Certain Songs #867: The Kinks – “A Long Way From Home”

Album: Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround
Year: 1970

The last song I’m posting from the Kinks klassic four-album run, the slowly burning “A Long Way From Home” features one of the most beautiful melodies that Ray Davies ever wrote combined with one of the most poignant lyrics he ever came up with.

While it could be addressed to a friend, or an ex-lover, it might yet be another song about his brother Dave. In a weird way, a callback to “Death of a Clown,” or at least a report card on how Ray sees his brother as the 1960s crashed into the 1970s.

At first, it’s just Ray, a piano and a bass guitar ruminating in the background:

You’ve come a long way from the runny-nosed
And scruffy kid I knew
You had such good ways
I can remember the little things
That always made you smile
They made you happy

It picks up just a little bit during the chorus: Mick Avory comes in with halting, tentative snare drum, and Dave tosses in a quietly snaking guitar, but more importantly, some gorgeously ragged high harmonies.

Now you think you’re wiser because you’re older
And you think that money buys everything
And you think you need no one to guide you
But you’re still a long way from home

The way Dave’s vocals kinda wind around and fall off the word “older” absolutely kill me every time. It’s like he’s acknowledging everything: that his brother is praising him while trying to push him to keep going in the same direction.

Telling somebody that they’re a long way from home could feel discouraging, but in this case, it seems to me that it’s more about encouragement — just because they’re a long way from home doesn’t mean they’re never going to get there. After all, they’ve already come a long way!

“A Long Way From Home”

“A Long Way From Home” performed live by Ray Davies on Austin City Limits

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