The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is the sixth studio album by the English rock group the Kinks, released in November 1968. It was the last album by the original quartet (Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Pete Quaife, Mick Avory), as bassist Quaife left the group in early 1969. A collection of vignettes of English life, Village Green was assembled from songs written and recorded over the previous two years.
|The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society|
|Studio album by|
|Released||22 November 1968 (UK)|
January 1969 (US)
|Recorded||November 1966 – October 1968|
|Studio||Pye Studios, London|
|The Kinks chronology|
|Singles from The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society|
The album failed to chart upon its initial release, and Ray Davies has called it "the most successful ever flop." In 2020, the album was ranked number 384 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and it was described by Uncut in 2014 as a "brilliantly observed concept album". In 2018, the album earned a gold disc for reaching sales of 100,000 copies. It was voted number 141 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums 3rd Edition (2000).
The song "Village Green" itself was recorded in sessions for the Kinks' 1967 LP Something Else, but Davies withheld the song and began collecting ideas for a thematic album revolving around the village green concept. The band's interest in such a project began to grow in mid-1967: in a June interview Dave Davies mentioned that a Ray Davies solo LP was scheduled for release in September, which, according to Doug Hinman, "probably refers to Ray's plans for a collection of songs with a London theme, a la 'Waterloo Sunset', an idea that seems to appear and disappear quickly, or his Village Green concept, the one that seems to take hold." The Kinks spent the remainder of the year completing Something Else then went on a short break before beginning work on the Village Green album.
The November 1966 track "Village Green" was inspired by a visit to Devon, England in late 1966. Davies has also stated that Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood was an influence. The song suggests a broad theme, "I miss the village green, and all the simple people", a world which could be extended by adding an "Animal Farm", which is "a dirty old shack that we called our home", and "Sitting by the Riverside". It was populated with character sketches of the writer's childhood sweetheart Daisy and of Walter, once a close friend, both now married, of Johnny Thunder, the local hoodlum, and Monica, a prostitute.
Davies did not compose the songs to fit a predetermined theme of the album but a certain commonality develops in his lyric interests of the time. Stephen Thomas Erlewine described Village Green as a "concept album lamenting the passing of old-fashioned English traditions." The intentional Englishness of the lyrics' imagery may have partly been due to the Kinks' exclusion from the US.
But the village green was also a metaphor, a "Walt Disney" fantasy of an ideal protected place of retreat that, as Davies has since opined, may rather have belonged on a solo album or personal diary; "It’s all in my head, probably.... Everybody’s got their own village green, somewhere you go to when the world gets too much."
Davies, who had suffered mental exhaustion himself, isolated and conscious of "the hole I was in" – to either be a hit machine or not to exist, sings; "This world is big and wild and half insane... It's a hard, hard world if it gets you down – Dreams often fade and die in a bad, bad world" with "Everybody pushing one another around... all the people who think they got problems.. don't let it get you down". He advises one friend ("Starstruck"); "you're a victim of bright city lights and your mind is not right.... running around like you're crazy... out on your feet – It's gonna drive you insane because the world's not so tame".
The writer admits; "I sought fame, and so I left the village green." But he has somewhere to return to; "I'll take you where real animals are playing, and people are real people not just playing. It's a quiet, quiet life". The village green offers a place to be natural, a place of solitude, while the "city" offers only artifice, haste, competition and the dangers of the Cold War. The animal farm, Ray Davies said, "was just me thinking everybody else is mad and we are all animals anyway – which is really the idea of the whole album."
As well as to nature, the lyrics make many references to Davies' own city childhood; "The real village green is a combination of north London places: the little green near my childhood home in Fortis Green... That little green is where we played football, and where we stayed ’til it was dark. There was mystery there... The record’s about lost childhood, but also being a kid." Similarly "Do You Remember Walter?" is based upon a real-life childhood friend, "Sitting By The Riverside" recalls how Davies "went fishing a lot when I was about eight", the eventual title track, one of the last written and recorded (in August 1968), is full of references to children's entertainments of his youth; comic-strips, cinema, radio and theatre, and two lyrics, "Phenomenal Cat" and "Wicked Annabella", resemble children's fantasy literature.
"Remember when the world was young" – childhood nostalgia brings with it a sense of "things about to be swept away, ideals that can never be kept". The village green is an ideal past, a place of memory; Walter is "just an echo of a world I knew so long ago... but memories of people can remain". Two songs ("People Take Pictures of Each Other" and "Picture Book") discuss photographs, "pictures of things as they used to be", that people keep as a "moment to last them for ever"; a "picture of me when I was just three, sucking my thumb by the old oak tree" by which he would first kiss Daisy. Davies notes the absurdity of those people's trying "to prove that they really existed", yet imagines a future in which to "picture yourself when you're getting old, sat by the fireside" with the family photo album.
But this sense of the past makes the village houses into "rare antiquities", he is "the last of the good old renegades. All my friends are all middle class and grey, but I live in a museum, so I'm okay." Walter is "fat and married", Davies remembers "how we said we'd fight the world so we'd be free" and goes on believing that "one day we'll be free". Like Johnny Thunder he has "vowed that he would never, ever end up like the rest". His memory connects him to his ideals as well as his individuality, his creativity, his natural life, even if it leaves him "appallingly out of sync with the times", in which the trend was to speak of sweeping away the entire social system, taking a nuanced view, "preserving the old things", as well as "protecting the new", yet still condemning the worst of the new – skyscrapers and office blocks – as well as the old. This theme would be further developed on the following album, Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire).
The village green is a place of personal memories, ideals and allegiances. In "Last of the Steam-Powered Trains" Davies compares himself with the 1968 decommissioning of the last steam locomotives of British Railways, asserting his personal loyalty to the temporarily out-of-fashion British blues boom by basing the song on another steam-driven tune, Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightnin'", a rhythm and blues standard performed by many groups including the Kinks and later commenting "it's really about not having anything in common with people".
But the mystery of the village green also offers an eternity that belittles problems such as public embarrassment ("All of My Friends Were There"), because "When I feel that the world is too much for me I think of the Big Sky, and nothing matters much to me". Elsewhere, he is "Spreading my arms to the open wide. Now I am free... I can close my eyes", and "the sky is wide" – of which last Davies has said; "to me, the whole record is the way I sing that line.".
The sessions for Village Green took place in a rough period for the group. In early 1968, legal and family issues slowed Ray Davies' songwriting, and the song "Wonderboy", released in April, was the first single since the Kinks' success not to enter the NME Top 30. The first songs recorded, in May included "Misty Water" (an outtake), "Picture Book", and "Days", intended for the group's next single release. After laying down versions of these, the group departed for the Netherlands on 18 and 19 May then returned to the studio to continue work on "Days". On 27 May a new song, "Pictures in the Sand", was recorded and "Days" was revised to the final version, which was released on 24 July, backed with "She's Got Everything", an outtake from 1966 used due to a lack of newer finished material. The single quickly climbed to number 14 on the NME chart.
Shortly after, Dave Davies stated that the group's upcoming LP would be called Village Green and revolve around a town and its people. He added that it was to be "the best thing we've ever done." In early August the band focused on completing the LP, tentatively titled "Village Green".
With the exception of the early "Village Green", strings and woodwind were played on the Mellotron by Ray Davies and Nicky Hopkins. Hopkins contributed significantly to the album: he later stated that he provided "about seventy per cent of the work" on the keyboards, and developed a lifelong grudge when Davies apparently credited himself for the majority of the keyboard playing.
The last track was completed on 12 August and twelve mixed-down songs were delivered to Pye. Release was scheduled for 27 September. Ray Davies then asked the label to postpone the album's release in order to rework songs and add new material, wishing Pye to expand Village Green into a double album. Pye refused, but allowed Davies to produce a new fifteen-track edition. Davies agreed and the band returned to the studio to lay down "Big Sky" and "Last of The Steam-Powered Trains".
By October mixing was complete for the expanded 15-track album, now named The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, and it was released on 22 November (the same day the Beatles released The White Album).
Andy Miller commented on these changes in his book about the album;
Davies was a perfectionist, and by this stage his perfectionism was verging on the neurotic, indulged by a management and record company who hoped the Kinks' main man would soon recapture his hit making form. In a sense, he was also reluctant to finish the project, describing it as "a pet dream". The album was already highly personal; now it represented ... a decisive break in 'the hit machine'.
Pye had already shipped tapes to some of its foreign subsidiaries before Davies' revision so that a twelve-track LP was released in France, Italy, Sweden, Norway and New Zealand. These have since become rare and collectible.
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|Tiny Mix Tapes|||
Released the same day as the Beatles' "White" Album, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society was greeted with almost unanimously positive reviews from rock critics but failed to sell strongly, an estimated 100,000 copies worldwide. Despite this slow start, the album has since become the Kinks' best-selling original record. The album did not have a popular single ("Starstruck" was released in North America and continental Europe, but failed to chart anywhere but the Netherlands). Although it was commercially unsuccessful upon its US release in January 1969, Village Green was embraced by the new underground rock press, particularly in the United States where the Kinks' status as a cult band began to grow. The album did not reach gold in sales in the UK until 2018.
Nevertheless, it was critically well regarded at the time of its release, at least in America. In The Village Voice, Robert Christgau called it "the best album of the year so far", and Circus magazine ran an article under the heading "Kinks – Unhip But Original", which stated: "The Kinks are backdated, cut off from the mainstream of pop progression. Just the same they're originals and now have a fine new album out."
In Boston's underground paper Fusion, a review stated, "The Kinks continue, despite the odds, the bad press and their demonstrated lot, to come across... Their persistence is dignified, their virtues are stoic. The Kinks are forever, only for now in modern dress". Paul Williams in Rolling Stone wrote a review that heaped praise on Village Green, saying "I've played [Village Green] twice since it arrived here this afternoon, and already the songs are slipping into my mind, each new hearing is a combined joy of renewal and discovery. Such a joy, to make new friends! And each and every song Ray Davies has written is a different friend to me."
However, the LP went virtually unnoticed in their home country, receiving only a single review in Disc. The nameless reviewer commented that "[Davies has managed to bypass] everything psychedelic and electronic ... The Kinks may not be on the crest of the pop wave at these days, but Ray Davies will remain one of our finest composers for many years."
The record soon developed a cult following, and remains popular today. Kinks fan and British musician Pete Townshend of the Who later said that "For me, Village Green Preservation Society was Ray's masterwork. It's his Sgt. Pepper, it's what makes him the definitive pop poet laureate." Davies' timing with the album's nostalgic concept proved to be just out of step in the cultural turmoil of 1968, but it soon gained a much greater mainstream appeal. In 2003, the album was ranked number 255 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, 258 in a 2012 revised list, and 384 in the 2020 list.
Sequels and follow-upsEdit
From its inception, Davies considered the album for stage presentation and its general theme served to inspire the Kinks' more ambitious, but less popular, two-part theatrical work Preservation in 1972–1974. In his autobiography X-Ray, Davies would refer to the three albums as his "Preservation trilogy," confirming that Preservation is directly related to Village Green Preservation Society.
On 19 June 2011, Ray Davies performed the album live in its entirety for the first time. The concert was at the Royal Festival Hall in London and was part of the Meltdown festival. He was accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus.
UK and US versionEdit
All tracks are written by Ray Davies.
|1.||"The Village Green Preservation Society"||2:45|
|2.||"Do You Remember Walter?"||2:23|
|5.||"Last of the Steam-Powered Trains"||4:03|
|7.||"Sitting by the Riverside"||2:21|
|4.||"Phenomenal Cat" (spelled "Phenominal Cat" on the LP sleeve)||2:34|
|5.||"All of My Friends Were There"||2:23|
|8.||"People Take Pictures of Each Other"||2:10|
|16.||"The Village Green Preservation Society" (stereo)||2:48|
|17.||"Do You Remember Walter" (stereo)||2:28|
|18.||"Picture Book" (stereo)||2:38|
|19.||"Johnny Thunder" (stereo)||2:33|
|22.||"Village Green" (stereo)||2:11|
|23.||"Mr. Songbird" (stereo)||2:27|
|24.||"Wicked Annabella" (stereo)||2:43|
|26.||"Phenomenal Cat" (stereo)||2:38|
|27.||"People Take Pictures of Each Other" (stereo)||2:26|
|17.||"Days" (stereo mix from original 12-track edition released in France, Norway and Sweden)||2:53|
|18.||"Do You Remember Walter?" (stereo mix from original 12-track edition released in France, Norway and Sweden)||2:25|
|19.||"People Take Pictures of Each Other" (stereo mix from original 12-track edition released in France, Norway and Sweden)||2:24|
|16.||"Days" (version also used for single)||2:55|
|17.||"Mr. Songbird" (previously unreleased mono mix)||2:25|
|21.||"Village Green" (no strings version, previously unreleased)||2:13|
|1.||"Village Green" (with orchestra overdub, previously unreleased)||2:22|
|2.||"Misty Water" (stereo)||3:05|
|3.||"Berkeley Mews" (stereo)||2:40|
|4.||"Easy Come, There You Went" (stereo, previously unreleased)||2:25|
|6.||"Animal Farm" (alternate stereo mix, previously unreleased)||3:02|
|7.||"Phenomenal Cat" (mono instrumental, previously unreleased)||2:50|
|8.||"Johnny Thunder" (stereo remix from the original multi-track tapes, previously unreleased)||2:36|
|9.||"Did You See His Name" (mono mix, previously unreleased)||2:00|
|10.||"Mick Avory's Underpants" (previously unreleased)||2:19|
|14.||"Spotty Grotty Anna"||2:07|
|15.||"Where Did My Spring Go"||2:11|
|17.||"Creeping Jean" (written by Dave Davies; previously unreleased longer stereo mix, with some minor overdubbing missing)||3:12|
|19.||"Misty Water" (mono, previously unreleased)||3:12|
|20.||"Do You Remember Walter" (BBC session remix, previously unreleased)||2:17|
|21.||"Animal Farm" (BBC session remix, previously unreleased)||2:56|
|22.||"Days" (BBC session remix, previously unreleased)||3:02|
Original European 12-song versionEdit
- "The Village Green Preservation Society"
- "Do You Remember Walter?"
- "Picture Book"
- "Johnny Thunder"
- "Village Green"
- "Mr. Songbird"
- "Wicked Annabella"
- "Phenomenal Cat"
- "People Take Pictures Of Each Other"
This 12-song version was the original track listing intended for the European market. It was released in France, Sweden and Norway in October 1968, New Zealand in December 1968 and Italy in January 1969. However, before its release in the UK, Ray and Pye had it withdrawn before it was manufactured and a re-sequenced version, expanded to 15 songs, was released there (22 November 1968) and in the United States (January 1969). Apart from sequencing, this early version differs by the absence of "Last of the Steam-Powered Trains", "Big Sky", "Sitting by the Riverside", "Animal Farm" and "All of My Friends Were There", and the inclusion of "Mr. Songbird" and "Days" (the latter a #12 UK hit single released in June 1968). The stereo mixes of "Do You Remember Walter" and "People Take Pictures of Each Other" on the 12-song version featured slightly different parts from the regular stereo mixes, with the former having the tambourine mixed out and the latter featuring an added big band ending that was removed from the final version.
The unreleased Four More Respected GentlemenEdit
In parallel with the 12-song European version, Ray and Reprise Records (the band's US label) intended to release an 11-song album (originally 15 songs before it was shortened) for the American market called Four More Respected Gentlemen. The unreleased album was even given a Reprise serial number (RS 6309). However, Reprise at some point decided that the 15-track UK "Village Green" album was suitable for the US market and cancelled plans for this album. The track listing would have consisted of:
The original 15-track version, sent to Reprise, would have also included the following tracks:
These songs, however, were pulled from the album before the final master tape was compiled.
Song and album notesEdit
In late summer of 1968, the Kinks had hoped to release the album as a two-record set with 20 tracks, but Pye Records rejected this plan. A twelve-track version of the album was released in September 1968 throughout certain European markets; these are now valuable collector's items. Production of this version was quickly halted at Ray Davies's insistence and the final revamped fifteen-track version was released in the UK in November 1968.
U.S. record label Reprise had intended to release many of album's tracks on a separate Kinks album titled Four More Respected Gentlemen sometime in mid-1968 to fulfil a contractual album obligation. This was in the final stages of pre-production when Reprise dropped all plans to issue it, based on the strength of the forthcoming Village Green album.
The photography used for the album art was shot in August 1968 on Parliament Hill, a part of Hampstead Heath, North London.
"Starstruck" was released as a single in Europe and the United States, and charted in The Netherlands, peaking at #13. This is the only appearance of any track from the album on the hit parade in any country. A promotional film was shot for "Starstruck" in late 1968 in Kenwood (another part of Hampstead Heath) for the overseas promotion of the single, and has since been re-used in various Kinks bios. The only other surviving contemporary footage of the band performing Village Green songs is their January 1969 spot on the TV music programme "Once More with Felix", on which they were seen performing "Last Of the Steam-Powered Trains" and "Picture Book" in colour. This clip, long believed lost, came to light in 2007.
Today, the album is both consistently available on US Reprise CD (since 1990) and on Vinyl (It began being repressed in 2018 in conjunction with the albums 50 year anniversary), the album is reported to be the best-selling non-compilation album in the Kinks' catalogue. Ray Davies has recently referred to it as the "most successful flop of all time".
- Ray Davies – lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, harmonica, Mellotron
- Dave Davies – lead guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Wicked Annabella"
- Pete Quaife – bass, backup vocals
- Mick Avory – drums, percussion
|Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)||131|
|Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)||124|
|UK Albums (OCC)||47|
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