26. The Kinks – The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968)
1968 was one of rock music’s great leaps forward. In Britain alone the Beatles would prove themselves as the most forward thinking and experimental band ever with The White Album, the Small Faces would turn out a bonafide psychedelic masterpiece with Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, and Pete Townshend was starting to discuss rock as a real cultural force, capable of providing narrative, as he tried to prove with that year’s Tommy. So while all this future-shocking was going on, The Kinks provided this gentle, nostalgic masterpiece, looking back on a mythical cricket, tea and scones past, a life which may have never existed. It is the most emphatically English album of all time.
It’s music that evokes the feelings of a man who doesn’t quite understand the way the world is going, and he wants to be a child again. Almost every single lyric on the album is written in the past tense, each one like a little play about some eccentric character or beautiful landscape Ray Davies knew in his youth. Not here the violent riffs of You Really Got Me or All Day And All Of The Night, rather the dreamlike proto-Roald Dahl of Phenomenal Cat and the beautiful plinky-plonk of Sitting By The Riverside. So many songs here mention taking photographs, “to prove that they really existed,” and there are so many “la-la-la” bits. The track Village Green has a harpsichord and is so unbelievably Ye Olde England-sounding it is amazing that they don’t squeeze a Hey-Nonny-Nonny into the chorus.
They call it a concept album in retrospect, and I suppose it is in many ways. Its about a time when everything was made of wood or metal because there was no plastic and there were factory chimneys smoking in the distance and Richard Burton was a rising star. What Davies didn’t realise, though, was that for a generation that missed it, this album would come to be about the very time in which he recorded it. A time when every schoolboy had a picture of Booby Moore or Jimmy Greaves on their bedroom wall, and every girl wanted to look like Twiggy. They may call it a concept album, but at the end of the day it is nothing less than a phenomenally good acoustic rock album, and while The Beatles and Stones were taking all the plaudits, …Village Green would go on to influence just as many artists. Without this record, no Paul Weller, no Blur, no Belle And Sebastian, no White Stripes. Long live Donald Duck, vaudeville and variety.
Best Tracks: Johnny Thunder, Last Of The Steam-Powered Trains, Village Green
Best Moment: The opening line in Animal Farm: This world is big and wild and half insane. Someone get the man a nice cup of tea.
Like this? Try: If You’re Feeling Sinister by Belle and Sebastian, 1994
Allen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 20 month-old daughter who is into The Ramones. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written by someone from Hull. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx