The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society
The Kinks, 1968
The most successful failure of all time
People are screaming its praises now, but when it came out, people were scared of it.They didn’t get it.
The Box Set is taking up the high-end slack in the record industry, and now they’ve hit upon the 50thAnniversary. 2018 saw Music From Big Pink from The Band, The Beatles (The White Album), Beggar’s Banquet from The Rolling Stones, Odgen’s Nut Gone Flake from The Small Faces, Electric Ladyland from Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society from The Kinks.
The greatest for me will always be Music From Big Pink, but the other four were all British releases, as Hendrix was still based here. I would never have said this in 1968 or 1978 or 1998, but for me (now) the best of the British bunch is The Village Green Preservation Society. It finally earned its gold disc for 100,000 British sales in November 2018.
Just like Music From Big Pink it harked back lyrically and musically, while creating something new.
The thing that I liked very much is that maybe some things are worth keeping. Because there was an atmosphere in ’67 and ’68 of “get rid of everything that’s old and worn out” but certain things you can’t replace. The message was “don’t let’s get rid of everything – let’s try to integrate the new with the old.
Dave Davies, The Independent, 4 October 2018
Dave Davies? It sounds like Robbie Robertson talking about Music From Big Pink.
Village Green got lost at the time in the Christmas 1968 battle between the two albums with blank white covers (Did the Stones never tire of following The Beatles’ ideas?). Apparently, Something Else by The Kinks andThe Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society sold 25,000 copies between them. The Beatles sold two million. Both The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society and The Beatles were released on 22nd November 1968.
The Kinks were on the Pye label, and Pye never understood the 60s LP market. They were a singles label. An album needed a lead single, and Pye would shove an LP out then a few months later, re-issue it on their budget labels … first Golden Guinea (21 shillings, or £1.05 compared to 32 shillings, or £1.60 for a normal LP), then later at an even lower price Marble Arch (12 shillings and sixpence, or 62.5p) which is where Kinks compilations ended up. As a result, a lot of collectable Chess R&B which was first issued briefly on Pye International, remains collectable in its Golden Guinea or Marble Arch edition. Marble Arch was never the fate of Village Green though.
Gallery: The Kinks on Marble Arch … click to see full images
Marble Arch was named from the location of Pye Studios, in the ATV building at Marble Arch at the end of Oxford Street … ATV owned most of Pye. Marble Arch studios lacks the cachet of EMI’s Abbey Road, as it was also used for recording masses of cheap EPs with six covers of hit records on labels like Avenue. Marble Arch was where Village Greenwas recorded.
Ray Davies has admitted that the single Days was part of the same Village Greenconcept. Just as The Beatles did in withholding Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lanefrom Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Kinks withheld Days from the Village Green project. It had already been a hit and Ray probably envisaged the white Marble Arch sleeve with “Days and Eleven Other Great Songs From The Kinks” (Marble Arch never exceeded 12 tracks) nine months down the line.
Record Collector #485, November 2018 has the best ever write up of the album by Nick Hasted, with quotes from Ray Davies, Dave Davies and Mick Avory. 1968 had been a bad year for The Kinks with an unsuitable package tour with The Herd, The Tremeloes and Gary Walker, ‘a trawl round Swedish funfairs’ and as they were completing Village Green they found themselves playing Northern Working Men’s Clubs, the nadir of life as an oldies group.
Record Collector explains the situation. First they’d been banned from the USA, Ray had a 1966 breakdown, then Wonderboy was their first single to fail to chart. Producer Shel Talmy quit, followed by their booking agent, Arthur Howes. The Kinks only played four times between December 1967 and April 1968, cancelling many gigs. InRecord Collector they admit their live shows were a mess. They were trying to escape the clutches of Larry Page and Eddie Kassner, who were withholding their royalties. They were broke. I saw them live the year after Village Green and they were lacklustre, and I thought very rough around the edges. They had Eire Apparent as support who were both tighter and louder.
Peter Quaife described Wonderboy thus:
Wonderboywas horrible. It sounded like Herman’s Hermits wanking. Jesus, it was bad. I hated it. I remember recording it and doing the la-la-las, and thinking “What kind of prissy sissy nonsense are we making? We’re the guys that made You Really Got Me for Chrissakes!
Quoted in ‘God Save The Kinks’ by Ron Jovanovic
OK, but on Village Green Preservation Society, there was going to be a LOT of la-la-las backing.
I first met the record in the 1970 January Sales. W.H. Smith, Woolworths and Boots all had record sales. They were not like those today, where (e.g.) HMV has a batch of CDs pressed especially for the sale, but were genuine unsold stock. I’m pretty sure my copy came from W.H. Smith, and it cost me six shillings (30p). British stores never cut notches or stamped holes in cut out records- that was done by a US manufacturer. These were just ones the store had left over after Christmas. My other many W.H. Smith buys include The Who Sell Out, Nefertiti by Miles Davis, The Electric Flag’sA Long Time Comin’, and The Byrds’ Sweetheart of The Rodeo. A few years later, we bought The Dillards’ Wheatstraw Suite in Woolworths sale for 30p, took it home, played it, and went back and bought all the other copies (six or seven) which we gave to friends as presents. So I have an original mono Village Green which cost me 30p. Rare Record Guide 2018 lists a mint copy as worth £250. This was my justification for buying the super de-luxe box set released this month – ‘I can always sell my original copy …’ I explained to Karen. Whose one word reply succinctly expressed doubt in my veracity.
My copy remains in good condition, because I’m careful with records, but also because I never played it much. I loved the early Kinks, and in front room band days (in England it was too cold to practise in garages) we earnestly plucked our way through You Really Got Me, Tired of Waiting, All Day and All of The Nightas well as learning their cover versions of I’m A Lover Not A Fighter, Beautiful Delilahand Long Tall Shorty.
I bought most of the Kinks singles and EPs. I’ve very often revised my Desert Islands Discslist of eight essential records, though I’m still waiting patiently for the BBC to invite me on the Radio 4 programme, and Waterloo Sunset features on many of those lists: one of the greatest sixties songs ever. Then in the 70s, Everybody’s in Showbiz was on constant replay for me, and Celluloid Heroes probably made it on 70s versions of my list. But I’d never explored Village Green Preservation Society sufficiently. It appeared again and again in articles, and I bought the 3 CD “Special De-Luxe” edition in 2004, which had the album in stereo, mono, both with bonus tracks, including Days and a third CD of rarities. It included B-sides such as She’s Got Everything (B-side of Days) and Berkeley Mews (later used as the B-side of Lola.) It should be all you need really. The third CD had a separate orchestral overdub of the title track isolated with the basic tracks way back behind. Then there are instrumental backing tracks, Mick Avory’s Underpants and Spotty Grotty Anna which sounds like a backing track for some intended John Lee Hooker cover. You look at the titles and wish Ray had written a lyric to go with them.
It’s like most of these boxes and editions with bonus tracks, and also the “de luxe” new releases with two extra tracks, one of which is an acoustic version of one of the other songs. Face it, after trying them out, you’ll probably stick to the original album in future listening, in which case the mono CD2 is the one because Track 16, following the 15 of the album, is Days.
The 2004 sleeve booklet begins:
“For me, Village Green Preservation Society is Ray’s masterwork. It’s his Sgt Pepper. It’s what makes him the definitive pop poet laureate.”
Pete Townshend, 2004
So 2004. That’s when I got addicted to the album, and it’s CD1, the stereo mix, that got onto my iTunes Playlists. The love of it hasn’t stopped. It accelerated when I got the wonderful, quieter version of the song Village Green Preservation Society by Natalie Merchant, which is on a Natalie Merchant playlist which is my most played playlist of the last two years.
WHO PLAYED WHAT
On Village Green Preservation Society, they kept it mainly to the band and basic instrumentation. Apart from Village Green, the strings and woodwind were a Mellotron, played by Ray Davies or Nicky Hopkins. Nicky Hopkins said 70% of the keyboard work was his. On the 2018 set the enclosed hardback book names the original four members “augmented by Nicky Hopkins.” Hopkins had played on Kink Kontroversy and Face to Face and the song Session Man is dedicated to him.
When we recorded Sunny Afternoon Shel (Talmy) had asked Nicky Hopkins to watch me play the song once and then copy my technique. Nicky must have been a musical masochist as well as a gentleman, because he dutifully sat down and reproduced that pounding sound which was associated with so many of our records at the time.
Ray Davies, X-Ray, 1994
The 2018 remaster has this list in the CD booklet, which is contained in the realia packet with photos, a poster, a Bournemouth Winter Gardens ticket.
Ray Davies – guitar, vocals, keyboards, harmonica
Dave Davies – guitar, vocals
Peter Quaife – bass guitar, backing vocals
Mick Avory – drums + Clem Cattini on ‘She’s Got Everything’ (outtake)
Rasa Davies – backing vocals
Nicky Hopkins – Keyboards
David Whittaker- string arrangements on Village Green & Animal Farm
According to Ron Jovanovic’s God Save The Kinks the band moved at this point from a four way split, to an arrangement where Quaife and Avory were paid £40 a week each. The average teacher earned around £30 a week in 1968. I earned £12 in a summer job. I’d add that as they played so few gigs in 1968, and sold comparatively few records, £40 a week rather than 25% of four or five gigs might have seemed reasonable.
Mick and I felt like session men most of the time. Like it could have been anybody in the studio there playing bass and drums. That’s not right if you’re supposed to be a full-time member of a band.
Peter Quaife, interviewed in 1998
Pete Quaife had founded the band with Ray Davies (before younger brother Dave joined) and played bass on all their recordings, and his sound was an integral part of The Kinks sound.
On earlier Kinks records, drums had been played by ace session drummer Bobby Graham, and Jimmy Page was present. There were urban myths that Jimmy Page played lead guitar, but Bobby Graham has said in online interviews that Dave Davies played all the lead guitar parts, and that Jimmy Page was rhythm guitar on some songs, though NOT (as the myth had it) on You Really Got Me. In 2013 Talmy told The Guardian:
We used Jimmy Page on some Kinks stuff so Ray didn’t have to play rhythm guitar as well as sing. But, contrary to myth, Jimmy didn’t play on ‘You Really Got Me.’ Dave was a hugely underrated guitarist, too. Everyone copied his sound.
Concerning the Kinks’ work, though, and looking at it in retrospect, my presence at their sessions was to enable Ray Davies to wander around and virtually maintain control of everything, without having to be down in the studio all the time. Ray was producing those songs as much as Shel Talmy was . . . more so actually because Ray was directing them and everything. At one point, there were even three guitars playing the same riff … I didn’t really do that much on the Kinks’ records. I know I managed to get a couple of riffs in on their album but I can’t really remember. I know that Ray didn’t really approve of my presence. The Kinks just didn’t want me around when they were recording. It was Shel Talmy’s idea. One aspect of being in the studio while potential hits were being made was the press — too many writers were making a big fuss about the use of session men. Obviously I wasn’t saying anything to the press but it just leaked out . . . and that sort of thing often led to considerable bad feeling.”
Bobby Graham said he played on Kinks records until 1966, which would be the Shel Talmy produced era.
Avory had more than earned his keep by playing on Sunny Afternoon, and it had been decided that he would play drums on every recording from now on.
Ray Davies, X-Ray, 1994
On VGPS, Mick Avory very much plays for the song, accenting lyrics as much as laying down a rhythm. Stewart Copeland of The Police described Ringo Starr:
Ringo Starr is the ultimate “feel” drummer and so far nobody has invented a way of capturing his feel. He brought in a lot of composition, he played the backbeat, but like any master he also broke the rules. (Earl) Palmer would set up a groove and sit there for the duration, but Ringo changed all that.
Stewart Copeland, The Times, January 2019
That line “he brought in a lot of composition” applies to Mick Avory’s work on the album. The more I listen, the more I like the drumming throughout. On several songs, the electric guitar has a prominent insistent riff (listen to Picture Book), which frees up the drums.
I think the songs allowed the band to express itself — Mick in particular. The songs were structured in such a way that they could fill in the gaps of a normal pop record.
Rolling Stone 26 October 2018
Bass guitarist Peter Quaife said in 2006:
It is probably the only album made by the Kinks in which we all contributed something.
One of the joys of the album is that they did it all with a basic band. That might be lack of huge funds at the time, and that Pye were far more miserly than EMI for The Beatles, or Decca for The Rolling Stones, and to be fair The Kinks weren’t making Pye that kind of money. I find it a great virtue. Sadly, it was the last time the classic original line-up worked together.
It’s often called a concept album, but it’s not in the way that Tommy or Quadrophenia were. Like Sergeant Pepper the connections are looser. The strong nostalgia songs give it a concept air, but there are several where the thematic connection is tenuous.
THE 2018 DE-LUXE BOX SET
What you get:
Stereo 2018 remaster + 12 bonus tracks
Mono 2018 remaster + 14 bonus tracks
Village Green Sessions – 25 tracks of alternate mixes and backing tracks
Village Green At The BBC – 23 live recordings
Demos, Sessions, Preservation & Live
2 LPs of the original album, mono and stereo
1 LP the Swedish (& European) 12 track album that was withdrawn in the UK, when Ray decided to go for 15 tracks – in fact he had decided to go for a 20 track double album, but Pye were never a label for such a (then) innovative project.
3 x European 45s in replica picture sleeves:
Days– Pye Italian single
Starstruck / Picture Book– Pye, Dutch single
Village Green Preservation Society– US single. It uses Warner Bros colours and design without the logo.A realia pack with poster, photos, CD booklet, ticket
I wanted a very low-fi, underachieved record with the vocals mixed down, not great, brilliant sounds
Ray Davies, Performing Songwriter.com, 2012
This album did not waste time on technical trickery or embellishment. Ray rarely used even reverberation or echo effects on his and his brother and bandmate Dave’s vocals. He did not spend three days getting a huge drum sound, or dreamy keyboard effects – the band just played the music. But the recording method, in its simplicity and directness, is part of what makes listening to this album such a pleasure.
Pete Townsend, sleeve notes to 2018 box set
The 2018 stereo remaster sounds crisper than the 2003 version. I am a strong believer in listening to early Beatles in the version they saw mixed … mono. By 1968 stereo has ceased to be ping pong, and I can’t see any advantage in the original mono mix CD, even if that was how most of the early copies were.
It’s also unlike this year’s other big boxes. There weren’t the multi-tracks to allow a Giles Martin to recreate the album in 5.1 surround on blu-ray as on The Beatles (the White Album), … what would be the point? They also avoided the over-bright Bob Clearmountain remix which Music From Big Pink received. Indeed because it’s a dry recording without reverb, it sounds very modern.
THE ORIGINAL ALBUM
The Village Green Preservation Society
It’s the keynote track. Interesting lists. Some is tongue in cheek … I’m pretty sure china cups and virginity are for starters.
Some may be more obscure to Americans. Desperate Dan was a cartoon cowboy featured in the Dandy comic, eating cow pie weekly … British kids enjoyed the Dandy and its companion paper, Beano. They still exist. Old Mother Riley was a music hall act, starting in 1934 and fifteen films were made. Old Mother Riley was a man in drag. A cartoon ran in the Film Fun comic too. Mrs Mopp dates from a high speed radio comedy show, ITMA (It’s That Man Again). The show really predates Ray’s years when he might understand it … 1939 to 1949, although Mrs Mopp became a generic joke name for cleaning ladies. In the UK, female cleaners are always ‘ladies’ not ‘women.’
I’m not sure how many varieties of strawberry jam there were in 1968. Now you have specific types of jam from both cultivated and wild strawberries, but then? I don’t recall it.
The George Cross was awarded for civilian bravery – in one case, the entire island of Malta was awarded the George Cross having suffered more intensive bombing in World War II than any other (then) British location.
Tudor houses means, I’d guess, the “Mock-Tudor” style beloved of London suburbs in the 1920s and 1930s.
Some take me to Saturday Morning pictures … Fu Manchu and Moriaty (in Sherlock Holmes films). Dracula was more likely 1960s Hammer Horror versions with Christopher Lee than the Universal 1930s ones.
I’ve always wondered about saving vaudeville and variety as vaudeville is simply the American term for variety. In 1968 the variety show didn’t seem endangered. The major seaside resorts ran at least two each, and Bournemouth Winter Gardens, where I did lights in 1967 and 1968, would process over a quarter of a million customers over a summer season. Ray was prescient, because it was endangered but it still had a few years left in it. The last real one I saw survived Bournemouth Winter Gardens, and opened the cavernous BIC with Russ Abbott in 1985.
No, I’m not criticizing the lyric … it’s perfect at creating a jaunty British feeling.
The nostalgic list was encapsulated in Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales, which appeared several times in my school career, and presumably in Ray’s too.
Do You Remember Walter?
It’s a song we can all relate to – the childhood best friend whose life path went a different way.
It was an amalgamation of two or three people. It was the postwar generation. We wanted to move on. We had conscription; that was abolished the year I came out of college. But the real Walter said it was coming and that it was evil. He set off living in a suburb and died a couple of years ago. He was one of those guys that wanted to change the world; he’d sail around the world and be free. There was also a guy who went to live in Canada; he made it out in time. So it was a gang of kids all wrapped in.
Ray Davies, Rolling Stone 26 October 2018
“Walter, isn’t it a shame our little world has changed?” Now why is it Ray’s songs always sound like something else, a different something else with each song and sometimes with each hearing? Sure, he’s the world’s master plagiarist, but it’s more than that. It’s more a feeling that it’s all part of the same thing, it’s all music and isn’t it nice to run a cross this melody again? And it is, it’s never a repetition, it’s always some sort of opening.
Paul Williams, Rolling Stone review, 14 June 1969
There is a slightly sour note of “hipper than thou” at the end though:
I bet you’re fat and married,
And you’re always home in bed by half past eight.
And if I talked about the old times, you’d get bored
And you’d have nothing more to say.
Yes, people often change.
But memories of people can remain.
I say it’s sour, not in criticism, but in an admission of guilt in thinking in my 20s that I was cooler and hipper than my friends who went into banking, or my very best friend until age eleven who went into a factory. I was devastated when I realized I was on my way to grammar school and he was on his way to a secondary modern. We moved house a few weeks later, only a mile, but it was enough. I barely saw him again, or his mum (who I called Auntie for years). Then I saw her at his funeral. He died aged thirty after the third hay fever desensitizing injection. No one told him he couldn’t drink afterwards. Inhaled vomit. I’d had the same injection the same year, no one told me not to drink either, and I did, and vomited and hallucinated for twelve hours. When I hear the song, I remember him fondly, hence the sour note.
Picture Book – given the deliberate absence of Days, this was the screamingly obvious single, but they didn’t do it in the UK. It was a B-side to Starstruck in America. It would have been a surefire hit for me, as shown when Hewlett-Packard used it for a TV advert in 2004, the year of the three CD set’s release. Wiki has this:
I always knew that song would have its day. Sometimes you just know. It was never a hit, but it’s become a hit in another way … Sometimes I think about songs as tracks: “I’m going to write a track.” The whole magic of that track is that 12-string guitar and the snare drum with the snare off. It’s the way Phil Spector used to work—he had his sound and wrote songs to fit that sound. I’d like to go back and do more of that.
Ray Davies, 2012
The photo album (picture book) is a recurring theme.
A picture of you in your birthday suit
Sat in the sun on a hot afternoon …
That conjures up the family album. Little square B&W photos with printed white frames, out of focus, blurry, taken with a Kodak Brownie. People didn’t take many, and my family history is marked by two or three a year, then not every year. Even in 1972 we went to Paris with just one 12 shot film. We managed to buy another there allowing me to feel great pride in my French. A ‘birthday suit’ means as naked as the day you were born, and it has been a recurring comedy theme. Boy takes girl to meet his parents. Proud mum takes out photo album, and shows the girl his baby pictures, invariably one will be stark naked, so in his birthday suit, causing red face from him, giggles from her. The whole situation is encapsulated in those two lines. And when were those few pictures taken?
Picture book. A holiday in August.
Outside a bed and breakfast.
In sunny Southend.
That’s how it was, although ours were taken in Cornwall. Southend was the proximity choice for Londoners like Ray and Dave. Growing up in bed and breakfast studded Bournemouth, as I did, Southend and Margate were not an attraction.
Ray stole the “scooby, dooby, doo” line from Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In The Night.
Peter Quaife, interviewed in 1998.
The song gave its name to Picture Book, a 6 CD early Kinks compilation in 2008.
Johnny Thunder was a not too smart character in DC Comics, dating back to 1940. I’m not sure that there was an intentional link … in the 1960s American comics were pretty hard to find in Britain. Ray Davies has said it’s about a rocker (biker) rides the highway, moves like lightning and related it Marlon Brando’s The Wild One saying he wrote it after it was released. Hmm. The film was way back in 1953, though Brando’s character was called Johnny. There’s not enough lyric there to explore it very far but it repeats Thunder and lightning. Note that the BSA Lightning was a classic 1960s British 650 cc motorbike, which appeared in two major films: Thunderball (1965)and If …. (1968). Maybe it should be Thunder and Lightning with a capital L. The character of Johnny Thunder appears again in One of The Survivors in 1973’s Preservation: Act One. Here it’s clear that he’s an ageing rocker:
… little overweight, and his sideburns are turnin’ grey,
but he still likes to bebop, boogie and jive
to his worn out seventy-eights
The song, like so many Kinks songs, has a tremendous and memorable riff.
Last of The Steam Powered Trains is an example of the way the songs flirt with pastiche. It starts off with Howling Wolf’s Smokestack Lightnin’ guitar intro, and that’s a song with a train reference (Whoah, stop your train … let a poor boy ride) but I suspect Mr Burnett was not singing about actual railway trains in that line. Nor are The Kinks:
I’m the last of the good old renegades
All my friends are middle class and grey …
That sentiment reminds me of Do you remember Walter. They add in harmonica and a version of the basic riff, but with high backing vocals and kiddie words … puffer trains, choo-choo-trains. Then it has that instrumental crescendo, before re-starting the song, and it’s like they were thinking of A Day In The Life Of but with just two guitars, bass and drums.
Big Sky was one of the later additions, missing from the originally planned 12 track version. Ray starts with spoken voice narration … as he does on the two Americana albums recently. Big Sky is the uncaring God.
Ray Davies said he wrote it after visiting a Cannes festival, and looking down on the people making deals below.
“Big Sky”, seeped in clarion harmonies, is a sarcastic jab at those who sympathize with the plight of the destitute, yet can’t be bothered to lend a helping hand. Looking down on a world where “the children scream and cry”, Big Sky is complacent and ineffectual. Though saddened by the pain and anguish of the people on earth, he passively accepts the status quo.
H Hauser, Consequence of Sound website
‘Big Sky’ contains some of the most beautiful, thunderous music The Kinks ever recorded, aligned to a vulnerability and warmth no other group – and I mean no other group – could ever hope to equal. It is a perfectly balanced production. On the one hand, the mesh of clattering drums and electric guitar never threatens to overwhelm the melody; on the other, the gossamer-light harmonies, Ray and Dave’s vocal line traced by Rasa Davies’ wordless falsetto, are bursting with emotion. When most of the instruments drop away at 1.20, the effect is effortlessly vivid – two lines where Davies’ performance is both nonchalant and impassioned. The result is wonderfully, enchantingly sad, made more so perhaps by the knowledge that The Kinks will never again sound so refined or so right.
Andy Miller, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, 3 1/3 Series
Sitting By The Riverside starts by evoking memories of a childhood fishing trip, and so much in the same retro-English style of several Paul McCartney songs of 1967 to 1968 (the same mood as The White Album ones like Honey Pie), but then they wouldn’t have got carried away with the intensity of the instrumental, which is like a fairground carousel whirling round and round. It’s far darker, according to Record Collector’s 2018 interview:
Awareness – There’s darkness around me which gives the thing sinister undertones … it’s about a person about to take an overdose. The music gets louder and louder and reaches a point of hysteria and dies away quickly. And he pulls himself around. It’s got a Jaques Tati quality that verges on hysteria sometimes. Probably mentally I was in that place.
Ray Davies, Record Collector 485, November 2018
In 1968 that wild sound ended Side One of the LP.
Animal Farm opened Side Two. That was important – songs were sequenced to the LP sides. The title screams George Orwell, a book much studied at school by Ray’s generation and mine, but apart from the title, I don’t see any connection. It has a different sound in that mostly the album avoided reverb, and this has a great deal applied. The whimsical world of animals is in Wind In The Willows mood.
The recording again brought up the animosity with Pete Quaife that had come to a head when recording Days. In spite of his comment, he mentioned it as one of his favourite Kinks tracks in a 1998 interview.
There was a big fight about ‘Animal Farm’. I thought the bass should be playing the piano introduction as well. Both Ray and Dave threw a hissy fit and said no. So it’s not there. I was a bit angry and sour about that one.
Peter Quaife, quoted by Andy Miller in the 33 1/3 book on the album.
The sky is wide’ is a line I knew I could just about reach that note and, to me, the whole record is the way I sing that line. I knew that before it was recorded. I must have been so confident, so sure of myself.
Ray Davies, quoted in God Save The Kinks, by Rob Jovanovich
Village Green is the one with the strings and horns, and sounds like pastiche folk:
Out in the country, there’s a village green- oh. (full stop)
It’s been a long time …
It’s nostalgia, and Ray might disagree, but I suspect a stylistic influence on the main verses is Benny Hill, where on his earliest TV shows (we’re talking black and white TV era, not his later naughty girls chasing stuff) he liked to play a yokel singer with rude ditties (There I met a girl called Daisy and kissed her by the old oak tree) to a very similar mock lurching Olde English rustic tune. It also echoes Kenneth Williams as Ramblin’ Sid Rumpo. These comic mock medieval minstrels liked to add -oh as in Green Grow My Nadgers-Oh, by Kenneth Williams. It ends with Nicky Hopkins on harpsichord.
Fast forward to The Kinks Choral Collection in 2009. The Oh is not on the printed lyric and has shifted so it is:
Out in the country, there’s a Village Green (full stop)
Oh, it’s been a long time …
Ray has also added a touch of Mummerset accent to his 2009 delivery. The village greens he was referring to in the song are surely those suburban mock villages (often with twee names), originally built surrounding London for commuters, and now often absorbed into the conurbation.
Ray Davies has said:
It was recorded earlier than the rest (November 1966- February 1967) as a track for 1967’s Something Else By The Kinks, but Ray Davies decided it could form the basis for a new project and held it back. Something Else By The Kinks already had richness with Waterloo Sunset, David Watts and Death of A Clown.
Yes, Daisy was real,” Ray says. “She was my first love. I kissed her by the old oak tree, but she didn’t take my virginity. That was someone else. She didn’t turn up in time.”
Rolling Stone 26 October 2018
It is strange to think of this song being recorded by The Kinks, because it is definitely a song that should be on somebody’s solo album.
I’m surprised it was the single in the USA, and in several European countries, though not the UK. It got to #13 in The Netherlands. Australia was sensible in flipping it to the catchier Picture Book. The starstruck fan theme is set out. Ray visits the idea in much more graphic detail in The Take on Americana Act II: Our Country in 2018. It’s a crueller thought.
Phenomenal Cat echoes 1968 psych-folk and with the arch and daft lyrics and funny voice la-las to pounding tom tom, it seems to be taking the piss out of all the Alice in Wonderland / Hobbity stuff of the year. What sounds like a flute must be the Mellotron.
I took the snare off just to get a different sound. I put a newspaper over a floor tom tom in Phenomenal Cat. I just got a deader sound, but it sounded right. When you’re in a band like The Kinks, there’s so many different styles of songs and things you can do. It takes a bit of experimentation.
All of My Friends Were There sounds like a classic cockney knees-up version of the stage-fright song theme with choppy guitar, akin to the Small Faces at the time too … then breaks into something totally different. ‘Oh, the embarrassment, oh, the despair …’ is sung in a mock Advanced RP voice, perhaps a nod to Noel Coward.
Wicked Annabella starts on the deep drums, then the guitar riff, then In a dark and misty house … and it’s sung by Dave Davies. Marvellous rich bass sound on the remaster with a strong nod to Bach. The thematic connection here is it’s back to hearing a Grimms Fairy Tale as a kid.
Monica has a mock-calypso rhythm, as in several Ray Davies songs. is not so bucolic, in that:
Under a lamp light
Monica stands at midnight,
And every guy think he can buy her love,
But money can’t buy sweet lovin’ from Monica.
I like the way I did ‘Monica.’ I didn’t actually say she was a prostitute …. if you say somebody is a prostitute or a hooker you’re restricted.
Later he laughed at the fact that the BBC had played it twice, in spite of the lyric.I was most impressed by the way the bass almost takes the lead melody in McCartney style (more noticeable on the Alternate Mix in the box set).
People Take Pictures of Each Other We’re on the theme of Picture Book but much more hurried, frantic almost on obsessive picture taking. Ray could never have predicted the SmartPhone and Selfie which makes this song more relevant with every year that passes. Maybe he did.
People take pictures of each other,
Just to prove that they really existed,
It has a touch of Hava Nagila mood in the chorus.
Days gets restored to its original connection on the CD versions. Kind of. It’s track sixteen on both stereo and mono versions. It fits the mood perfectly. It preceded the album.
It was written as part of this record. Recorded first, and it became a damn hit. Then we couldn’t include it.
Ray Davies, Record Collector 485, November 2018
I didn’t realize what I was writing would be the most significant song in my life so far. Before we recorded the song I was convinced that Quaife had decided to leave the band forever. We had made the back track. I had recorded the vocals, and Nicky Hopkins was putting on a keyboard part. Quaife walked over to me with the box that would contain the master tape and substituted the word ‘Days’ with ‘Daze.’
Ray Davies, X – Ray 1994
Ray had sensed that The Kinks weren’t fully behind him on his recent songs and began to wonder if The Kinks might be reaching the end of the road. He attempted to document this feeling on Days. The result is a glorious if emotionally draining three minutes of pop music. It is both anthemic and eulogistic, so perhaps an unsurprisingly popular choice for funerals: the lyrics provide one of the most eloquent goodbyes imaginable.
‘God Save The Kinks’ by Ron Jovanovic
Ron Jovanovic discusses Davies’ story, in which Peter Quaife wrote DAZE on the tape box. Quaife denied it, but said he did draw a picture on the box while waiting through many vocal takes.
THE OTHER DISCS IN THE BOX …
It took us nearly a week just to get through all of the liner notes and the multiple versions and mixes of the dozens of songs included, many of which don’t sound dramatically different from each other. Having said that, several of those alternate versions are breathtaking: The alternate mixes cast the vocals into a newly intimate light, especially when Ray and Dave are harmonizing; there’s an early version of the song “Village Green” that’s much more psychedelic than the final version; an acoustic version of “Days” feels like Davies is sitting across from you; the “Alternate Mix With Session Chat” of the title track and “Starstruck” both demystify and enhance the songs — hearing the bandmembers chatting and warming up and then breaking into these timeless songs makes them more humble, but also throws the greatness of the songs into more dramatic relief. Although we’re not sure anyone needs multiple versions of comparatively mediocre songs like “Misty Water,” “Rosemary Rose,” “Did You See His Name?” and “Where Did the Spring Go?,” such box sets as this have an obligation to be completist, and this edition may well contain every track the group completed in 1968.
Jem Aswad, Variety, 2 November 2018
A word on the additional material. Most of the time, when you get additional tracks on these deluxe editions you can find out exactly the reasons why such material was left in the bin, usually of worth to serious fans and collectors only. With this there is a double win situation – not only will the serious fans and collectors be happy, but even the more ‘ordinary’ listeners can discover something new and as enjoyable as the original album itself. I gave Village Green a true and tested listen in that respect – sitting through all five CDs in one go. The verdict – never a dull moment. Not one. Yet another confirmation of the importance of this album.
Ljubinko Zivkovic, Sounblab, 18 October 2018
The bonus tracks mainly surfaced on the last remastered set. They’re added to both the stereo (CD1) and mono (CD2) versions.
CD3 is Village Green Sessions.
The third CD starts with alternate takes, added studio chatter and isolated backing tracks. It’s fun to hear how crunchy the bass and drums sound on Do You Remember Walter? (backing track) once the vocals are removed. I’m not so sure that hearing Ray (I assume) saying ‘One … two … three …’ before Picture Book (Alternate Mix With Session Chat) adds. The drums are further forward.
Studio chatter is interesting ambience, and it makes sense to have a separate CD with the mix with the chat, rather than incorporating it in the main remastered version, as Bob Clearmountain did on Music From Big Pink. In Days (Alternate Mix With Session Chat) we hear Ray on Take 3:
Mick, you think … just … we gotta follow you, Mick, so you gotta, you know … lead the way, man. Don’t wait for me. When I was going like that, I meant “Open up …”
Revealing, but how many times would you want to hear it? But once you know, you can hear how hard Mick Avory is leading the beat … as is Nicky Hopkins piano.
The Alternate Mixes add clarity without changing the versions we know and love on CD1 (stereo) and CD2 (mono). Starstruck has the Mellotron more prominent to good effect.
Once you get past the alternate mixes there are odd things, jaunty backing tracks like Egg stained Pyjamas.
The bass benefits particularly. Years ago on The Byrds remasters, I realized for the first time what a good bass player Chris Hillman was. Pete Quaife is brought out in full glory in the same way.
CD4 is Village Green At The BBC.
If you have the previous box, The Kinks At The BBC, there will be few surprises. The live BBC songs are interspersed with surviving interviews with Ray Davies.
They prove they can play it live and with a smaller band. Days has a different Dave Davies guitar figure. Someone is playing the Mellotron back in the distance, and Nicky Hopkins booklet credit covers Disc 4 too.
They played live on radio on 9th July 1968 and The Kinks presented Dave Davies’ solo track Love Me Till The Sun Shines and Monica. That makes Monica the first played live, and several months before the album.
The initial two album tracks on air, 26th November 1968, were Village Green Preservation Society and Animal Farm. It was the BBC practice in those days, to fit in with Musician’s Union rules, to insist on bands playing live. It was impractical to reproduce more elaborate productions in a TV studio, so the compromise position was using the studio backing track with live vocals. These recordings took place at the Playhouse Theatre for TV broadcast on Top of The Pops. The first is described as “recorded 26th November” (and sounds live) the second as “mixed” then, with original studio audio from March 1968.
When they played on the Julie Felix Show on TV on 7th January 1969, they played Last Of The Steam Powered Trains and Picture Book. They’re both labelled as “with live vocals”. Both of these are new to release. Do You Remember Walter? in April was also a combination of audio and vocal. I find these of limited interest.
These are followed by a series of TV Pre-Mix tracks. I’d guess from the quieter vocal level, that these are Musician Union Rules re-recorded backing tracks with original vocal left as a guide. In the early 70s a musician friend explained that the Union not only required live vocals, but recognizing they might be impossible to play live with a basic line-up, asked for a newly-recorded studio backing track, then vocals would be live. I said ‘What a waste of time?’ ‘Exactly,’ he replied, ‘Which is why they often get presented with the original studio track lightly-remixed instead.’
CD5 Village Green Demos, Sessions, Preservation & Live
A real mix. The whole starts with Home Demos Medley recorded by Ray Davies and guitar. On Picture Book he has the concept and tune, but only the opening lines and chorus, filling in the rest with ‘la-la-la-la’. So the refined lyrics followed. Johnny Thunder is distorted with thundering piano. Again, vocals are vague as yet. Last of The Steam Powered Trains is melody on piano with rough idea of the vocal. It seems title, basic idea, tune, then polish. The presence of Pictures In The Sand implies it was designed to be more prominent, and other outtakes fragments get a run through. It’s TV documentary stuff – once is enough.
The solo acoustic guitar version of Days is the gem, with Ray Davies close mic’d and singing softly. Ditto Picture Book (vocals and guitars) where he hammers out the riff on acoustic guitar. Multiple vocalists. Great.
We get another mix of Village Green Preservation Society, more backing tracks – Johnny Thunder, Animal Farm and Phenomenal Cat .
The advertised new find is Time Song played live at Drury Lane Theatre in 1973. It was destined for Preservation Act One but never made it. This is the monitor mix. It was available as a 7″ single in 2018 if you bought the box set from The Kinks website. I wish I had.
When we played a concert at Drury Lane in ’73 to “celebrate” us about to join what was called The Common Market, I decided to use the song as a warning that time was running out for the old British Empire. This song was recorded a few weeks later but never made the final cut on the Preservation Act I album. Oddly enough, the song seems quite poignant and appropriate to release at this time in British history, and like Europe itself the track is a rough mix which still has to be finessed.
We move to 1973 re-recordings. These were expensive and at the time that the Preservation musical was mooted. This is the heart of the box for those seeking new versions.
There is a full brass band accompanied version of Village Green Preservation Society (Preservation version). Track 11 has the band mixed back, and was recorded in February 1973, presumably for a Preservation musical. Fabulous backing, and shifted lyrics:
God save Drury Lane, Vaudeville and Variety … (Drury Lane rather than Donald Duck, who returns at the end)
We are the (Proper stock?) Appreciation Society, God save Music Hall and all the different varieties …
These are afterthoughts for a stage show ( at the Drury Lane Theatre, of course) , but other lines get mixed and matched between verses, making it mildly disconcerting when you know the original by heart. Terrific backing and full flat out vocal.
Picture Book gets rightly combined in a medley with People Take Pictures Of Each Other with piano at the forefront and full band. At that time The Kinks were touring with a brass section live. This is highly theatrical with extra words (Show me no more movies … no …)
Village Green Overture is the orchestra, and listed as an outtake from Preservation Act 1. You can feel yourself staring at a dusty crimson curtain as the lights go down in a theatre.
The Village Green Suite, Ray Davies, 2010
Following on are a series of 2010 Ray Davies performances in Denmark on 21st August 2010:
Days with Danish National Chamber Orchestra.
Then Ray introduces the suite: Village Green, Picture Book, Big Sky, Do You Remember Walter, Johnny Thunder, The Village Green Preservation Society and The Way Love Used To Be. These are all recorded with The Danish National Chamber Orchestra and The Danish National Symphony Orchestra & Vocal Ensemble outdoors in a park. Suffice it to say, they were copied straight onto my iTunes Playlist to add to the original for in-car use. The band features:
Ray Davies, guitar vocals
Bill Shanley, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals
Dick Nolan – bass guitar
Damon Wilson – drums
Ian Gibbons- keyboards
Picture Book and Big Sky and Johnny Thunder are ‘take no prisoners’
Do You Remember Walter is radically different with gentle, wistful introduction and a European café feel in between.
Village Green Preservation Society is HUGE. He leaves the choir to take the chorus and some of the verses to strongly theatrical and deliberately humorous effect. It sounds like they’re about to embark on the Normandy landings, flags waving. Ray roars out his lines.
The Way Love Used To Be is noted as “originally intended for VGPS but not included.” Where had it been hiding? For a strong outtake, one would have expected its inclusion on the 2003 3CD remastered set along with all the other bonus tracks. It turned up in 1971, re-used as a track on Percy. There was an EP (the final Kinks EP) with it the same year. Colin Meloy of The Decemberists covered it in 2014.
I’m surprised this set got so little attention in Danish reviews.
Just as Days was omitted from VGPS, the songs from VGPS don’t feature much on compilations. There are none on See My Friends, the Ray Davies duets compilation.
The 40 track Waterloo Sunset: The Singles Collection does not find room for any VGPS tracks.
Starstruck appears on the Ultimate Collection.
Picture Book a 6 CD Kinks compilation in 2008 has Picture Book, Animal Farm, Days and Village Green Preservation Society.
The Kinks Choral Collection (2009) CD has Village Green Medley consisting of Village Green, Picture Book, Big Sky, Do You Remember Walter, Johnny Thunder and Village Green Preservation Society. In spite of the medley title, they’re all full length versions. It also has Days.
On This Is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies & The Kinks there are three songs:
Starstruck by Steve Forbert
Big Sky by Matthew Sweet
Picture Book by Bill Lloyd and Tommy Womack
The fact that they’re all heavier, especially on drums throws up the lightness of the original.
In 2006 the Mojo covermount disc was The Modern Genius of Ray Davies which had a cover of Big Sky by The Blue Aeroplanes.
The best cover is Natalie Merchant on Village Green Preservation Society, and that’s because she went even lighter.
Kate Rusby did a cover of Village Green Preservation Society that is just about as good in 2007 on Awkward Annie. It’s listed as a bonus track, and had been recorded as the theme song for Jam & Jerusalem, a BBC sitcom about the Women’s Institute. It appeared on the Uncut covermount disc An Autumn Almanac: 15 Songs In The Spirit of Ray Davies in 2012. Kate Rusby’s Yorkshire accent adds something to it, plus she has a lovely instrumental play out.
Kirsty MacColl did Days as a single, and it’s a further great version.
Matthew Sweet and Susannah Hoff did a version of Village Green Preservation Society on their fine box set Under The Covers, but I find the backing too messy.
Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) released Colin Meloy Sings The Kinks in 2014. It features Waterloo Sunset, Harry Rag, The Way Love Used To Be, Do You Remember Walter? and Days.
Along with the release of the box set, a Various Artists The Village Green Preservation Society: A Tribute to The Kinks Greatest Album by Preservation Society appeared. covering every track in sequence. It’s on Spotify and Amazon, and pictures of the album cover suggest it’s a cassette … if an artefact actually exists. I’ve never heard of any of the artists.
The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society – mono
RARE RECORD PRICE GUIDE 2020: £250 mint
DISCOGS MEDIAN: £250
DISCOGS HIGHEST: £338
DISCOGS ON SALE £290 (Very Good Plus)
The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society – stereo
RARE RECORD PRICE GUIDE 2020: £200 mint
DISCOGS MEDIAN: £150
DISCOGS HIGHEST: £447
DISCOGS ON SALE £350 (Very Good Plus)
(There is one advertised at £2721 in August 2020 in Very Good condition. This is a try on).
Days – The Kinks, Pye 1968
RARE RECORD PRICE GUIDE 2020: £15 mint
The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society – triple vinyl box set, 2018
STILL AVAILABLE. NEW PRICE: £120 – £128
Well Respected Kinks, Marble Arch, 1966
DISOGS ON SALE £1 (condition POOR) to £140, a lot around £30 to £60
Sunny Afternoon LP, Marble Arch 1967
DISCOGS MEDIAN: £6.17
DISCOGS HIGHEST: £13.41
DISCOGS ON SALE: £3 to £105 (Very Good Plus), several £25 to £50
Kinda Kinks, Marble Arch, 1969
DISCOGS MEDIAN: £9.43
DISCOGS HIGHEST: £29
DISCOGS ON SALE £4 to £39.50
The Pye version is worth considerably more