Something Else by The Kinks was released on September 15th, 1967. Post “Face To Face“, Ray Davies started to look beyond the hit single with his writing for The Kinks. The name of the album is believed to have come from Ray’s conversations with their management where he spoke of not wanting to chase the singles market, but rather “Something Else“. However to do this he needed more time to experiment and distill the elements of his songwriting.
Ray Davies had been talking about a stage musical (several years before the term “Rock Opera” would be coined) which he called his “Village Green” project, but at this stage this was not well formed. However Ray Davies was keen to get away from the boy-meets-girl pop song and incorporate his flowing, narrative style into pop music.
Fortunately the first product of this vision was “Waterloo Sunset”, which quickly became a hit single in the UK and is now regarded as one of the greatest songs of all time (to be precise Rolling Stone voted “Waterloo Sunset” the 42nd best song of all time…so that’s official then!) Over the summer of 1967, “Waterloo Sunset” reached number 2 in the UK charts, only being held off the number 1 spot by The Beatles “All You Need is Love”.
In The Studio Without Shel Talmy
The production of “Waterloo Sunset” was the first Kinks recording produced solely by Ray Davies, without longtime producer Shel Talmy. This was a portent of things to come as it was the last Kinks album to feature a Shel Talmy production credit as Ray took the production helm on The Kinks next album, “Village Green Preservation Society”.
At this time The Kinks touring was severely curtailed by their ban in the USA so they had the time to spare. They had gained the confidence of Pye Records to allow Ray Davies and The Kinks to take some time to work on their albums in the studio rather than just bash them out as they had in their early days. So, in pursuit of “Something Else” The Kinks recorded in Pye Studios, London, between November 1966 and July 1967.
Dave Davies Contributions to Something Else
This gave Ray the chance to explore his vision, but also enabled his brother, Dave, to get in on the act too. Dave Davies contributes three songs to this album – “Love Me Till the Sun Shines”, “Funny Face” and “Death of a Clown”. The last of these, “Death of a Clown”, which Dave Davies also sang, was released as the follow-up single to Waterloo Sunset and made number 3 in the UK charts.
The fact that these songs are some of the strongest on one of the best Kinks albums is testament to Dave Davies increasing abilities as a songwriter. Unfortunately his confidence got a bit ahead of itself and his planned solo career was put on hold as he could not build on the momentum of “Death of a Clown”. By 1969 his solo career was put on ice for over a decade.
The Reception of Something Else
By the time “Something Else” was released, both “Waterloo Sunset” and “Death of a Clown” had been hit singles. However “Something Else” did not sell well, despite generally positive reviews. In the USA it peaked at 153 and only made number 35 in the UK. It was unfortunately a victim of it’s time, Ray Davies and the popular music trends were moving apart. A further hit in the shape of “Autumn Almanac”, which also reached number 3 in the UK charts, was released after the album came out, but it did not lead to greater sales of Something Else.
OK, I am going to get finicky here, on a musical level, some of this album is not quite up to the mark. It can be a little dreary and even derivative of other people (ever heard The Rolling Stones‘ “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “David Watts” played back-to-back?) and even earlier work by The Kinks.
However, on a lyrical front, this album is quite phenomenal, pop music did not have lyrics like this back then! The Beatles had been greatly influenced by the Folk movement and people like Bob Dylan and moved what was considered suitable for pop lyrics on. They were writing about things they read in the paper or going into psychedelia. At this point The Rolling Stones were in truth still finding their own voice and it was The Kinks who were the other lyrical innovators.
Ray Davies was using his lyrics to examine the world around him and his feelings, something only John Lennon had done in The Beatles. He goes into metaphorical mode to discuss he and his brother’s stretched relationship in “Two Sisters” – well to talk about things like this openly wouldn’t be, well British, now would it? “David Watts” captures our barely hidden contempt and schadenfreude for those people for whom everything comes easily perfectly. “Autumn Almanac” is a wonderfully realized portrait of a hunch-backed gardener around Ray’s home in Muswell Hill, North London.
In 2003, the album was ranked number 288 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. With my slight reservations noted above I have to agree with them, this is a great album.
- Ray Davies – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
- Dave Davies – lead guitar, 12 string guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals (on tracks “Death of a Clown”, “Love Me Till the Sun Shines”, “Funny Face”, “Susannah’s Still Alive” and “Lincoln County”)
- Pete Quaife – bass, backing vocals
- Mick Avory – drums, percussion
- Nicky Hopkins – keyboards, piano, organ, harpsichord
- Rasa Davies – backing vocals
All songs by Ray Davies unless otherwise specified
- “David Watts” – 2:32
- “Death of a Clown” – 3:04 (Ray Davies/Dave Davies)
- “Two Sisters” – 2:01
- “No Return” – 2:03
- “Harry Rag” – 2:16
- “Tin Soldier Man” – 2:49
- “Situation Vacant” – 3:16
- “Love Me Till the Sun Shines” – 3:16 (Dave Davies)
- “Lazy Old Sun” – 2:48
- “Afternoon Tea” – 3:27
- “Funny Face” – 2:17 (Dave Davies)
- “End of the Season” – 2:57
- “Waterloo Sunset” – 3:15
Bonus tracks on 1998 reissue
- “Act Nice and Gentle” – 2:39
- “Autumn Almanac” – 3:05
- “Susannah’s Still Alive” – 2:22 (Dave Davies)
- “Wonderboy” – 2:49
- “Polly” – 2:51
- “Lincoln County” – 3:12 (Dave Davies)
- “There Is No Life Without Love” – 2:01 (Ray Davies/Dave Davies)
- “Lazy Old Sun” (Unreleased alternate stereo take) – 2:53
Original Release Date
Record Label/Catalogue Number (UK)
Pye Records NPL 18193
Record Label/Catalogue Number (USA)
Reprise Records RS 6279
Liner Noted from US Release
Welcome to Daviesland, Where all the little kinklings in the magic Kinkdom wear tiny black bowlers, rugby boots, soldier suits, drink half pints of bitter, carry cricket bats and ride in little Tube trains. Here all the little lady kinklings wear curlers in their hair, own fridges and washing machines, fry bacon and eggs, and take afternoon tea.
Gulliver-like Ray Davies stoops to pluck a small mortal from his musical World, turns him upside down to see where he was made, and replaces him gently but firmly in that great class society where all men are equal but some are more equal than others.
Many of the songs on this album are the tails of those mini-people who keep rolling across his yesterday-mind and so we find Terry and Julie in “Waterloo Sunset” and “David Watts,” who has not known that abominable golden school-boy? For his musical conjuring tricks Ray reaches into his stream of life and extracts a rusty Irish jig, there were a few spokes missing and the saddle torn, but with a few dabs of “Kinko,” the wonder song ingredient, the handlebars are reversed and you have ‘moonshine music’ as good as himself could have asked. Further down the waters, and a soggy bossa nova, well-worn but still serviceable, is dragged from the river-bed but re-upholstered and tempered with a Ray of gentleness it becomes the beautiful “No Return.”
Somewhere in the deeper waters down-stream he finds a water-logged show-tune, sung during the battle of ‘Desert Song,’ but renovated and re-equipped it becomes the jaunty little sloop “Tin Soldier Man.” And finally another worn-out hulk rotting from the Vaudeville era is re-manned pushed, afloat to become the saddest comedy song of all, “End Of The Season.”
This album is important for another reason, it showcases the song writing development of younger brother Dave whose “Death Of A Clown” proved so successful, and includes two other compositions here, “Love Me Till The Sun Shines” and “Funny Face” on which he sounds like a wicked choir-boy. Neither should we forget the stalwart contributions of bass-Kink Pete Quaife or drum-Kink Mick Avory who combine to produce the solid root sounds which hall-mark the group.
One further word of advice on listening to these tracks, never, never take a Davies composition at face value for so much goes on behind the words in the Wondrous World of the Brothers ‘D’ where a corner of the Kinkdom is forever England!