In 1967, with The Beatles hanging out in Strawberry Fields, The Small Faces getting high in Itchycoo Park, and The Rolling Stones 2000 Light Years From Home, The Kinks’ Ray Davies was busy waxing poetically on the virtues of drinking ice cold beer, having a nice cuppa, and watching sunsets. Davies was, without a doubt, an extremely gifted song writer, churning out hit after hit: “You Really Got Me”, “Tired Of Waiting For You”, “Sunny Afternoon”, “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion”, the list goes on. But in May that year, the group would release what is arguably Davies’ greatest ever composition, the achingly reflective “Waterloo Sunset”, a song partly inspired by Ray’s childhood memories of being in St. Thomas’ hospital near the River Thames, while Waterloo was the bridge he had to cross each day on his way to art school. The tune has a sentimental heartfelt quality to it, and is undoubtedly the crowning glory of Something Else By The Kinks, the band’s fifth album, and perhaps their best up to that point.
Recorded at Pye Studios in London, and issued in September 1967, Something Else is another elegant collection of eulogies dedicated to Ray’s heavily romanticised view of England. Dave Davies’ “Death Of A Clown” (one of three tracks written by him) was another hit single lifted off the album, whose protagonist drowns his sorrows in “Whisky and gin”, while a fortune teller “lies dead on the floor”. Pretty sad stuff, and not the sort of radio friendly subject matter that would make a popular song today. “Love Me Till The Sun Shines” is another cynical outing by Dave, including the couplet “Baby I don’t know what I’m doing/Everything I do it turns to ruin”.
“David Watts” is a charming number, and one about a real person as it turns out, based on a concert promoter in the small town of Rutland, who Davies’ describes as “gay and fancy free” and “of pure and noble breed”.
“Harry Rag”, “Tin Soldier Man” and “Afternoon Tea” emphasise Davies’ fixation with all things English, while the delightful “Two Sisters” has an old world charm that is hard to resist, with a narrative straight out of Chekhov. “Lazy Old Sun” has a slightly psychedelic feel to it, unusual for The Kinks, and one which I wouldn’t be surprised Pink Floyd had of taken notice of. “Situation Vacant” could be something from The Village Green Preservation Society, with its dainty narrative and bouncy arrangement. “Funny Face” (the third tune by Dave) reminds the listener of The Beatles and Small Faces rolled into one, and while “No Return” might be filler, at least it’s fine filler. Not so the nostalgic Noel Coward influenced “End Of The Season”, which closes the album, revealing Ray’s love of old time music, to the point where I almost feel like putting on my 1930’s sweater vest and lighting a pipe whenever I listen to it.
Something Else is, if nothing else, a sentimental journey of British life as seen through the eyes of Ray Davies, someone who seems more in love with the past than his present. There is much comedy, sadness and humour on this record, but above all reflection. Within its grooves is not just great music alone, but some of Davies’ finest lyrics as well. And yet despite the popularity of “Waterloo Sunset”, the album stalled at number 35 on the British charts, as if the band’s vision was completely out of step with the current times. Which isn’t surprising, considering that most youth were probably more interested in “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” than they were with sitting on the Village Green.