muswell Hillbillies for the second time today. It's sooooo different although released the same year.

I'm a Muswell Hillbilly girl at heart, too.
'They're never gonna kill my cockney pride!' (c) we-know-who.

Anonymous said...

We all know and love "The Way Love Used To Be," and I did see "Percy" late one night on channel 68 while vacationing in Myrtle Beach.

The thing about "TWLUTB," and, for instance, "Sitting In My Hotel," is how UNHEARD they are.

The one that I'm listening to a lot lately, listening in my head maybe a little too much lately, is another piece from "Percy," namely..."Dreams."

"When I look so far away
Please don't wake me from my gaze"
and then in Ray's MONSTER voice:
"I could be a king or a football star
Ride around in a big sports car..."

Like your blog.


This comment written by weight, not by volume. Though packed as full as practicable by modern automatic equipment, contents may have settled during shipping and handling.

Holly A Hughes said...

Oh, yes, "Dreams" is a beauty indeed.

I can just imagine finding "Percy" on late-night TV in a motel room -- the serendipity of that is just too good to miss!

Anonymous said...

Cute, Holly, about the serendipity and all. Let's just say that that I'll never order a sausage sub again (I know I must mean something by this).

I'm gonna really get into your past writings. Your blog is like finding issues of great magazines that you thought were gone forever.

By the way, have you done a listing of UNDERRATED Kinks songs ("Do you mean ALL of them, Rich?")?

Anyway, how about...um...let's see..."Summer's Gone?"

atoot, a rooty toot toot, a rooty toot toot.


Anonymous said...


I'm standing in the hallway
With water in my shoes.

Have a great night,