The Kinks Quantum Leap
You think The Beatles made a huge leap forward with Revolver? Well The Kinks made a quantum leap with “Face to Face“. Sure, with the benefit of hindsight you can see the inklings of it on The Kink Kontroversy, but in reality this was a bit of a stunner, which naturally meant it sold almost nothing upon release, especially in the USA.
Phoenix from the Ashes of USA Touring Ban and Ray Davies‘ Breakdown
Ray Davies Starts to Pen more Introspective and Observational Lyrics
As Ray Davies was recovering he started turning his glare to the world around him. The rest of the world was going psychedelic, but Ray looked closer to home for inspiration. He started to take delight in directing his beautifully barbed lyrics at those around him. He had recently penned the likes of “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” and “Well Respected Man” and he took this further with “Sunny Afternoon”.
The Kinks went in and recorded “Sunny Afternoon”, a classic Kinks single giving a wonderful insight into Ray’s Prozac-like view of his world falling to pieces while he sits back and watches it go by in a peaceful haze. Further evidence that Ray was turning his back on the mainstream are shown in his lyrics of this era, for example “Rosie, Won’t You Please Come Home” takes the side of the parents rather than the runaway teenager (it was in fact aimed at his sister who had moved to live in Australia, a theme he tackled again on “Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)”)
Nobody was to be spared, especially his younger brother and Kinks guitarist Dave Davies, with whom he has shared an often prickly relationship. Although he never admitted as much, there is plenty of reason to believe the song “Dandy” is directed firmly at Dave’s wild lifestyle.
Ray also penned some songs on his delicate mental state. “Too much on my mind” and the haunting, “Rainy Day in June” inspired by Ray’s backyard garden sanctuary where he would go to escape the madness of his professional and private life (Ray’s wife, Lithuanian born Rasa, sung on this and several other Kinks albums and gets an oblique but disparaging mention in “Sunny Afternoon”)
As well as his new found lyrical direction, Ray Davies also departed from the route being taken by his contemporaries. The Rolling Stones worshiped at the temple of Muddy Waters and The Beatles were heading off to India and psychedelia, whereas Ray Davies turned his musical ear to his British past in Musical Hall and Vaudeville.
This period saw Ray Davies blossom into a genuinely great song-writer and seemingly nothing could stop him now. Except that their label, Pye Records were not entirely convinced. After all Ray Davies was The Kinks main man and he had just suffered a breakdown.
Pete Quaife in Car Crash amd Leaves The Kinks
Ray Davies was not the only member of The Kinks suffering during this period. Bassist Pete Quaife was involved in a serious auto accident leaving him unable to play. He resigned from The Kinks and was briefly replaced by John Dalton, but later reconsidered and rejoined The Kinks in November 1966.
“Sunny Afternoon” Hits Number One in the UK
Just as “You Really Got Me” was the hit that saved The Kinks early career, “Sunny Afternoon” hit the number one spot in the UK in May 1966. This gave the record label the confidence to give The Kinks the money to go into the studio for an extended period to record “Face to Face“.
Now The Kinks did not have to bash out the record in the space of a few weeks they could take their time to develop their ideas and capture them on tape. This freedom lead to an explosion of creativity from The Kinks in general, but Ray’s song-writing in particular. This was the first Kinks album with no cover versions. In fact they were all written by Ray Davies, even Dave Davies did not get a look in on the song writing front.
Face to Face The First Concept Album?
“Face to Face” is often cited as the first concept album as it shows a loose continuation of theme. Ray even wanted to have sound effects connecting the songs to increase this feeling, but Pye thought this a bit much. Ray fought this to some degree and some of these sound effects made it onto the album, cut it with normal ‘tracks’, for example “Party Line” and “Rainy Day in June”.
Ray Davies also fought Pye over the cover, which he felt was too Psychedelic and inappropriate for the album, which was true. Yet more delays were caused by legal issues until it was finally released and then….nothing. Well nearly!
Poor Sales on Release
When “Face to Face” was released, it failed to make the top ten in the UK and barely making the top 100 in the USA. Being banned from touring the USA did not help, but the world had gone psychedelic…well, everyone but The Kinks!
However “Face to Face” marked the beginning of what became regarded as The Kinks “Golden Era”. Ray Davies‘ satirical eye for the joys and ludicrousness of English life came to the fore as he fully bloomed into the songwriter we know and love so well.
Although the original recordings have dated badly in production terms and a few filler tracks made it in there, “Face to Face” is a very fine album. Of the additional tracks added in the 2004 release the best is the scathing “Mr Reporter” aimed at the journalists of the time, which probably explains why the record label was less than keen to include it!
In this day and age it is amazing to consider that even after the commercial failure of “Face to Face“, The Kinks were able to go on and record more albums. Luckily for us they were as the next few years saw a run of albums that happily stand comparison with even the best of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
I know some of you will be shaking your heads about that last statement, but we know comparing Sergent Pepper’s with Exile on Main Street is futile. They are both great albums but very different. The Kinks were again different, but no less brilliant.
- Ray Davies – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, mellotron
- Dave Davies – lead guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on “Party Line”, “You’re Lookin’ Fine” and “Mr. Reporter”, bass on “Dead End Street”
- Pete Quaife – bass, backing vocals
- John Dalton – bass, backing vocals
- Mick Avory – drums, percussion
- Nicky Hopkins – keyboards, piano, harmonium (on “Sunny Afternoon”)
- Rasa Davies – backing vocals on “Sunny Afternoon”, “Session Man”, and “Rainy Day In June”
All songs by Ray Davies unless otherwise specified.
- Party Line
- Rosy Won’t You Please Come Home
- Too Much on My Mind
- Session Man
- Rainy Day in June
- A House in the Country
- Holiday in Waikiki
- Most Exclusive Residence for Sale
- Little Miss Queen of Darkness
- You’re Lookin’ Fine
- Sunny Afternoon
- I’ll Remember
Additional Tracks on 2004 CD Release
- I’m Not Like Everybody Else (bonus)
- Dead End Street (bonus)
- Big Black Smoke (bonus)
- Mister Pleasant (bonus)
- This Is Where I Belong (bonus)
- Mr. Reporter (prev. unreleased)
- Little Women (prev. unreleased)
Original Release Date
October 28th, 1966 (UK)
December 7th, 1966 (USA)
Record Label/Catalogue Number (USA)
Reprise Records R-6228
Record Label/Catalogue Number (UK)
Pye NSPL 18149 (Stereo)
Pye NPL 18149 (Mono)
It has been said by mercenary – minded persons that upon setting out along life’s road the bread, the filthy lucre of W. Shakespeare of highly regarded memory would seem to be the thing to go for.
So if you accept the opinion of these aforesaid persons in the spirit in which it is given and get cracking you get the loot.
So what next?
So far on your passage through this vale of tears you have been a hick, a nothing and an unheralded nobody. To be a well respected man must be your next aim, and with the loot in your pocket and the wicked world being what it is,
You become a well respected personage ere you know it.
Then comes dedication to the dictates of fashion. The Carnaby Street. The striped natty suiting. Touches of velvet upon the collar. Touches of lace upon the underwear.
And of course ties of polka dot and Persian–originated Paisley pattern.
Next? Country house, yacht, powered by sail and/or steam, with the motor car in lurid colour and with white walls to its wheels smiling in the golden gravel drive.
Ladies of course. Ladies with long legs and little bosom, hair the colour of corn, very mini, very skinny dresses. Status symbol ladies with rich dark sheen in the depths of the skin.
Dwindling in the end to one lady, one Special who gets in among the soul.
The trouble being that the perfect woman becomes a bore, like having venus de Milo constantly upon one’s hands.
So angry words are spoken, and she of golden hair and mini skirt, half woman, half thighs leaves. With car. Back to ma and pa. With tales of drunkeness and cruelty.
As if this is not enough, fate flings its last custard pie.
The taxman cometh.
And you are left with the glass of ice cold beer, and the sun on the uplands with dappled shadows and all, which is much better, as the poet has it than a poke up the nostril with a burnt stick.
(Now read on).
Raymond Douglas Davies, a musician, not forgetting David, his hith and kin.
Peter Quaife, bass guitar who once wrote a story about an embarrasing affliction from which Rays grandfather suffered for over forty years.
And Michael Avory, drummer and the possessor of four shoes, two for each foot,
have continued the story. And stories parallel to his sad one.
About the frustration of the telephone, About rainy days and sunny days, about sessions men and dark ladies, about P.V.C. grass skirts in Waikiki, about memories, and dandies, and most of all about the breadwinner who was in the beginning, who lost all, sold his most exclusive residence, and passes into the bosom of his fathers.
Frank Smyth, Autumn 1966