Certain Songs #850: The Kinks – “David Watts”

Album: Something Else By The Kinks
Year: 1967

Studio chatter: “This is the master. Nice and smooth.”

And with a backwards “1,2,3,4!” The Kinks kick off one of the greatest four-album runs in rock history. Four albums that are chock full of songs that are heartbreaking and hilarious, rocking and tender, satiric and sentimental and are unlike anything else that any band had ever produced.

And my favorite album of that period — my favorite Kinks album, and one of my favorite albums of the 1960s — is the one that started the run, the most unassuming of the lot: Something Else By The Kinks.

Unlike the albums that would follow for nearly the next decade, there was no overt theme unifying the songs on Something Else By The Kinks, and yet, I would argue that the subtle character sketches that permeated the album, the looks into the lives of a jealous sister, lovers waiting for a train, and people who are living for their next cigarette add up to more than the sum of the individual songs.

And this despite the fact that the album was kind of cobbled together from songs that were originally conceived for Ray’s “Village Green” project. Which we will get to in a few days.

Which isn’t to discount the worth of the individual songs, like the opening track, “David Watts,” the opening stomper equally driven by Mick Avory’s double-time snare, Nicky Hopkins’ piano and the Ray and Dave Davies’ insistent chants of “Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa.”

Over all of this, Ray is singing a homoerotic story of admiration for the “head boy” of his school.

And when I lie on my pillow at night
I dream I could fight like David Watts
Lead the school team to victory
And take my exams and pass the lot

(Wish I could be)
Wish I could be like David Watts
(Wish I could be)
Wish I could be like David Watts
(Wish I could be)
Conduct my life like David Watts
(Wish I could be)
I wish I could be like David Watts

The great thing about “David Watts” is that there is so much going on to bring you in. With Dave providing “ahhhhhhhhhhhh hey!” backing vocals on the verses and the “Wish I could be” on the chorus as well as harmonizing on the aformentioned “Fa-fa-fa-fas, there is an even more than normal amount of vocal counterpoint and trade offs to bring you in.

It’s an auspicious beginning to an incredible record.

“David Watts”

“David Watts” live in Frankfort, 1984

Ray Davies & The 88 performing “David Watts” live on The Tonight Show

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