Back on July 4th, I annotated The Kinks‘ BBC-TV appearance from January 24, 1973. (Check out God Save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety.) That show bookended the band’s golden age that I’d say began with the transcendent “Waterloo Sunset” single (released May 1967) and ended on that west London soundstage. Not that The Kinks were offering up mediocrity before “Waterloo.” They’d consistently delivered solid material going back to the very beginning of their career. But, “Waterloo Sunset” could be the greatest song ever and nothing they’d recorded to that point could be said to reach that lofty perch. Following that single was a stunning, nearly flawless run of albums: Something Else (1967), Village Green Preservation Society (1968), Arthur (1969), Lola (1970), and Muswell Hillbillies (1971)*.
* Let’s just pretend the Percy soundtrack (1971) never happened. Cool? Cool.
Everybody’s In Show-Biz followed in 1972. I actually think the 2-LP set — one studio and one live — is undervalued in The Kinks canon. That said, there’s more dead weight on Show-Biz than any full-length that preceded it. Even those early Kinks records benefited from primitive, garage-y charm, even if they’d grow tighter as musicians and Ray Davies would mature into arguably the original British Invasion’s greatest songwriter. (Ray didn’t have the luxury of a McCartney or Richards as foil and he certainly matched Townshend in ambition, while having a superior sense of melody and concision). Though Show-Biz had filler, the best studio songs (“Celluloid Heroes,” “Sitting In My Hotel,” “You Don’t Know My Name”) stood with the best material in their recent history. Meanwhile, the live record did a good job of capturing The Kinks circa ’72, and it served as a precursor to that tightly focused, January 1973 Beeb performance. It was theatrical to the point that it almost felt like a Kinks musical, incorporating the Mike Cotton Sound (brass and woodwinds), a 6-piece brass band, and a 6-person choir. Of course, it was this arch sense of flamboyance that hamstrung Ray Davies and The Kinks for the next few years.
Their slide into music hall theatricality betrayed the fact that these dudes were a blistering rock band when they wanted to be. Dave Davies‘ spitting, cutthroat guitar tone was punk before punk, grunge before grunge, and when the band abandoned this aesthetic in favor of camp concepts, they produced a few of their worst records. The Kinks switching labels in 1976 (RCA to Arista) precipitated a return to rock, with Sleepwalker (1977), Misfits (1978), and Low Budget (1979) all preceding — and setting up — today’s showcase. On paper, One For The Road seems like a quick cash-grab, what with it being the 3rd Kinks live album in the previous 12-13 years. However, Road was the first one to fully capture the band’s kinetic rock ‘n’ roll energy. We already discussed Show-Biz, which was a different stylistic animal, but prior to that was Live At Kelvin Hall (US release 1967, UK 1968), a barely-listenable hot mess that was more of an advertisement for screaming teenage girls than it was The Kinks. If you wanna talk cash-grab, Kelvin Hall is your cash-grab.
The problem I’m having (with One For The Road) is trying not to make it sound too clean. I don’t want it to sound like session men. I want it to sound like The Kinks and we have rough edges. If The Kinks do a live album it’s got to have rough edges. I want to keep the mistakes in.
—Ray Davies in Rip It Up (a New Zealand music zine), Issue 1, June 1, 1977
Technically imperfect, but it captures the atmosphere of fun and chaos and that’s The Kinks on stage, isn’t it?
–Ray Davies on One For The Road, Melody Maker, August 9, 1980
What sets One For The Road apart is that it neatly captures what made The Kinks relevant in the first place: Ray’s great tunes and on-stage charisma, Dave’s slashing guitar and high, keening backup vocals, and Mick Avory‘s rock-solid drumming that kept the rest of the band in-pocket. The setlist is equally impressive in that it’s a great mix of classics (“You Really Got Me,” “All Day And All Of The Night,” “Lola,” and “‘Till The End Of The Day”), near classics (“Where Have All The Good Times Gone,” “20th Century Man,” and “David Watts”), and deep cuts (“Low Budget,” “Catch Me Now I’m Falling,” and “Stop Your Sobbing”). Where I mentioned dead weight relative to Show-Biz, Road doesn’t really have that issue. There’s a minor mid-set lull and a couple songs run a little long, but Road is a fun listen that’s been virtually ignored, a disservice to The Kinks’ formidable legacy. Until a pristine tape emerges from 1969-70, for instance, this really is the best document we have of The Kinks as a high-functioning rock ‘n’ roll unit.
When One For The Road was released in the US on June 4, 1980, the album came with a coupon offering a mail-order Time/Life video of the band in concert. According to Doug Hinman’s essential Kinks bible, The Kinks: All Day and All of the Night: Day by Day Concerts, Recordings, and Broadcasts, 1961-1996, the video arrived in stores by mid-August on the fabulous VHS and Beta formats. This is the One For The Road video embedded below and for which I’ve provided my usual song-by-song annotating. The video was shot the previous September in Providence, Rhode Island, and 5 tracks from this gig appear on the Road vinyl: “Catch Me Now I’m Falling,” “Lola,” “Pressure,” “Misfits,” and “Low Budget.”
Quick side note: The picture at the top of this page is of a T-shirt sold on the One For The Road tour (Aug 22-Oct 27, 1980). Obviously, that shirt was produced in 1980 following the album’s release, but the tracks for Road were recorded on the 2nd leg of the US Low Budget tour (Aug 29-Sept 23, 1979).
Kinks – One For The Road Video
Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI
September 23, 1979
:00 – Opening [Instrumental You Really Got Me]
Not sure why the first track is anonymously listed as “Opening,” when it’s an instrumental version of “You Really Got Me.” Clever move. You get the crowd revved up with what they think is an old standby, but the band is really saving it for later in the set. Aesthetically speaking, it sets the tone for the show (and record). This won’t be theatrical or rock-operatic. This is gonna be a rock show. And we know this because Ray intros the next song in this way:
“ROCK BANDS COME!
ROCK BANDS GO!
BUT ROCK ‘N’ ROLL’S GONNA GO ON FOREVER!!!”
[crowd sets self on fire]
:58 – All Day And All Of The Night
OK, so with the benefit of hindsight, the “rock ‘n’ roll’s gonna go on forever” line is on the level of “HELLO SPRINGFIELD!” Fair enough. In Ray’s defense, though, the band follows that line with one of the sturdiest, gnarliest, shit-hot-riffingest jams of all-time … which they wrote. This is a great run through “All Day” and Dave’s 8-bar solo from 2:33-2:56 is absolutely incendiary. I also love his quick pickslide down the neck and powerslide back up at 3:10-3:11. Let it be said that Ray is balls-out going for it as frontman and likewise, I think Mick Avory really pushes it up a notch into the final chorus (after the “whoa-oh” call-and-response).
I know it’s hard to hear “All Day” with fresh ears. We’ve been saturated by it on radio and TV, in movies, and even in fucking Jolly Rancher ads, the ubiquity undercutting its revolutionary origins. However, here’s something to consider. When this Providence show took place, “All Day And All Of The Night” was almost exactly 15 years old (it was recorded on September 24, 1964). Seems like a decent length of time, but as I write this in late November 2014, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is … 23 years old! What songs were 23 years old in 1979? Here’s a few you may have heard of: “Don’t Be Cruel,” “I Walk The Line,” “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Long Tall Sally,” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” How’s that for perspective?
4:29 – Band Credits/Lola Intro
There’s a few common threads between this video and the 1973 BBC video and Ray using “Lola” to get the crowd involved is one of them.
5:54 – Lola
Can I admit something to you guys? Aside from Dave’s occasional peel-outs on Les Paul and high tenor backup vocals, I don’t really care for “Lola.” Don’t hate it, just think it’s kinda whatever. Always have. So, of course, it’s one of the band’s signature songs, going Top 10 in the US, and #1 all over Europe. In fact, this specific performance was released as a single and the Dutch took it BACK to #1 for 4 straight weeks in early 1981. Clearly, I don’t give a damn about giving the people what they want.
10:35 Low Budget
“I’m shopping at Woolworth and low discount stores
I’m dropping my standards so that I can buy more”
If the first 10 minutes of the One For The Road video repped well-trod Kinks, the remainder is mostly dedicated to deep cuts and songs that should’ve been as huge as “Lola” (with a single obvious exception). “Low Budget” is the title track of the album for which the band was touring and one of my favorites of the era. As usual, Dave’s guitar sounds great and he deservedly gets the spotlight treatment. However, don’t ignore Mick Avory and Jim Rodford. They create a swinging, deceptively funky pocket around which the arrangement congeals. Ray’s lyric brilliantly chronicles the downshift from champagne tastes to brown ale, as if the dedicated follower of fashion was forced to go thrifting, and is of a piece with a tune like “Complicated Life” from Muswell Hillbillies.
Here’s a fun fact: The Kinks released 3 singles in the US from Low Budget and the B-side to each of them was “Low Budget.” How weird is that? Frankly, I think “Low Budget” is catchier and more single-worthy than any of those released as the A-sides: “A Gallon Of Gas” (played at this show, but edited out of the video) “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” (which we’ll get to below), and “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman” (which is on-deck). A second fun fact worth mentioning. The first time “Low Budget” entered my consciousness was in 1995 when I interviewed Brian Hennemann of The Bottle Rockets for an article on alt.country (The Stranger Music Quarterly, February 28, 1996). He referenced the very line that I quote above with regard to shopping for guitars in pawn shops. So, thank you, Brian Hennemann!
16:29 – (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman
“Superman” isn’t one of my favorites, but this is a marked improvement over the album cut, which had Avory discoing up the kickdrum with that stiff, four-on-the-floor business. Thanks a lot, “Miss You.” Both “Supermans” are weakened by the same thing: The rhythm section doesn’t swing. However, Dave’s guitar solo from 20:04-21:15 is a thing of beauty and that’s when Avory is allowed to cut loose for the first time. And that brings me to my other problem with this version. It should end after the solo. There’s absolutely nothing to add after that, yet the song drifts on for another 2 minutes.
23:05 – Attitude
Rip It Up: The new wave?
Ray Davies: I don’t think it’s changed my writing as much as my attitude. I felt released by the new wave. It rekindled the spirit that had died in the ’70s.”
—Ray in Rip It Up (a New Zealand music zine), Issue 1, June 1, 1977
An underrated rocker, “Attitude” struts out of the gate with a riff from the early Aerosmith/Van Halen* bag of tricks, but as a whole seems inspired by both the rise of punk and new wave and a callback to classic Kinks. I think the pre-chorus is a little weak — “It’s not the make up/Or the way you dress” — but overall this is hard-driving rock ‘n’ roll. Maybe not great, but solid. In the All Music Guide Richard Gilliam claims that “the song mocks the superficiality of the emerging image-obsessed 1980s.” While that might be true, I think the song is infinitely more interesting if the lyrical target is Ray himself. In the Rip It Up interview quoted above, Ray says, “I realize I’m part of a unit now. I’m happier now, more relaxed.” Ray is historically moody, so who knows how happy he actually was, but between that quote, him admitting that hearing the new wave changed his attitude, and two references to being “in a good phase,” I think it’s reasonable to assert that the song COULD be about him.
* Van Halen, of course, turned a new generation of fans onto The Kinks through their cover of “You Really Got Me,” which you can hear on their groundbreaking 1978 debut.
27:10 – Jim Rodford & Dave Davies Intros/Celluloid Heroes
This might be my favorite part of the concert. Where the studio “Celluloid” is basically show tunes, this bad motherscratcher is a downhome hybrid of country rock and a pop ballad that thankfully excises the unnecessary synth flourishes from the album version. It’s also a textbook lesson on how to swing. The interplay between Rodford’s loping bass in front of the beat, Mick Avory’s right foot and snare pulling against it (and those two elements wonderfully syncopating with each other), with Dave’s crunchy, fluid lead guitar on top is a gravy boat full of chicken fried rock ‘n’ roll*.
* In my cholesterol-ridden universe, this is a positive metaphor. Apologies to my vegan readers.
Another thing I love about this performance is that it reminds me of Wilco‘s 1996-98 golden age when they were touring behind Being There, years before the hipster mad libs and ProTools gentrification. While they lacked the precision and chops of post-millennial Wilco, they made up for any musical deficiencies with passion and go-for-broke sincerity. Ray’s description of One For The Road above describes this era of Wilco to a tee: Ray says, “Technically imperfect, but captures the atmosphere of fun and chaos and that’s
The Kinks Wilco on stage, isn’t it?” As I’ve often said, there’s always room in The Adios Lounge for unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll. The world needs more Tom Pettys and fewer Thom Yorkes. That line in the sand? I drew it.
34:55 – The Hard Way
If you heard the opening riff and thought it sounded like “I Can’t Explain” or “Clash City Rockers,” you’re not alone. But hey, without The Kinks there’s no Clash and with regard to The Who, turnabout is fair play. Pete Townshend long ago admitted that he nicked “You Really Got Me” to write “I Can’t Explain,” specifically to get the attention of Kinks producer, Shel Talmy. The strategy worked, too, because Talmy went on to produce several early Who singles and their 1965 debut LP, My Generation. All that prologue and context aside, “The Hard Way” flat-out rocks.
The song appears on The Kinks’ 1976 concept album, Schoolboys In Disgrace, and is supposedly based on a true story. According to lore, Dave got expelled from secondary modern for truancy and fornication, neither of which were on the school’s curriculum. The mask that Ray wears in the video represents the schoolmaster and “The Hard Way” was written from his perspective: “No matter what I do or say/You’re much too dumb to educate.” Thematically speaking, it’s easy to see why The Kinks were so important to the first wave of British punks. If being punk rock meant questioning the old order and taking the piss out of authority, The Kinks not only got there first, they were still piss-taking in the mid-’70s when punk took root.
37:40 – Where Have All The Good Times Gone?
I was world-weary. I really did feel that the good times had gone. We’d had the hit singles and then we’d been sucked into the mad schedule of touring and recording. People were saying that I’d lost my touch as a writer, that we didn’t sound the same anymore.
–Ray Davies in the 1998 Essential/Castle CD reissue of The Kink Kontroversy
Hard to believe “Where Have All The Good Times Gone?” wasn’t a hit single back in the day, but dem’s da facts. It was the B-side to “Till The End Of The Day,” which went Top 10 in the UK in 1965-66, but that’s as close as it got. Nevertheless, it’s one of the all-timer Kinks tracks, partly because it’s so musically concise, and partly because it’s imbued with the nostalgia that became a Ray Davies trademark. Perhaps predictably — but in this case, there’s nothing wrong with predictable — the video intersperses vintage clips of The Kinks playing on mid-’60s TV, often amidst a bevy of dancing girls. What can you say about “Where Have All The Good Times Gone?” It’s as representative a Kinks song as any in the catalog, elevated into the pantheon by the sublime Ray/Dave vocal harmonies.
39:49 – Mick Avory Intro/You Really Got Me
The funny thing about songs like “You Really Got Me” … or “All Day And All Of The Night” … or “Louie Louie” … or “Satisfaction” … is that they’re so primal and immediate, they don’t seem like songs that were written as much as discovered. It’s like Moses brought them down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets and Ray Davies was walking around one day in 1964, tripped over a tablet, and said, “Well, what do we have here???” And I don’t say this to discredit Ray or any other songwriter. It’s just one of those things where one day there’s no, “You got me so I can’t sleep at night,” and the next day it feels like that line’s been here forever.
On a technical note, while earlier songs had distortion, there’s little doubt that the Dave D guitar fuzz on “You Really Got Me” (and “All Day And All Of The Night”) brought distortion into the rock ‘n’ roll mainstream. So much so, that it’s hard to imagine rock music without it. From there it was a short trip to the aforementioned “Satisfaction,” “I Feel Fine,” “The Ox” by The Who (referenced in this Adios Lounge post about Bo Diddley), Jeff Beck and The Yardbirds, and ultimately the Jimi Hendrix Experience, after which electric lead guitar would never be the same. Incidentally, if you wanna hear a VERY early example of rock-style guitar distortion, go learn yourself some Get It Low: The Dirty Guitar of Junior Barnard. “Ugly! YEAH!!!”
42:53 – Pressure
Another underrated gem from the Low Budget album, “Pressure” is like Chuck Berry by way of The Replacements, which I guess is a fancy way of saying Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers. In fact, I think “Pressure” would’ve fit in perfectly on Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash, The Mats’ brilliant 1981 debut. Dave’s whipsaw guitar licks from 44:18-44:31 certainly wouldn’t be out of place in a Bob Stinson solo. Now’s probably a good time to mention that at one of the earliest Replacements shows — July 17, 1980, at Jay’s Longhorn Bar in Minneapolis — they played “All Day And All Of The Night,” as well as a pair of Thunders songs (“I Wanna Be Loved” and “All By Myself”). (Download that show here.) And if we’re discussing the intersection of Chuck Berry and the Mats, I’d be remiss if I didn’t lob this nug into the mix:
Replacements – Maybelline
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis, MN
September 5, 1981
45:22 – End of Main Set/Closing Credits
46:21 – ENCORE: Catch Me Now I’m Falling
“Now I’m calling all citizens from all over the world
This is Captain America calling
I bailed you out when you were down on your knees
So will you catch me now I’m falling”
More fun from the Low Budgeteria, “Falling” is built on the “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” riff, and is another quality rocker from the era. Dave’s guitar is a highlight throughout, with a couple of ripping 4-bar solos coming out of the bridge (47:45-47:59 and 48:52-49:05). Really though, the whole band delivers, with Ray serving as the unlikely cock of the walk frontman — a frenetic (and welcome) contrast to his reserved performance on the ’73 Beeb special.
Lyrically, “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” is an interesting time capsule. The song is a love letter of sorts to the American empire at a particularly vulnerable moment in US history. 1979 was only 5 years removed from Nixon’s embarrassing resignation due to the Watergate scandal and 4 years removed from the Fall of Saigon, which marked the official end of the Vietnam War. 1979, like 1973, was also a year of a prolonged gas crisis, hence one of the other songs on Low Budget — and the album’s second single in the US — “A Gallon Of Gas.” And if all that weren’t enough, 43 nights after this Providence gig, the Iran Hostage Crisis began. If you ever wondered how Ronnie Reagan‘s Beerhall Putsch and annexation of the Sudetenland united America’s conservative reich, Jimmy Carter‘s Malaiseapalooza is a good place to start.
50:15 – Victoria
One of my favorite Kinks songs and thematically speaking, a clever setlist end-around. If “Falling” was an ode to the decaying American empire, “Victoria,” of course, went the other direction. There’s a reason it’s the leadoff track from my favorite Kinks album, Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) (1969). So yeah. This song’s pretty damn close to unfuckupable and The Kinks don’t disappoint. Ray and Dave’s vocal harmonies are always a treat, Rodford’s bass gives a nice push, and while the performance is a bit ragged — probably because it was the final song in an intense, 19-song set — I can forgive that minor flaw because that’s rock ‘n’ roll, baby.
53:07 – Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” [Excerpt/Outro]
“The Banana Boat Song” seems out of place, but as the last line of a concert, “Daylight come and me gotta go home” makes a certain kind of artistic sense. Ray actually sang it — or at least part of it — on the aforementioned Everybody’s In Show-Biz album. In fact, “Day-O” has been, in one form or another, part of both Kinks and Ray Davies solo since the mid-’70s, when I have to imagine it emerged somewhat spontaneously.
YOU AND ME LAST FOREVER
Let it be said that if the previous 53 minutes didn’t re-instill your love of The Kinks, there’s a chance you’ve suffered an aneurysm. Please check WebMD and panic accordingly. Mainly though, I wanted to remind people of the rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut that was The Kinks. Ray could write compassionate, breathtaking ballads and from time to time the band immersed themselves in theatrical, almost vaudevillian concepts. But, they were also a killer rock band, and one that helped sow the seeds of punk and heavy metal as much as The Stones and Who. I love this passage from Ray’s quasi-autobiography, X-Ray (1995), because it paints a wonderful portrait of several things The Kinks brought to the table: An artistic sensibility that connected with teenagers almost immediately (and would quickly mature), anti-authoritarianism, power chords, a wry sense of humor, and in Ray’s case, a lyrical eye for detail inexorably suffused with a longing and respect for the past.
Dave played the opening chords to ‘All Day And All Of The Night,’ the kids rose to their feet to cheer what was already for them a teenage rock anthem, then a side door opened and a mass of police with truncheons at the ready rushed into the auditorium. It was a matter of seconds before a riot started, a pitched battle between the police and the audience. The whole building erupted. We were rushed into a small room backstage and locked inside. We sat in stunned silence for what seemed like hours while the fans and the police fought outside.
Eventually it was safe for us to leave, and we saw that the theater had been almost totally destroyed. Perhaps the Vikings had passed this way after all. To my amazement, the only item to survive The Battle Of Tivoli Theatre (Copenhagen, Denmark, April 9, 1965) was a small display of records and photographs of the country singer Jim Reeves (who died in a plane crash on July 31, 1964). While all the rock fans had been battling with authority, the sad tribute to the late great singer had remained miraculously intact … A woman swore at us in Danish and then shouted at us in English, ‘Why can’t you be good boys like The Rolling Stones?’
–Ray Davies, X-Ray: The Unauthorized Autobiography, p. 226, 1995