This Is The Modern World

The good old days. A world of half-day closing and half-pints at lunchtime. A world of “‘allo Mrs Jones, ‘ow’s your Bert’s lumbago?“,  black and white telly where “Leeds are playing in yellow” and pop groups are “bigger than Jesus.” A world where you got today’s news tomorrow and change from a two bob trip to see two top films at the La Scala. A world of Dansettes ‘n desert boots, when the 7″ was king and the clothes you wore were an extension of the music you listened to. Aye, the good old days, when R’n’B meant rhythm and blues rather than Rihanna and Beyoncé.

Sittin’ On My Sofa by The Kinks is a fantastic piece of throwaway pop. On the b-side of 1966’s Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, it’s rarely mentioned when the genius of Ray Davies is discussed. And why would it? It’s hardly a lyrical tour de force. There’s no wry observational wordplay going on. And there’s no interesting baroque pop arrangement or well-constructed melodic break to hang your hat on. It’s a 3 chord R’n’B stomper, flung together with insistent urgency. That’s all. And that’s all y’need.

*( I find if you read the above paragraph in the style of the much-loved Brian Matthews, it adds to the overall feel of the piece).

OK chaps,” Shel Talmy perhaps said from the control room that day, inbetween long drags on a Rothman’s King Size. “We need a b-side. We’ve got half an hour then we’re outta here. Whadayagot?

They had this.

The KinksSittin’ On My Sofa

It’s battered and bruised but plays as good as it first did, 51½ years ago.

Wall to wall AC30s at room-rattlin’ volume. Snarling guitars. Ropey backing vocals. A bit of feedback in the sloppy solo. They even found time to overdub a barrelhouse pianer. Four perfectly turned-out heads, bobbing in time to the glorious racket they’re making. It sounds as though the band enjoyed playing it. By 1966 The Kinks were writing increasingly sophisticated songs and on the cusp of a run of concept albums, so it must’ve been great to get back to the days of dusty coffee houses and 12 bar blues. I’d love love love to have been in the same room when they recorded it. Great, innit?

Bands nowadays who describe themselves as ‘mod’ because they’ve got a Pretty Green top and a Small Faces CD between them really need to up their game. Look, listen and learn, losers. Look, listen and learn.

Get This!, Hard-to-find, Yesterday's Papers

Kinks, Konkers and Kids in Kasualty (slight return)

Slightly recycled from Plain Or Pan’s back pages, this article is adapted from one that first appeared 5 years ago…

Autumn. The nights are drawing in and the curtains are drawing shut. The heating comes on a bit earlier than normal and stays on that wee bit longer. You can smell winter coming in the air. The leaves are turning red and yellow. Conkers are on the ground and in the playground. Kids are off to the medical room for a good dose of TCP and a telling off.

kinks rsg

It’s round about now that I like to dig out ‘Autumn Almanac’ by The Kinks, a song that so perfectly sums up this time of year. You don’t even have to be quintessentially English to appreciate lines such as, “I like my football on a Saturday, roast beef on Sundays, alright! I go to Blackpool for my holidays, sit in the open sunlight.”

No doubt about it, it’s one of my all-time top 5 favourite songs ever. Just ahead of ‘Ally’s Tartan Army’  by Scotland’s 1978 World Cup Squad, though just behind ‘There She Goes’  by The La’s.

Lee Mavers once lectured me on the brilliance of Autumn Almanac  for a good 10 minutes. “From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpill-ah!” he offered, in his sing-song Mersey twang. “How good a line is that, La!?! ‘Friday evening, people get together…hiding from the weather…’ The chords, the feel, the melancholy…….it’s not as good as Waterloo Sunset, though, is it?”

kinks autumn almanac ad

The single version of Autumn Almanac was recorded in September 67 and released 3 weeks later. No great strategic marketing campaign with focus groups, target audiences and avoidance of any other big act’s single being released at the same time. Get in the studio, cut the record, release the record. Times being simpler then, Autumn Almanac climbed to either number 3 or number 5 on the charts, depending on which music paper you were reading.

Recorded for Top Gear just a few weeks after, on October 25th 1967 at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studio 4 and broadcast 4 days later, the above track is taken from a well-known Kinks bootleg* called ‘The Songs We Sang For Auntie’, a 3 CD set that compiles most of (or all?) the unreleased BBC session stuff from 1964-1994. A must-have for any fan of a band who were matched surely only by The Beatles in terms of high quality output.

Ask anyone to name 3 Kinks singles and they’ll give you all the usual suspects, but I bet it’d be unlikely Autumn Almanac would feature in too many lists. It’s an under appreciated classic, that’s for certain. Just ask Lee Mavers.

*Since writing this article, there’s been an official Kinks BBC release. But you probably knew that already.

Yes, yes, yes! It’s my Autumn Almanyac!