Friday, March 31, 2017

The Kinks and Kinda Nice Turns at the Kinks

Here's another post inspired by something I read on another blog. Last weekend, our pal CC at Charity Chic Music wrote about a couple of 'State of Confusion'-era singles from the Kinks, and it was so nice to hear those songs -- lo these many years -- that I have done almost nothing but listen to the band in an obsessive manner ever since. Here are a couple I can't seem to get out of my head, along with a couple of covers that, at the very least, hold up to the originals. Some of you may even go a step further, but I can't quite bring myself to type those words.

"Stop Your Sobbing" is an early song written by Ray Davies for the self-titled debut album in 1964. It's not much like "You Really Got Me" and their other raucous singles of the period. In fact, it has more in common with radio hits from the late '50s, but most rock 'n' roll bands were forced to fill out albums with popular covers from yesteryear anyway. It just so happens this song was an original. For the record, less than half of the album contained songs written by Davies. What draws me to "Stop Your Sobbing" are the vocals. Ray's pleas to his girlfriend are dramatic for the listener... even if they don't seem to have worked with the girlfriend. Pretenders did a fine cover of the song for their debut single in 1980, and it's interesting to hear a female deliver the lines. As we all know, the cover led to an appearance in the charts and a relationship between Ray and Chrissie Hynde.

The Kinks - "Stop Your Sobbing"
Pretenders - "Stop Your Sobbing"

"David Watts" opened the terrific 1967 album 'Something Else' and also appeared as the B-side to the "Autumn Almanac" single. For most of my youth, I wondered, who is this mysterious David Watts? Is he real? Why does everyone want to be him? It wasn't until Ray's biography 'X-Ray' that the puzzle pieces fell into place and I realized "why all the girls in the neighbourhood try to go out with David Watts" but none of them succeed. Certainly a fascinating fella in rock lore. The Jam covered this one and released it as one half of a double A-side single with "'A' Bomb In Wardour Street" in 1978. Truly an inspired walk up to 'All Mod Cons,' especially considering Bruce Foxton was the one who took lead vocals.

The Kinks - "David Watts"
The Jam - "David Watts"

I can't stop. One more. Let's remember Chuck Berry with a previously unreleased take of "Too Much Monkey Business" that first appeared as a bonus track on the Kinks' debut album reissue in 1998. It's even more frantic than the version that showed up on the album in '64. Hold on tight! The Kinks know how to treat a cover too.

"Too Much Monkey Business" (Unreleased Alternate Take)

Update: We have an interesting comment string going on here (see below). CC, thanks to our friend JC, here is your perfect post. Drew, my apologies. For the rest of you, what do think of this cover? This is a tough one for me. It doesn't get much better than "Victoria" and "Waterloo Sunset." Not sure if I want them covered, you know?

The Kinks - "Victoria"
The Fall - "Victoria"

Update No. 2: Nicely done, JTFL. Haven't listened to 'Kojak Variety' in ages. You might remember Elvis Costello recorded most of the songs for that album many years before they saw the light of day. When I saw him in the summer of '91, I believe he thought the release was imminent. The band spent much of the show playing covers, many of them obscure to his fans, including "Hidden Charms," "Strange," "Everybody's Crying Mercy" and "Bama Lama Bama Loo," all of which appeared on the album four years later. There were many puzzled and disappointed faces in the crowd that night, but I was not one of them.

Update 3: Good call by Rol. From Kirsty MacColl's 1989 album 'Kites,' here is her take on "Days" too. Kirsty, you are missed.

The Kinks - "Days"
Elvis Costello - "Days"
Kirsty MacColl - "Days"

22 comments:

charity chic said...

Victoria by The Fall and you would have the perfect threefer Brian

Brian said...

Embarrassed to say I don't have the Fall's cover of Victoria, CC. Such a great song, though. I'll seek it out in a bit.

JC said...

https://app.box.com/shared/b81herl8jk

Here you go Brian.....

drew said...

As someone who would call themselves a bit of a Fall fan, I can't abide the version of Victoria by the gruppe. I do however love the Pretenders version of SYS.

Brian said...

JC, What took you so long? Ha! Now that's what I call service.

Drew, You like the Fall? Kidding. I'll put this one up so we can hear from the peanut gallery.

JTFL said...

This peanut appreciates all the foregoing and humbly observes that Elvis C. did a nice job with 'Days' on the Kojak Variety LP. And, much as I'd like to say that long-time favorites The Stranglers also did a nice job with their version of All Day and All of the Night, I'm afraid it's not that good.

Echorich said...

Have to say when I think of Kinks covers, Victoria actually comes to mind first! I've always thought of it as a bit of a piss-take by The Fall, but one that works so well.
David Watts is as much a Jam song for me as it is Kinks song - well to be honest, it's a Jam song in my mind.
And finally I will have to say that Chrissie H. owns Stop Your Sobbing.
I can be a bit of a contrarian when it comes to 60s bands...it comes from growing up "the older brother" in the 70s with Bowie, Bolan and Roxy Music and then discovering Punk all before I was 17...But of all the 60s bands, The Kinks rate the highest for me.

Brian said...

JTFL, Yes! Completely forgot about that one. Going to add that one now. Any excuse to play Costello.

Echorich, I have listened to the Fall's version a few times tonight. At first I thought it didn't work, but now I'm not so sure. Like you say, a bit of a piss-take, but they did capture something. I may like a few more '60s bands than you. I more or less absconded my mother's record collection when I was 10 years old. The Kinks are in my top 3 from that era for sure.

George said...

A veritable plethora of songs to listen to this Sunny Afternoon at the farm. Ehorich is spot on when he says that The Pretenders cover is far superior, maybe it's because it's better known and the one most of us are more familiar with? Having daid that, and echoing Echorich the contrarian in me prefers the David Watts original despite the fact that The Jam's version is better known. (Then again, I like The Jam as much as I like Springsteen......). ANd Drew is wrong, The Fall's version is far far superior. But all in all these tracks combine to make a fine listening experience, thank you.

Rol said...

Can't argue with any of your choices, though I'd have a devil of a time choosing between Elvis, Kirsty and Ray for Days.

charity chic said...

Good call Rol - let's hear it for Kirsty

Brian said...

I'm going to put that one up. As CC says, good call, Rol. We all miss her.

Brian said...

I forgot the Jam was not your thing. Love 'em. Pretenders did a nice job with that cover. Nick Lowe produced it, but he refused to produce the rest of the album, saying the band wasn't going to go anywhere. Must not have been any hard feelings because she sang background vocals on a Lowe album not too terribly long ago.

Swiss Adam said...

I heard the Fall's Victoria before the Kinks' Victoria, so that's the version for me. Ditto The Jam.

JC said...

The Kinks v The Jam : away win
The Kinks v The Pretenders : away win
The Kinks v The Fall : score draw
The Kinks v Kirsty MacColl : away win
The Kinks v Elvis C : home win

I'm with Echorich on 60s bands. Very few do it for me. Not a fan of The Beatles, like some of the Rolling Stones, like The Kinks, not a fan of The Who. No logical explanation for such views....it's a bit like art...I know what I like but incapable of articulating why.

Brian said...

That's a lot of scoring to follow, JC. I think I agree with you on every count except the Fall. Still giving that one to the home team.

The Swede said...

I'm a latecomer to this entertaining discussion and choosing a winner out of some of these ties is a bit like having to pick your favourite child - not that I have any kids, but you know what I mean. They each have their merits as has been discussed, though I will just add that this 56 year old still can't make it through Elvis Costello's interpretation of 'Days' without feeling the sting of tears welling in my eyes.
One of my own personal favourite Kinks covers has to be The Chocolate Watchband's version of 'I'm Not Like Everybody Else'.

Brian said...

Inspired choice, Swede. If I wasn't out of town, I would add that one right now. Perhaps a post at a later date.

C said...

Also a latecomer but yes, great discussion - and talking of the Pretenders covering the Kinks I must say I really like not just Stop Your Sobbing but also I Go To Sleep (couldn't see it mentioned here but forgive me if I missed it!) Just such a great song I just don't think anyone could mess it up.

Brian said...

Right on, C. In fact, as much as I like the Kinks, I might give the nod to Pretenders on I Go to Sleep too.

Walter said...

To finish this great discussion as the latest latecomer. I always favoured Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks and so I would be add David Bowie's version to this. Anyway - a great post that made my day, Brian

Brian said...

Waterloo Sunset is the best song the Kinks ever did, Walter, and it is among my favorite songs of all time.