Saturday, December 4, 2010
In Appreciation of: Ray Davies
Karen: Have you ever heard a song that just seemed to somehow flip a switch inside of you, as if the proverbial light bulb went on over your head and you realized that you were hearing perfection? That's how I felt the first time I heard Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks -with lyrics by Ray Davies.
Karen: Waterloo Sunset may be the most beautiful pop song ever recorded. It's sweet but not cloying, it's lush but not over-produced; it just works. The music and the lyrics combine for a real experience. You can project yourself into this song, into the lives of Terry and Julie, see that dirty old river...Davies tells a story and pulls you along.
Karen: I've come to really appreciate Davies as a songwriter. I've always liked the Kinks, but it was only in recent years that I began to pay attention to Davies and his work. He might be the best lyricist in all of rock. I know, what about Lennon and McCartney? Dylan? Well, I'd put Davies up there with them any day.
Karen: When I was going through a rough patch a couple of years ago, this song, "Better Things", was a spiritual crutch for me. I don't know how many times I listened to it.
"Here's hoping all the days ahead
Won't be as bitter as the ones behind you.
Be an optimist instead,
And somehow happiness will find you.
Forget what happened yesterday,
know that better things are on the way. "
Karen: Davies has the ability to transport the listener any place, any time, and instantly impart a mood. "Celluloid Heroes" is a sad, thoughtful tune, about the often tragic fates of those who become 'stars'.
"You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognize, some that you've hardly even heard of,
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain."
Karen: It's hard to offer up just a handful of songs when there are so many that could be discussed here. I've only heard a small portion of Davies' recent solo work, so I can't say much about it, other than I've liked what I've heard. The songs Things are Gonna Change, Other People's Lives, and Stand Up Comic from his Other People's Lives album from 2006 are all great examples of Davies gifts as a storyteller and cultural commentator. Particularly with Stand Up Comic, Davies laments the loss of good manners that seems prevalent today. In many songs, Davies yearns for a simpler life, where people and their social connections are the focal point of life. He mourns a bit for the loss of that world; yet he can also be surprisingly optimistic.
Karen: But Davies could also write some rousing good rock songs too. Check this out (and feel free to fast-forward through Casey Kasem!):