Fall is hands-down my favorite season. I mentioned that to my husband the other day and he huffed and said, "I guess." But it isn't up to him; it's MY favorite season.
First, because it's the time of year when you go back to school, and I was always that annoying girl who couldn't wait for school to start again. (Cue up the Staples commercial.)
Second, I have a fall birthday (October 8 if you have your calendar handy), and third, I grew up in Indiana where the fall colors are every bit as awesome as they are in New England. Though, lucky me, I now live in New England where I can enjoy them there too.
Plus I wrote my college thesis on John Keats, whose ode "To Autumn" is on my short list of the greatest poems of all time.
So naturally this Kinks song should tick all my boxes. But oh my brothers and sisters, it is a Kinks song, written by the Kinks' presiding genius Ray Davies, and therefore . . . well, sit back and strap in.
It opens with timeless pastoral charm: “From the dew-soaked hedge
creeps a crawly caterpillar"; "Breeze blows leaves of a musty-colored
yellow"; his friends gather for “tea and toasted
buttered currant buns.” The sound is an old-timey music hall softshoe, with corny
horns, plinky piano, and sugary backing ooh’s; good times, good times.
But once Ray Davies has hooked us, he begins to sneak in class details, the satire layering in plumping rhythms: “I like my football on a Saturday, / Roast beef on Sundays, all right. / I go to Blackpool for my holidays, / Sit in the open sunlight.” (Any Ted Lasso fans here?)
In the last verse, Ray lets his narrator hang himself: “This is my street / And I’m never gonna leave it,” he stoutly declares, “And I’m always gonna stay here / If I live to be 99 / ‘Cos all the people I meet / Seem to come from my street”). Well, yeah, if you never go anywhere else, that’s who you’re bound to meet, innit?
This single was released October 13, 1967. I see it as an answer to the Beatles' single "Rain," which came out in May 1966: The Beatles dreamily sitting in an English garden, waiting for the sun, while the Kinks -- blocked by a US ban from touring internationally -- focused on the guy who swept the garden's leaves into his sack. Yin and yang.
But what strikes me most in 2021 is how eerily well Ray Davies captured the owner of that garden, that little tract of English earth. Far from being a nature lover, a friend of the planet, he closes himself off from everything outside his garden gate. He votes for Brexit; and if he's American, he votes for white supremacy, for anti-vaxxing, for Trump.
On the other hand, it's just a brilliant pop song, where moon-and-June love lyrics have been thrown out the window in favor of sneaky satire and a damn good pub singalong.
God save the Kinks.