I originally had aspirations that today would be a fartlek day, however, upon seeing the forecast for today (feels like 25°, 69% humidity) and I immediately thought: “Fuck that – drills it is”. It’s October for Pete’s sake, and I’m just so over having to suffer in the heat. So, yeah, 7.54k worth of hopping, leaping and skipping down the Friendship Trail it will be. To off-set what suffering will be had I queued up another Desert Island album of mine, the amazing ‘The Village Green Preservation Society‘ album by the Kinks.
Released in 1968, and written and composed over the course of a two year period, this album was the last album by the original quartet, as bassist Pete Quaife would go on to leave the group in early 1969. Although the record is widely considered one of the most influential and important works by the Kinks, it failed to chart upon release, selling about 100,000 copies. In 2003 the album was ranked number 255 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. My own Bible (Mojo, August 1995) listed this album at #91.
Personally, I would have listed it much higher.
Ray Davies’ sentimental, nostalgic streak emerged on ‘Something Else‘, but it developed into a manifesto on this album, a concept album lamenting the passing of old-fashioned English traditions. As the opening title song says, the Kinks – meaning Ray himself, in this case – were for preserving “draught beer and virginity,” and throughout the rest of the album, he creates a series of stories, sketches, and characters about a picturesque England that never really was. Over the course of the albums 40 minutes or so, we are introduced to fat old Uncle Charlie, ‘Johnny Thunder‘, a girl called Daisy, Tom the grocer boy, a ‘Phenomenal Cat‘, ‘Monica‘, ‘Wicked Annabella‘, some dude named Walter, seemnigly Ray’s entire fam-jam, as well as everything (and everyone) that’s going on in the albums title track, which is a lot.
It’s a lovely, gentle album, evoking a small British country town (of which, I have a lot of familiarity with), and drawing the listener into its lazy rhythms and sensibilities. Although there is an undercurrent of regret running throughout the album, Davies’ fondness for the past is warm, making the album feel like a sweet, hazy dream. And considering the subdued performances and the detailed instrumentations, it’s not surprising that the record feels more like a Ray Davies solo project than a Kinks album.
The bluesy shuffle of ‘Last of the Steam-Powered Trains‘ (my particular favorite) is the closest the album comes to rock & roll, and Dave Davies’ cameo on the menacing ‘Wicked Annabella‘ comes as surprise, since the album is so calm. But calm doesn’t mean tame or bland (‘Big Sky‘ is also a pretty kick ass tunes and ‘All My Friends Were There‘ is trippy as all get out) – there are endless layers of musical and lyrical innovation on VGPS, and its defiantly British sensibilities became the foundation of generations of British guitar pop.
Over all, it wasn’t as bad out temperature or humidity wise that I thought it was going to be, thanks to a nice crosswind which kept things cooled down a bit. I was almost – almost – tempted to do a few fartlek intervals but I was already committed to this enjoyable soundtrack so I kept with the program of a nice, steady continuous jog after my ABC drills and just enjoyed the gorgeous autumn scenery.
On a rather interesting note, I was passed by at the tail end of my run by someone driving a Union Jack painted Mini Cooper (at the corner of Disher and Point Pleasant Rd.’s) while listening to an album depicting the quintessential essence of uber-Englishness.
How ironic is that?