Certain Songs #843: The Kinks – “See My Friends”

Single, 1965

Let’s remember something: in July 1965 it had only been a year since the seminal riff-rock of “You Really Got Me.” And The Kinks were already dabbling — ahead of just about all of their peers — in weird raga-influenced psychedelia.

Weird and beautiful, as “See My Friends” is one of the first times that it was obvious that what Ray Davies wanted was kinda of beyond his band’s capabilities.

And this was the great thing about The Kinks: their limitations — and Ray’s loyalties to his school friend Pete Quaife and his younger brother meant that he couldn’t just dump them — kept his music grounded in the rock ‘n’ roll basics, at least for while.

And so while Ray might have wanted to have the music more emulate the Bombay fishermen’s chants that helped inspire it, it wasn’t like Dave was going to learn to play a sitar like Brian Jones or George Harrison. But he was sure going to try to make his guitar sound like one.

See my friends
See my friends
Playin’ across the river

So with a raga-ish 12-string ringing against an a drony six-string and Mick Avory laying the backbeat on one of his toms, “See My Friends” makes a melancholic noise to match the sadness of the lyrics.

She is gone
And now there’s no one else to take her place
She is gone
And now there’s no one else to love
‘Cept my friends,
Playin’ across the river

Amazingly enough — despite the typically memorable melody line Ray nasaled up — “See My Friends” was seen as kind of a failure. It “only” made #10 in the U.K., and was a total bomb in the U.S., which might be why their next U.K. single was one last return to basics.

“See My Friends”

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