Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yes Sir, No Sir... The Kinks Arthur Turns 40... & Show # 270

Its hard to believe that forty years ago in 1969, The Kinks first released their album Arthur (Or The Decline of The British Empire). It was released following their album The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, that upon it's initial release sold poorly. Since then Village Green has gone on to become a cult classic and many Kinks fans favourite Kinks album, but people often overlook Arthur. It is based upon a concept revolving around Arthur and his son, who moves to Australia from England with his wife after World War II. The album originally had its first inception by Ray Davies as the soundtrack for a television play. When the play was cancelled, Ray used the themes and ideas he created and transferred them into album form via The Kinks.

The album was recorded from May to July at Pye Studios in the UK in 1969. Another interesting fact about this album is that it was produced by Ray Davies (as was Village Green). The albums concept was based loosely on Rose (Ray's Sister) and her husband Arthur Anning, who moved from England to Australia. This was also the very same Rosie that the song "Rosie Won't You Please Come Home" from Face To Face was based on. Themes on the album are addressed such as war, British oriented nostalgia, and the boringness of suburban life. The album opens with "Victoria", a Hard Rock based song that lyrically addressed the British Empire in a satirical way. The ballad "Some Mother's Son", addresses the horrors of war, while the song "Shangri-La" is in a world of its own. It addresses what seems to be a paradise, but as the song carries along the listener finds out that what Arthur thinks is his paradise is actually his own prison as well. Musically, the song mixes elements of Folk, Hard Rock and has been said to be one of Dave Davies favourite Kinks songs that his brother, Ray Davies has written.

"Mr. Churchill Says" references the effects of World War II on the British people. Musically the song picks up from a slow Blues influenced Rock song to being Hard Rock once again. The song actually features paraphrased parts from the speeches of Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a siren in the middle of the song that is supposed to represent the air-raid siren heard during World War II. The album also features many other songs playing into this over aching concept. There are other interesting songs such as "Brainwashed", "Arthur", "Nothing To Say", and the six minute "Australia" which features excellent guitar work from Dave Davies. Overall, the album musically is an exciting Rock album.

The album sold poorly in the UK, but in the US it received greater acclaim and reached #105 on the US album charts. Singles released for the album were "Drivin'", "Shangri-La", and "Victoria". Only "Victoria" would do well on the singles market (with the exception of "Shangri-La" in the Netherlands). It went to #62 on the US Billboard Hot charts and #33 on the UK singles charts. Arthur would also mark the beginnings of The Kinks return to mainstream success and a return to the bands Hard Rock style. Arthur was reissued in 1998 with several bonus tracks.

Other Kinks Links:

Waterloo Sunset: The Story of The Kinks Part One
Drivin': The Story of The Kinks Part Two
Some Kinda Kinks (Village Green/Dave Davies Post)
Dave Emulen's Kinks Website

The Play List:

1. The Kinks - Nothing To Say
2. Supergrass - Never Done Nothing Like That Before
3. The Black Hollies - Gloomy Monday Morning
4. The Flaming Groovies - Teenage Head
5. One Way Street - I See The Light
6. J.B & The Playboys - Leave My Woman Alone
7. The Count Five - Double Decker Bus
8. Dr. Feelgood - Riot in Cellblock No.9
9. The Dishrags - Sold Out
10. Ex-Boyfriends - Special Occasions
11. Lost Patrol - Outta My Mind
12. Dream Dates - Search and Destroy
13. Ramona - A Way Over
14. The Goodamn Goodamn's- Steel City Livin'
15. No Age - You're A Target
16. Islands - Vapours
17. The Raveonettes - Bang!
18. Carbon/Silicon - What's Up Doc?
19. Young Executives - Ice Age
20. Mando Diao - Go Out Tonight
21. Van Morrison - Everyone
22. The Clash - Every Little Bit Hurts
23. The Kinks - Shangri-La

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for October 13th. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

In addition to my feature on The Kinks album Arthur, I also played a new song by Carbon/Silicon. Here is the music video for "What's Up Doc?"


Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about this album, which is my favorite Kinks album. One note on your summary of the plot of the tv play: although the real Rose and Arthur did emigrate to Australia, the plot of the album doesn't involve Arthur going anywhere. In the story, it's Arthur's son who's emigrating, and the film was going to show the family's last day before the son's departure to Australia with his wife and kids. Julian Mitchell's liner notes have all the details.

Dave said...

Thanks for noticing that, I made the correction. It's good to hear other people like Arthur too.

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Arthur was the first Kinks album that drew me to them and I've never left. Arthur did get more attention in the U.S. than Village Green did. In fact, I had to special order Village Green sometime after purchasing Arthur so I always think of Arthur as coming before Village Green. Fond memories of both though what I remember most about 40 years ago is I didn't know another soul listening to this. You could say I felt content in my lonliness. I guess I was made for The Kinks and vice versa.

Today, Arthur still sounds like a masterpiece. It contains some of the most memorable Kinks songs. Timeless stuff. I always wished Ray would have followed it up with a Part 2, but you know how that inspiration thing works; sometimes its there, sometimes not.

Dave said...

I agree Arthur does have some great moments. I like Village Green too, but I think Arthur is stronger.

Ray could have continued with part two, but he went in a different direction. It did include concepts in a similar way as Village Green/Arthur, but it was different.