Certain Songs #856: The Kinks – “Big Sky”

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

And how about that lovely album cover? Framing the four Kinks outdoors, none of them smiling, situated somehow simultaneously in front of and behind a glowing, swirling canopy, it represented the music within much better than the garish, overthought covers of Face to Face, Arthur, Lola or even Something Else by The Kinks.

That cover — like the music on the album — is mysterious and eternal, capturing a moment that was somehow out of time. Pete Quaife left The Kinks for good just after The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, so among other things, that cover photo is one of the last ones taken of the original quartet.

None of this, of course, has to do with “Big Sky,” the last song on side one, and probably favorite song on the record. One of the things about hard-rocking bands pulling up and making a less hard-rock album is that the rockers are often the best songs on the records, not because they are the rockers, per se — though, yeah, that helps with a guy like me — but because the band puts more into them because they’ve learned how to.

So while no one is ever going to confuse “Big Sky” with “All Day and All of the Night,” the utterly lovely chiming lead that Dave Davies plays throughout is something that would have been beyond him, but it immediately draws you in, just so you can be devastated by his brother’s spoken-word verses, recited as the rest of the band are singing “oooooooooooooooooh” and “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” behind him.

Big Sky looked down on all the people
Looking up at the Big Sky
Everybody pushing one another around
Big Sky feels sad when he sees
The children scream and cry
But the Big Sky’s too big to let it get him down

The great thing about “Big Sky,” why it transcends just about every other song about what Warren Zevon once called “the vast indifference of heaven,” is that it takes multiple points of view. It’s the bridge that makes it so powerful, as the song breaks down — no lead guitars, no drum rolls, muted vocals — and Ray sings from the point of a true believer.

When I feel that the world is too much for me
I think of the Big Sky
And nothing matters much to me

This is the point of the true believer: god has to be there for me. God save the village green, as Ray sang just a few songs prior, before forgetting Walter, looking in a picture book, and staring a train in a museum. So in the last verse, the Big Sky is going to be there for him, right?

Big Sky looked down on all the people
Who think they got problems
They get depressed and they
Hold their head in their hands and cry
People lift up their hands
And they look up to the Big Sky
But the Big Sky is too big to sympathize

Of course, the people don’t know that. They don’t know that he’s too occupied. Sure, he feels bad about that, but doesn’t change anything. All the people can do is hope and pray that the Big Sky will pay attention to them, so that they’ll be free one day.

But given the way Ray almost joyously says “But the Big Sky is too big sympathize” all I can say to the people waiting on the Big Sky is “good luck with that.”

“Big Sky”

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