"The Village Green Preservation Society" vs. "Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire"

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Arthur. Discuss?

Shlomo Shemesh (Shlomo Shemesh), Saturday, 16 September 2006 01:44 (fourteen years ago) link

I don't know that I really have a concrete reason, but I like several of the songs on Arthur more.

Johnny Fever (johnny fever), Saturday, 16 September 2006 01:46 (fourteen years ago) link

i prefer arthur as well

j blount (papa la bas), Saturday, 16 September 2006 02:08 (fourteen years ago) link

oh you crazy contrarians.

arthur has a lot of great songs, but village green is a an unbroken string of pop genius. at any given time, 14 of its 15 songs could be my favorite songs on the album, and more than a few of 'em could be my favorite songs by anyone ever. the only one i have even a slight doubt about is "sitting by the riverside," which is an nice little pop song on a theme that davies tackled much better any number of times. arthur has songs that probably stack up against "people take pictures of each other" OR "big sky" OR "monica" OR "the village green preservation society" OR "starstruck" OR "last of the steam-powered trains" OR "all of my friends were there" but there's no way it has the songs to stack up against all of them.

also, arthur, for all its goodness, has a few of the seeds of the ham-fisted hard-rock band that the kinks would become in the years to follow. village green has none of that.

fact checking cuz (fcc), Saturday, 16 September 2006 05:38 (fourteen years ago) link

'Village Green' by like, ten million miles.

gosh, just last week I had a beautiful moment singing along to "Monica" with a good friend (which is weirdly -- like "Phenomenal Cat" -- one of the songs that does tend to get criticized. which is stupid.)

and of course, "Days" is the best song any human being had ever written (it beats out "Waterloo Sunset" in a battle, yet easily). Of course, I don't think us yankees had "days" on the album, right? In any case, it's perfect of course. so yeah.

Stormy Davis (diamond), Saturday, 16 September 2006 05:45 (fourteen years ago) link

Victoria is their best song after WS, but yeah, conventional wisdom is correct as far as I'm concerned: VG by a nose.

gentoo (gentoo), Saturday, 16 September 2006 08:55 (fourteen years ago) link

fact checking cuz: OTM. Arthur is great, but the little cop from Tommy before the coda of Shangri-La shows that they'd started paying attention to the outside world again. The insularness of VG is unique. Arthur gets a little condescending in places, but in VG, when he blesses virginity there's ambiguity.

bendy (bendy), Saturday, 16 September 2006 11:00 (fourteen years ago) link

Definitely Village Green.

To me Arthur is an exercise in poor taste. "Yes Sir, No Sir" is an embarrassing boot-in-your-ass war ditty, especially in light of Vietnam. "Shangri-La" builds and builds for 5-and-a-half minutes without a punchline, and "Australia" fades out just as they're getting into a groove; "Victoria" is a tedious sequel to VGPS's title track. With a few tweaks, Arthur could have been a masterpiece; as it stands I'd barely rank it above the Preservation Acts.

King-a-Ling (King-a-Ling), Saturday, 16 September 2006 12:24 (fourteen years ago) link

I love them both dearly, but VG gets the nod. Bendy summed it up well. VG is probably the best realization, both musically and lyrically, of what the Kinks were trying to do post-Face-To-Face - craft smart vignettes on British culture in the uncertain days after WWII/the end of the British Empire.

Brooker Buckingham (Brooker B), Saturday, 16 September 2006 14:40 (fourteen years ago) link

VG always gets played start to finish, while I tend to skip through Arthur.

Brooker Buckingham (Brooker B), Saturday, 16 September 2006 14:41 (fourteen years ago) link

I like "Arthur", which is often kind of overlooked. Not going to claim it is better than "Village Green Preservation Society", because it isn't. But still a great album that more people should check out.

The downhill turn didn't start until "Lola Vs. Powerman & The Moneygoround".

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Saturday, 16 September 2006 14:47 (fourteen years ago) link

Village Green, altough I'm still getting to know the Arthur album (finally got it a couple weeks ago).

Orgy of Pragmatism (Charles McCain), Saturday, 16 September 2006 14:53 (fourteen years ago) link

this is tough.

probably village green by a SLIGHT margin....and King-a-ling is CRAZY. Shangri-La is brutal and amazing.

M@tt He1geson: Real Name, No Gimmicks (Matt Helgeson), Saturday, 16 September 2006 14:55 (fourteen years ago) link

http://m-w.com/dictionary/facetiousness

Shangri-La is, of course, the zenith of western culture.

King-a-Ling (King-a-Ling), Saturday, 16 September 2006 15:10 (fourteen years ago) link

Village Green by a zillion miles, but I'm not an Arthur hater.

RoxyMuzak© (roxymuzak), Saturday, 16 September 2006 16:27 (fourteen years ago) link

and of course, "Days" is the best song any human being had ever written

And, of course, it wasn't actually on "The Village Green Preservation Society". I like "Arthur" but it has the seeds of 70s stodginess that was the Kinks' eventual undoing. "VGPS" is just one of the most consistent albums released in the 60s, there's just so many good songs on it.

Oh No It's Dadaismus! (Dada), Sunday, 17 September 2006 11:25 (fourteen years ago) link

I got a speeding ticket once listening to "Australia" at full blast -- and it was worth every penny.

It's hard to explain, but Arthur just does it for me in ways I'm not sure Village Green ever has. For sure, Village Green is more consistent and has infinitely more bulletproof songwriting from top to bottom; it's also where most of Ray Davies's working class, voice-of-the-common-man schtick really took hold.

But there's something a little more winsome and vulnerable about Arthur; and where the protagonist of Village Green was nostalgic and a little arrogant like Davies himself, Arthur is in character--meek, frustrated and inward-looking--and just packs more of a wallop. "Shangri La" is, as noted, The Ray Davies Primer. Whatever others' misgivings are, "Victoria" is an obvious classic -- pretty much the spirit of post-war Britain in three minutes. And the title track is just mind-blowingly cathartic. Arthur.

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Monday, 18 September 2006 02:34 (fourteen years ago) link

"shangri-la" is indeed a masterpiece. i like arthur more as well.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Monday, 18 September 2006 02:40 (fourteen years ago) link

Arthur has some incredible songs, that might outclass the highlights of Village Green, but Village Green wins on charm. For now.

clotpoll (Clotpoll), Monday, 18 September 2006 03:41 (fourteen years ago) link

it sould have been :"village green" vs. "something else",but "village green" wins anyway. ("arthur" takes 3rd)

emekars (emekars), Monday, 18 September 2006 08:27 (fourteen years ago) link

Yes, Something Else goes second, Arthur 3rd, then Face to Face or Muswell Hillbillies. But VG and Arthur are the only two that couldn't be split up into individual tracks, that demand the whole album experience.

bendy (bendy), Monday, 18 September 2006 11:13 (fourteen years ago) link

The "jamming" on Australia and a couple of other spots is execrable. I get embarassed for them listening to it. On the other hand, Village Green Preservation Society is lovely all over the place.

Billy Pilgrim (Billy Pilgrim), Monday, 18 September 2006 14:54 (fourteen years ago) link

village green yeah but "brainwashed" is a really great under-rated kinks rocker. reminds me a bit of the saints circa know yr product. tough r+b riff-rock.

Fritz Wollner (Fritz), Monday, 18 September 2006 14:57 (fourteen years ago) link

I'VE GOT A HAT LIKE PRINCESS MARINA!

Huk-L (Huk-L), Monday, 18 September 2006 17:32 (fourteen years ago) link

"australia" is really the only one i can think of where they go too far with the jamming. on "arthur" the song it works pretty well.

and "some mother's son" is one of the most moving songs i've ever heard, moreso for the quavery, uncertain, slightly self-conscious tone of ray's voice.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Tuesday, 19 September 2006 05:27 (fourteen years ago) link

where the protagonist of Village Green was nostalgic and a little arrogant like Davies himself, Arthur is in character

But there is no "protagonist" on VGPS

Oh No It's Dadaismus! (Dada), Tuesday, 19 September 2006 08:25 (fourteen years ago) link

(xpost) I agree that "Some Mother's Son" is a great song but the clunky clodhopping backing drags it down, ditto "Shangri-La", in fact ditto this whole album... actually "Lola vs Powerman Etc" has better arrangements and, when it gets right down to it, better songs AND worse songs of course

Oh No It's Dadaismus! (Dada), Tuesday, 19 September 2006 08:30 (fourteen years ago) link

I used to listen to the Village Green record a lot. Someone gave me a burn of the 3-CD VG set. I never listen to it; it sits there on the shelf. Occasionally, for a kick, I will put on "She's Got Everything" and "Berkeley Mews."

It's been the same for me since I figured out I liked the early Kinks, up thru "Something Else," and that was kind of it. Ray D. is obvious in many of the wrong ways. I think they played well, or played that certain way only they could, on "Victoria" and "Driving" on that Arthur record. I always thought "Shangri-La" was just obvious, just like that fucking song about the stars on Hollywood Blvd. That stuff makes me a bit nervous. "Dead End Street" is better--they shout it out and it sort of saves the performance. And for me, the compensations of their rock and roll underachieved style start to thin out after '67. There's a lot of verve and insolence and real rock and roll in "Who'll Be the Next in Line" and "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy" and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" (the latter being their ultimate masterpiece). And real loss-of-youth rock (with a nod to Meltzer there) in "Face to Face" and "End of the Season" and all that. Real mystery in those reverbed vocals that Ray's wife or whoever it was did.

But time you get to Village Green, it's...Village Green, Sexington Green, might as well listen to the Band or Fairport Convention or any number of back-to-roots collectives who sound a little bummed out in 1968. I do love "Johnny Thunder" on that record, though. I'm not even saying it's not valid, their retreat in to whatever. I just find it boring, and depressing, because the Kinks and Ray never had another fucking idea after that--with the exception of "Muswell Hillbillies," the last decent thing they ever did. (Yeah, good riffs on "I'm in Disgrace" and "Hard Way" and even on "Misfits," but by then, who gives a shit? You still got it all tied with Ray's lyrics, and anyway, they ripped off Richard Berry far better in 1964.

edd s hurt (ddduncan), Tuesday, 19 September 2006 12:35 (fourteen years ago) link

Village Green vs Revolver would be a fairer fight and maybe a more interesting comparison if anyone wants to run with it on another thread (or in mini-form here).

Paul (scifisoul), Tuesday, 19 September 2006 14:26 (fourteen years ago) link

three years pass...

Listening to this as I biked home thru the rain and I had a question: does Ray sing lead on every track, or does Dave take over any?

kingfish, Monday, 1 February 2010 23:23 (eleven years ago) link

If by "this," you mean Village Green, then Dave sings lead on "Sweet Annabella." If by "this," you mean Arthur, no, Dave doesn't get to sing lead on any of the songs, though I always saw the decision to let "Australia" turn into an epic guitar freak-out as Ray's way of making it up to him.

MumblestheRevelator, Monday, 1 February 2010 23:27 (eleven years ago) link

Oops, I meant _Arthur_ and thank you.

kingfish, Monday, 1 February 2010 23:31 (eleven years ago) link

And of course Dave does provide very prominent backup vocals throughout the album. particularly on "Nothing to Say," where he seems to be trying to outshout his brother (befitting a song about familial discord around the dinner table).

MumblestheRevelator, Monday, 1 February 2010 23:35 (eleven years ago) link

Yeah. I had just wondered because on some of the tunes, Ray flips around his voice from his usual sneer.

kingfish, Monday, 1 February 2010 23:37 (eleven years ago) link

Despite significant differences in their voices, the sound of their vocals do have a neat way of flowing into each other and intertwining (they never really successfully harmonize, so I don't know what else to call it) in a way that makes it hard to actually tell their voices apart. I'm also reminded of how Greil Marcus had an interesting reading of "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" in Mystery Train based entirely around the mistaken assumption that Ray was singing the lead vocals.

MumblestheRevelator, Monday, 1 February 2010 23:45 (eleven years ago) link

Does anyone know if "Nobody's Fool" by Cold Turkey (on Pye) is the Kinks, really, or not?

Mark G, Tuesday, 2 February 2010 09:41 (eleven years ago) link

eleven years pass...

I've been listening to the 2cd deluxe reissue of Arthur from 2019. "Big Sky" was one of the last tracks completed for VGPS, and I think of it as the first example of Ray's message songs (as opposed to satires or character portraits). This sort of underlined philosophical heaviness is all over Arthur and starts to drag the band down just a little. "Princess Marina" and "Young and Innocent Days" are also the beginning of the Kinks recording songs that don't get any further than their concepts, filling in the details with boilerplate lyrics and melodies.
On the other hand, there is just so much admirable ambition and will in the group getting out of the introspective Village Green and trying to let the world know We Have Something Important to Say. Mick Avory's drums in "Shangri-La" tell the whole story of the song on their own.

Halfway there but for you, Sunday, 4 April 2021 13:43 (one week ago) link

"Young and Innocent Days" is great, it's the slighly clunky rock songs on "Arthur" that drag it down a bit.

Duncan Disorderly (Tom D.), Sunday, 4 April 2021 13:53 (one week ago) link

how ironic or satirical am i supposed to hear this stuff as? it’s not quite john major but it’s not the total opposite of that either

#YesAllCops (Left), Sunday, 4 April 2021 14:26 (one week ago) link

realising how so much of what i find troubling about britpop/britrock ultimately stems from this band. to be fair they have better tunes, often with more complex/ambiguous/ambivalent sentiments, than later imitators tend to manage

#YesAllCops (Left), Sunday, 4 April 2021 14:44 (one week ago) link

Some of it's definitely ironic - "Victoria" for instance - but he definitely did have old school Tory tendencies, though he would deny it. Doesn't really bother me, to be honest

Duncan Disorderly (Tom D.), Sunday, 4 April 2021 14:56 (one week ago) link

It gets worse in the 70s though.

Duncan Disorderly (Tom D.), Sunday, 4 April 2021 14:57 (one week ago) link

Nothing drags down Arthur. Nothing.

the last unvaccinated motherfucker on earth (PBKR), Sunday, 4 April 2021 14:57 (one week ago) link

PBKR, do you feel that any of the negative tendencies I see in Arthur appeared in later Kinks records? Lola, or Preservation?

Halfway there but for you, Sunday, 4 April 2021 15:57 (one week ago) link

yeah I feel like it's unfair to judge Arthur by is its perceived contributions to what came later

plus they still had two more great albums left

arthur is pretty much perfect to me

It's also a little unlikely as a "rock opera"; unlike Tommy, where all the lyrics are dialogue, a stage version of Arthur would have at least 50% of its running time taken up by a narrator telling Arthur/the audience the meaning of what we're seeing. It's hard for me to see how these songs would have integrated into a TV show, which is not a mark against it as a narrative album.

Halfway there but for you, Sunday, 4 April 2021 16:33 (one week ago) link

Arthur is miraculous and its lyrical sentiments were for the time surely extremely caustic and seditious

imago, Sunday, 4 April 2021 17:38 (one week ago) link

(xp) I doubt, in 1969, UK TV audiences would have needed too much exposition, I suspect most have them would have got the gist of it pretty quickly.

Duncan Disorderly (Tom D.), Sunday, 4 April 2021 18:47 (one week ago) link

PBKR, do you feel that any of the negative tendencies I see in Arthur appeared in later Kinks records? Lola, or Preservation?

― Halfway there but for you, Sunday, April 4, 2021 11:57 AM (three hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

yeah I feel like it's unfair to judge Arthur by is its perceived contributions to what came later

plus they still had two more great albums left

arthur is pretty much perfect to me

― Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Sunday, April 4, 2021 12:13 PM (three hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

the last unvaccinated motherfucker on earth (PBKR), Sunday, 4 April 2021 19:28 (one week ago) link

Tom D, I don't mean that people wouldn't have understood the simple plot, just what visuals would one pick to accompany these songs where Ray as the voice of authority explains the (in)significance of Arthur's life? Like, was "Shangri-La" going to feature footage of Arthur polishing his car, sitting by the fire, paying his gas bill etc while Ray sings the song offscreen?
On the other hand, songs like "Victoria", "Brainwashed" and "Nothing to Say" are actually sung by characters in the story to other characters and would thus be easier to visualize.

It's funny that in the last Kinks thread I revived, people were fantasizing about murdering Ray Davies in his cradle. By contrast, it's nice that the posters in this thread like the record so much.

Halfway there but for you, Sunday, 4 April 2021 19:51 (one week ago) link

I think it was written as a play with music.

Duncan Disorderly (Tom D.), Sunday, 4 April 2021 20:18 (one week ago) link

Not a Tommy-style rock opera.

Duncan Disorderly (Tom D.), Sunday, 4 April 2021 20:20 (one week ago) link

I think that’s how all the ‘70s “concept”/“theatrical” Kinks records were approached, too. They weren’t going for a self-contained listening experience like Quadrophenia; these were soundtrack and/or cast albums.

A Soap Opera supposedly worked far better on stage than on record, which makes sense:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8laVs0aMWw

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Sunday, 4 April 2021 20:44 (one week ago) link

"Arthur" was collaboration with Julian Mitchell though so there would have been dialogue written for it.

Duncan Disorderly (Tom D.), Sunday, 4 April 2021 21:29 (one week ago) link

XP One of the old Alternative Theatre companies in Houston staged a production of Soap Opera years ago. This was before my serious theatre-going days, but I've heard it was great.* I believe they filmed a night, but can't find any video.

*Years later, their successive company did the same for Frank Black's Bluefinger, which I did catch and was great...a pre-fame Lizzo was in the chorus.

blue whales on ambient (C. Grisso/McCain), Sunday, 4 April 2021 21:41 (one week ago) link

Apparently the 4 CD Arthur box contains an interview with Mitchell about his script, but I don't have that version. I'm still puzzling over this: the only way I can imagine the songs integrated into a TV show would have been to alternate between dramatic scenes and musical performances by the Kinks. Unlike Preservation, Soap Opera, and Schoolboys in Disgrace, I'm sure there was no theatrical performance of Arthur by the Kinks at the time.
Incidentally, I forgot above that there is at least one song on Tommy sung by a narrator, "Sally Simpson".

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 5 April 2021 01:22 (one week ago) link

has the script for the arthur film survived, i wonder? it’s a little surprising to me that no one’s ever expressed interest in making it.

i used to think that the long jam-y ending to “australia” was the only real serious flaw on the album, but i’ve gotten used to it over the years and more or less enjoy it all now.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Monday, 5 April 2021 01:41 (one week ago) link

*Years later, their successive company did the same for Frank Black's Bluefinger, which I did catch and was great...a pre-fame Lizzo was in the chorus

now that is a fun fact

has the script for the arthur film survived, i wonder? it’s a little surprising to me that no one’s ever expressed interest in making it.

I did wonder about that, but it's probably too tied to the time it was written - who knows who Princess Marina was anymore, for a start!

Duncan Disorderly (Tom D.), Monday, 5 April 2021 10:13 (one week ago) link

lyrically i always had a bit of trouble following Ray from the openhearted love of ordinary life on Village Green to the "pity these mindless drones" darkness that creeps in w/Arthur.

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Monday, 5 April 2021 14:37 (one week ago) link

I love the (I think genuine) compassion in the title track of "Arthur;" it taps into all the same feelings I have about The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

Lily Dale, Monday, 5 April 2021 15:05 (one week ago) link

thats a really interesting comparison, love blimp & have never thought about the two before.

the pair of "shangri la" and "arthur" have always come off kind of problematic and patronizing to me bc i've never really felt like ray has respect for the person he's singing about in "shangri la". theres a touch of sarcasm there which feels a bit too cutting & mean. the world may have passed him by, but ray seems to be laying at least some of the blame at arthur's feet in "shangri la".

maybe the difference for me is that Blimp is always presented with sympathy even when hes wrong, and he eventually comes to his cathartic realization on his own. whereas in "arthur" the catharsis seems to be on the side of ray/the narrator - arthur doesnt really change but all of a sudden ray feels sympathy with him for being bamboozled by a cruel world. but "we love you and want to help you" sort of takes away arthurs agency in the situation: 'we forgive you for believing in the wrong things'. it dulls the emotional payoff for me - it sounds like ray is forgiving arthur for a crime he didnt commit.

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Monday, 5 April 2021 15:37 (one week ago) link

I don't think I've ever really thought of Arthur as an actual person. Maybe I'm letting the subtitle do too much work?

rob, Monday, 5 April 2021 15:41 (one week ago) link

IOW: I wouldn't reduce it to a pat "Arthur = British Empire," but there's enough of that present that I don't worry much about Davies being unsympathetic

rob, Monday, 5 April 2021 15:43 (one week ago) link

yeah like col blimp ive always imagined arthur as a stock character meant to stand in for a certain sociopolitical ideology, but a character in the 'story' of the album nonetheless.

thinking about it more, maybe it works better for me to think of it as instructive via the narrator's POV. Like Col Blimp the film is instructive in the sense of presenting a lesson in overcoming bad & stuck thinking, showing how you too can change with the times like Blimp. Whereas even though Arthur the character doesnt seem to really change in the 'story', maybe the album is intended as instructive in the sense of "heres how you the listener can learn to love & empathize with this type of sad person who will never change, instead of looking down on them." Maybe Ray is saying dont be such a dick to your parents because capitalism fucked them over too.

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Monday, 5 April 2021 16:04 (one week ago) link

ty for joining me on this journey where i publicly figure out the obvious messages of this 50y/o rock album for teenagers, pls follow me to my substack for more great content

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Monday, 5 April 2021 16:06 (one week ago) link

If my surmise is correct and the TV play originally featured dramatic scenes interspersed with the Kinks playing, that could explain why the lyrics alone could seem condescending. It would be different if we saw and heard the character and his interactions with others, with the songs as a Greek chorus.
From the songs and liner notes, Arthur never seemed to me to be an Archie Bunker type, more a confused person who hadn't figured himself out until the late-life epiphanies indicated on the record.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 5 April 2021 17:02 (one week ago) link

this album is as relevant to British society now as it has ever been imo

imago, Monday, 5 April 2021 17:05 (one week ago) link

Ray Davies' own background is pretty different from the person he's singing about in "Shangri La", poorer and more precarious, so I suspect there is some sarcasm (and chippinss) there.

Duncan Disorderly (Tom D.), Monday, 5 April 2021 17:10 (one week ago) link

Or even chippiness.

Duncan Disorderly (Tom D.), Monday, 5 April 2021 17:11 (one week ago) link

Nowadays, Arthur probably couldn't afford a house, and he'd be working as a 70 year-old delivery driver.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 5 April 2021 17:13 (one week ago) link


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