The Kinks are one of those bands that I could sit around all night fighting with myself about which song to write about. It kills me in a way. Because when I look at the reams of music that they have in my head, I wonder how it is that it has been at least 20 years since I owned anything by The Kinks. It’s like 30 years of music that has some enormous influence on who I am. Which song do you choose out of all of that?
“They put a parking lot on a piece of land.”
I can remember about a dozen stories before I moved from NJ when I was 12 that involved a Kinks song. And for some reason I remember very clearly a girl in 7th grade that used to sing Destroyer all of the time. The late 70’s hard rock era of The Kinks was how I first got to know The Kinks. It seems unfathomable now to think that I hardly knew anything about The Kinks before Give the People What They Want. And how the hell does a band stay so relevant and obscure at the same time?
“Where the supermarket used to stand.”
There are all of these Kinks songs that were popular in the 60’s. Then they were covered by bands in the 70’s and the performances were so iconic that these are the performances we remember like You Really Got Me when Van Halen covered it. And it’s funny because I was just sort of drifting toward sleep a little while ago. My brain started toying with what I was going to write about and Come Dancing just popped into my head.
“Before that they put up a bowling alley.”
Now here’s what really got me writing about this song from this perspective. You Really Got Me came out in 1964. In 1978, Van Halen did their cover version. In 1983 at 13 years old, I had no idea that You Really Got Me was written 20 years earlier. I thought it was a Van Halen song. So sometime in 1983 I was living in Houston and bought State of Confusion with Destroyer in mind. I was surprised at its lack of hard rock edge, but I was into it anyway. And I played Come Dancing over and over again. The video machine wasn’t as polished in the early 80’s, so I didn’t see the video for months. It took me a few more years to make the connection between the string of 60’s hits and The Kinks of the 80’s and the Van Halen version of You Really Got Me.
“On the site that used to be the local Pally.”
And why was Come Dancing carving a place out in my head? I wondered at this even then. I was really into a fantasy life at the time being that my connection with the real world was intensely depressing. I couldn’t connect to anything or anyone in any meaningful way. But I had no connection to the nostalgia that he was singing about. I didn’t even like dancing. And I remember wondering how he had any connection to what seemed like 50’s bands. Certainly he wasn’t that old.
“That’s where the big bands used to come and play.”
And thinking about that now makes me nostalgic and seems kind of funny in a normal way. I loved The Kinks and thought of them as somehow relevant to my time as a teenager. Like Van Halen and The Kinks were the same age. And maybe that’s something that I forget a lot of the time when I am telling stories about my misspent or misguided youth. Some of the events were significant and sometimes disturbing in an adult way. But I was a child. Sometimes I forget that about myself. And this song makes me nostalgic for that.
“My sister went there on a Saturday.”
I love Ray Davies vocal style with a talking sing song approach and how it differed from other songs. For some reason on State of Confusion, his British accent was apparent on every song. His singing on so many earlier albums is actually singing and not a styling that often uses spoken word, so you can’t really hear the accent. But it seems intentional along with so many other things that The Kinks changed over and over again. The guitar sounds are so updated on State of Confusion, but that could be heard from album to album throughout their career. And then there’s this keyboard carrying the main hook, and the horns in the bridge. Obviously nostalgic for a simpler time in their own lives and a sister they missed. I think we all forget sometimes that we were children.
And maybe with so much to prove as adults we forget about the simplicity of the song. So concerned with the deeper significance of everything. And this isn’t altogether new for me. I needed songs like this at 13 years old to remind me that I needed to slow down. Sometimes the deeper significance is the simplicity itself. Sometimes it’s good to dance even when you generally don’t like to dance. Sometimes it’s good to refuse to worry even when there’s something to worry about.
“That’s how they did it when I was just a kid.”
Tomorrow is another day with a whole new list of problems.
“And when they said come dancing.”
Iggy’s sister dancing away in the womb. I guess we are all going to come dancing. Because you are rolling away in there. Hang on little Lucy. Hang on.
“My sister always did.”