Certain Songs #862: The Kinks – “Arthur”

Album: Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire)
Year: 1969

After a whole album that basically spanned the history of the U.K., the Kinks finish the album that they started off exhorting her majesty Queen Victoria with a paean to the titular character, about whom they’re worrying way more than the Queen.

Musically, “Arthur” is the simplest, least-cluttered song on the record — no keyboards, no horns, driven mostly a Dave Davies’ 12-string guitar riff that barely kept from tripping over itself.

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Certain Songs #861: The Kinks – “Shangri-La”

Album: Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall of The British Empire)
1969

“Shangri-La” is my favorite song on Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall of The British Empire), and is probably one of my top 5 Kinks songs overall.

As the first song after you flip the record over after “Australia,” it always felt like also kind of a compare and contrast piece to that song as well. While the former is all about celebrating the endless possibilities of uprooting your life and moving to the other side of the world, the latter is a slowly burning satire of putting down roots in your very own uniquely-named home.

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Certain Songs #860: The Kinks – “Australia”

Album: Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall of The British Empire)
Year: 1969

After a pair of anti-war songs, a look at the disruptive technology of the car, and Ray ranting at the government, the first side of Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall of The British Empire) ends its first side with the longest song The Kinks had recorded up to that point, the epic “Australia.”

Inspired by Ray and Dave’s older sister, Rose, who emigrated to Australia a few years prior, “Australia” is a seven increasingly loopy minutes of reasons to get the hell out of England that nevertheless must have the been the soundtrack to more than one newly-minted immigrant.

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Certain Songs #859: The Kinks – “Victoria”

Album: Arthur (Or The Fall And Decline of The British Empire)
Year: 1969

And then everything changed again. After the relatively intimate songs of Something Else By The Kinks and The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation, Ray Davies took up Granada TV’s offer to write a concept album that was based upon, um, the history of Great Britain in the 20th century.

But Ray Davies being Ray Davies, it was really about his brother-in-law, Arthur, who had recently emigrated to Australia with his favorite older sister, Rose.

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Certain Songs #858: The Kinks – “All of My Friends Were There”

Album: The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society
Year: 1968

One of the things about The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society is that it’s one of those albums that is so loaded with weird, disparate songs that — outside of the title track and probably “Big Sky,” — there isn’t a whole lot of consensus as to what the best songs are.

So I’m guessing that people those who were scandalized, or at least puzzled, by me picking “Phenomenal Cat” yesterday are probably utterly gobsmacked by “All Of My Friends Were There,” which might be the weirdest song on the whole record.

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