Apart from a few stylistic irritations (like some explorations in country rock in the early 1970s), the musical output of the Kinks always was famous for particularly one thing: it was English, very much so.
And it enlarged on aspects of everyday life in Britain “…such as work play, buying a house, driving a car, drinking tea, getting drunk, and getting laid….” Nevertheless, there is hardly a topic missing in their huge songbook.
Carey Fleiner not so much concentrates on a day by day biography of the band or tries to give the perfect impression of one of Britain’s most important bands. Instead, she enlarges on the cultural stands that had a hand in the band’s music and particularly influenced the band’s lyrics that Ray Davies wrote almost exclusively.
Here she accompanies the band from their beginnings in 1963 as the Ray Davies Quartet, the Boll-Weevils, the Ramrods and eventually as the Kinks until their final concert (as a band) in 1996.
Although this is a rather short book, roughly 160 pages of text, it still adds to the understanding of the Kinks’s universe as Fleiner concentrates on their continual motif of music-hall style/themes blended in with topics of everyday life.
This entertaining (and very successful) coinage had been impossible without the lyrics of Ray Davies that contained a very special dose of absurdity, irony, social criticism, satire, humor and sometimes a bleak outlook on England’s future.
Even if this is not the first book on the band and Ray Davies, it is one of the more interesting ones.
Particularly the two last chapters (‘The Past as a Refuge’ and ‘The Kinks as Others see Them’) are rather unusual. Both reveal that probably the main reason for the long-lasting popularity of the band is their ‘authenticity,’ meaning a brutal honesty about many facts of life that (could) happen to anybody, a down-to-earth simpleness and an overstated and humble respect for the past, which is mockingly romanticized. While traditional values such as working class values, family, family life, self-criticism and simple longings for company, comradeship and friendship are identifiable as major keywords that find elaborate coverage in the band’s lyrics.
Carey Fleiner is a Senior lecturer in classical studies and early medieval history at the University of Winchester.
Review by Dr. A. Ebert © 2017
Carey Fleiner. The Kinks: A Thoroughly English Phenomenon (Tempo: A Rowman & Littlefield Music Series on Rock, Pop, and Culture). Rowman & Littlefield, 2017, 244 p.