Sunday, June 03, 2012

Kings of Anglo-Kosmic Musick

Last week we batted around the subject of Cosmo-American music. This week we shall venture into the subject of Anglo-Cosmic music, of which the undisputed kings would have to be the Kinks.

Obviously there were plenty of great groups and artists in the British invasion of the 1960s, and in many ways this movement remains the gold standard of rock music in general. But most of them were more American than Americans, e.g., early Stones, Animals, Yardbirds, Small Faces, Dusty Springfield, Them, Hollies, all of whom were slavish devotees of Cosmo-American music.

The Kinks, however, were different. You will notice, for example, that most of the great British groups didn't sing with a British accent. In fact, one of the reasons the Beatles were such effective rockers is that the Liverpool accent is closer to American. In particular, they pronounce a hard "a"; imagine how different it sound if it were I Want to Hold Your Hond or It's Been a Hod Days Night, or Kant Buy Me Love. It's difficult to sing rock with a lilt in your voice.

Peter Noone also sang with a conspicuous British accent, but Herman's Hermits don't quite make the cosmic cut -- although they are definitely underrated, or unfairly maligned. They especially served a niche that opened up when the Beatles started producing more serious music in 1965, with Rubber Soul, and then 1966, with Revolver. The Monkees then rushed in to provide that service in late 1966, ousting the Hermits from the stage. Teen idolatry is a vicious and unforgiving idiom.

Another British group that definitely sounds British is the Zombies. In fact, they threw some American soul and R & B into their sets, which always sounded a little silly. Imagine Harry Potter singing I'm a Road Runner, Honey!, or I Just Want to Make Love to You.

The Who had some British elements and concerns, for example, Quadrophenia, the subject of which -- Mods vs. Rockers -- was a wholly British phenomenon. They were also fairly ineffective at trying to reproduce straight covers of American R & B, and didn't come into their own until they developed a unique style of bombastic order from chaos. But that style was greatly influenced by the emergence of the heavier sound of Hendrix in early '67.

David Bowie was pretty British, especially early on, in that he retained some Kink-like elements of British "music hall" style (e.g. Hunky Dory). I would also nominate Fairport Convention, who were to British folk what the Byrds were to American folk; and Pentangle, who also threw in some jazzy elements, forging a unique blend of British folk-jazz.

I first became a big-time Kinks fan with the release of the Kink Kronicles in 1972. They had hardly been heard from in America during their golden age between 1966 and 1972, so the album came as a revelation. The music they produced during that time didn't sound anything like their contemporaries, which is one reason why it still sounds fresh. Like most great composers, Ray Davies created his own unique musical world which is at a right angle, so to speak, to profane time.

Kompulsive Kinks kollectors are all akwiver about this upcoming six-disc box set of BBC performances, from the mid-'60s all the way to the 1990s. (This is without question the best existing Kinks kompilation.)

I stumbled on the following video this morning. It's touching where Davies gets choked up at the beginning of Days, since the performance was dedicated to his recently departed bandmate, Pete Quaife, the original Kinks bassist:


Rick said...

Not much to add other than I could take or leave The Kinks until only recently when I stumbled on this movie called The Darjeeling Limited which features a couple of great Kinks songs in the soundtrack. Like a good exegesis often does for me with scripture it took a good director to show me the way. Apparently.

Gagdad Bob said...

It seems that most people are only familiar with the more commercially successful arena-rocking Kinks of the 1980s, by which time they were well past their prime. Their legacy basically stands on a series of albums, singles, and EPs from 1965 to 1972, with a margin of diminishing returns thereafter, although with the occasional gem tossed in.

Gagdad Bob said...

But if you look at that body of work, it easily stands up to the big three of Lennon-McCartney, Jagger-Richards, and Pete Townshend, or in America, Dylan and Brian Wilson....

SippicanCottage said...

You have to have a modicum of affection for something to jape at it properly. Otherwise it comes off mean. Spinal Tap is funny, for instance. The Rutles is funny. The Kinks are piquant.

There's a sort of perfection in this one:

Long ago life was clean
Sex was bad and obscene
And the rich were so mean
Stately homes for the lords
Croquet lawns, village greens
Victoria was my queen

I was born, lucky me
In a land that I love
Though I am poor, I am free
When I grow I shall fight
For this land I shall die
Let her sun never set

Land of hope and gloria
Land of my Victoria

Canada to India
Australia to Cornwall
Singapore to Hong Kong
From the west to the east
From the rich to the poor
Victoria loved them all

You have to sing it: Can-A-Duh to In-jahh!, of course.

johnsal said...

Did no one else notice the rather large Che Guevara image red flag flying at the left of the stage? At Ray Davies request? Or solely the responsibility of the brain dead organizers of this concert? Color me curious, but definitely a bit deflated.

Gagdad Bob said...

I would be shocked if he had anything to do with it. It's a huge annual festival that has hosted just about everybody. I don't recall RD ever making an overt political statement, and his songs have a notably conservative bent. He's also notoriously frugal -- not the sort of guy to go in for confiscatory leftism.

ge said...

I probably am a bit more enamoured of Brit. rock greats than American, especially the psychier out-there ones. Syd is also sometimes cited [alliteratively] as one of the first brits to flaunt that accent.
My first Kinks was VICTORIA, spurred on by the rolling stone hype review of it as a masterpiece concept album, which it is!. Later in the Apple some bandmates had all their stuff and i began to borrow-suss Ray's prolific wondrousness, from See My Friends thru From The Morning to the End of the Day thru Waterloo Sunset* [his masterliest masterpiece??], Celluloid Heroes,
Animal Farm: that super rising chorus-hook!.

Then there's Marc Bolan, the Incredible String Band [scottish], Procol, early Eno-Roxy, and boatloads of obscuro's
like Jimmy campbell, the Brit Nirvana, John Cale [welsh], Badfinger!...]

*my solo unplugged version:

Gagdad Bob said...

The Syd-era Floyd are indeed quite British. Could never get into solo Syd, though. Strikes me as the detritus of a shattered mind. Procol Harum, no doubt. My favorites are Broken Barricades and the live at Edmonton album. Roxy is a good choice. Badfinger too....

Gagdad Bob said...

ge -- you'd love the British Nuggets box. I skimmed the best off the top and made a great single CD out of it...

mushroom said...

The Kinks did a lot of good stuff. A song like "You Really Got Me" never grows old. I kind of fell out with them over "Well-Respected Man", but I got over it.

I would like to add an honorable mention for the Troggs. My wife was a very cute little majorette in high school and used to do a routine to "Wild Thing". Groovy. It's funny how you get attached to certain songs that aren't necessarily that great -- though "Wild Thing" is good. I am the same way about Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Mississippi Kid" and Nazareth's cover of "Vigilante Man". They evoke moods.

Gagdad Bob said...

Off hand, I can't think of any other notables from Andover aside for the Troggs and my father, Gagdad Sr.

Thud said...

A couple of posts down on my blog you can see me singing away in my finest scouse. Your observation on the nasal aspect of c and w is interesting as it is a little known fact that the bastion of c and w in the Liverpool, nicely observed.

ge said...

=British Nirvana

Skorpion said...

The Troggs have become as famous for this (NSFW) studio argument, as for any of their classic singles:

ge said...

SPEAKING OF xrated rants,anyone heard Jim Morrison & Jimi Hendrix's impromptu jam/song?[title best left too imaginations]

Gagdad Bob said...

I should have mentioned Roy Wood & the Move. Just as eccentric as the Kinks....