LIFE STINKS I LIKE THE KINKS #1 OUT NOW
The Kinks released, between 1965 and 1969, five exceptional albums from which the bulk of this magazine will be focused upon: The Kink Kontroversy, Face To Face, Something Else, Village Green, Arthur. Five albums… a couple dozen singles… plenty of grist for the mill…
This mag is an exploration of The Kinks, an apology for my obsession. It offers a hearing of The Kinks that celebrates their status as outsiders and fuck-ups, for they express all that is sick about life, they concoct crippling tragic scenarios, the hateful, spiteful, miserable, evil, sadistic and cruel cunts that they were transfigured into songs of rare beauty, grace, sensitivity, elevation and power. It is my hope that this will provoke the band to release their merciless grip over my listening, that through excessive ruminations on their more horrific enterprises they might be ruined for me. A cure?
For the first issue, I’ve taken some easy pieces and attempted to kick them around a little and show you where they bleed. There’s a lot to be said about well-researched journalist practice, about reading references tomes full of the historical event and its verifiable consequence, about knowing the slightest damn thing about your subject beyond a couple of hastily read interviews and throwaway lines in books with music as the general subject… I’m approaching this on the basis of a malfunction, to illustrate the consequences of disease, and through revealing such debased symptoms, conquer it. Any attempt to present myself with the appropriate scholastic dignity would be laughable.
All writing DX (Autumn 2013). Art by Avi Spivak.
I’M ON AN ISLAND
LOVE ME TIL THE SUN SHINES
SUNNY AFTERNOON b/w I’M NOT LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE
SOME MOTHERS SON
PICTURE BOOK / PEOPLE TAKE PICTURES OF EACH OTHER
More info and buy it here.
Looking for contributions / artwork for #2, out late 2013.
Life Stinks I Like The Kinks #1
A mag about The Kinks, obsession, disease, cruelty, black humour, Britain, dead end streets, sunny afternoons, etc.
(Art by Avi Spivak)
“You know the story behind ‘David Watts’? You want my version? I hope the old boy doesn’t object. We played this concert up at Peterborough, Rutland, and he seemed like a regular old army type. “Look boys, bit of a shithouse out here, why don’t you change at my house?” I said, “Oh, thank you, Mr Watts.” But I did notice he had white socks on! Anyway, we did the gig and after the gig he said, “Would you like to come back for a little celebration?” We said, “Yeah. Why not, we’re not doing anything. Be home in a couple hours.” We had a few glasses of pink champagne and all these men kept arriving. The head of the local constabulary and detectives, all the noted people in Rutland, all men escorted by little boys! And Mick, of course, and Dave homed in on the situation. Mick and Dave were dancing and Mick’s trousers fell down, and I said to David Watts, “Don’t you fancy that big hunky drummer?” He said, “Get lost, sweetie, it’s your brother I’m after.”
“I thought, “This is the chance to get Dave set up.” We had bottles and bottles of champagne and I said, “Dave, lisen. I know you don’t write a lot of songs and you’re a bit worried about the future. Get clued into this, Dave. I think he’s in love with you.” Dave went out to the garden, they had swings in the garden, I said to David Watts, “Well, you might be all right. He’s my brother and I’m very protective of him. If there is a liason with you, friendship, or affair, I want you to ensure Dave gets half of the house!” They were sat on this swing together holding hands! Dave didn’t fancy him. Simple as that. And David Watts was a bit shattered by it. I think Dave should have taken the offer up. But he came to see us in Peterborough and he met us a few times afterwards. Whenever he heard the song he said, “You bums writing that song. You bums!”
(From Jon Savage interview with Ray Davies printed in Ugly Things #30)
Here’s where you get a hint of what kinky associations that band name may have offered those teens just discovering sanity napkins or refined older gents inclined toward dressing in white socks. There’s subtext in a number of Kinks tunes regarding the theme of the British chum that pushes the intimacy of that very male friendship: ‘Do You Remember Walter?’ is the heartache of being abandoned and forgotten by your chum, who’d straightened out and abandoned all commitments you’d made toward an adventurous life together. ‘Lola’ beat Lou Reed to the punch and made a pop hit out of a guy who is man enough to be a woman. ‘David Watts’ offers the tale of a tortured narrator who lies on his pillow at night dreaming of living the life of a successful school chum.
The song itself lacks the grit of malice that infects most of Ray’s best tunes until you’re aware of the story behind the name. In that respect, Ray is being malicious twice over.
David Watts, the name of an older gent Ray attempted to pimp his younger brother to in exchange for half of his house, certainly didn’t miss that when he called The Kinks “bums” for using his name. Dave wrote some of the best known and loved songs from the Something Else era – ‘Death Of A Clown’, ‘Funny Faces’ and ‘Love Me Til The Sun Shines’, and the single ‘Suzannah’s Still Alive’ – and yet Ray presents the insidious plot as some kind of benevolent act in his Dave’s interest, to provide financial security that wouldn’t come from his own song writing. In other words, Ray suggests to his brother: look, you’ll never write songs of the same caliber as me. Rather than try, why not just sit on the swings with Mr Watts here, and take it from there? And, then, creeping across the party like Iago, to whisper into the ear of Watts: look at that little piece of chicken, that ripe little buttercup, half of your house and he’s yours!
Not only that, but who is singing those beautiful harmonies? Dave himself! As if to punish him for not swinging with Watts, Ray now has him grinning like a gibbon, prancing around while Ray sings a song mocking him: “I wish I could have all he has got”.
And, again, the real David Watts hears that in ‘David Watts’, and feels like Withnail & I’s Uncle Monty. Dave didn’t fancy him in real life, he got to first base holding hands but didn’t get to watch Dave removed his white socks (those white socks kill me – I picture, of course, John Waters whenever I read that interview and that particular detail, and believe me, I’ve read it enough times), but now, here’s Dave and his older pimp brother singing a song about him, mocking him. Not good enough for a root, but good enough for a tune.
This song is far from an exemplary exercise in Ray’s seething misanthropy, but it is one of The Kinks most enduring, catchy songs. The glorious back story does reveal yet another layer of Ray acting the cunt toward his bandmates and brother, the simple lesson that within the most touching tribute to friendship and the aspiration toward nobility, Ray can make mockery of intimacy and purity and beauty. Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa!
FROM LIFE STINKS I LIKE THE KINKS #1, WHICH INCLUDES A PIECE FROM DISTORT #37 AND A FEW ADDITIONAL SCRAPS. FREE TO SUBSCRIBERS. PRINTING SOON AS THOSE 7”S ARE OUT. IF YOU’D LIKE TO WRITE OR DRAW SOMETHING FOR #2, GET IN TOUCH.
There is actually very little written about punk music and The Kinks. The comparisons are usually based around Dave Davies’ frantic guitar playing and their particularly stomping early singles, violent live shows, reputation for debauchery and kinky bacchanals. Sure. But, I think The Kinks were unique among the British pop bands in establishing ground for popular music that didn’t escape into romantic sentimentality, but drew blood from the dreary concrete laneways of the big black smoke, that spoke of the cruel horror of daily working life, and made sick, dark humour out of it.
One defining aspect of punk is the use of schadenfreude, humour based in cruelty, cruel music, cruel lyrics, cruel art and aesthetic, and cruel sound. Ray Davies’ understanding and execution of this cruelty is worth exploring for anyone who finds this element appealing. Many don’t, and this is why punk scenes are always rife with tension, between people who find the cruelty a source of power and those who find it “problematic”. Sardonic glee in the suffering of others is punk. The outraged response is Christian and hippie guilt, and has rarely resulted in punk music. The pity politics of punk, the emphasis on understanding and solidarity and the commune, are rarely expressed through good songs, and this is why they have lacked a staying influence.
What lasts, and what will continue to last, is the instinct towards expressing cruelty. Life stinks, I like The Kinks.
(Extract from #37 - complete text here.)
Dave Berry stabbing ‘This Strange Effect’ (Ray Davies) and killing it. Guitar.
The Kinks ‘Mr Pleasant’ demo. No matter how much you hear of this band, you haven’t heard it all. The lack of that aforementioned (see post two days back) horn drains the song of its frivolity and rams home the point a little harder. Bummer bitch!
DISTORT #37 (2012)
Interviews with: Eddy Current Suppression Ring / Brainwashed Youth / Lakes / Bloodclot Faggots / the Inmates / Stab / Negative Guest List
Writing on: The Stains / the Kinks / Folded Shirt / Iron Age / Degreaser / Kriegshog / Artificial Peace
From interview with Brainwashed Youth:
Tell us about the first time you huffed glue.
It was about 90 degrees in the midday son. I was sitting on my front porch. I was proudly wearing my leather jacket with a mural of Wattie on the back. Me and my mate were sipping a brew. We were blasting the sexx pistols of course. My mate passed me some glue and I never turned back. It was like a religious experience. I was ready to start a revolution. Sid was telling me to.