Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Beatles White Album & The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (50th Anniversary) & Shows # 749, 750, 751

Originally released on November 22nd, 1968, The Beatles White Album was the highly anticipated follow up to 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s and the Lonely Hearts Club Band. While Sgt. Pepper’s showed the band taking a more psychedelic, experimental approach to songs and the recording of the album, The White Album was the opposite. The recording sessions had their origins in Rishikesh, India. From February to April 1968, The Beatles were there to take part in a Transcendental Meditation course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. During this time they came up with about forty new songs, several of which were demoed at George Harrison’s house in May of 1968 known as the Esher Demos. During the recording of this album, there were many aspects that caused turmoil and tensions within the group. Producer George Martin took a leave of absence during the sessions, engineer Geoff Emerick quit and drummer Ringo Starr left the group for about two weeks during the sessions before returning.

There are thirty songs on The Beatles. It should also be noted that the album is referred to as The White Album, but it is a self-titled album. Several of the songs have a fractured feel, but overall the album for all its styles and immediacy has an undeniable energy. From the opening moments of Paul McCartney’s “Back In the U.S.S.R”, which he wrote as a parody and pastiche at the time of a Beach Boys song, starts off with a heavy rock song that was seen as controversial by some due to the lyrical content. The song sets the tone as being both subversive and mischievous. “Glass Onion” is another hard-hitting rock track, written and sung by John Lennon that clouded up and addressed people who were looking too much into their songs for hidden meanings. “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” is a song that is comprised of three different sections comprising different song styles within the less than three-minute track length. It contains surrealist lyrics and different time signature changes. “Don’t Pass Me By” written by Ringo Starr strangely reflects tensions within the band at the time (Ringo quit the band, but returned during the sessions), allusions to people looking too much into Beatles rumours and has a violin added over top in a manic fashion. It eerily reflects the violin featured on The Clash’s “Lose Your Skin” on their 1980 album Sandinista, written by Tymon Dogg. George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” features lead guitar by guitarist Eric Clapton, who was brought in when Harrison felt that John and Paul were not giving his composition the needed attention that it deserved. “Long, Long, Long” is a song with spiritually inspired lyrics that are open to interpretation. With its acoustic guitar, organ, and Starr’s dynamic drum fills, it also provides a moment of calmness between the raucous and chaotic “Helter Skelter” and the politically charged “Revolution 1”.

With double albums, there is more content than a regular full-length album. Many people have issues with certain aspects of double albums, saying that they would operate better if they were a single album instead. Producer George Martin argued this point when The Beatles were finishing up with The White Album, but they still decided to go ahead with a double album of thirty tracks. The overall sound of the album can be looked at just by taking a glance at the album cover. There is nothing on the album’s cover, it is a blank cover with just the band name in the corner. This can be juxtaposed to 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s, which has a brightly coloured, psychedelic cover. The White Album is raw, straight to the point, but also branches out into different musical styles and sometimes experimentation. There are many layers that are only revealed upon repeated listens. The album subverts conventions, musically and socially and challenges listeners.

Also released on November 22nd, 1968 was The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. It was an album that was recorded between November 1966 and October 1968. Village Green was also a concept album, the first of many that Ray Davies and The Kinks would explore. But, many feel this is one of the strongest and best. The concept of Village Green lies in theme of English life and the innocence of past times. At a time when being psychedelic was the new thing to do, Davies and the Kinks took a look back with a preservative attitude. Also, it was influenced by concepts from Dylan Thomas’s Under The Milkwood, many of the songs featured strong characters throughout. At the time of the album’s creation, The Kinks had been banned from performing in the USA (which occurred in 1965), they were surrounded by record company pressures and legal battles and of course turmoil within the band. Village Green was the last album to feature the original Kinks lineup of Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Peter Quaife and Micky Avory. Bassist Peter Quaife would leave the band in early 1969. If that wasn’t enough, at this time the band was also working on a solo Dave Davies album with The Kinks as his backing band and Ray was also working on material for a British TV show, all of which were recorded with The Kinks.

A version of The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society was released in parts of Europe in October of 1968 (France, Sweden and Norway). This version featured twelve tracks and featured variations in mixes and track listing to the version that would eventually be released in the UK and the US in November 1968. After the original twelve track version of the album was delivered to Pye, Ray Davies asked them to postpone the release of the album so that he could expand and make some changes. Initially interested in making Village Green a double album, Pye denied this request and it was decided that a fifteen-track version would be produced and released. The notable changes to the album were the addition of “Last of the Steam Powered Trains”, “Big Sky”, “Sitting By The Riverside”, and “All of My Friends Were There”. The songs “Days” and “Mr. Songbird” were removed from the track list order. “Days” was later released as a single in June of 1968.

The album starts off with the song “The Village Green Preservation Society” in which Ray states “Preserving the old ways from being abused/Protecting the new ways for me and for you”. Ray and The Kinks flat out state the ethos of this album in the opening moments. This all happens amongst acoustic guitars, electric guitar stabs leads provided by guitarist Dave Davies with organ flooding the background as drummer Mick Avory and bassist Peter Quaife propel the song forward with their driving rhythm section. Musically the album draws on the lyrical prominence that was emphasized on 1967’s Something Else. The album has been said to be very subdued compared to early Kinks songs, but it has layers. The songs are well constructed, featuring plenty of acoustic arrangements combined with electric guitars. In addition to this legendary session musician Nicky Hopkins is featured all over Village Green playing piano and a variety of other instruments, adding to its atmosphere. However, nothing sounds out of place. That’s not to say it’s an album that is not unlike The Kinks, there are moments such as the refreshing blast of blues smoke in “Last of the Steam Powered Trains” and the wicked fuzzed out electric guitar riffs in “Wicked Annabella”. “Do You Remember Walter?” paints the picture of one of the many character sketches that populate this album. Inspired by a run in with an old friend and how they were in very different places and worlds, Davies reflects in a humorous way before “Picture Book” attacks with its scaling guitar and bass riffs in a striking fashion. There are other more eccentric moments too, like the song “Phenomenal Cat” that has a Mellotron flute and there is the stunning orchestral arrangement in the song “Village Green”. The album ends with “People Take Pictures of Each Other” a song that is upbeat and nostalgic.

Referred to as “The most successful flop of all time”, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society sold approximately 100,000 copies worldwide during its initial release. Compared to The Beatles White Album, which sold 3.3 million copies in the US alone within the first four days of its release, Village Green operated on a different axis at the time. Despite receiving good critical reviews, many felt that the music on Village Green Preservation Society was out of step with the times. It would later be embraced by an underground audience and gain a cult-like status. In 2018, it went gold in the UK. Both The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society and The Beatles White Album are often uttered in the same breath when discussing the time period that they were released. They both shed themselves of the psychedelic image popular during that time period and searched for something new. Whether that was through subversion of musical norms or through preserving a past innocence and looking forward.

Show 751 (Originally Aired On December 1st, 2018)(The White Album Vs. Village Green):

1. The Beatles - Long, Long, Long
2. The Beatles - Sour Milk Sea (Esher Demo)
3. The Beatles - (You're So Square) I Don't Care Studio Jam
4. The Beatles - Helter Skelter (Second Version - Take 17)
5. The Kinks - Last of the Steam Powered Trains
6. The Kinks - Creeping Jean
7. The Kinks - Misty Water (Mono Version)
8. Papa Ghostface - Rook
9. Papa Ghostface - Crawlspace Waltz
10. Elvis Costello & The Imposters - Mr. & Mrs. Hush
11. Charles Bradley - Stay Away
12. Ty Segall & White Fence - Body Behaviour
13. Faux Co. - Prozac Spaceman
14. Jeff Tweedy - Some Birds
15. Volunteers - Mother Nature's Blues
16. Fever Feel - Lose your Mind
17. Urban Surf Kings - Run From The Bear
18. Shoobies - All My Profs Are On Strike
19. King Khan & The Shrines - Land of the Freak
20. Screamin' Deal - One Small Death
21. Daughters - The Flammable Man
22. Jon Spencer - Do the Trash Can
23. Snake River - Then She Wrote A Letter
24. The Sadies (w Jon Spencer) Justine Alright (Live)
25. King Tuff - Lazerbeam
26. Low - Rome (Always In The Dark)
27. Joy Division - Colony (BBC Session)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for December 1.

Show 750 (Originally Aired On November 24th, 2018)(Daughters, The Jesus Lizard & Mudhoney):

1. Pyramids - Pressure
2. Shoobies - Monkey Eat Sandwich
3. The Byrds - Stranger In A Strange Land
4. The Thin Cherries - Follow The Sun
5. Ty Segall - Isolation
6. Undertones - Luxury (Demo)
7. Autogramm - Jessica Don't Like Rock 'n Roll Anymore
8. Women - Heat Distraction
9. Daughters - Ocean Song
10. Josef K - Pictures of Cindy
11. FRIGS - Chest
12. Chandra - Get It Out Of Your System
13. The Jesus Lizard - Seasick
14. The Jesus Lizard - Naked Dancing Ladies
15. Flesh Rag - Ballad of Nova
16. The Soft Pack - Pull Out
17. The Routes - Vendetta
18. Brazilian Money - Jive With The Killer Instinct
19. Gary's House - Punch Party
20. Prefab Sprout - Faron Young
21. Yardlets - UnModern Man
22. The Burnin' Sands - Revenge of the Putrid Slime
23. The Pursuit of Happiness - Food
24. Destroyer - Plaza Trinidad
25. Outrageous Cherrry - Creeps Retreat
26. The Aints - The Church of Simultaneous Existence
27. Mudhoney - Nerve Attack
28. Mudhoney - Oh Yeah

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for November 24.

Show 749 (Repeat of episode 748. An episode focusing on Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks). Download this episode here and view the play list here.

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