Certain Songs #865: The Kinks – “Strangers”

Album: Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround, Part One
Year: 1970

If I think that Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround, Part One is the fourth straight utterly unassailable Kinks album — capping a run that puts them up there with any four-album run by any artist ever — that seems to be a slightly controversial position, as its critical reputation hasn’t held up as well as the four albums that preceded it, or the one that came after.

But that’s horseshit, because while Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround doesn’t completely hang together as a concept album, per se, it’s an absolutely fantastic collection of folk-rock songs that often drift into rock-rock songs, free of the horns that fought for space in Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall of The British Empire) or the sometimes fussy arrangements from The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society or Something Else By The Kinks.

And in fact, I think that except for the piledriving “Top of the Pops,” the music biz songs are the weakest songs on the record, preferring the numbers that are clearly addressing another person, like Dave Davies’ lovely “Strangers.”

Where are you going I don’t mind
I’ve killed my world and I’ve killed my time
So where do I go what do I see
I see many people coming after me
So where are you going to I don’t mind
If I live too long I’m afraid I’ll die
So I will follow you wherever you go
If your offered hand is still open to me

And while he’d been a constant presence on their singles, Dave hadn’t contributed a song to an album since Something Else By The Kinks, so while “Strangers” didn’t fit conceptually — there isn’t anything about the horrors of the music biz anywhere near it — it slotted in pretty well musically: mostly just piano, organ, acoustic guitar and a sparse, tom-filled Mick Avory drum part.

With music being so sparse, “Strangers” gets by on the empathy of Dave’s vocals, as he builds in intensity during each verse until he drops it back down just in time for the chorus.

Strangers on this road we are on
But we are not two we are one

And maybe because they’re brothers, but unlike the Keith Richards’ Rolling Stones songs where Mick always has to make sure you remember he’s in the band as well (though once when asked why he doesn’t sing more songs, Keith replied, “well what the hell would Mick do then?”) (unless I’m making that up), when Ray Davies sneaks in during the chorus for the harmonies, you really don’t notice, until you do, because it could about the pair of them.

We’re getting near the end of peak Dave Davies as a songwriter: after contributing key tracks to two of their four greatest albums — as well as a handful of singles — the Kinks wouldn’t have another Dave Davies song on an album until 1978’s Misfits, and only sporadically after that.

I’m sure there are Reasons for that, and certainly the plethora of Ray-conceived concept albums that dominated the first part of the 1970s couldn’t have helped, but with the exception of “Living on a Thin Line” from 1984’s Word of Mouth, Dave didn’t really write another song I loved after this record.

Fan-made video for “Strangers”

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