5 Above picks five great songs within a specific category. Look out below–these are five that rise above.
THE KINKS IN THE ’70s
5 Above was inspired by a suggestion from writer, cartoonist, and musician Dan Pavelich, who asked me to come up with a piece about my five favorite Kinks songs. The problem: I’m not gonna pick just five favorite Kinks songs. Nope. Not happening. Man, I haven’t even been able to pick out what score and a quarter Kinks songs will make my long-promised All-Time 25 Kinks piece. A mere five Kinks songs…?!
Still, a request is a request. Dan posts my stuff twice a week on his pop culture website Pop-A-Looza, and I wanna [ahem] give the people what they want. And thinking about how I could carry out Dan’s request led me to the idea of picking five Kinks songs from the ’70s. Oooo, and maybe a second piece about five Kinks songs from the ’80s! I probably couldn’t come up with five from the ’90s (though I haven’t ruled it out), and I couldn’t limit myself to just five from the ’60s. But five from the ’70s. Five from the ’80s. And then maybe some other lists of five in other categories: five that I think are notable, five that rise above the rest.
5 Above. And just like that, I had a brand new series for Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). This inaugural edition of 5 Songs is a request for Dan Pavelich of Kenosha, Wisconsin. It appears first at Pop-A-Looza, and then migrates to its retirement home at Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do). Everybody’s a dreamer, everybody’s a star. I think I hear a song coming on….
This is the most famous study of celebrity and idolatry in the Ray Davies songbook. It takes some cues from the wistful reverence of “The Village Green Preservation Society.” In some ways, it kinda presages the study of Frankenstein’s-monster stardom in The Kinks Present A Soap Opera, albeit more kindly, informed by affection for silver-screen icons rather than distrust in the cynical process that manufactures pop stars.
Everybody’s a dreamer. Everybody’s a star. And success walks hand in hand with failure along Hollywood Boulevard. Nostalgia for the pop culture of the first half of the 20th century was omnipresent in the early ’70s, and no other song can express that interest with an eloquence to match “Celluloid Heroes.”
The 1977 Sleepwalker album was released just as I was becoming increasingly fascinated by The Kinks. It was the right album at the right time, unencumbered by the larger themes of the group’s then-recent series of concept albums, fittingly sprightly and energetic at a time when punk rock was also about to draw my interest. I saw The Kinks perform the album’s title track on TV, on both The Mike Douglas Show and NBC’s Saturday Night. Each of these home tube appearances was supplemented by older Kinks material–“Celluloid Heroes” on the Douglas show, an exciting medley of “You Really Got Me,” “All Day And All Of The Night,” “Well Respected Man,” and “Lola” on the show soon to be renamed Saturday Night Live–reinforcing the connection between past and present. The Kinks weren’t back; they’d never gone away.
I wound up absolutely obsessing over a Sleepwalker album track and single called “Juke Box Music.” That song’s bouncy saga of a girl who maintains a far-too-literal belief in the lyrics of the songs she loves resonated within my own ongoing conflict of thinking too much versus not thinking nearly enough, taking things too seriously (and being waaaay too thin-skinned) versus developing an elusive emotional and (quasi-) intellectual balance. As a college freshman in the fall of ’77, I wrote a short story inspired by my interpretation of “Jukebox Music.” In the spring of ’78, I saw The Kinks in concert. “Jukebox Music” was their encore. Right place at the right time. God save serendipity, and God save “Jukebox Music.”
“Lola” was the first Kinks song I ever knew. I’m old enough that I should remember “You Really Got Me” and “All Day And All Of The Night” from the ’60s, but while I’m sure I heard them, I wasn’t truly conscious of them prior to my sudden plunge into the Kinks canon in late ’76/early ’77 (a tale told here). “Lola” is no longer one of my key go-to Kinks songs, but I still love it, and I would be remiss if I didn’t include it in a listing of my favorite ’70s Kinks songs.
No More Looking Back
YES!! Concurrent to my deepening interest in The Kinks in 1977, WOUR-FM in Utica was still playing this sublime track from the group’s 1975 album Schoolboys In Disgrace. “No More Looking Back” was as much a part of my essential Kinks indoctrination as “Well Respected Man” or “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion,” and it probably played a larger part than either or both of those ’60s classics. The song aches with regret and hurt, feigning a resolve that is not yet set, and soldiering on nonetheless. My # 1 Kinks tune of the ’70s, and one of my top picks in any era.
You Can’t Stop The Music
Other than Schoolboys In Disgrace, I mostly missed out on The Kinks’ concept album phase. I saw Preservation Act 1, Preservation Act 2, and The Kinks Present A Soap Opera in the bins at Gerber Music, but I didn’t hear any of that until many years later. And while I appreciate them and dig each of them in its own right, I can’t rank them alongside The Kinks’ 1960s album masterpieces like Face To Face, The Village Green Preservation Society, or Arthur.
With that said, “You Can’t Stop The Music” is (along with “[A] Face In The Crowd”) one of a couple of standout selections on Soap Opera. It serves as a de facto statement of intent, and a reminder of the resilience of the sounds we adore. We’ll be revisiting that theme when 5 Above turns its dim widdle spotlight on The Kinks in the ’80s.
BUBBLING UNDER: Muswell Hillbilly, One Of The Survivors
‘Cause I’m a Muswell Hillbilly boy, and ya can’t ignore a song that name-checks Johnny and the Hurricanes.
WHEN 5 ABOVE RETURNS: THE KINKS IN THE ’80s